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The Inconvenient Truth Behind Dove, The Love-Your-Body Beauty Company

The Inconvenient Truth Behind Dove, The Love-Your-Body Beauty Company


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Yesterday, when we presented the new Dove commerical, Onslaught, we neglected to mention a few things. Luckily, blogs Feministing and Feministe reminded us of a few facts! For starters, while Dove can be applauded for examining the damaging effects of the beauty industry, its parent company, Unilever, is a major manufacturer of skin-lightening creams marketed in India. (Because, you know, the lighter your skin, the more beautiful you are.) In addition, Unilever makes Axe body spray, whose sexist and just plain stupid ad campaigns and "humilidating" show don't exactly send the message that the Onslaught spot does. And there's more: Unilever spends $809 million on advertising: it markets Dove, which encourages women to love their bodies, Ben & Jerry's ice cream, in which you can drown your sorrows if you don't love your body, and Slim-Fast, to make your body thin enough to love.

Trump Has a Nullification Crisis

Trump Has a Nullification Crisis

by Daniel Gross @ Slate Articles

In the 19th century, nullification was the idea that states could void the actions of the federal government if they deemed them unconstitutional. Its proponents, chief among them John C. Calhoun, argued that if something the feds were doing—i.e. tariffs—was contrary to the economic interests of the entity he cared most about—South Carolina—then the state could simply do its own thing. Nullification, like Calhoun’s ideas about slavery, was a profoundly bad one, and it led to a constitutional crisis.

Today, I’d propose a different meaning for nullification—and it is a reason for both hope and concern for anyone dismayed by the presidency of Donald Trump. There is always a tendency for powerful actors—in state and local government, yes, but also in the private sector generally—to decide not to do business with the president, and to act as if the executive branch’s policies don’t exist. In the Trump era that tendency has already become notably pronounced, and it comes in three principal forms.

One form of nullification is denial of patronage: refusing to do business with the entities the president or his family owns. One theory has suggested that the presidency would be a boon to Trump’s businesses, including his golf courses, his private club Mar-a-Lago, and the hotels that carry his name. But with each month, Trump’s conduct in office has pushed people and groups concerned with their brands to cease working with Trump properties. The Trump-branded public golf course in the Bronx, New York, saw its business decline in 2016. While Trump’s Washington, D.C., hotel attracts lobbyists and corporate events, most of the rooms are empty. (Its occupancy rate is a measly 42 percent.) Mar-a-Lago, a stalwart of the social and charity scene in Palm Beach, Florida, has been hit by a wave of event nullification. Since Trump’s disastrous series of comments about the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, one by one charities and nonprofits have canceled their plans to host luncheons, dinners, galas, and dances at the facility. The club, write Drew Harwell and David Farenthold in the Washington Post, has “lost nine of the 16 galas or dinner events that it had been scheduled to host during next winter’s social ‘season’ in Palm Beach. At least three other groups have also canceled charity luncheons there this week.”

A second form of nullification is denial of association: refusing to provide counsel or show up to photo opportunities, or to be in the same room as the president. In the early days of the Trump administration and during the transition, CEOs, athletes, and other boldface names dutifully showed up—some with glee, some with pained expressions on their faces—to be part of the photo ops and volunteer to serve on various councils.

But the norm is no longer the norm. CEOs, athletes, and celebrities are denying Trump the privilege of their association. After Ken Frazier of Merck and Co. quit the Trump’s council on manufacturing, an exodus of CEOs commenced. Several of the advisory firms set up to grant corporate legitimacy and support for the Trump presidency quickly disbanded: the Manufacturing Council, the Strategic and Policy Forum, the Infrastructure Council.

The people on these committees had significant business with the government, and hence much to gain and lose from changes in government policy. But they decided that having their personal or corporate brands associated with Trump would be damaging, cause an intolerable level of cognitive dissonance at a personal level, or both. As Merck lead director Leslie Brun told the Wall Street Journal about boardroom discussion surrounding Trump: “Informal conversations among board members often revolved around ‘what do you tell your kids?’ ”

The Kennedy Center, about to toast six artists, breathed a sigh of relief when Trump said he wouldn’t show up to its annual Honors and canceled the White House reception associated with the event—this as some of the recipients, including actress and dancer Carmen de Lavallade, said they would not show up at the White House reception. Basketball star Kevin Durant of the Golden State Warriors said he would not go to the White House to celebrate his team’s victory in the NBA Finals, citing a lack of respect for its occupant. “I don’t agree with what he agrees with, so my voice is going to be heard by not doing that,” Durant said.

A third form of nullification is to act as if the proclamations, executive orders, and policy pronouncements are irrelevant to you, don’t exist, or are to be ignored—and to create alternate markets and realities. This dynamic can be seen most vividly in the energy and environmental arenas. Trump has promised to revive the coal industry, pulled out of the Paris climate accord, and installed a bunch of climate-change denialists and skeptics in relevant government agencies.

But states, cities, and companies make their own climate-change policy through laws, policies, standards, or procurement decisions. And many of them are actively nullifying Trump’s statements and actions.

Here are a few things that have happened so far this year:

California extended its cap-and-trade program through 2030. Hawaii became the first state to commit to having 100 percent renewable energy on its electricity supply grid. Orlando, Florida, adopted a target of getting all its electricity from renewable sources by 2050, joining the growing roster of more than three dozen cities that have done so. JPMorgan Chase said that by 2020, it would power all its operations through emissions-free energy. The bank has joined more than 100 large multinational corporations that have made the same commitment. Through May, utilities announced the closure of eight coal-burning plants as the industry continues its transition to a lower-carbon future.

This is not to say Trump doesn’t have real power or that his administration isn’t affecting change or delivering results to favored constituencies. Whether it is the Environmental Protection Agency rolling back water regulations, general nonfeasance at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, or the Justice Department’s enforcement of immigration policies, the Trump administration is changing realities on the ground. The rise of nullification does not decrease the danger of an unfettered Trump administration.

What’s more, nullification isn’t a particularly good precedent. I would argue that it is much better for the country and our economy when all sorts of people feel comfortable visiting the White House and making common cause with the White House—and when states, cities, the federal government, and companies are on the same page in the pursuit of goals. There are good historical, constitutional, and practical reasons for the federal government to have primacy over states in many areas. And while it’s nice that some companies are relatively progressive on some issues, and that some CEOs can muster the moral courage to take stands, we shouldn’t be relying on them excessively. CEOs of defense contractors have a much harder time acting as if Trump doesn’t exist than, say, CEOs of consumer products or technology companies. Bench players and role players have far less leeway than all-stars to express their political views.

Still, nullification offers something more satisfying than catharsis or schadenfreude. The fact that people, institutions, and organizations are willing and able to deny their dollars and association with Trump and be celebrated for it is a sign that America’s democratic and market system, which has been under attack, is holding up strong.

One of the features about authoritarian regimes is that there is a price to be paid for defying the expressed wishes and whims of the government and its leader: You can lose your business, or get jailed, or get frozen out from contracts, or lose your license. That’s not happening here.

Terminal

Terminal

by Henry Grabar @ Slate Articles

 

This is a story about how the airport became the setting for the Great American Freakout. Once an icon of progress, then another stale waiting room of modern life, the airport has now entered a third phase.

This summer, Ann Coulter threw a three-day tantrum over a Delta seat assignment, comparing the airline gate attendants to Nurse Ratched, the sadistic warden who rules over the lunatics in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. There was some truth to the observation. It was the latest incident in a year of airport fracases—including a brawl at the Spirit Airlines counter in Fort Lauderdale, Florida (May), the concussion of the 69-year-old David Dao who wouldn’t relinquish his seat (April), widespread pro-immigrant protests (January), two full-on panic stampedes one year ago, and a steady drumbeat of racial and religious profiling at security and immigration—that have confirmed the airport’s new role in American life as the marble-floored home of our national, fear-fueled psychosis.

The airport is, on the one hand, as representative a civic space as America has. Nearly half of American adults fly commercial each year, making the airport nearly as common a shared experience as the voting booth. It is also roiled by the ceaseless friction of its many internal borders, real and felt, that separate safety from danger, admittance from expulsion, brown from white, the rich from the rest. Real anxiety has swelled in this liminal space for decades, as airlines grew stingier, the security state grew stricter, and the borders in airport basements grew busier. But as with many conflicts in American life, the rise of Donald Trump has both clarified and exacerbated the fault lines.

This was evident in January, when the Trump administration unveiled its travel ban and thousands of protesters assembled at terminals across the country. But that was only a reminder of all the ways in which the airport has become a symbol and a stage: for the related and unrelated detentions of visitors, immigrants, and American citizens; for flare-ups over dress, language, and skin color; for increasing stratification by class; for massive delays borne of computer failures; for that dangerous hunch that America ain’t what it used to be; and for the aggrieved knowledge that it isn’t all it could be. It is a temple for a political era built on paranoia, as good a symbol for our age as the corporate skyscraper was for the postwar era and the suburban megamall was for the end of the century. The airport is the place to understand America today.

People who run airports know this. You can see it in their attempts to soothe. We now have art designed to keep us calm in the terminal. Ponies. Herds of kindly dogs. A therapy pig, in San Francisco. Chairs that rock and chairs that massage. Jazz music and country music. Mostly, we keep our aviation-related anxieties at bay with chemistry. The airport bars open early and endow patrons with both fortitude and an aura of righteous intoxication rarely found in morning drinking. Savvy travelers not among the nearly 1 in 10 Americans who have prescriptions for Xanax and its ilk nevertheless procure their favored pills for air travel. Take one just after passing through security to sink into an Eames tandem sling, that familiar, inclined bank of chairs.

Whatever we do, it’s not working.

* * *

In 1962, New York’s Idlewild Airport inaugurated Eero Saarinen’s TWA Flight Center, a swooping concrete-and-glass icon of jet-age glamor. The building incarnated an idea of air travel’s allure that lingered like a contrail in the national imagination. In his 2015 book The End of Airports, Christopher Schaberg diagnosed the end of an idea: “The end of airports as romantic places; the end of airports as sites of excitement; the end of airports as apexes of travel culture. The end of airports means the end of our ability to appreciate airports, to inhabit them as dynamic, fascinating, forward-looking spaces.” In his latest book, Airportness, he has turned darker still: “It is a miserable place—you can see it on everybody’s face.”

But the romantic idea of the airport has been dying at least since the hijacking crisis of the 1970s, when American airports began to install metal detectors. Gradually, all aspects of the flying experience would be securitized. Metal detectors first sliced the grand TWA atrium in two decades ago, dispensing the sense of the airport as a genuine public place, where lovers parted at the jetway and the homeless could nap undisturbed, and marking the rise of the age of terror and security. As late as 1997, J.G. Ballard, writing of the world’s international terminals as a “discontinuous city” of global travelers, could claim that “above all, airports are places of good news.” But the raft of changes implemented since 9/11 have amplified security’s psychic cost.

It’s not clear how much the Transportation Security Administration’s methods are protecting us: In a 2015 investigation, undercover agents succeeded in smuggling weapons past screeners in 67 out of 70 attempts, and the agency’s acting head was reassigned. The drawbacks are easier to perceive. The screening requires you to expose yourself, both to the eyes of agents (see the ex-screener Jason Edward Harrington’s confessional “Dear America, I Saw You Naked”) and to fellow passengers, who watch you disrobe. Bags are unzipped to put underwear on display like on a backyard laundry line.

“Taking off shoes,” Harvey Molotch writes of one of America’s more frustrating air travel requirements in Against Security, “makes bodies touch foreign surfaces in unaccustomed ways, bringing to mind the ass on the restroom toilet seat.” Molotch argues that the prison-visit style of airport security is a perpetual worry machine, stoking the concern that justifies its escalating rigors. A design firm hired by the TSA argued that the unpleasant nature of checkpoints was hurting security procedures by giving all travelers the sweaty, nerve-wracked mien of terrorists and drug smugglers, and illustrated the point with photographs of a shark in calm waters (easy to see) and rough waters (invisible).

As with mass incarceration, efforts to reform airport security are hamstrung by politicians and administrators who would prefer to inflict hassle on millions than be caught making one mistake. Normalcy won a rare victory over the security state in 2005, when small scissors, screwdrivers, and pliers were again allowed in carry-on bags over the objections of Congress. (“This is the equivalent of handing back the box cutters to the 9/11 hijackers,” Rep. Ed Markey wrote. Hillary Clinton introduced a special bill to stop the policy.) The exception proves the rule: In 2013, the TSA was set to allow pocket knives and golf clubs on planes before the policy was overruled by lawmakers.

These protocols, like other airport routines, extend a burden beyond the terminal. No traveler can set his or her alarm or pack a tube of toothpaste without thinking about the TSA. The years since Sept. 11, 2001, can be measured out in 3-ounce bottles and other security restrictions. Shortly after 9/11, my sister got carsick on the way to the airport. At the time, there were no trash cans in the check-in area, and so my mother passed the plastic bag of vomit through the metal detector. This story is dated, but only because you can no longer get a bag of vomit through a metal detector.

It’s the conditioning effect of these rituals, as much as terrorism itself, that makes even false alarms so harrowing. Last August, a mass panic enveloped New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, sending thousands of travelers fleeing from a phantom terror attack. The false alarm spread between terminals, and flights were delayed nationwide as terrified travelers stormed the tarmac, hiding behind jet wheels and luggage carts or running for the safety of the Atlantic Ocean. What set them off, apparently, was the collapse of a line of bollards whose clack-clack-clack against the floor sounded like gunshots. Two weeks later, police evacuated four terminals of LAX after a phantom shooting, while in Terminal 4, panicked passengers ran willy-nilly. Outside Terminal 6, they scurried down the sidewalk with their rolling luggage, heading nowhere at all.

* * *

As this everyday security check unfolds upstairs, a more substantive vetting process is underway below. For decades, America’s international airports have been an increasingly important port of entry for visitors and immigrants. In 2005, 81 million people—19 percent of international travelers—entered the U.S. by air. By 2015, that number had risen to 112 million, and 29 percent of international arrivals. (Those numbers underestimate the central role of airports, since hundreds of thousands of commuters cross the U.S.–Mexico border every day and are counted multiple times.) Just as airports are places where America must be defended from terrorism, they are frontiers through which immigrants, foreigners, and American expatriates pass onto U.S. soil. They are borders, with their attendant violence, nestled at the heart of domestic life.

This has occurred despite laborious efforts in Washington to push border functions out of our airports, through a series of international data-sharing negotiations, the export of biometric sensors to visa application sites abroad, and supplementary security requirements for U.S.-bound flights. “With a virtual border in place,” the security theorist Gallya Lahav writes, “the actual border guard is meant to become the last point of defense rather than the first.”

At least, that is the idea. The 2014 Ebola crisis demonstrated it hadn’t quite worked out that way. That summer at Newark Liberty International Airport, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie detained Kaci Hickox, an American nurse who had treated Ebola patients in Sierra Leone, placing her in a mandatory quarantine at a Newark hospital. Trump tweeted about the Ebola outbreak more than 50 times, calling for a travel ban and opposing the return of two infected U.S. aid workers. “The U.S. cannot allow EBOLA infected people back,” our future president wrote. “People that go to far away places to help out are great-but must suffer the consequences.”

It was a stance that, in its callousness and shallow thinking, anticipated Trump’s ham-handed attempt at a Muslim ban. On Jan. 26 of this year, the country’s international airports once again reprised their role as a conflict zone. Holders of visas and green cards arriving from Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen, some of them refugees, found that their legal status had changed overnight. After months of planning, they were imprisoned in the airport.

So it was the international airport, not the Mexican border or an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center, that became the first testing ground for the Trump administration’s strident xenophobia. And concurrently, the site of the first, substantive protests against it.

On the Saturday after the ban was enacted, thousands of protesters convened in the parking lot outside JFK Terminal 4. Inside, U.S. representatives, lawyers, and the families of the detained arrivals struggled to determine where authority in the airport lay, which parts of the terminal belonged to whom, and who was responsible for directing the agents of Customs and Border Protection. “Call the president” was the response. We now know that CBP was deploying some kind of centralized strategy to flummox lawyers and members of Congress . But navigating the administration’s reversals often fell to the rank and file.

The vision of the airport as an austere, Taylorized space, where even the architecture is mathematically deduced (150 square feet per design-hour passenger is a common metric), has fallen away to reveal a deeply human frontier, in all the worst ways. A 2005 report by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom determined that there was “extreme” variation in the way that asylum cases were handled at different airports. In the past five months, we have seen the agency’s worst actors deploy their cynicism at the airport border. A French Holocaust historian was detained for 10 hours in Houston. A 70-year-old Australian children’s book author was detained and questioned in Los Angeles. Customs agents checked IDs on the jetway of an arriving, domestic flight. Muhammad Ali Jr., the son of the heavyweight champion, was detained in a Florida airport and asked about his Muslim faith. And those were just the names we knew.

* * *

Whether security and customs inspire reassurance, anguish, or outrage, there is a third and overarching gantlet at work in the form of economic stratification. The airport is to America’s petite bourgeoisie—the small-time capitalists and traveling salesmen who delivered us to Trump—what the factory is to the white working class: a symbol of how much better things used to be. (And the president agrees.) But there is a more widely shared feeling that the airport experience is a reminder of one’s paltry but declining status.

The oldest, basic sorting mechanism of ticket sales has been supplemented by a variety of market incentives, with the path to the plane (and back from the plane) lit by buy-ins and buy-outs: baggage fees, seat fees, concession fees, TSA Precheck and Global Entry, travelers’ clubs, and finally the unseemly bidding process to remove the most cash-poor, time-rich SOB from the plane. Airlines earn lower marks on customer satisfaction surveys than loathed institutions like the U.S. Postal Service and social media. When things go awry, the airport experience encapsulates that peculiar, desperate feeling of the modern American economy. Not the balm of total helplessness, but the regretful hunch that if you had just done one thing differently—routed yourself through Houston instead of Denver, gotten in line earlier, not gotten disconnected with the help line—you might be on your way to where you want to be.

Most gripes about the airport stem from the same No Exit complaint that motivates so much worry in America today: There are simply more people there than there used to be. More kids in your school district, more buildings in your neighborhood, more cars on your road, more people who don’t look like you or talk like you at the mall. Or at the airport. Tickets are cheaper, and the airport experience feels cheaper too. Democratization is stressful; tight quarters serve as the kindling for fires of racist fury (and all kinds of other bad manners).

Private jets and lounges have siphoned off onetime airport luxuries. Thanks to higher baggage fees, Americans increasingly lug their possessions through airports themselves. Not only is an airport delay an extended confrontation with your peers in a seating area, but with all the things they carry: blankets, neck pillows, hair brushes, 30 generations of digital devices—a state of disarray bordering on the domestic. To be in the airport is to inhabit Zeno’s static moment that movement requires. “It is dead time,” Don DeLillo wrote. “It never happened until it happens again. Then it never happened.”

A structural shift in the industry’s economics, spurred by a string of corporate mergers, has added a spark. Small- and medium-size airports have declined as more and more flights are routed through megahubs. Domestic boardings rose 7.7 percent between 2005 and 2015, but more than two-thirds of that gain occurred at the nation’s 10 busiest airports.

It can be difficult to untangle the lived airport from the airport of the mind, but it is easier with airports than with other buildings. Because each one is a glassy, highly regulated remix of its peers, with the same marked-up Dasani and magazines for sale, one airport can easily stand in for many. The airline whose hold music plays softly as you sink into a worn-leather every chair and watch a day and a vacation slip away could be any airline. The tarmac looks the same. The whole system, from the entry through security to the exit past the border agents, is a reminder of how little control you have—not just economic power, but even, for the moment, power over your own movement. From David Dao to the LAX stampede to delay-induced tantrums, these viral acts of airport chaos draw power from this sense of widespread agitation, like storms from a heated sea.

* * *

More from this series:

To understand why air travel has gotten so dreadful, just look at its labor force.

The factors that make travelers cranky are tightly intertwined with the reasons why pilots, flight attendants, and other aviation workers are learning less and less. And it’s partially our fault.

By Jeff Friedrich

But if the experience for everyone is so bad, why is airport retail booming?

That’s exactly why. The factors that immiserate travelers benefit retail sectors that would otherwise struggle in airports the way they do in the real world. Airport retail has guaranteed foot traffic and no competition from e-commerce (when you need new earbuds right before a flight, you’re not hitting up Amazon). They also benefit from delays and the fact that airlines are less likely to give you free food or drink.

By Daniel Gross

There is still one way to dodge the hellscape: small airports.

Just look at the Westchester County Airport in White Plains, New York. It turns out that airport function is not helped by scale—the bigger the building, the more prone to morasses it is. Smaller, it turns out, is better.

By Daniel Gross

If you must navigate an airport, at least make the best of it.

A pilot’s tips for appreciating what there is to appreciate about air travel. Airports are destinations of accidental wonder, places an extra 10 minutes can reveal the marvel of travel still beneath the unpleasant surface. Take in the departures board, admire the small variations in culture between places that are all quite similar, people-watch, gaze at the architecture, and savor the exit.

By Mark Vanhoenacker

But not everyone can, of course. Being hypersurveilled in airports is now a part of being brown in America.

A reflection by an expert on surveilled communities on how his own experience is deepened by his day job and the fact that he is Indian. Like a lot of people, he opts out of the scanning machines, meaning instead he gets a physical patdown—a process that has become uncomfortably more invasive in 2017.

By Prashant Sinha

And the net of scrutiny catches even those people who need accommodation.

The devices that make life easier for people with medical conditions—like enhancements for diabetics—make life a much bigger hassle in the airport, and the subject of almost-performative scrutiny from the TSA, despite the agency’s attempt to improve its treatment of such passengers.

By Jacob Brogan

Our Aging Workforce Needs Foreigners

Our Aging Workforce Needs Foreigners

by Joseph Coughlin @ Slate Articles

Want to listen to this article out loud? Hear it on Slate Voice.

Earlier this summer, Rep. David Schweikert, a Republican congressman from Arizona, delivered some hard truths to a session of the House of Representatives. “We have a math problem, and it is based on demographics,” Schweikert said on June 28. “I am a baby boomer. There are 76 million of us who are baby boomers, who are heading towards retirement. That demographic curve is changing the cost structure of government.”

This was back during that precarious period when Obamacare repeal-and-replace efforts had succeeded in the House but hadn’t yet floundered in the Senate, and Schweikert was lending voice to an aspect of the legislative push that had gone more or less unsaid, at least in public. To austerity-minded policymakers, the Better Care Reconciliation Act represented an exceedingly rare opportunity—“once in a lifetime,” wrote Grover Norquist—to rein in Medicaid spending before the U.S. population grew significantly older and more reliant on public funds. “It is time for almost revolutionary thoughts,” Schweikert said. “We need to look at the budget holistically.”

Between Schweikert’s take on the future solvency of Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security and the ongoing efforts of President Trump and congressional Republicans to push the BCRA into law, Republican policymakers have demonstrated real concern about the economic dependency of the old and sick on the young and gainfully employed. Which is, from a certain point of view, fair enough: The Republican Party, at least in its platonic form, exists to limit government’s reach, and our aging population, it could be argued, may force that reach to extend. It would be strange if no Republicans pushed back.

And perhaps that was why it was so peculiar when, a little more than a month after Schweikert’s demographics lesson, President Trump announced he would embrace the RAISE Act, a legislative one-two punch co-sponsored by Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia, also staunch supporters of the Republican health care effort. RAISE, if signed into law, would change the admissions criteria for legal immigrants and, more concerning from a demographics perspective, reduce their numbers by half within a decade. To the limited extent that the American working-age population continues to grow, immigrants are responsible. And so, for leaders of a party with clear apprehensions regarding the ongoing ability of the country’s workers to support its older adults, slashing legal immigration would seem, to put it gently, inconsistent.

President Trump has weathered charges of inconsistency before, but this time may be different. His campaign promise to make America great is in a category of its own—the ur-promise from which all his other promises descend. And the passage of RAISE will likely violate it in a very tangible way.

It’s not just that the legislation’s legal-immigration cuts would damage the economy, a fact most economists affirm. It’s that RAISE would hurt the American economy relative to the economies of other countries. And for those who want America to be first in all things, that outcome may prove difficult to stomach.

The cuts entailed by RAISE aren’t extreme—at least, not by international standards. They would not put us in the hermetic company of Japan, which admits very few new permanent residents, or lump us in with Switzerland and Denmark, where new immigrants must pay a high ticket price for admission, sometimes out of future wages. Even under this new proposed policy, the U.S. would still accept more newcomers, in raw terms, than any other country except perhaps Germany. (On a per-capita basis, however, the U.S. is nowhere near the top of the list of immigration-friendly countries.)

But even if such a policy wouldn’t make the U.S. an immigration outlier, it would still be a spectacularly regrettable unforced error. In fact, it’s such a bad move precisely because it would put the U.S. on a level footing with more restrictive countries. As it stands, immigration is granting America an underappreciated edge that it would be a mistake to blunt.

Populations around the world are aging—in some cases, with alarming speed—for three reasons. Birthrates in the vast majority of the world’s nations have fallen since the middle of the 20th century. (In some countries, such as India, Mexico, and Brazil, birthrates have outright plummeted.) That means fewer younger people. At the same time, life expectancy has risen, and despite recent, well-publicized downticks in the U.S., the overall trend continues to point north. Finally, in some of the countries that were heavily involved in World War II, an enormous cohort of baby boomers is just now crossing into retirement age.

As a result, by 2030, more than 20 percent of the U.S. population will be age 65 or older, a demographic breakdown slightly older than that of today’s Florida. Germany, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Sweden, and many other wealthy countries have already achieved Floridian status, and Japan is ranging far ahead with a quarter of its population aged 65-plus. On the balance, societywide aging is a good thing—in our opinion, every extra year of life is a gift—but it still poses serious challenges beyond even the monumental-yet-crucial task of maintaining a safety net for older adults. One inevitable consequence of global aging is the shrinking of labor pools and even, in select countries, the waning of entire populations. China, Japan, Russia, much of Eastern Europe, and many other countries are now either experiencing population decline or will begin it soon.

The very real possibility of such trends manifesting in either the raw or working-age populations of the U.S. should alarm anyone who claims an interest in American greatness. Consider, for instance, yet another stated priority of President Trump: infrastructure construction. Baby boomer retirement is hitting the construction industry hard, and taking with it able bodies and institutional knowledge. Positions in the skilled trades, such as machinists, welders, electricians, and HVAC technicians, were ranked the hardest for employers to fill in 2016 according to a survey conducted by staffing company Manpower. Such shortages will only worsen in the coming years as retirements accrue. Adecco, another staffing company, estimates that retirements in the aforementioned fields as well as general construction; mechanical, electrical, and industrial engineering; plumbers and pipefitters; and others will mean that 31 million skilled-trade positions will be left unfilled by 2020, almost a tenth of the population of the United States. As a result, contractors will have to either turn down jobs, slowing growth, or else raise their wages and therefore their rates, an expense that would likely be passed along to taxpayers in the event of a major infrastructure push.

And that’s just the construction-related industries. Others facing mass retirement include the petrochemical, defense, transit, agriculture, financial advisory, and railroad industries. Air-traffic controllers, hired en masse after Ronald Reagan fired their predecessors in 1981, are now retiring en masse. The ranks of doctors and nurses—especially internists and, in an unfortunate twist, geriatricians—are also thinning. Even the Hoover Dam, perhaps the country’s most quintessentially American piece of infrastructure, is now running short of workers qualified to operate its machinery.

Despite ongoing, frenzied discussions of the potential for advanced automation to take American jobs, these crucial shortfalls continue to go overlooked. U.S. companies are already finding it difficult to entice the staff they need, as Slate’s Daniel Gross has written. Who, in the next two decades, will run our economy and grow our food? It’s not just a matter of retraining those currently unable to find work. The economy is already at or near full employment, and at a certain point, the U.S., like other aging nations, will simply need more warm bodies.

Japan is quietly addressing its labor shortage by admitting foreign workers as temporary “trainees.” Germany is attempting to stall an incipient population decline by increasing its acceptance of immigrants and refugees. (Both countries are also finding ways of keeping older workers happy in their longtime jobs, from adopting exotic exoskeletons to making workplace ergonomic adjustments—a strategy that would also benefit the U.S.) Meanwhile, China, poised to experience the largest demographic swing of any nation, is losing millions of people from its workforce every year. The resulting spike in wages is one possible explanation for why President Xi Jinping recently laid off 300,000 troops from the country’s armed forces.

In the United States, the birthrate is 1.9 children per woman, slightly below the replacement rate of roughly 2.1. Thanks only to the twin inputs of immigration and the relatively large size of new immigrant families, the U.S. population is still growing slowly and stably. Without immigration, however, the population would begin to fall as soon as 2040, according to unpublished data supplied to us by Jeffrey Passel, a senior demographer at the Pew Research Center. (The projection, originally made in 2015, assumes that immigration would have been cut off starting that year.)

Thanks to its current inflow of immigrants, the U.S. has, and will continue to have, one of the youngest populations among wealthy nations. That relative youth equates to a better-than-average (though still troubling) ratio of workers to nonworkers and, at least in theory, a good crop of workforce replacements for baby boomer retirees. Without immigrants, however, we would be staring cross-eyed down the barrel of a far more threatening demographic future, filled with economic malaise, higher taxes, and even disastrous cuts to Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security.

Legal immigration has become a partisan issue, but it shouldn’t be. Economists might disagree about whether to adopt a system that prioritizes highly skilled immigrants, as the RAISE Act proposes. (It’s worth mentioning, however, that the RAISE Act’s salary rules would keep out home-health aides, which the aging United States will soon need in droves, as Vox’s Sarah Kliff recently pointed out.) But there is broad agreement that slashing the raw number of immigrants to the U.S. would be an economic mistake. Immigration has been shown to have little to no effect on wages for native-born workers, and has even been called an “economic boost” by the George W. Bush Foundation.

Congress understands the stakes involved in cutting off America’s youth supply. Schweikert even mentioned it in his June 28 speech: “You do understand, as a nation, we functionally have zero population growth without immigration?” Though population aging may not be news to our political leaders, the question of whether they will prioritize the economic competitiveness of the nation over nativism remains open. We get it: There are people in this country who just don’t like immigration. But presumably a lot of those same people would feel more comfortable living in a world where America, bolstered by a healthy economy and a workforce strengthened by legal immigration, retains its geopolitical clout. As it stands, the world at large is sending the United States a precious resource—young people—free of charge. You can want an America with far fewer of these immigrants, or you can want America to be great. In this era of population aging, however, you can’t have both.

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Is Techno Tourism What Detroit Needs?

Is Techno Tourism What Detroit Needs?

by Adam Tanaka @ Slate Articles

Once a year on Memorial Day weekend the Movement Electronic Music Festival transforms downtown Detroit’s Hart Plaza into an eardrum-splitting playground for tens of thousands of techno fans from around the globe. A windswept concrete expanse for much of the year, the riverfront park is tailor-made for a music festival, with Japanese artist Isamu Noguchi’s Space Age sculptures providing a suitably cosmic backdrop to three days of booming electronica. This year, the festival was accompanied by more than 70 spinoff parties, bringing foot traffic and visitor spending to neighborhoods far beyond the downtown core.

Want to listen to this article out loud? Hear it on Slate Voice.

Detroit may seem an unlikely choice for a 72-hour dance-floor spectacular, but it’s far from random: Much as the gay clubs of 1970s Chicago gave birth to house music, so 1980s Detroit gave birth to techno—house’s sinister, synth-driven cousin—when artsy black teenagers began soldering the clinical electronica of Kraftwerk and other German experimentalists with the alien funk of Prince and Parliament. Meanwhile, aspiring DJs and wily party promoters capitalized on the city’s surfeit of industrial spaces, repurposing the relics of the auto age for the city’s first postindustrial generation. Motown became Techno City.

The genre never really hit the mainstream in the United States, and today Americans are more likely to cite Eminem as Detroit’s most substantial musical export since Motown. (See: Chrysler’s 2011 Super Bowl commercial.) But abroad, techno became a multibillion-dollar industry, providing the drug-fueled soundtrack to post–Cold War European integration. Berlin and Ibiza continue to draw cultural and economic vitality from club-driven tourism, sped along by cheap airfares and liberal after-hours regulations. Amsterdam, Paris, and London recently appointed nighttime mayors charged with keeping their clubs competitive and their dance floors open into the early hours (or, as in the case of Berlin, for all 24).

Today, some Detroiters are wondering whether they too might monetize this strain of the city’s cultural heritage. Music is already a big part of the city’s DNA: The Motown Museum, which draws about 70,000 visitors a year, is currently undergoing expansion, while the city’s jazz festival in August is marketed as the largest free jazz festival in the world. Both are small change compared to Movement, which is touted as the Motor City’s biggest tourist draw after the annual auto show. Although numbers are hazy in the absence of a formal economic impact study, city officials told me that “festival weekend” was Airbnb’s busiest of the year in the area. For a city still reeling from 2013 bankruptcy proceedings, techno tourism has brought a spillover economic boost. (The San Francisco–based short-term rental company also recently agreed to pay a use tax in Michigan.)

In the longer term, Movement’s effects are as much psychological as financial. “When people understand that this kind of creativity is homegrown in Detroit, it helps them reimagine Detroit in their mind,” said Mark Denson, chief business attraction officer at the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation (and a college classmate of techno innovator Derrick May). “I’ve lived downtown for a very long time, and I’ve run into many people who will say that their first really great experience in Detroit was the techno festival.”

“For people who know their techno, they know that Detroit is the birthplace,” said Helen Stevens, a 44-year-old Australian who was visiting the United States for the first time. (At Movement this year, I also met Japanese tourists who chose Movement for their inaugural stateside visit). Sporting a “Detroit Techno City” badge on her head-to-toe black outfit—the standard for techno enthusiasts—Stevens said that the Motor City has long been on her “travel bucket list.”

Dance floor–driven urban policy may sound like a parody of economic development guru Richard Florida’s “creative class” mantra. But the city has not been blind to the potential of techno to draw young people back to town. In its early years, the electronic music festival was free, with the city largely footing the bill. By the time Movement shifted to a paid model in 2003, the event was hailed as one of the largest free music festivals in the world. That same year, the Detroit Historical Museum mounted “Techno: Detroit’s Gift to the World,” a large-scale retrospective that paired memorabilia with reminiscences from some of the genre’s founding fathers. More recently, Mayor Mike Duggan officially declared “Techno Week” to coincide with the Movement festival.

Still, many in the music business here feel that the city has not done enough to capitalize on its cultural assets. That includes small, symbolic changes, like officially recognizing “Techno Boulevard,” a block in the city’s Eastern Market neighborhood that housed many of the genre’s earliest record labels. And more substantial issues, like lobbying to change the state-regulated 2 a.m. closing time that bar-owners and city reps say stymies the growth of a full-fledged nighttime economy.

Part of the problem is that while techno has a large international following, it has a relatively limited audience here at home. “Detroit exported nightlife culture,” said Adriel Thornton, a veteran of the ’90s rave scene who was involved in organizing an early iteration of Movement and today leads techno-themed tours of the city through Airbnb. “You go to Europe and ‘Detroit Techno’ is a genre of music. But here at home, the idea that it is actually generating real dollars and creating reasons for people to move here hasn’t been sufficiently recognized.”

Instead the festival draws mostly suburbanites and out-of-towners, who depart loaded up with Detroit swag. International visitors make up 1 in 5 attendees, organizers estimate; indeed, one of the festival’s biggest scheduling concerns is not to clash with the opening weekend at Ibiza, the clubbing hotspot off the coast of Spain.

The place most often invoked in discussions of Detroit’s trans-Atlantic cachet is Berlin, another city noted for its techno culture and wealth of underutilized spaces. Crystallizing this dialogue is the Detroit-Berlin Connection, a nonprofit founded in 2013 by German club entrepreneur Dimitri Hegemann. The owner of Tresor, one of Berlin’s landmark techno venues, and a frequent visitor to the Motor City, Hegemann is convinced that Detroit’s comeback hinges on its countercultural appeal. “One of our jobs is to keep Detroit weird,” he told me.

Following the Berlin model, Hegemann’s dream is to renovate some of Detroit’s most iconic industrial ruins into “lighthouses” for art and culture, blurring the lines between historical monuments, youth hostels, nightclubs, art galleries, and incubators. But in the face of political inertia and financial skittishness, getting such fanciful schemes off the ground is easier said than done. Hegemann’s particular bête noire is the curfew. “If we had a 2 a.m. curfew, Berlin’s nightlife would collapse,” Hegemann said. “My advice for the city council is to cancel the curfew. Don’t build shopping malls and casinos. Just cancel the curfew, and discover the nighttime economy.” Critics contend that would require the city to expand strapped municipal services like police, and in a city with America’s worst transit network, lead to more drunk driving.

Closer to home, cities like Nashville and New Orleans have also succeeded in trading off their own musical legacies. As recently as the 1990s, Nashville was on the fence about making country music the centerpiece of its tourism strategy, but last year the “Music City” brought in a record-breaking 13.9 million tourists, with upward of 150,000 visitors coming for the city’s free, open-air New Year’s Eve concert alone. The numbers are almost as impressive in New Orleans, where culture industry jobs accounted for 15 percent of local employment in 2015, up from 9 percent in 2006. Those reputations become economic assets: Music is Nashville’s second-largest employment sector after health care. Half of all entertainment businesses in New Orleans are live music venues. Beyond the musicians, music tourism helps fill municipal coffers through tax receipts.

But even if there’s a model to be emulated somewhere between Berlin and the Big Easy, Detroit has another problem: There isn’t a huge homegrown techno scene waiting to be discovered. In a list of the country’s top clubbing destinations compiled by Thump, an online dance music publication, Detroit didn’t even make the top 10. Legendary venues like the Music Institute and Cheeks, which did much to set the template for nightclubs worldwide, are long gone.

Even Motor City boosters like Sam Fotias, the Detroit-born-and-bred director of operations at Movement, concedes that getting a year-round scene going in the city is easier said than done. “Detroit has drawn a lot of comparison to other cities like Berlin,” he told me. “I think that there are some similarities: post-wall Berlin, post-bankruptcy Detroit. But in Berlin you have huge population saturation, you have a regional thing, you have a city that is centrally located in Europe that has always been a very significant cultural hub. In Detroit, you have a burgeoning cultural scene, but as a whole the region is still very blue-collar.”

Fotias and others worry that as the scene grows, it may become increasingly associated with outsiders—both tourists and out-of-town promoters—and dovetail with growing anxieties about gentrification. The genre’s largely white audience doesn’t help the image problem. In an 83 percent black city, attendance at Movement is predominantly white. (Ticket prices may be a factor: Longtime attendees recall a more substantial black audience in the festival’s early years.) The question troubling the city’s techno boosters is how to attract the jet-setting crowd while staying true to the genre’s roots and ensuring that the city serves as more than just a gritty postindustrial backdrop.

A clue to this conundrum may lie at the northern Detroit headquarters of Submerge, a DJ collective and techno label with deep roots in the city’s underground scene. Lining the company’s foyer is “Exhibit 3000,” a modest but mesmerizing overview of Detroit’s dance music history that is billed as the world’s “first permanent techno museum.” With no formal opening hours and limited information online, Submerge is a destination for aficionados only. When I dropped by in the run-up to Movement, the place was buzzing with techno geeks from across the globe.

But when I met with Cornelius Harris, label manager for Submerge, he was ambivalent about the genre’s global appeal. “People come here and do all these documentaries that are being shown to big crowds in Europe, but no one here has seen them,” he told me. “All we’re doing is enriching what’s over there, and none of it comes back this way.”

Harris is eager to reach another audience: local schoolchildren. Although techno’s popularity with Detroit youth pales next to hip-hop, Harris hopes students will come away with a deeper appreciation for the homegrown history of a genre that upended the global music industry.

“What we’re hoping is that these kids can see how people just like them refused to fit stereotypes and made their own future,” Harris said. “That’s what we’ve used the museum for: to offer an alternative view of what you can do. If I want to innovate in medicine, maybe I can learn from techno. The music is a tool. It leads to other things.”

Turn Off the Price-Gouging Machine

Turn Off the Price-Gouging Machine

by Daniel Gross @ Slate Articles

Natural disasters present opportunities for companies to burnish their brands—or tarnish them. It’s relatively easy for a company to marshal resources after the disaster has happened by sending truckloads of supplies, distributing products, and stamping its name on relief efforts. It’s much harder to do the right thing as the disaster is approaching or actually happening—and that’s in part because so much of the human activity has been removed from business operations.

Operating at scale—managing millions of customers, running intricate and highly complex operations, keeping track of a huge amount of activity in real time—requires robust systems. The more computer algorithms can perform business activities and make decisions, the more efficient and profitable companies can be. Indeed, companies like Facebook, Google, and Amazon, which enjoy very high margins, rely to a large degree on algorithms to run their businesses.

Software can detect and follow supply and demand in real time and adjust prices accordingly. This is how companies that sell products with set expiration dates—like hotel rooms and airplane seats—manage to eke out profits in highly competitive environments. Retailers like gas stations also use software to scour the marketplace for price information and continually adjust prices.

But we’ve seen in the past how doing so can lead to problems when things go badly. Uber, the poster child for having too much artificial intelligence and too little emotional intelligence, was justly dinged for letting its system charge surge pricing during Hurricane Sandy.

Last week, several well-known, very large companies—not exactly paragons of customer service—intervened in their algorithms and altered policies to offer relief to stressed-out customers in ways that were counterintuitive to how the machines would act.

Ordinarily, when lots of people suddenly want to fly air routes at the same time, systems will adjust prices continually higher to capture the available dollars. Not this time. Several airlines last week, led by JetBlue, American, Delta, and United, capped fares for flights leaving Florida, waived some of the fees they charge for bringing baggage and pets along, and added flights and seats to the extent possible. All of which will have the effect of reducing revenues that the system could have captured.

Airbnb generates revenues partly as a percentage of how much guests pay to stay in the homes of hosts on its network. The prospects of millions of people fleeing Irma and seeking temporary shelter would therefore present an opportunity for Airbnb and its hosts to raise prices. But, in another counterintuitive move, Airbnb assembled a list of hosts willing to open their homes for free.

For wireless companies, which make money by charging users for data, a week in which people feel compelled to keep their phones on at all times and continually refresh weather maps or video coverage would be really good for business. The system, without any tweaking, would happily tally overages and charge accordingly. Ahead of Irma’s arrival, however, both AT&T Wireless and Verizon texted customers that they would either add more data to existing plans or simply not charge for text or data overuse for the next week.

Of course, these measures aren’t being done purely out of a sense of humanitarianism. Savvy companies have come to recognize that behaving like a jerk when customers are in extremis can add to your bottom line this quarter, but it invites investigations, and, in the age of social media, backlash. 7-Eleven swung into action quickly when it was reported that several store owners in Florida had jacked up prices of bottled water last week.

Now that so many operations are run by algorithms that have no appreciation for poor optics—or the morality of gouging consumers when they are desperate, or the damage that a greedy vision can do a company’s long-term viability—more and more executives are discovering they have to shut their systems off when the waters rise.

Puerto Rico’s Best Hope for Keeping the Lights On

Puerto Rico’s Best Hope for Keeping the Lights On

by Henry Grabar @ Slate Articles

When Hurricane Irma swept through South Florida on Sept. 10, about 4.5 million homes lost power in an extended blackout. In the days afterward, eight people died of heat-related causes at a nursing home without power in Hollywood, Florida. Floridians directed their outrage at Florida Power and Light, one of the state’s private regulated utilities, which was accused of shorting resilience spending as profits rose year after year.

Ten days later, the blow that Hurricane Maria has delivered to Puerto Rico made Irma’s impact on Florida look like a spring shower. Meanwhile, the service, management, and upkeep of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, or PREPA, makes Florida Power and Light look like Amazon.

A 2016 report on PREPA commissioned by the Puerto Rican government is scathing. In the latter months of that year, for example, Puerto Ricans experienced four to five times the number of service outages as U.S. customers on average, though they pay the second-highest rates in the U.S. after Hawaii. Instead of investing in preventive maintenance, PREPA operates in a permanent state of triage. Its budget is “opaque and discretionary.” Record keeping is “subpar.” A third of the capital budget is spend on discretionary administrative expenses, hinting at a slush fund. Thirty percent of PREPA’s employees have retired or migrated to the mainland since 2012, the Washington Post reports—especially its skilled workers. Money is short, the report concludes, but so is human and intellectual capital.

The agency has $9 billion in debt and said it needs $4 billion to upgrade its infrastructure, including plants whose reliance on oil is passed onto Puerto Ricans in the form of high rates and dirty air. It filed for bankruptcy in July.

And that was before a Category 5 hurricane pounded the island this week.

Maria has left apocalyptic scenes on Puerto Rico, where 150 mph winds stripped whole hillsides bare of leaves and toppled concrete power-line poles. Precipitation rivaled global records, and river flows obliterated previous highs. Parts of the island received the sum of Hurricane Harvey’s three-day Houston rainfall in less than 24 hours—a year’s worth of Seattle precipitation in just a day, as the meteorologist Eric Holthaus noted.

PREPA director Ricardo Ramos said the power grid has been “destroyed.” Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló told Anderson Cooper it would take months to restore electricity to the island’s 3.5 million residents. It’s a task made more complicated by the fact that PREPA has become a political football, a problem symptomatic both of Puerto Rico’s economic crisis and the controversial Washington-run political system in place to manage the island, including its maligned power corporation.

The island has spent more than a decade in recession. Unemployment is more than 10 percent, and the population declined by more than 10 percent between 2004 and 2016. In 2015 alone, the net outward migration was more than 64,000, according to Pew. Six in 10 children live in poverty.

In May, Puerto Rico filed for bankruptcy under the provisions set forth in PROMESA (Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act), a law signed by President Obama in the summer of 2016. The act established a financial control board for the island, similar to the emergency managers that have governed Detroit and other American cities in the wake of bankruptcies.

So far, that board has made some unpopular decisions, cutting spending on public health by 30 percent, closing schools, and lowering the minimum wage for young people to a little over $4 an hour. In the near term, austerity will worsen conditions on the island, where analysts expect the recession to continue until 2020. Many Puerto Ricans see the board as a tool of colonial oversight; at the time PROMESA passed, Bernie Sanders said it was a “junta” that would rule the island like “a colonial master.”

But this summer, the financial control board did something surprisingly wise, much to the disappointment of the congressional Republicans who created it: It voted 4–3 to reject a restructuring agreement for the power authority’s $9 billion in debt, infuriating the hedge funds that had negotiated a repayment deal to recoup 85 percent of what they were owed.

Luis Santini Gaudier, a consumer representative on the PREPA board, had criticized the deal as “lucrative business” for creditors who had bought PREPA debt on the cheap. The deal was a rip-off, wrote Tom Sanzillo, the director of finance for the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, in the Hill: “Puerto Rico’s economic growth for an entire generation will go largely to off-island financiers rather than into the Puerto Rican economy.” (And that was before accounting for the rest of Puerto Rico’s $60 billion in debt.)

The board’s idea is to privatize PREPA. “Lowering the price of electricity and spurring economic growth depended on reforming Prepa’s operations, not merely restructuring its credit,” the four members who had rejected the debt deal wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed. Privatization would allow PREPA to “modernize its power supply, depoliticize its management, reform pensions, and renegotiate labor and other contracts to operate more efficiently.” Most importantly, they wrote, no new investment will come into PREPA’s plants, transformers, and lines if Puerto Rico ratepayers are spending the next three decades paying off debt to vulture funds in New York.

This plan has made unlikely allies of New York bankers and Puerto Rican labor unions. Union officials are convinced PREPA chiefs are deliberately letting the system fall apart to strengthen the case for privatization, which the island’s governor declared was inevitable before the hurricanes hit. Unions believe their contracts and pensions are safer with elected politicians than with independent business leaders.

The banks, which sued the fiscal control board and lost, should be worried that PREPA’s assets could be sold off for a song in order to get a private operator invested in the island’s power system. They’ll wind up getting paid less, and later, than will newer investors eager to rebuild the island’s infrastructure. Their goal—getting paid for years to come by Puerto Ricans on their electricity bills—is at odds with the fiscal control board’s goal of making the island’s electricity cheaper.

PREPA has played up the extent to which recent funding shortfalls (during the control board era and before) have precipitated the crisis. Ramos, PREPA’s executive director, noted before Irma that the utility’s plants were vulnerable because no money had been spent on maintenance. Miguel A. Soto-Class, the president of the Center for a New Economy, a Puerto Rican research group, told the New York Times that a lack of tree pruning (again, to save money) had left the country’s 2,478 miles of transmission lines and 31,485 miles of distribution lines vulnerable to a storm. “PREPA’s current weak financial condition will affect the utility’s ability to quickly repair and restore service after this natural disaster,” Moody’s wrote in early September, before Irma.

Now a disaster has struck that is worse than what anyone had imagined; damage will likely cost hundreds of millions to repair, even as the future of PREPA—including such basic questions as its ownership—remains tangled up in politics. “This is a moment of crisis that we need to benefit from and transform into an opportunity of change, production and investment,” Jenniffer González, the island’s nonvoting representative in Congress, told the New York Times after Irma.

This wouldn’t be the first disaster to ease the way toward privatization. Selling off public assets has never been popular in Puerto Rico, but less popular still, in the wake of Hurricane Maria, will be a dysfunctional PREPA that can’t turn the lights on.

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Dove


Unilever Middle East

In a world of hype and stereotypes, Dove empowers women's esteem recognising that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes and it's simply about how you feel.

“Run Them Down”

“Run Them Down”

by Henry Grabar @ Slate Articles

When James Alex Fields Jr. allegedly revved his Dodge Challenger toward the downtown mall in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday afternoon, killing one woman and injuring more than a dozen others, he was taking a page from the ISIS playbook: Use a car as a weapon.

“Though being an essential part of modern life,” the ISIS magazine Rumiyah wrote in November 2016, “very few actually comprehend the deadly and destructive capability of the motor vehicle and its capacity of reaping large numbers of casualties if used in a premeditated manner.”

That endorsement was the latest in a string of attempts by jihadis to promote car attacks, including a 2010 article published in the al-Qaida magazine Inspire that endorsed exactly the approach Fields is accused of having carried out. “If you can get through to ‘pedestrian only’ locations that exist in some downtown (city center) areas, that would be fabulous,” the magazine’s editor wrote. The ISIS call-to-arms came a few months after a terrorist driving a truck killed 84 people during a Bastille Day celebration in Nice, France, and was followed by deadly ISIS-inspired car attacks in Berlin, Stockholm, and twice in London. The frequency of vehicular terror attacks has spiked over the past four years.

But Saturday’s attack also has a lineage closer to home: a long-running right-wing fantasy of running over protesters, especially members of Black Lives Matter who have blocked intersections and highways during rallies. It’s an idea, as the artist Gary Kavanagh observes, that has far broader currency than the white nationalism on display at the “Unite the Right” rally that brought Fields to Charlottesville. “Run them over” is a popular anti-BLM catchphrase, as this Tumblr by historian Liam Hogan demonstrates.

Even police officers have felt comfortable expressing the sentiment in public. In July 2016—after a week during which Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were shot and killed by police, and Micah Xavier Johnson killed five Dallas police officers in an apparent act of revenge—an Oregon police officer was fired after he posted a photo of a Black Lives Matter protest and wrote, “When encountering such mobs remember, there are 3 pedals on your floor. Push the right one all the way down.”

In January 2016, a police sergeant in St. Paul, Minnesota, was suspended after allegedly posting a comment on an article about a Martin Luther King Jr. Day march, instructing drivers: “Run them over. Keep traffic flowing and don’t slow down for any of these idiots who try and block the street.”

This February, Troy Baker, president of the police union in Santa Fe, New Mexico, shared an image from the “Prepare to Take America Back” Facebook page, a right-wing meme factory with links to conspiracy theories. “All lives splatter: Nobody cares about your protest,” it reads over an image of a jeep plowing through a crowd.

The Santa Fe Police Department opened an investigation into that and other memes Baker had shared disparaging blacks and Muslims. “That is a joke and taken as such,” Baker told the Santa Fe Reporter, which uncovered the posts, about the protester meme. “We don’t need to be running over people intentionally, but people shouldn’t be blocking roadways either.”

But “jokes” like those have been accompanied by a string of drivers doing exactly that. On July 10, 2016—the same day a South Carolina fire captain threatened to run over BLM protesters who had shut down Interstate 126—an SUV driver in southern Illinois plowed through a group of BLM protesters after yelling “All lives matter, not blacks, all lives.” Two days earlier, a driver had accelerated into a crowd of protesters outside the police department in Ferguson, Missouri. In January 2015, a Minneapolis driver lurched into a Ferguson solidarity rally and ran over a 16-year-old girl.

This is not just a handful of sociopaths living out a 4chan meme. Across the country, Republicans legislators have attempted to codify the idea that protesters surrender their rights when they stand in the road. The philosophy behind these bills was elucidated by Keith Kempenich, a trucking company CEO and North Dakota state legislator whose mother-in-law was stopped by a Dakota Access Pipeline protest. “There’s a line between protesting and terrorism, and what we’re dealing with was terrorism out there,” he told the Washington Post. “[Drivers] who were legally doing their business or just going home and all of a sudden they’re in a situation they don’t want to be in.” Prominent right-wing figures like Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke have also referred to BLM as a “terror” organization.

Kempenich’s state House bill to give immunity to drivers who unintentionally hit pedestrians in the road failed, 41–50. The North Carolina House approved a similar bill in April, after protesters blocked streets in Charlotte after Keith Lamont Scott was killed by a Charlotte police officer, that would give even more leeway to drivers. Lawmakers in Texas and Florida have proposed the same. Tennessee state Sen. Bill Ketron, who sponsored a similar measure in his state after a man drove through a group of anti-Trump protesters, said “[p]rotesters have no right to be in the middle of the road or our highways for their own safety and the safety of the traveling public.”

The Tennessee bill, like the rest of them, has failed. But it’s a reminder that in standoffs between protesters and drivers, many, many Americans want to shore up the rights of drivers, even if that means absolving them for whatever carnage they cause with their cars. In American cities, where drivers are almost never prosecuted for hitting pedestrians or cyclists, there’s a saying: If you want to kill someone and not get punished, use a car.

The Fields attack, then, may borrow its tactics from ISIS attacks in European cities. But as an idea, it is also indebted to all the drivers who have plowed through BLM protesters in the past three years, to the jokes and memes that legitimized that response (especially from police officers), and to the legislators who attempted to make anything but a dead stop look like a defensible course of conduct. What makes this time different? Only that somebody died.

And maybe not even that. After news broke that a woman had been killed at the counterprotest, a Massachusetts patrolman commented on Facebook: “Hahahaha love this, maybe people shouldn’t block road ways.”

Six products that cost more for women than for men

Six products that cost more for women than for men


The Christian Science Monitor

Is there a difference between soap for men and soap for women? Yes – women can pay up to twice as much for a bar of soap than men.

Getting More from Fashion After 60

by Margaret Manning @ Fashion, Hair, Makeup for Older Women, Senior Dating, Travel

Today's conversation is likely to be controversial, so, I hope that you will bear with me! Not so long ago, I had the opportunity to travel down to Milan, Italy to meet with fashion expert, Melanie Payge. Our conversation was colorful, creative and more than a little controversial! Today, I want to share 6 guidelines that Melanie gave to our community for getting more from fashion after 60. You may not agree with all of them – I certainly didn’t – but they will certainly get you thinking! More than anything, they will give us something fun to chat about! Do you find yourself dressing differently these days, compared to your 40s, for example? Do you think that there are any “guidelines” that women our age can follow to get the most from our fashion choices? Or, do you think that fashion after 60 is all about comfort?

7 Easy Ways to Optimize Your Hormones (and Be Your Best at Any Age)

by DailyHealthPost @ Daily Health Post

As its name implies, growth hormones stimulate growth, cell reproduction and regeneration in humans. Growth hormone diminishes as you age, ...

The post 7 Easy Ways to Optimize Your Hormones (and Be Your Best at Any Age) appeared first on Daily Health Post.

6 Plants That Will Help Your Breasts Grow Naturally

by Emaan Shah @ STYLECRAZE

Since time immortal, breasts have been a sign of female beauty and fertility. Especially breasts that happen to be on the larger side of the mammary gland spectrum. History is flooded with ancient texts and works of literature that wax [...]

The post 6 Plants That Will Help Your Breasts Grow Naturally appeared first on STYLECRAZE.

What We Can Learn From Dove's Marketing Strategies | Mechtronics

What We Can Learn From Dove's Marketing Strategies | Mechtronics


Mechtronics

Dove by Unilever has evolved to be one of the most trusted beauty product makers in the industry, appealing to women across the world.

Massive 10-Year Study Has Linked Diet Soda To Heart Attacks And Stroke

by DailyHealthPost @ Daily Health Post

Just because a product says “healthy”, “natural”, or “sugar-free” doesn’t mean it’s good for you. Same goes for the word ...

The post Massive 10-Year Study Has Linked Diet Soda To Heart Attacks And Stroke appeared first on Daily Health Post.

The Delicate Art of the Amusement Park Caricature

The Delicate Art of the Amusement Park Caricature

by Benjamin Frisch @ Slate Articles

 

Want to listen to this article out loud? Hear it on Slate Voice.

I was scheduled that day to draw caricatures in the Italian-themed section of Busch Gardens, an amusement park in my hometown of Williamsburg, Virginia. The caricature stand was sandwiched between the giant spinning teacups and the train that runs the perimeter of the park. A few hours after opening, a middle-aged woman approached the stand pushing a heavy-duty wheelchair occupied by a disabled teenager. She asked that I draw a $10 sketch of the boy’s face, black and white, no body.

I asked the boy if he would look straight at me, and he didn’t respond. The seat of the wheelchair was tilted back, and his head was cocked slightly to the side, so I saw it from a ¾ view rather than the usual straight-ahead perspective. He didn’t smile when I asked, but he had an expression that I read as contented. The drawing took longer than usual, as I was being extra careful. I drew what I saw. It was a pretty good likeness and a friendly representation of this teenager, neither exaggerating his disability nor “correcting” for it.

As I tore the sheet from the easel, I showed it to the boy, who didn’t respond. Then I showed it to his caretaker. Her breathing quickened.

The caricature artist, like every employee at a theme park, is in the business of customer service. But our relationship with the customer is more charged than that of the ride operator or the cotton candy vendor. A caricature is a symbolic representation of a person’s face. Through cartooning, a caricaturist reduces the features of a person to simplified shapes and reorders them to create an image that represents the person. It’s not a portrait of the person; it’s a portrait of the idea of the person. When you ask for a caricature, you are asking to be confronted by your own appearance or the appearance of your loved one. Drawing caricatures that were both good and benign is a somewhat unnavigable problem.

Caricaturing takes place on a battlefield between our physical appearance as observed by others, our often dysmorphic view of our own appearance, how we wish we appeared, and societal standards of what is “beautiful.” Theme park caricatures tend to smooth over the rough edges in the interest of pleasing the customer, but conflicts are unavoidable due to the nature of the form. Some people have big noses, long necks, and ears that stick out enough to threaten the likeness if removed. I also believe it’s condescending to assume people should automatically be ashamed of certain aspects of their face. Were a caricature artist to reduce the size of my strong nose, she wouldn’t be doing me any favors.

But not everyone feels the same way, and it’s the artist who must guess, based on the demeanor of the subject and his companions, how far to push. Pleasing children is easy; they aren’t very self-conscious, and kids look much more alike than people realize. But parents project their neuroses onto their children, so not only must you draw the child well, but you must also navigate the parent’s idealized idea of what that child looks like.

Adults are much more difficult. Adults have a lifetime of societal judgments drilled into their self-image, and their faces vary dramatically in proportion. Generally, more exaggerated caricatures are better caricatures, they look more like a person, but they are also dangerous. The more exaggerated, the more likely someone will find something to object to.

There is nothing inherently cruel about the process of caricaturing. There’s a misconception that caricaturists simply choose a feature to exaggerate arbitrarily (a big nose on this one!) and then draw around that exaggeration, but in reality it’s more complicated. Caricaturing is mostly a game of proportion, seeing what parts of a face exist in larger or smaller proportion to the rest of the face, and pushing those proportions via exaggeration. It’s not exactly objective, but the rules of resemblance are fairly reliable, and it’s very easy to ruin a likeness with a poorly placed hairline or set of cheekbones.

Sometimes clients would tell me outright, “Don’t draw me with freckles” or “Don’t exaggerate my chin.” Once the instructions I received were blessedly clear: As I sat down to draw a boy with Down syndrome, his mother leaned in and told me warmly, “It’s OK if you draw him like he has Down’s. We know what he looks like.” The implication was that they’d had a previous bad experience in which a caricaturist had changed his face to look more “typical.” The advice gave me confidence in my artistic choice; I breathed a little easier and drew the boy riding a choo-choo train.

That day by the spinning teacups was different. When I handed the boy’s caretaker his caricature, she refused to make eye contact, and yelled, “You’re a terrible artist and a horrible person!” She pulled the boy’s wheelchair from the stand and stormed away. I was still a junior artist, so getting rejected was a common occurrence, but this was especially bruising. I still don’t know what caused her to reject the sketch; I assume she believed I was belittling the boy somehow, but I’ll never know. Perhaps she thought the very act of exaggeration could be upsetting to a child whose differences might have been mocked by others.

I caricatured for four summers as a teenager. It was a good job and paid well (when people liked my work). I wonder, though, if the moral responsibility of managing people’s self-image issues was the healthiest activity for a teenage artist who was already deeply insecure in his artwork. I wasn’t stung by being called a horrible person; I felt confident enough in my ethical approach to caricaturing to feel that wasn’t the case. But being called a terrible artist, the only time in my life someone has said that to my face, felt far more cruel.

After she left the stand that day, I spent a lot of time looking at the sketch they left behind. I can picture it more easily than any other caricature I’ve ever drawn. In truth, I believe my failure was a customer-service failure, not an artistic one. I certainly should have asked more questions, or she could have been more specific in her requests. Such communication might have helped me better understand what she was hoping for or undercut any unconscious bias I might have brought to the task. But I don’t think either of us were prepared for the ethical quandary at the heart of it, which was particularly thorny this time but fundamentally the same as the one every caricaturist faces when she puts pen to paper: People put faces in your hands, and your job is to make them more themselves than they are in real life. Can you bridge the gulf between what they dream of and what you see?

Dove targets Indian women with country-specific feel-good campaign

Dove targets Indian women with country-specific feel-good campaign


CosmeticsDesign-Asia.com

Dove has launched the first campaign from its ‘Masterbrand’ directed specifically at consumers in India, in a move which confirms the country’s rising prominence for personal care players.

Dove Go Fresh

Dove Go Fresh


FUSSFACTORY

Dove launched in 1957 with a revolutionary cleansing bar made with a patented blend of mild cleansers and ¼ moisturizing cream. Building on the foundation of that iconic Beauty Bar, Dove has grown into one of the world’s most recognizable personal care brands.This offering is a full line o

Winning Over Female Beauty Consumers in India - A Lesson From Dove - GFluence

Winning Over Female Beauty Consumers in India - A Lesson From Dove - GFluence


GFluence

The Dove “Real Beauty” campaign has an iconic status among marketing circles. Using “real” women who buy the products instead of models seems simple, yet it defied everyday advertising practices. After major success in the West, Dove continues to reinvent its famous advertising campaign in other countries. Taking in account cultural specifics it snatched its share of female beauty consumers in India’s market. Let’s take look how the famous beauty products company adapted its western marketing strategy to make it in India.The Original Dove Real Beauty CampaignIt all started in 2003 in the UK. Remember these billboards?Source: Creativebrief.comSince then [...] Read more

Call Center Confidential

Call Center Confidential

by Aaron Mak @ Slate Articles

Always Right is Slate’s pop-up blog exploring customer service across industries, technologies, and human relationships.

Dialing in to a customer service line is no one’s idea of fun. You often have to navigate through a labyrinth of menu options, crude voice recognition software, and grating hold music before finally reaching a breathing human being. And then you must explain in painstaking detail the problem with your cable box to some person thousands of miles away.

But what about that person? It’s no cakewalk for the service professional on the line, either. What is it like for company representatives fielding thousands of calls every day from customers—many of whom are irate, unreasonable, and/or clueless? We asked members of this invisible workforce from around the country to speak their minds. We didn’t record those conversations for training and quality control purposes—we recorded them to give you an idea what life’s like on the other end of the call.

What's the worst thing that a customer has ever said or done to you?

A customer said to me that they hoped that I had a son who died when he turned 5. He had just gone through that, basically. I worked in benefits administration, particularly in health and insurance. So he had a son who had passed away at 5 due to some health concerns, and had made some mistakes with the benefits he chose based off of losing a dependent. We couldn't go in and just immediately fix those; we had to go through an appeals process. He didn't want to hear that. He said, “Well I hope you have a son, and when he turns 5, I hope he dies, and you have to go through this bullshit.”
—D, customer service rep, insurance

I was calling to follow up on a payment, and he asked me to take the penis out of my mouth. And I was like, “Huh?” Not thinking he would repeat it. And then he said, “You heard me, monkey. I said take the penis out of your mouth.”
—A, customer service rep, financial services

There was a woman who said she was going to report me to the Minnesota government office because I didn’t know where the ticket window at the Minnesota State Fair was.
—P, customer service rep, ticketing services

On the HR end, we were frequently listening to calls. Everything is recorded. One that I remember vividly was an employee repeatedly being called the N-word over and over by a customer very early in the call. The employee did a great job at de-escalating the situation—just sort of kept listening to the customer, kept diverting it back to what the issue was that they were trying to deal with. That employee probably needed a break, probably needed a walk around the parking lot afterwards.
—M, human resources partner, telecommunications

There was a woman who told me that it was my fault that her husband wouldn’t make his mother’s funeral on time, because their check bounced at the store. She was buying a suit for him.
—L, customer service rep, retail

What should customers say and how should they behave to get what they want?

I would say just be clear on what they want, and sometimes they may know what they want and not how to ask for it. I would just say, “Hey, this is what I’m trying to accomplish.” Even if you don’t know specifically what to ask for, maybe say what the goal is.
—A, customer service rep, financial services

Pet peeve for me is when people cut me off. If I’m asking you a question, let me finish my question and then feel free to insert your opinion.
—J, customer service rep, international benefits

You don’t have to bake us cookies or anything, but just be nice to us on the phone and we’ll be willing to go the extra distance for you. Versus someone who’s cussing us up and down and yelling at us—we’ll still get the issue done, because that’s our job. But we’re not going to be willing to go as above and beyond.
—E, customer service rep, financial services

It’s not like a lot of people want to make being a customer service representative their life’s work. A lot of the time that’s an entry-level position so that they can get where they want to go within the company. It may already be a frustrating situation for them in that regard. I try to remember that and treat them with respect.
—L, customer service rep, retail

What’s the most positive experience you’ve had with a customer?

I dealt with an elderly person regarding a pension payment that she was expecting, and she called on the deadline to update her direct deposit. We were saying initially, “Hey, you missed the deadline, so your payment is going to be delayed.” She was like, “I need it. I depend on this money. I’m on a fixed income.” So I just reach out to the department that handles those direct deposits and said, “Hey, is this something that we can manually push through?” They said yes. I got back to her, and she was eternally grateful. She ended up sending me cards and stuff just thanking me.
—A, customer service rep, financial services

I was talking with a lady that had just lost her car and home because of Hurricane Harvey. She just had no idea what to do—she couldn’t get out. We had compiled ahead of time a list of emergency services, like how to get in touch with first responders, what to do, how to be prepared. I said, “I’m going to give this to you, but is there anything else that you’d like us to search for?” She was like, “Yes, please. I need help finding a shelter.” And then she let me know that her grandmother was with her. She was just so afraid that something was going to happen.
—J, customer service rep, international benefits

A guy called in and canceled his wife’s insurance because they were going through a divorce. She had Stage 4 cancer. She called us up and was obviously quite distraught. We were trying to figure out what we could do for her and find some loopholes and pull some strings by reaching out directly to her husband’s employer. I was able to call her back and say “Hey, we’ve got great news for you. We got you back into your benefits. You can get the medical attention you need.” That was probably the best moment that I’ve had there.
—D, customer service representative, insurance

Grandmaster Flash landed on my desk a couple times. And then when I was the manager, there were a couple times when he was escalated up to me just because he wanted to chat.
—M, customer service rep and manager, audio tech

Why Dove's Latest "Real Beauty" Ad Doesn't Actually Empower Women

Why Dove's Latest "Real Beauty" Ad Doesn't Actually Empower Women


Greatist

Dove’s latest ad, a short video entitled “Selfie,” has been making waves all over the Internet. But is its message actually a positive one?

California Might Be Producing Too Much Legal Weed

California Might Be Producing Too Much Legal Weed

by Akin Oyedele @ Slate Articles

California's marijuana producers are growing eight times the amount needed for consumption, according to a report by Patrick McGreevy at the Los Angeles Times.

Scaling back would be painful for growers, said Hezekiah Allen, the executive director of the California Growers Association, during a panel discussion at the Sacramento Press Club. The Times reported that a consultant in the audience estimated the pot glut at 12 times what's being consumed.

In 1996, California became the first U.S. state to permit medicinal marijuana. Its residents voted in November to legalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana for recreational use. But it now faces a glut ahead of new regulations that ban exports starting January 1.

A consequence of the glut, Allen added, is that some growers on the black market would most likely export their product to other states in violation of federal law.

Seven states including neighboring Nevada, Arkansas, and Massachusetts legalized marijuana in various forms on Election Day last year. In all, 29 U.S. states have legalized marijuana in some form, according to Governing.com.

 

Top 15 Dove Shampoos Available In India

Top 15 Dove Shampoos Available In India


STYLECRAZE

Here is a list of the best among the Dove shampoo India range! Have you tried any of them or has this post convinced you to try any of them? Do tell us!

The Devilish Magic of Halo Top

The Devilish Magic of Halo Top

by Heather Schwedel @ Slate Articles

This has been the summer of Wonder Woman, of “Despacito,” of rosé and brosé and frosé, of Game of Thrones spoilers, and of near-weekly red weddings at the White House. But more than all of those things, it’s been the summer of Halo Top. The low-calorie ice cream–maker, which didn’t exist before 2012, has given the ice-cream industry a brain freeze, forcing its competitors to remake their strategies in the mold of its success.

Between 2015 and 2016, Halo Top’s sales soared by 2,500 percent, and in 2017 the brand gained a foothold in major chains like Walmart and launched its first national advertising campaign. Taste reported last month that after Walmart started carrying seven flavors of Halo Top in April, it quickly started outselling every other ice cream the megastore carried. Just within the past few weeks, Halo Top passed legacy brands like Ben & Jerry’s and Häagen-Dazs to take the title of America’s best-selling pint. And now Reuters reports that Halo Top is exploring a sale and that it’s already been valued at as much as $2 billion. On top of all that, more flavors are on the way.

That we are all now living in Halo Top’s world is reason to celebrate if you, like me, have picked up on the brand’s particular compulsion-scratching attraction and decided you love the stuff anyway. But Halo Top’s ascent also reflects some of the more fraught trends in diet-adjacent dining these days: It speaks the language of “healthy” food—but draws its power from the unhealthiest of eating habits.

Halo Top’s main selling point is that an entire pint of the stuff contains about as many calories (240 to 350) as other ice creams might contain in a single serving or serving and a half. But unlike other “healthy” ice creams that came before it, Halo Top doesn’t taste like expired yogurt. It tastes pretty good, in fact, at least once you get used to its mousselike texture, a constant reminder that what you’re eating isn’t exactly regular ice cream. It varies from flavor to flavor, sure, and not everyone likes it, but still: A whole pint of ice cream that’s only 240 calories—that’s living the dream.

How does Halo Top do it? The ice cream’s secret weapons are stevia and prebiotic fiber (which replace the sugar and fat of typical ice cream) and … air. Yup, air. Halo Top has more air whipped into it than other ice creams, meaning it weighs just 256 grams to the 428 grams of a Ben & Jerry’s pint, as Time has pointed out. Much of the brand’s success can be attributed to good timing: When founder and CEO Justin Woolverton began messing around with his personal ice-cream maker circa 2010–11, he told Taste, so-called natural sweeteners like stevia were relatively new, so there weren’t many manufacturers experimenting with them on a large scale. He got in early.

If you look at the nutrition label on each pint of Halo Top, the serving size is still the typical half-cup, but the brand plays up the “go ahead and eat a whole pint” idea. Each pint’s label lists its total calorie count in big, central type—bigger type than even is used for the flavor’s name or the Halo Top logo. Marketing and packaging materials encourage customers to eat the whole thing. Seals say things like, “Stop when you hit the bottom” and “No bowl, no regrets.”

The more times a person decides to eat a whole pint instead of stretching one out into several servings, the more pints Halo Top sells. The brand is well aware of this phenomenon: Early wholesale customers had trouble keeping the stuff in stock because “it became very apparent on our end that people were eating Halo Top five times a week, or 10 times a week, which is far more than any supermarket expects customers to eat ice cream,” the company’s president told Taste.

If you’re a calorie counter, you get this. If not, well, it’s hard to explain what a life-changer this product feels like for people who routinely log their meals in MyFitnessPal. It’s magic, a hall pass, a get-out-of-jail-free card. All any dieting person really wants—and I am extrapolating from personal experience here—is to eat a whole container of something. Preferably that thing will taste good or at least not bad, but what’s crucial, in the end, is getting to eat all of it. What Halo Top does so brilliantly is tap into Americans’ love of bingeing. And if the thinking behind Halo Top seems like the thinking of disordered eating, I don’t blame the company for that: The warped mindset of disordered eating seems to underlie pretty much all conversations about food and weight and dieting these days.

Halo Top would never use the word fat in its branding, but that’s what you see when you imagine someone eating a whole pint of ice cream, right? Fat, sad, alone, female. In addition to the stevia, the prebiotic fiber, and the air, a great deal of Halo Top’s success surely comes from the company’s branding, which decouples an ugly, unfair association from a self-indulgent habit. With its poppy, millennial-targeting packaging, Halo Top just doesn’t look like a diet ice cream. It’s managed to brand itself the “healthy” ice cream and recontextualize the pathetic act of eating a pint of ice cream in one go. As Taffy Brodesser-Akner argued recently in the New York Times Magazine, “dieting” has become tacky in the popular culture, so the makers of “diet” products have had to find a new script. Halo Top’s Instagram-friendly aesthetic announces it as something cool, not a diet-diet product and certainly not for fat people. (Though the word fat itself is also fraught, and whether it’s OK to say it or not is constantly in flux.) Because “losing weight” is now tacky, too, Halo Top’s promise of extra protein is perfect for getting “strong.” If you squint, its “natural” ingredients aren’t so far from “eating clean,” another favorite code phrase of modern health foods. When you dig into a Halo Top pint, you imagine you’re part of a legion of fitness models indulging in a guilty pleasure, not one of countless Americans who struggle with weight.

As Brodesser-Akner argued in her piece, our culture continues to talk around the reality that, wellness trend and body-acceptance movements be damned, actually losing weight and keeping it off can be nearly impossible. We receive the mixed messages that we shouldn’t want to lose weight and should accept our bodies as they are, but also that we would be healthier if we took up less space, which is why we should find a diet and stay on it forever. It all adds up to a lot of cross-talk, wasted energy, and precious little progress, in terms of both pounds lost and happiness gained.

In this light, eating “healthy” ice cream doesn’t make sense, but nothing about bingeing or America’s culture of dieting really does. Why don’t Halo Top’s fans just eat a little bit of real ice cream that tastes good and has a normal mouthfeel? Asking that is like asking why I don’t just start eating a plant-based diet or start exercising for 30 minutes a day, five times per week, like Michael Pollan and the American Heart Association have been telling me to do for years. If it were that easy, wouldn’t we be doing it already? Halo Top’s reputation as the “healthy” ice cream has inspired more than a few publications to ask questions like, “Is Halo Top Ice Cream Good for You?” or explain that, actually, “Low-Cal Ice Cream Like Halo Top Could Be Making You Fat.” Time went so far as to write, “Unlike fruits and vegetables that are naturally full of nutrients, Halo Top is a processed dairy product with sugar and sweeteners.” Shocker: This ice cream is not a thing that grows on organic farms. Of course Halo Top isn’t good for you. It may get called “healthy” ice cream, but at this point healthy has almost lost all meaning. Halo Top is healthier than traditional ice cream, but that doesn’t mean it’s healthy, that there’s anything healthy about eating an entire pint of ice cream, or that ice cream in general is getting healthier. But it’s how a lot of people eat, and Halo Top has realized that and capitalized on it.

Other brands are joining the fray. In recent weeks, Breyers rolled out its Halo Top competitor, Breyers Delights, pints of ice cream that give the most prime real estate on their labels over to advertising their sub-350 calorie counts. More are sure to follow.

That’s fine—I’m eager for more companies to embrace stevia. Maybe Häagen-Dazs will iterate and fix Halo Top’s texture problem. Maybe the food industry will figure out how to remove three-fourths of the calories from every type of food. No matter what, we can cheer America’s ice cream aisles becoming healthier, if not exactly healthy.

But when they do, it will also be a troubling outgrowth of our twisted relationship with dieting. And that’s a problem even stevia can’t solve.

Tobacco Investors Just Learned That Trump Isn’t the Salvation of Every Odious Industry

Tobacco Investors Just Learned That Trump Isn’t the Salvation of Every Odious Industry

by Daniel Gross @ Slate Articles

The tendency to lean on political beliefs is one of the most powerful forces in investing and financial media, and one of the most dangerous. There’s a general sense that Republicans are good for business (lower taxes, fewer regulations, an overall permisiveness) and therefore good for the stock market. And there’s a sense that Democrats are bad for business (higher taxes, more regs, a skepticism toward industry’s prerogatives) and therefore bad for the stock market. The lived experienced of the markets over the past 25 years—booming under Clinton and Obama, tanking under Bush—should give the lie to this feeling. But it endures. And it has become particularly powerful under Trump, who regards the stock market as a kind of real-time approval gauge.

But doing so is precarious. And it can be continually confounding at the macro level and at the level of sectors and individual companies. That’s a lesson that investors who held stocks in tobacco companies—in particular the biggest one, Altria (formerly Philip Morris)—learned Friday.

Tobacco companies are in a strange position right now. Smoking is on the decline in the U.S., in part because of government efforts to discourage it via higher taxation, regulation, outright bans, and President Obama’s use of the bully pulpit and the executive pen. Only about 15.1 percent of Americans smoked in 2016, down from about 21 percent in 2005, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And yet the profits of tobacco companies, paradoxically, are booming, in part because sales overseas are growing and in part because tobacco companies have the ability to raise prices. (That’s one of the advantages of making a product that is addictive.) Altria’s profit margins on tobacco products are remarkably high. Between 2001 and 2016, as the chart on Page 11 of Altria’s annual report shows, Altria’s stock nearly tripled, while the S&P 500 merely doubled.

Altria’s stock, like many others, continued to soar after Trump’s election—up about 10 percent in the first half of the year. It’s not hard to see why. Aside from benefiting from the general pro-business agenda of Trump—cutting corporate taxes, reducing the capital gains tax, and so on—Altria would seem to have far less to fear from a Trump administration than from an Obama or Clinton administration. While he doesn’t drink or smoke, Trump isn’t a particularly healthy person: He doesn’t work out or exercise or maintain a healthy diet. His administration has backed measures that would cut health care spending by hundreds of billions of dollars, some of which is now spent on smoking cessation. The Trump administration is full of lobbyists and corporate types eager to do the bidding of companies. The likelihood of the first family engaging in aggressive anti-smoking campaigns is laughable. Altria kicked in $500,000 to fund the Trump inauguration.

And the person Trump named to be the head of the Food and Drug Administration, which regulates tobacco, doesn’t have a history of anti-smoking activism. Scott Gottlieb is a physician, biotech investor, and former resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute who also served in the Bush administration. What’s more, Gottlieb has been strongly in favor of deregulating pharmaceuticals and medical devices, as part of an effort to bring innovations to market more quickly and reduce costs.

And yet Friday morning, with little apparent warning, Gottlieb announced a new comprehensive plan to regulate nicotine. In an aggressive speech that spoke about cigarettes and nicotine in harsh terms, Gottlieb said “we need to envision a world where cigarettes lose their addictive potential through reduced nicotine levels.” For this reason, Gottlieb said, “I’m directing our Center for Tobacco Products to develop a comprehensive nicotine regulatory plan premised on the need to confront and alter cigarette addiction.” With a “balanced regulatory approach,” he noted, “we may be able to reach a day when the most harmful products are no longer capable of addicting our kids.”

This clearly came as a surprise to the companies and to their investors. Stocks reacted violently. In about 30 minutes, Altria’s stock fell 15 percent, sawing nearly $21 billion in market capitalization off the company. By later in the afternoon, the stock had stabilized, though it was still off by about 10 percent, or about $14 billion.

Clearly, investors and the tobacco companies believed that the Trump FDA would take a more hands-off approach to regulating tobacco. After all, we’ve seen sharp pullbacks from regulation of toxic emissions and substances at the Environmental Protection Agency and a general desire to rip up consumer protections. But just because there’s a general air of deregulation, and just because people now in positions of responsibility are hostile to scientific consensus (hello, EPA and Interior), doesn’t mean that all important executive-branch appointees do so.

That’s the mistake tobacco investors made. Gottlieb, after all, is a physician, and a cancer survivor to boot. The science and medicine surrounding tobacco is long since settled, and the consensus is broad. The product has been regulated, without much controversy, for several decades. Everybody involved in health care really hates tobacco, an addictive product that has a host of really bad, expensive, and predictable effects on people’s health. “As a physician who cared for hospitalized cancer patients, and as a cancer survivor myself, I saw first-hand the impact of tobacco,” Gottlieb said in a speech Friday. “And I know all too well that it’s cigarettes that are the primary cause of tobacco-related disease and death. What’s now clear is that FDA is at a unique moment in history, with profound new tools to address this devastating impact.”

Not all of Trump’s appointees will be pro-corporate stooges at all times. And investing as if they are can be remarkably expensive.

How “Press One for English” Became an Anti-Immigrant Meme

How “Press One for English” Became an Anti-Immigrant Meme

by Henry Grabar @ Slate Articles

Always Right is Slate’s pop-up blog exploring customer service across industries, technologies, and human relationships.

In August, White House adviser Stephen Miller unveiled Donald Trump’s new immigration plan, a points-based proposal that would favor English-speaking immigrants. In an ensuing confrontation with Miller, CNN White House Correspondent Jim Acosta accused the administration of “bringing a ‘Press One for English’ philosophy to immigration.”

Acosta was alluding to a right-wing grievance that’s as common as it is curious: that when English-speaking Americans call an automated customer service hotline, they are forced to press a key just to be allowed to speak English. (Para Español, oprima el dos.)

If you’re an American who’s worried about immigration, customer service lines are a convenient transmitter of immigration anxiety you may not actively experience in your everyday life. “Does it bother anyone besides me to call a business with a question or for technical support and have to press one for English or press 2 for….?” Rick Robertson asked in July, in a letter to the Clarion-Ledger. “We shouldn’t have to press ‘one’ for English,” Orwell, New York resident Brenda LaRue told Syracuse.com in March. Neither lives in a county where more than 3 in 100 residents is Latino.

Conservative columnists have picked up the refrain. In a widely shared column that ran during the presidential campaign, talk radio host Howie Carr wrote, “You may be a deplorable if you don’t think you should have to press one for English.” The whole anecdote has become a sympathetic symbol of white resentment projected as a kind of staple experience of alienation in the new multicultural America. “Plenty of Americans do see the increasing prevalence of foreign cultures in the U.S., including Hispanic culture, as an unwelcome invasion,” wrote the Atlantic’s Molly Ball. “They resent having to press 1 for English when they call customer service.”

How did this trivial annoyance, which seems more suited to an Andy Rooney segment than serious political commentary, became a right-wing meme? Many accommodations for the world’s second-largest Spanish-speaking population—the U.S. has more Spanish speakers than any country but Mexico—are largely hidden: Spanish-language baseball broadcasts, or Barack Obama doing a Spanish-language television ad. Online, UPS and Amazon both offer parallel Spanish-language interfaces that the average Anglo customer wouldn’t even know exist. But while Spanish-language functionality in customer service reflects corporate priorities for national companies like American Airlines and Verizon, it conveys national demographics to callers who may not have other interactions with immigrants to draw on. (Ironically, English-language callers to U.S. companies may find themselves speaking to deported Dreamers whose excellent English makes them stellar call-service employees in, say, El Salvador.)

And Americans are particularly sensitive about language. A Pew survey conducted in the spring of 2016 and released in January found that 7 in 10 Americans believe it’s important to speak English to be “truly American”—making English a more valued trait than religion, ethnicity, or cultural affinity. (Though several European countries consider language to be more important still.) “If you ask people to define American cultural identity, people will give you all kinds of fuzzy answers,” says Tomás Jiménez, a professor of sociology at Stanford. “But even the most strident multiculturalists will say that people should speak English.”

There’s also a trope that current immigrants don’t want to learn English as much as their predecessors did, says Deborah Schildkraut, whose 2007 book, Press “ONE” for English, explores the role of English in American identity. The perception is entirely inaccurate, Schildkraut says. In her research, she’s found that many immigrants have to sit on waitlists to enter English classes, sometimes for years. But for Anglophone Americans, language still strikes a chord. “Even people who are sympathetic to immigrants, this is the one issue that gets them,” she notes.

But while it may be annoying for native-born Americans to endure a momentary Spanish-language direction, it can be downright debilitating for immigrants who don’t speak English well to attempt to use customer service in a language they don’t understand. (Ask an American who has lived abroad.) Government forms and ISP helplines may make a convenient symbol, but no one ever learned English by talking to a representative from Delta Airlines—or decided they didn’t have to because that representative spoke Spanish.

For companies, the adoption of Spanish in customer service calls is an example of what Tod Famous, the director of product management at CISCO, called “market-driven multiculturalism.” As we’ve seen with corporate America’s blanket support of the gay rights movement, capitalism looks out for minorities because minorities are customers. “They’re just trying to make more money,” says Famous, whose company provides an automated call-response platform that companies can then customize individually. “The call center community is insular, and they’re all copying each other. Respect for language affinity improves customer loyalty. If you offer them options, they will be more likely to stay with you.” If there’s collateral damage in including Spanish-language prompts, the math doesn’t show it—no matter how many people complain about having to press one for English.

And that’s another thing about “Press One.” Do companies really make their Anglophone customers actively choose English? Turns out that hardly anyone does. In fact, if pressing one for English was ever a thing, it has ceased to exist at most of America’s largest companies. I called Albertsons, Apple, Amazon, American Airlines, Best Buy, Bank of America, Citibank, CVS, Dell, DHL, FedEx, Mars, Samsung, Spectrum-TWC, Target, T-Mobile, United Healthcare, UPS, Verizon, and Walmart. Blogs will tell you that some of these companies once forced customers to choose English. Today, none of them do. Most quickly tell you, in Spanish, how to proceed in that language. “Marque el nueve,” “Oprima el dos.” A handful—Albertsons, Amazon, Apple, Mars, Samsung, United Airlines, and Walmart—do not even offer Spanish. The only large company I found that asked callers to select English was Starbucks which also offers, inscrutably, French.

“Typically you’ll get a welcome message that says to speak in Spanish, say Spanish or press one, some combination,” says Judi Halperin, a principal consultant at Avaya. “I’ve never in 20-something years dealt with a system where you had to press one for English. I’m sure at some point it was there, but as time progressed and we started getting more and more experience, the last thing you want to do is get in the way of the caller.”

That tiny, short-lived impediment was spun out into an enduring web of resentment. What some white Americans perceive as a roadblock, in reality, constitutes a crucial bridge for their neighbors—1 in 8 Americans—whose native language is Spanish.

No, But Seriously, Dove Soap Is Bad

No, But Seriously, Dove Soap Is Bad


The Concourse

So yesterday, BuzzFeed's editors, in a super duper blatant breach of the tenets of their Editorial Standards And Ethics Guide, deleted a post in which staff writer Arabelle Sicardi criticized toiletries brand Dove for its sleazy, exploitative advertising. Dove, you see, is owned by Unilever—the multinational consumer goods behemoth last seen being an oversensitive penis over the definition of mayonnaise—which happens to be one of BuzzFeed's major advertising partners.

Why Detroit Erupted

Why Detroit Erupted

by Jake Blumgart @ Slate Articles

The long, heated summers of the 1960s are seared into the American imagination: commercial corridors in central cities reduced to ruin, tanks in the streets, and the angry release of pent-up disaffection as the long-suffering black populations of numerous cities rose up.

All of this is captured in Kathryn Bigelow’s new movie, Detroit, which dramatizes one of the bloodiest instances of civil violence in the 1960s. The film centers around what is known as the Algiers Motel incident, a horrific instance of police brutality and murder in the midst of wider chaos.

Bigelow’s Detroit has been criticized for focusing on an extended scene of torture at the expense of that summer’s larger story about activism, unrest, and frustrated dreams. The film opens with an animated depiction of the Great Migration—based on Jacob Lawrence’s famous artwork—and then jumps to the police raid on an after-hours bar that sparked the five days of riots. Then it settles into the sickening scene at the Algiers Motel and Manor House, where police brutally interrogated a group of people who’d been taking shelter in the building about the possible presence of a sniper in their midst. After hours of torture, three young black men were killed.

New York University’s Tom Sugrue, a native of Detroit, attended the film’s premiere at the city’s legendary Fox Theater. He is the author of an essential work about the city’s history, The Origins of the Urban Crisis, which charts Detroit race relations from the end of World War II through the unrest of 1967, the year of the city’s riots. The book definitively shows that many of the forces that would eventually gut Detroit, reducing its population by more than half (and still falling), had been set in motion decades before the unrest—which conveyers of conventional wisdom have often blamed for the city’s decline.

Sugrue and I recently discussed the larger context of the Detroit riots, the history of racial violence in the Motor City, and the factors he wishes Bigelow’s film had depicted. Our interview has been edited for concision and clarity.

Jake Blumgart: What did you think of Kathryn Bigelow’s new movie?

Tom Sugrue: I say this with all humility because I’m not a film critic and I don’t produce for a mass audience. But it’s a Hollywood production, and I think Bigelow left out some really important dimensions.

I found the focus on what happens in the Algiers Motel to be important, but the aftermath of what happened is also important. The trials were ruthlessly compressed to the single trial up in Mason [a suburb where an all-white jury was allowed to decide the case against the offending officers]. The role of the motel incident and the events of 1967 in mobilizing a black politics of resistance in Detroit, especially around questions of policing, was underdeveloped.

One of the most interesting post-1967 events was the people’s tribunal, an alternative trial of the police in the motel put on by black power, anti-police brutality, and civil rights activists in Detroit. It was really dramatic, and one of the regular attendees included Rosa Parks, who was living in Detroit at the time and closely affiliated with the black power movement in the late 1960s. That story of a challenge to police brutality and power was absent.

That would have made a richer film, but based on Bigelow’s earlier movies, she isn’t big on legal drama and is much more interested in torture and terror.

Even beyond the central horror of the set piece at the Algiers Motel, the film repeatedly emphasizes just how trigger happy the forces of law and order were. The vast majority of the riot’s 43 deaths were at the hands of government agents of various kinds.

Thirty-four of the 43 deaths were at the hands of law enforcement officials or the National Guard. Only one person was killed by the paratroopers [whom President Lyndon Johnson sent in].

Was this kind of death toll, mostly black people being killed by the police, normal for the urban unrest of the 1960s?

Yes. But understand that most of the deaths in the long, hot summers of the 1960s happened in a relatively small number of cities. Newark, Watts, and Detroit counted for the lion’s share of deaths, while in the summer of 1967 alone there were 163 incidents of rebellions, uprising, civil disorder, whatever you want to call it. Most of those didn’t involve any deaths.

I thought it particularly notable that the opening of the movie, using the famous artwork of Jacob Lawrence, made sure to make note of pervasive job and housing discrimination that had been occurring since the Great Migration—and that white flight had already begun in earnest well before the riots. That narrative, that you put forward in your book, runs counter to the conventional wisdom that it was the riots themselves that spurred white flight and divestment.

In Detroit in particular, today there is a lot more recognition of the fact that the city’s troubles date to well before 1967. That said, lots of journalists and popular commenters still truck in the stale conventional wisdom that 1967 was the beginning of the end. I think that animated introduction of the movie did a good job of capturing, in a compelling shorthand way, a lot of the major themes of urban history scholarship from the last 20 years.

I would have liked to see more recognition in that section of the importance of Detroit as a center for African American activism. 1967 didn’t emerge out of a vacuum but in some ways grew out of a 20-year movement of racial equality and justice in Detroit that focused among other things on policing and exploitative neighborhood businesses in African American communities. And those were the major targets of the folks who took to the streets in Detroit in 1967.

There’s an important backstory that’s more than segregation and discrimination; it’s exploitation and systemic violence and predation that was afflicting those communities before 1967. Bigelow captured some of that by showing the common policing practice in Detroit leading up to 1967, particularly in the late 1950s when the city instituted really aggressive policing tactics, like stopping and frisking African American men.

What were the other circumstances that laid the groundwork for the unrest of 1967? It’s easy to see why Bigelow would focus on societal trends that are easier to dramatize, like police brutality, but how did forces like capital flight and residential segregation contribute?

Detroit’s long-established residential segregation played a critical role. The neighborhoods at the epicenter of the uprising of 1967 were places where African American residents had little contact with whites outside of shopkeepers and law enforcement officials. Detroit’s police department in 1967 was 95 percent white. Most officers didn’t have any substantive experience living with African Americans because of the intense patterns of racial segregation. They weren’t socializing with African Americans, playing baseball with them, going to church with them; they weren’t drinking at the same bars or having block parties with them.

There was a nearly complete separation and as a consequence a really deep ignorance of African American life in Detroit on the part of the overwhelmingly white police force. That separation provided really fertile ground for stereotypes to flourish and for prejudice to intensify.

Can you provide more context about those who participated in the civil violence of 1967? As I understand it, most of the rioters were young black men. What were the specific challenges they faced that didn’t affect young white men or young black men a generation before?

One thing to remember that pretty much all the studies of the uprisings of 1967 showed was that the folks who took to the streets weren’t at the very bottom of the economic ladder. It wasn’t the poorest or the most marginal. It was folks who were slightly better off and slightly better educated and more tied into the city’s labor market than the poorest residents.

Part of the conventional wisdom of 1967 is that this was a revolt of the very bottom, the folks who were the most left out. That wasn’t the case. That said, African American men in Detroit experienced a great deal of economic precarity, even those who had a decent education and connection to the city’s labor market. African Americans were still confined to the city’s most insecure jobs and often the least pleasant jobs. But unemployment rates in Detroit were relatively low in 1967, certainly in comparison to today. I think part of it was expectations. In a city that had long been at the epicenter of one of the most powerful industries in the world and had a large and vibrant economy, the fact that African Americans had jobs was part of the story—but the fact they had the worst jobs is a critical factor to keep in mind.

Discrimination in the workplace was still rife in Detroit in the 1960s, despite the opening of opportunities to African American workers and despite civil rights legislation. And there was a great deal of resentment that the benefits of the city’s industrial economy weren’t being distributed equally across racial lines.

In your introduction to John Hersey’s book The Algiers Motel Incident, you write that between 1948 and 1967 Detroit lost nearly 130,000 manufacturing jobs. That’s another historical event people often think occurred later, but deindustrialization wasn’t just a product of the 1970s and 1980s. As you show, it really started happening almost immediately after World War II.

Exactly. The disappearance of jobs from Detroit fell particularly hard among younger African American men. The jobs that were disappearing were the first rung on the manufacturing ladder, which required few skills and had few barriers to entry. These provided significant opportunity for their parents’ generation, for African Americans migrating from the South in the World War II era and immediately afterward. Everyone in Detroit regardless of race is being affected by this restructuring, but its effects are particularly hard on unskilled African American workers.

To put it differently, the significant reality of the auto industry is that it’s leaving Detroit when there isn’t any significant international competition, well before the oil shocks of the 1970s caused real trouble for the auto industry. Manufacturing is already picking up and decamping for other parts of the United States and the world during that period of the unchallenged supremacy of the American auto industry.

Another thing I wanted to touch on from your book, that provides the context to the 1967 civil unrest, is the persistent violence that met black families trying to move into white neighborhoods in the postwar years. Why is that violent white resistance still unrecognized?

Recognizing that narrative really demands coming to terms with white culpability for the intense residential segregation and racial polarization in metropolitan Detroit. That’s a story many folks would prefer to sweep under the rug. Detroit had two genuine race riots during World War II. Both were pitched attacks on African Americans by whites.

After the war, white Detroiters organized into one of the most powerful grassroots urban movements of the period, the so-called homeowners’ rights movement to protect the racial homogeneity of their neighborhoods by any means necessary. That included putting pressure on elected officials to keep affordable housing out of predominantly white neighborhoods. It also meant organizing vigilante activities to resist African Americans who were the first to move in, signaling the high price they would pay if they moved onto white turf.

Combing through the records of civil rights organizations, government agencies, and the African American press, I found more than 200 violent incidents that accompanied the first movements of African Americans into formerly white neighborhoods. White Detroiters sent a very strong signal to black Detroiters to not cross these invisible racial lines.

Another dimension of that is the city’s police turned a blind eye toward vandalism and attacks on black property by whites. Often police would be dispatched to the sites of the protests, and then mysteriously late at night with cop cars stationed outside, windows would still be broken. Many of Detroit’s white police officers were sympathetic with white homeowners who wanted to protect their neighborhood from racial encroachment.

If you think of the totality of African American resentment toward the city’s white police force, the role of the police in turning a blind eye toward racial violence is a really important dimension of the story.

Any final thoughts on Bigelow’s movie and the uprising of 1967?

One other part of the uprising, which would be hard for the film to convey as well, is the toll that urban renewal, highway construction, and looting in the summer of 1967 had on a couple generations of black business people. It’s devastating to African American capital.

Most shopkeepers in cities like Detroit rented the buildings they had businesses in. A lot of the buildings were still owned by whites who fled the neighborhood but kept their investments in real estate. Renters didn’t get reimbursement when their businesses were displaced by urban renewal. So, when properties were condemned then demolished, the property owners got reimbursed for the loss of their property. But if you run a neighborhood bar or barbershop, you can’t just pick up and move four miles away and expect you can just get all your clients back.

To start a whole business over from scratch when you aren’t being compensated for the loss because you don’t own the building? So when the Paradise Valley neighborhood in Detroit is blasted away for the construction of a major arterial freeways and then when looting and burning guts a lot of the thriving black businesses, including on 12th Street where the rebellion began.

That’s the story of Melvin Dismukes [played by John Boyega], a security guard standing inside a building during the riots, or of folks writing “Soul Brother” on their shop windows hoping that would turn away looters and arsonists. These are folks desperately trying to hold on to their fragile investments in these neighborhoods. And the long-term effects were devastating to black shopkeepers and business owners.

Welcome to Dove

Welcome to Dove


Dove US

Looking for hair products, skin care and deodorant to leave you looking and feeling beautiful? With tricks, tips, and products built on expert care, Dove can help.

Dove Launches New Campaign, Encourages Women to Place Accomplishments Above Appearances

Dove Launches New Campaign, Encourages Women to Place Accomplishments Above Appearances


Allure

Dove is at it again. On the heels of its Love Your Hair film that debuted in April (and has more than nine million views. Whaaat?!), the skin- and hair-care company just launched the...

Women’s golf finishes last at Mercedes Championship

by Kate Ahern @ The Maneater: Latest Stories

The Tigers failed to carry the momentum from last week’s record-breaking results.

10 Years After Dove's 'Real Beauty' Campaign, More Brands Fight for Real Women

10 Years After Dove's 'Real Beauty' Campaign, More Brands Fight for Real Women


TakePart

It's been 10 years since Dove launched its “Campaign for Real Beauty”—a stark series of ads that were radical and simple in equal measure—featuring lovely, normal-sized women who didn’t need Photoshop to look radiant. The ads, which ran in 2004 and 2005, lacked any screed about the pressures that come with being a woman in a visual culture that’s awash in creatively lit, digitally manipulated images of dangerously thin models. The folks behind the campaign simply let us feel our own shock at seeing women with normal curves and natural faces being celebrated for their beauty in a national advertisement. Dove didn't stop there. The soap maker added rocket fuel to the conversation in 2006, when its time-lapse "Evolution" video went viral. The movement to expose marketers' use of trickery to convince us that we're failing if we don't have flawless skin and breathtaking bodies was here to stay. Significant progress has been made since Dove's campaign: The American public, the blogosphere, and the Twitterverse now routinely call out magazine publishers and marketers for digitally altering images of girls and women to shrink their bodies, smooth their faces, and otherwise morph them to fit an unrealistic, narrow ideal of beauty. The pace is quickening. In just the past few months, there's been even more progress and a few moments that drove the dialogue forward. 1. The more bare skin a campaign flaunts, the more Photoshop it typically gets. But American Eagle says its new campaign for the Aerie line of lingerie will not use any altered images of models. Instead, “real” girls and women can upload unretouched photos of themselves to a photo gallery. Sure, it’s pretty screwed up that selling underwear using real photos of gorgeous, skinny young girls (instead of digitally improved gorgeous, skinny young girls) is seen as groundbreaking. But moving away from the idealized versions of women who don't exist is a footstep Dove took, and the clothier is now following its lead. “It’s great that we’re beginning to break that down,” said Heather Arnet, executive director of the Women & Girls Foundation, of the fakeries that line the glossies. 2. Forever Yours Lingerie didn't stop working with model Elly Mayday when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer last year. It featured beautiful shots of her with surgical scars unhidden and no wig or digital fakery to hide the baldness that resulted from her cancer treatment. Rather than looking like something’s missing, Mayday’s baldness comes across as strong and sexy. It’s empowering for the rest of us to see a woman outside the beauty mold we’ve been sold for so long—and to find ourselves aspiring to emulate her sexy confidence and appeal. (Forever Yours also gets points for raising money toward Mayday’s medical expenses.) 3. A new time-lapse video released by Hungarian pop star Boggie shows her singing a pop song called “Nouveau Parfum” while being Photoshopped, a fresh take on Dove's "Evolution" that's amplified by the resigned expression on her face. As the song unfolds, pieces of her disappear and are overwritten: Boggie’s eyes, like everyone else’s, aren’t exactly symmetrical. So one is deleted, then replaced by an exact copy of the other. Not a single square inch of her face or hair is left untouched. 4. Earlier last month during the Golden Globes, actor Diane Keaton took the stage to honor Woody Allen, her tousled hair and menswear-chic outfit reminding us of the trend she set when Annie Hall hit theaters in 1977. It was also clear on high-definition screens across America that at 68, she's got (oh, the horror!) lots of lines on her gorgeous face. When her speech ended, the network cut to a commercial break featuring Keaton selling L'Oréal cosmetics without a line on her digitally enhanced face, seemingly sporting the skin of a 25-year-old. Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook quickly lit up with scorn. That social media response is valuable, Arnet says, because younger women and girls are active on Instagram and Twitter and are participating in those conversations. 5. Former Cosmopolitan editor Leah Hardy drew attention for admitting that during her tenure the magazine routinely Photoshopped out the protruding bones of super skinny models to keep readers from seeing how emaciated the models really were. Since that admission surfaced, before-and-after comparisons of bone-thin models and their healthier-looking altered images have been popping up around the Web. Apparently the world’s top fashion magazines, despite the huge budgets at their disposal, cannot find a single woman on the planet who isn’t either too thin or too fat for their liking. It’s further reinforcement of the conclusion we’d love to share with every tween girl who’s just beginning to notice her appearance: The elusive “perfection” that every cosmetic company and clothing retailer is trying to sell you does not exist. 6. Mindy Kaling might not have minded, but many other people did: When Elle magazine published covers for its February 2014 issue featuring Kaling, readers and pundits immediately questioned why Kaling's cover was a black-and-white close-up rather than the full-color, full-body shots of the other (skinnier and more "conventionally" beautiful) actors. That's the key: We've begun to make a habit of questioning how women are depicted and what tools are being used to change or edit their appearance for public consumption. Yes, the visual landscape is still awash with altered images, surgically altered models, and the pressure to be thinner, younger, and closer to the narrow beauty ideal that so much marketing pushes on us. Marketers aren’t going to stop selling us

Dove Company History and Review: Real Beauty, Real Soap!

Dove Company History and Review: Real Beauty, Real Soap!


Maple Holistics

Looking to spread your wings and learn how to fly? Learn from Dove! Check out our Dove Company History and Review feature here at Maple Holistics!

Tencent lures US advertisers with more direct route to Chinese consumers

by @ Mobile Marketer - Latest News

The company has a new suite of advertising products to help American brands reach its nearly 1 billion monthly users.

Overcoming My Fear of Returns, With the Help of E-Commerce

Overcoming My Fear of Returns, With the Help of E-Commerce

by Heather Schwedel @ Slate Articles

Always Right is Slate’s pop-up blog exploring customer service across industries, technologies, and human relationships.

Typically an item left in the office kitchen is a reason for celebration: leftover birthday cake, homemade cookies, fresh tomatoes from someone’s garden. But the saddest thing I ever saw in an office kitchen was an abandoned pair of brand-new women’s pants I found sitting on a table one day. I remember the pants were from Coldwater Creek, size large in a dark color, and they were still in the plastic wrap and packaging they’d been shipped in. They had a note on them that said something like “take me” or “free!”

Sure, those pants weren’t “baby shoes, never worn,” but they broke my heart anyway. Whose were they? What was wrong with them? Was the idea of visiting a store or post office to return them so upsetting that the pants’ owner couldn’t bear it and decided the only way forward was desertion? Since I was a kid, I’ve always felt apprehensive about demanding my money back, stemming no doubt from all the childhood weekend shopping expeditions I spent quietly dying inside while standing in line with my mom at Toys R Us or Caldor or Kmart, watching the women of her generation pursue returns with single-minded purpose. Even if you don’t have full-blown return anxiety, you probably don’t like returning stuff. As Kit Yarrow, a consumer psychologist and the author of Decoding the New Consumer Mind, told me, “People returning in a store, the emotions there are so clear to read. There’s a combination of either guilt or shame, and it’s also layered over with anger at the hassle of returning.”

But one major thing has changed about retail since my childhood return anxiety: the rise of e-commerce. Because we don’t have fitting rooms on the internet, we tend to return a whole lot more. Some e-commerce players have put in place generous return policies that seem to acknowledge the inevitability of returns and maybe even the possibility that the people who return the most might actually be the most discerning, and best, customers, as Zappos has posited. This year, Amazon introduced a service called Prime Wardrobe, wherein members of the company’s Prime program (who pay an annual fee) can try on clothes and return whatever doesn’t fit. The clothes arrive in a resealable box that already has a prepaid label for mailing it back included inside. Some experts—in particular, makers of retail software who have a dog in the e-commerce race—have encouraged companies beyond the Zappos and the Bonobos of the world to put as much thought into the “after-buying” experience as they do the purchase itself.

It’s difficult to isolate the monetary impact of doing so unless the companies themselves trumpet their results, but a few studies have borne out that it pays to create easy return policies. One 2012 paper in the Journal of Marketing found that a free returns policy at one leading website boosted consumer spending 158 to 457 percent. Another study, this one in the Journal of Marketing Research in 2015, concluded that providing positive return experiences was a valuable tool for creating customers who would bring in more money in the long run.

Yet even as e-commerce makes returns easier there’s still the matter of, as David Sobie calls it, “the dreaded arts and crafts project.” You have to find a box, fit your product back into that box, print out a label, visit the post office. Two years ago, Sobie and Mark Geller co-founded a company called Happy Returns in their own bid to improve the return process. Their idea was to open physical locations in high–foot traffic areas where people could go to return goods purchased at e-commerce-only outlets. At Happy Returns bars, “you don’t need a receipt, you don’t need to do any prep. You simply hand your items to someone, answer a few questions, and get your money back immediately,” Sobie told me. Happy Returns currently has a few dozen locations across the country and works with companies such as Everlane, Eloquii, and Tradesy.

This got me to thinking. Sobie said that what customers want with e-commerce is the ability to buy online and return in person. But even that feels a bit like a compromise—yeah, I guess I’d agree to talk to someone in person to do a return, if my only alternative is having to locate one of those weird padded envelopes and surreptitiously use the office Xerox to print out a label. Everyone knows the real holy grail solution to any problem is that it solves itself without you having to do anything at all: How about instead of sending something back, I do nothing, keep the thing, and get a refund anyway? Greedy, maybe, but it’s what the e-commerce boom has wrought. When one site offers a great perk, like free shipping, suddenly every site has to offer it to compete, and when one retailer gives you a full refund one time, you think maybe you could get accustomed to that kind of service.

I know, because it’s happened to me: Recently, the snaps on a pair of sandals I bought last summer broke. They were from one of those chichi startups that like to trumpet their superior quality and customer service, so I emailed to ask if there was any restitution the company could offer me. (Yes, I used the word restitution.) I never would have done this—complained about a year-old pair of shoes or used an embarrassing word like restitution—in person, but I had no problem firing it off in an email. The impersonal nature of e-commerce had emboldened me. Maybe it’s emboldened us all.

It’s not just that people return more of what they buy online because it doesn’t fit. The whole culture of shopping has evolved over the past few decades. “There’s a lower level of trust between the retailer and the consumer,” Yarrow told me. As mom-and-pop stores have declined and soulless chains have taken over, the power has shifted to consumers. Meanwhile, we’ve also got online stores conditioning us to expect VIP service. “At one point I think consumers felt an obligation of fairness toward a retailer,” Yarrow said. “And then at some point, that sentiment really changed and consumers lost their trust in retailers. Retailers noticed consumers were becoming much more unethical in how they shopped, and they tightened up. It is just a mentality of distrust on both sides.” Among the $260 billion worth of goods Americans returned last year were no doubt billions of dollars’ worth of fraudulent, sneaky, or just plain tacky returns. Haven’t we all seen this firsthand? A friend recently told me about a trip to Costco in which she was appalled to see that the woman in line ahead of her returned a third of a pizza.

It doesn’t feel great that my journey of self-actualization is part of a larger story of the decline of American consumer ethics. On the other hand, though, thinking back to those Coldwater Creek pants, present-me might take them and see what I could get for them. Hell, I have half a mind to write Coldwater Creek now, all these years later, and see what it’ll offer for my troubles, in the way of, ahem, restitution. The old me, who felt a sense of obligation and shame, is gone, replaced by the retail industry’s worst nightmare: a woman who isn’t afraid to ask to speak to the manager.

The Housing Industry Still Hasn’t Realized It’s Building Too Many Homes for Rich People

The Housing Industry Still Hasn’t Realized It’s Building Too Many Homes for Rich People

by Daniel Gross @ Slate Articles

It's possible to get rich if your business only caters to rich people. But it's hard to have a massive and really successful industry in the United States today if you only cater to rich people. There are only so many people in the country with good credit and lots of cash sitting around. And this week, we got evidence that one of America’s largest industries may be running into trouble because its products appeal only to the upper crust. I’m not talking about jewelry or apparel. I’m talking about housing.

On Tuesday, luxury homebuilder Toll Brothers reported a blow-out quarter, noting that contracts and sales were up 20 percent from the year before, and said it might sell more than 2,500 homes in the upcoming quarter.

On Wednesday, the Census Bureau announced that new home sales in July were down 9.4 percent from June, and down 8.9 percent from July 2016.

On Thursday, the National Association of Realtors reported that existing home sales in July fell 1.3 percent in July from June—to an annual rate of 5.44 million. While the rate of sales in July was still up 2.1 percent from July 2016, this was the lowest reading of 2017 to date.

It amounts to a fairly neat summation of the American economy right now. Toll Brothers builds McMansions and expensive condos in and around wealthy urban areas. It caters to a distinctly high-end crowd, and would be psyched if it could sell 10,000 homes in a year. At the company’s Pierhouse at Brooklyn Bridge Park building in New York, condos start at $1.5 million. In the most recent quarter, the average price for a Toll Brothers home that went into contract was $837,300. But yuppies, foreigners, millennials with cash, and baby boomers are lining up. In the first nine months of this fiscal year, Toll Brothers sold 22 percent more homes than it did the in the first nine months of the previous fiscal year.

Toll Brothers may not be a typical new homebuilder, but it is clear that the building industry writ large is aiming to pitch its product toward more affluent buyers. Look at the Census’ new home sales release. The median sales price of a newly constructed home sold in July was $313,700, up 7 percent from July 2016. That may not sound like much, especially if you live in an expensive coastal region. But that’s 21 percent higher than the typical price of an existing home. And over the past several years, the building industry has raised prices on its offerings at a pace that has exceeded both the rate of inflation and income growth. In July 2012, the median price of a new home sold was just $232,600. In five years, the price of a median new home has risen by 35 percent. All of which is to say that, with each passing month, the homebuilding industry is pitching its products at a smaller, wealthier demographic slice.

There’s also evidence that existing homes (about 10 times more existing homes are sold each year than new homes) are getting too expensive for buyers. For 65 straight months, the National Association of Realtors notes, the price of existing homes has notched year-over-year gains. In July, the median existing-home price for all housing types, the group says, was $258,300, up 6.2 percent from $243,200 in July 2016. Four years ago, the median existing home price was a mere $213,000. Which means that prices of existing homes have risen 21 percent in the past four years. Because income growth for typical Americans—the type of people who buy typical homes—has been stagnant, this means that as the market continues to rise, fewer and fewer people can afford to bid on and purchase existing homes.

To their credit, in this expansion, the mortgage industry has not responded to the rising challenge of affordability by massively lowering its standards or by offering no-money down mortgages and other exotic lending instruments. By and large, if you want to buy a house today, you’ve got to come up with a meaningful down payment and show good credit. Of course, there are a limited number of people in the U.S. who have $40,000 or $50,000 in cash lying around to make a down payment.

Clearly, there is something of a housing shortage in the United States. One of the reasons that the price of existing homes is rising so rapidly is that there isn’t much supply. The number of existing homes for sale fell 9 percent from July 2016 to July 2017, and, at 1.92 million, represents a meager 4.2 months of supply.

The solution to the problem is for developers to increase the supply of affordable homes, and to bring large numbers of homes to the market that are closer in price to existing homes. But there’s no evidence that is happening. In July, 9,000 new homes worth more than $500,000 were sold in the U.S.—only 8,000 homes worth less than $200,000 were.

How Dove Empowered Real Women And Achieved Success in 80+ Countries - Word-of-Mouth and Referral Marketing Blog

How Dove Empowered Real Women And Achieved Success in 80+ Countries - Word-of-Mouth and Referral Marketing Blog


Word-of-Mouth and Referral Marketing Blog

Dove is a personal care brand owned by Unilever originating in the United Kingdom, whose products are sold in more than 80 countries and are offered for both women and men. The company was slow to take off with a lack of global identity and a decentralized product. There wasn’t much of a corporate strategy …

Apple Is Building “Town Squares” Now, Because Somebody Has To

Apple Is Building “Town Squares” Now, Because Somebody Has To

by Henry Grabar @ Slate Articles

At Tuesday’s Apple event in Cupertino, California, Apple retail chief Angela Ahrendts revealed that the Apple Store has gone the way of the headphone jack.

“We actually don’t call them stores anymore,” she said. “We call them town squares, because they’re gathering places for the 500 million people who visit us every year. Places where everyone’s welcome, and where all of Apple comes together.” Apple’s other language strives toward the claim, with “plazas” and “forums” to complement the sale of the new, $1,000 iPhone X. “We’re going to open Apple town squares in cities around the world.”

A store is not a town square. A store belongs to a company that wants your money, a town square to a government that serves you. But the idea is of a piece with retail trends, and has long been evident in Apple’s preference for doing business in grand, pseudo-public spaces: an old post office, a train station.

In May, as the company honed its plans to restore Washington’s Carnegie Library, the Washington Post’s Jonathan O’Connell described some of the proposed changes:

Where the Carnegie Library once housed the city’s book collection, Apple plans a “Genius Grove,” a tree-lined sales floor where company reps will demonstrate how to maximize Apple products for music, photography or other passions. What long ago were reading rooms would become places to browse and sample Apple products.

It is in some ways a fitting succession: The tycoons of America’s second gilded age inherit the intellectual and civic spaces of its first. When Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post in 2013, the Atlantic’s James Fallows wrote: “let us hope that this is what the sale signifies: the beginning of a phase in which this Gilded Age’s major beneficiaries re-invest in the infrastructure of our public intelligence.”

But there is a difference between undertaking that role with corporate profit and doing so for corporate profit. Apple’s “town squares” and Google’s citywide internet should not be mistaken for philanthropic ventures. That Apple is repurposing the District’s old Carnegie Library does not make the comparison more flattering for the company. CityLab’s Kriston Capps has forcefully argued that one of the city’s “most important cultural assets” deserves a more genuine public role. And, he adds, Apple’s aspiration towards public-interest placemaking—like Amazon’s—also make it a better candidate for tax breaks.

At the same time, it is true that companies increasingly provide the functions abandoned by the retreating public sphere. Long before Apple, malls claimed to be the new town squares, and have tried to develop cultural functions to differentiate themselves in a declining retail landscape. As public libraries cut hours or closed entirely, McDonald’s provided a clean, safe space for kids to do their homework. As understaffed public bathrooms deteriorated and closed, Starbucks became the de facto place to go in many cities. As the dream of a free public education recedes, Apple teaches people how to do stuff for free.

It’s easy to be grateful. If we didn’t have a Starbucks bathroom, where would we pee? If we didn’t have an Apple plaza, where would we sit? On the other hand, if we had not designed a society so friendly to the interests of corporations and their executives, we might still be able to provide those things ourselves.

Businesses Are Finally Realizing That Trump Causes “Uncertainty”

Businesses Are Finally Realizing That Trump Causes “Uncertainty”

by Daniel Gross @ Slate Articles

Back in the financially tumultuous early years of the Obama administration, it was common to hear worthies of a certain ilk carp that “uncertainty” from Washington was harming economic growth. Here’s Steve Forbes complaining in early 2010—at the beginning of one of the longest expansions on record—that regulatory uncertainty was inhibiting a sustained recovery. Blackstone Group Chairman Steve Schwarzman, in the summer of 2010, compared the mild regulations the Obama administration had passed to Hitler invading Poland. Some of these gripes continued into the late Obama years: In April 2014, supply-sider Larry Kudlow moaned that the “incredible uncertainty about Obamacare and its taxes and regulations” was hampering the markets and the economy.

Of course, business and policy are always uncertain to a degree. And policy changes in 2009 and 2010 did create new mandates and requirements for businesses. But the stimulus, Dodd-Frank, and the Affordable Care Act were generally well–thought out, slow to materialize, and coolly implemented. And there’s simply no evidence that “uncertainty” about the path of policy in Washington, however you define it, hampered business investments, hiring, and especially market performance in the period between 2009 and 2016. Because “uncertainty” doesn’t really mean uncertainty—it’s just code used by supply-siders and right-wingers. What they really didn’t like was the fact that a guy named Obama was sitting in the White House, poised to raise their taxes. (Readers, he did. And the economy and S&P 500 survived.)

When President Trump was elected, the concerns of supply-siders and Wall Street titans over uncertainty seemed to dissipate. They were sure that the impending tax-reform package, regulatory reduction, and the repeal of Obamacare would cause the markets and economy to boom. An incoming administration hostile to facts, norms, and maybe even the sanctity of the republic? No concerns here! And, as Trump often reminds us, the markets have soared to new heights while volatility has decreased. But six months into his presidency, there is abundant evidence of actual uncertainty emanating from Washington—including but not limited to the policy chaos intentionally fomented by the Trump administration—that is beginning to harm business and investment.

Across the board, Trump has generally not bothered to staff up the government, thrown into question long-standing U.S. trade policy, and instigated and supported efforts to blow up the insurance industry. And it is starting to become clear just how these efforts are harming business.

Trade

Trump’s Stalled Trade Agenda is Leaving Industries in the Lurch,” reads the lead story in the business section of Tuesday’s New York Times. Apparently, the uncertainty over whether Trump will impose tariffs on imported steel has been spurring foreign suppliers to ship more steel to the U.S.—which simply makes it more difficult for domestic producers to compete. Adam Behsudi of Politico has a fantastic, deeply reported article this week on how Trump’s decision to pull the U.S. out of the Trans Pacific Partnership—and the ensuing efforts by other countries to negotiate trade deals among themselves—is undermining the ability of U.S. agriculture producers to export. “I’m scared to death,” said Ron Prestage, a North Carolina businessman who had just made a big investment in a meat-processing plant in anticipation of more business after the passage of TPP. Behsudi also interviewed corn farmers in Iowa who have seen the price of their product gyrate in response to Trump’s hostile tweets toward Mexico. Trump promised to get Americans better deals on international trade. Instead he’s only delivered migraines.

Pipelines

Trump talked a big game about supporting pipeline construction during the campaign—especially the Keystone XL pipeline. But his slowness to staff up the federal bureaucracy has made it difficult for proposed pipeline projects to get off the ground. In May, Bloomberg reported that some $50 billion in work was either “slowed or stalled” because the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission wasn’t capable of approving them. “For the first time in FERC’s 40-year-history, the agency doesn’t have enough commissioners for a quorum to vote on project applications.” Last week, Politico put the amount of stalled shovel-ready projects somewhat lower: at $13 billion. “Trump’s slowness to fill vacancies at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is one reason for a growing backlog of natural gas pipelines and a gas export terminal awaiting approval from the agency, which has been unable to conduct major business since February.” Wasn’t this president supposed to be fossil fuels’ best friend?

Health insurance

Nowhere is Trump’s combination of chaotic management and policy ignorance more evident than in health care. With a substantial assist from Republicans in Congress, Trump has done an enormous amount to intentionally create uncertainty for health insurers and health providers. Over the past seven years, the massive health industry has rebuilt itself around the Affordable Care Act and anticipated levels of funding for entitlements such as Medicaid. But Trump has backed—and then not backed, and then backed again—legislation that would have slashed hundreds of billions from Medicaid and eliminated the individual mandate that keeps insurance markets stable. He has threatened on multiple occasions to withhold payments from insurers that offer plans on the exchange. And his Department of Health and Human Services is trying to undermine enrollment in insurance plans. The result, as Politico reported in an article headlined “GOP Uncertainty Over Obamacare Drives Out Insurers,” is that insurers are abandoning markets and lines of business.

Infrastructure

President Trump has talked a great deal about a big infrastructure package, but nobody on his team has really bothered to flesh it out. Remember the clown show of infrastructure week in early June? The Trump administration says it wants to enlist the private sector to fund roads, bridges, and other vital projects, and its proposed budget zeroed out a bunch of grants and programs that support long-planned projects. All of which has had the effect of freezing progress and planning on dozens of ongoing projects. “The sudden uncertainty has left local officials who had long anticipated federal support for their projects worrying whether they will get it,” the Chicago Tribune reported in June.

Saber-rattling

And then there’s what happened on Tuesday when Trump, speaking from his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, injected an entirely new source of uncertainty into the world by threatening North Korea with “fire and fury like the world has never seen.” Markets immediately nosedived.

In the Obama years, there was uncertainty over whether the top marginal rate would be 35 percent or 39.6 percent. In the Trump years, there’s uncertainty over whether a country of 25 million people will be here tomorrow.

Ignore the Viral Tweets. Airlines Aren’t Really Gouging People Ahead of Irma.

Ignore the Viral Tweets. Airlines Aren’t Really Gouging People Ahead of Irma.

by Jordan Weissmann @ Slate Articles

With Hurricane Irma swirling its way toward Florida, the internet has been filling up with angry accounts of airline price gouging, complete with pictures of thousand-dollar-plus fares that (of all people) Perez Hilton has been collecting. An Arizona PR exec racked up more than 30,000 retweets when she posted a screengrab showing a Delta ticket that had supposedly shot up from $547.50 to $3,258.50. The Miami Herald tracked down an absurdly sympathetic woman who wanted to fly “her mother, adult cousin, 71-year-old grandmother, [and] 11-year-old sister to New York” but could only find a flight that cost $1,318.80 per person. The issue is even getting some attention from the Sunshine State’s politicos: Florida’s attorney general says her office’s newly opened price-gouging hotline has been getting a stream of complaints about airlines, and her staff has been calling carriers about the issue.

Many of these horror stories are obviously real—I’ve found a few $1,000-plus tickets myself. But overall, the rage seems maybe a little excessive. Airfares do appear to be rising in advance of Irma, but generally not by absurd amounts. Meanwhile, some airlines have even responded to the storm by increasing flights and capping fares in order to make sure people can get to safety.

According to an analysis by the travel-booking website Kayak, people looking to fly out of South Florida within a day last week could expect to pay somewhere in the “mid-$300s.” As of yesterday, those prices were up by more than 25 percent. This is not surprising. Airlines set their prices automatically via algorithms that account for the number of seats available, demand, timing, and a whole host of other factors. Last-minute tickets can be especially expensive. When half a metro area suddenly decides to evacuate because a deadly hurricane is bearing down on it, you can expect prices to rise. “Situations such as these drive pricing anomalies due to an instantaneous imbalance between demand and supply,” airline industry consultant Bob Mann of R.W. Mann & Company told me in an email. “Same occurred to United returns to Houston, post-Harvey, and to NY-DC fares after the Amtrak crash eliminated thousands of seats daily.”

Of course, this is not necessarily a good thing. It’s the flying equivalent of Uber failing to turn off surge pricing during Hurricane Sandy, which plenty of people found ethically grotesque.

But a 25 percent bump in last-minute fares is not exactly the equivalent of a $99 case of bottled water, nor are those surges the rule. JetBlue will only charge up to $99 for flights out of Florida to help more families get out of the storm’s path. Delta is capping fares at $399 out of South Florida while adding flights on larger planes in order to provide more seats leaving the area. For what it’s worth, I’ve been able to find sub-$300 tickets along with some obvious rip-offs while searching travel sites. If anything, it seems fair to criticize airlines for being slow-footed and failing to pre-empt their normal pricing strategies before the pre-storm panic set in. But this doesn’t strike me as an example of capitalism at its most rapacious either. As far as fixes go, Mann told me one option would be for airlines to automatically flag rapid fare jumps “for a prompt manual review” by an employee.

Meanwhile, some of the gouging stories may not be what they seem. When I asked Delta spokesman Anthony Black about the $3,258 ticket that caught Twitter’s attention on Tuesday, he pointed out that the screengrab was actually from Expedia. “It wasn’t posted on our site,” he told me. And once Dow checked with Delta, it apparently addressed her issue.

Victorinox Reinvents Travel With Hardside Case

by Patrick Galizio @ Essential Homme Magazine:

Image: Victorinox. Technologically adept Victorinox brings its razor-sharp design techniques to traveling with the new Lexicon Hardside collection. Created with the same knife’s edge precision known to its multifunctional products, the Swiss brand offers a suitcase complete with more packing space, due to its recessed wheel and handle design, and an ultra-sleek finish. The cherry on... Read more →

The post Victorinox Reinvents Travel With Hardside Case appeared first on Essential Homme Magazine:.

Vaccine Skeptic Message Gets Bolder

Vaccine Skeptic Message Gets Bolder

by Maggie Fox @ NBC News Top Stories

Vaccine skeptics, often called anti-vaxxers, are getting bolder with their message that vaccines are the product of a coverup by industry, government and media.

The Red Cross Won’t Save Houston

The Red Cross Won’t Save Houston

by Jonathan M. Katz @ Slate Articles

In 2004, I was just starting my first full-time job in a Washington newsroom when disaster struck. It was on the other side of the world: an extraordinarily powerful earthquake in Sumatra, Indonesia, that triggered a tsunami across the Indian Ocean. But thanks to CNN it felt like the anguish and terror were happening in the next cubicle. I still remember the fear on the fishermen’s faces and watching mothers cry as they searched for their children in the waves. Powerless, eager to help, I did the only thing I could think of: I went online and sent $20 to the American Red Cross.

Thirteen years later, we’re watching another disaster, this time much closer to home. Tropical Storm Harvey, supercharged by a freakishly warm Gulf of Mexico, has slammed into the Texas coast and is now running a dayslong conveyor belt carrying trillions of gallons of water from the ocean to the sky to the bayous and streets of Houston. Highways have become rivers in America’s fourth-largest city. Apartment complexes are filling up like bathtubs. Dams are nearing failure. Thousands have had to be rescued from the still-rising floodwaters in the overbuilt, improperly drained city. The scariest part is that, with the water still rising, no one can really know how bad the damage has been so far or what is to come. Once again, most of us outside the zone feel powerless but want to help. Once again, leaders and noble souls are telling us the best way to do so is to turn to the best known, most bipartisanly loved brand in humanitarian relief.

But I won’t be donating to the Red Cross this time. And after years of reporting on and inside some of the biggest disasters of the decade and change, I know what a costly mistake the focus on donating anywhere can be.

Part of the problem is the American Red Cross’ track record when it comes to disasters. It isn’t great. I learned this best in Haiti, where I survived the Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake and ran the Associated Press bureau from 2007 until 2011. When the earthquake struck, killing an estimated 100,000 to 316,000 people, American Red Cross CEO Gail McGovern’s staff swung into action doing what it does best: raising money. Their appeal to “save lives,” aided by endorsements from President Obama and celebrities, and fueled by a pioneering text message campaign, raised a staggering $488 million.

It quickly became clear that the organization’s biggest problem would be figuring out what to do with all that cash. The U.S. chapter had just three full-time staff in Haiti at the time of the disaster. Though it soon sent more, and subcontracted staff from the local Haitian Red Cross, the truth was that there wasn’t all that much they could do: ARC isn’t a medical aid group à la Doctors Without Borders. It doesn’t do development work or specialize in rebuilding destroyed neighborhoods. What it does best is provide immediate assistance—often in the form of blankets, hygiene kits, or temporary shelter—and as incredibly destructive as the earthquake was, there wasn’t half a billion dollars of tarps and hygiene kits to hand out. Staffers came up with all kinds of creative ways to unload the money, including handing it off to other aid groups that could use it better (after ARC had taken its customary 9 percent administrative cut). As it became increasingly clear that the entire earthquake response, from the lowliest neighborhood to the top floor of the United Nations Secretariat—had been a failure, ARC found itself scrambling to explain why the half a billion dollars it took hadn’t made a substantive difference in survivors’ lives. “There’s only so much money that can be forced through the emergency phase,” an ARC spokeswoman told me when I asked how it was possible that just a third of the money it had raised had even been committed, much less spent, two years later.

What no one at the organization bothered to do was explain to the public—in Haiti or back in the States—that it had never needed anywhere near that much money in the first place. (In contrast, some NGOs state their fundraising goals in advance and cap or redirect donations once they have exceeded those amounts.)

ARC was roundly blasted in the U.S. for its shambolic response to 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, with international observers warning that elements were so bad that they verged on criminal wrongdoing. Seven years later, despite an internal retooling effort, it failed again in 2012’s Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Isaac. (The response was “worse than the storm,” one Red Cross driver told ProPublica during its jaw-dropping investigation.) Typically, the organization has had more success responding to small-scale disasters; it’s common to hear stories people tell of the blankets and compassion they got from Red Cross volunteers after house fires. But even there, they’ve been getting into trouble: ARC’s 2015 response to a string of northern California wildfires was so bad—showing up unequipped and unprepared, shutting down other volunteer operations, and then failing to provide promised food or shelter on its own—that locals shunned the organization to focus on their own relief efforts.

Worse than what we know is what we don’t. The ARC, which boasts annual revenues of more than $2.6 billion, is notoriously opaque when it comes to what it does with the money it raises for disasters. It has never produced a meaningful breakdown of its spending after the Haiti earthquake. If you look at RedCross.org right now, you’ll see a prominent link inviting you to “make a difference” by donating to its Harvey effort. But nowhere does it say what it will do with the money. A tiny video shows empty cots in a shelter.

When I emailed and called the organization’s full-time media relations department Sunday and Monday asking how much it had raised so far, how much it thought the group might need, and what Red Cross volunteers and staff were doing in the response to Hurricane Harvey, I eventually got back this reply: “At this point in our active disaster response, we are unable to answer your questions by your deadline. Thank you for understanding.” I followed up again. A few hours later, the organization sent a second note saying it was providing food, cots, blankets, and other support to 6,000 people in various shelters across the region—again with no information about the cost or money raised so far.

It isn’t just journalists who get the shaft. ARC’s leaders have misled Congress. In a scathing 2015 report, the federal Government Accountability Office noted that “no regular, independent evaluations are conducted of the impact or effectiveness of the Red Cross’s disaster services.”

As ProPublica’s Justin Elliott has reported, many of these issues are the result of a team of former AT&T executives taking over a complex organization—one that manages tasks as critical and disparate as blood-banking and providing resources to military families, while operating in a blurred, neither-fish-nor-fowl zone with some of the privileges of a government agency (such as free rent for its D.C. headquarters) but the moneymaking latitude and lack of oversight of a private corporation.

ARC and its defenders sometimes protest that there’s too much focus on them; that scores of other actors have also failed in their responses to the same disasters. In part, that’s just the other side of the double-edged sword that comes with having a higher profile than others and raising far more money than anyone else—for being, as McGovern likes to say, “a brand to die for.

But in another way, they are entirely right. There is too much focus on the ARC in disasters such as Harvey, in a way that goes beyond any one organization. The way our society handles disasters—first the calamity; then the outpouring of sympathy and donations; then the long, slow rebuild—is wrong. As humans have long known, it is easier, cheaper, and better to mitigate or prevent disasters from happening than to rescue victims and rebuild after them. We’ve known for centuries about the threat of hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico. Experts have warned for years that the Texas coast needed to make serious investments to prepare for nigh-inevitable storms, including preparing mitigation specifically for intense, unprecedented floods worsened in part by climate change. It seems that some, including many of Houston’s hospitals, heeded those warnings and are benefiting from the preparation. Other sectors did not. At a systemic level, instead of taking those threats seriously, Texans elected a governor who distorts facts about climate change. Americans picked a president who—days before this disaster and moments before rushing to the defense of rampaging neo-Nazis—announced in front of his gilded elevator that he was scrapping federal construction standards that had required new projects to account for climate change’s effect on storms like Harvey.

Local news organizations in Texas are maintaining lists of organizations, both local and run by the Red Cross, where those affected by the storm can get help and those inclined can send donations. Experts and experience say that, if you are going to donate to anyone from outside the disaster zone, send cash, not stuff. Boxes full of food, clothes, or other stuff will clog up supply lines and as likely as not go unused.

Yet the hard reality is that we still don’t know what the needs in Houston and other parts of Texas or Louisiana are going to be or who will be best to respond to them. Millions of people are still in the middle of the storm, with the National Hurricane Center warning that some areas could get double the already awe-inducing amounts of rain they’ve already received. Survivors, in other words, haven’t even gotten past the emergency to take stock of the damage and really begin the difficult relief phase; if this was an earthquake, the ground would still be shaking.

It is difficult for rescuers to get in. There is nowhere for most people to go. While there are heroic efforts going on right now by locals and neighbors to save as many as they can from the floods—efforts that authorities should encourage and help coordinate—the hard, frustrating reality is that there is not very much an untrained outsider can do to help once a complex disaster has begun. And with, at a bare minimum, hundreds of billions of dollars in damage expected and future storms on the way, the costs in cleaning up this mess and getting people back into their old lives again are going to be astronomical, on the level that only wealthy and powerful governments, and the combined power of their citizenry, will be able to address.

Some people get personally offended by talk like this. They are seeing pain, they are being generous, and they hope it might help—just like I did watching the pictures from Indonesia from my cubicle years ago. The people suffering in this storm deserve all of that and more. But what you learn when you really dive into these situations is that momentary intentions, no matter how kind, are not enough—not on this scale. Those past, ineffective, and opaque disaster responses, from Haiti to New Jersey to the Gulf Coast, have created a legacy of mistrust, not only of the Red Cross but of the entire humanitarian aid apparatus its iconic brand represents. We can’t afford to do that again.

If we really care about the people of Houston and the rest of the Gulf Coast, we have to commit fully to a combined, sustained, serious response to recover and rebuild—meaning lots of money, lots of attention to helping those areas adapt for the future, and lots of concern for the people who we know are most vulnerable. We all need to come together to prevent future disasters, whether the growing risk of a major Oklahoma earthquake, a Caribbean tsunami, and especially the many threats we face from climate change. The sooner we acknowledge and act on that and stop debating the best place to send $20, the better off all of us will be.

Failing Charter Schools Have a Reincarnation Plan

Failing Charter Schools Have a Reincarnation Plan

by Annie Waldman @ Slate Articles

This story was co-published with ProPublica.

Want to listen to this article out loud? Hear it on Slate Voice.

This past June, Florida’s top education agency delivered a failing grade to the Orange Park Performing Arts Academy in suburban Jacksonville for the second year in a row. It designated the charter school for kindergarten through fifth grade as the worst public school in Clay County and one of the lowest performing in the state.

Two-thirds of the academy’s students failed the state exams last year, and only one-third of them were making any academic progress at all. The school had four principals in three years, and teacher turnover was high, too.

“My fourth-grader was learning stuff that my second-grader was learning—it shouldn’t be that way,” said Tanya Bullard, who moved her three daughters from the arts academy this past summer to a traditional public school. “The school has completely failed me and my children.”

The district terminated the academy’s charter contract. Surprisingly, Orange Park didn’t shut down—and even found a way to stay on the public dime. It reopened last month as a private school charging $5,000 a year, below the $5,886 maximum that low-income students receive to attend the school of their choice under a state voucher program. Academy officials expect all of its students to pay tuition with the publicly backed coupons.

The Rev. Alesia Ford-Burse, an African Methodist Episcopal pastor who founded the academy, told ProPublica that the school deserves a second chance because families love its dance and art lessons, which they otherwise couldn’t afford. “Kids are saying, ‘F or not, we’re staying,’ ” she said.

* * *

While it’s widely known that private schools convert to charter status to take advantage of public dollars, more schools are now heading in the opposite direction. As voucher programs across the country proliferate, shuttered charter schools like the Orange Park Performance Arts Academy have begun to privatize in order to stay open with state assistance.

A ProPublica nationwide review found that at least 16 failing or struggling charter schools in five states—Florida, Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, and Georgia—have gone private with the help of publicly funded voucher programs, including 13 since 2010. Four of them specialize in the arts, including Orange Park, and five serve students with special needs.

“The voucher just is a pass through in order to provide additional funding for private schools to thrive and to continue to work,” said Addison Davis, superintendent of schools in Clay County. Changing a school’s status “isn’t going to stop the process where we continue to see kids who are declining academically and not being able to demonstrate mastery and proficiency.”

Two key factors underlie these conversions. The number of voucher and voucher-like programs across the country has more than tripled over the past decade from 16 to 53. And charter schools, which became popular as a way to spur educational innovation with reduced regulation, have increasingly faced more stringent oversight. Jeanne Allen, founder and CEO of the Center for Education Reform and a longtime supporter of charter schools, lamented in a recent op-ed that increased government regulation is turning them into “bureaucratic, risk-averse organizations fixated on process over experimentation.”

“Why not just be a private school if the kids qualify for the scholarships?” said Christopher Norwood, a consultant for the Orange Park school, in an interview. “With 90 percent fewer regulations, schools can be independent and free, and just deal with the students.”

As private schools, the ex-charters are less accountable both to the government and the public. It can be nearly impossible to find out how well some of them are performing. About half of the voucher and voucher-like programs in the country require academic assessments of their students, but few states publish the complete test results or use that data to hold schools accountable.

While most states have provisions for closing low-quality charter schools, few, if any, have the power to shut down low-performing voucher schools.

“Public money is being handed out without oversight,” said Diane Ravitch, a New York University education historian and public schools advocate who served as assistant secretary of education under President George H.W. Bush. “The fundamental voucher idea is that parents are choosing the schools and they know better than the state. If they want to send their kids to a snake-charming school, then that’s their choice.”

* * *

The type of voucher program that rescues failed charter schools like Orange Park in Florida may soon be replicated nationwide. Visiting a religious school in Miami last April, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos praised the state’s approach as a possible model for a federal initiative.

Typically, voucher programs are directly funded with taxpayer dollars. Florida’s largest program pursues a different strategy. Its “tax-credit scholarships” are backed by donations from corporations. They contribute to nonprofit organizations which, in turn, distribute the money to the private schools. In exchange, the donors receive generous dollar-for-dollar tax credits from the state. This subsidy indirectly shifts hundreds of millions of dollars annually from the state’s coffers to private schools. More than 100,000 students whose families meet the income eligibility requirements have received the tax-credit coupons this year.

Of the nearly 2,900 private schools in Florida, over 1,730 participated in the tax-credit voucher program during 2016–2017, according to the most recent state Department of Education data. On average, each school received about $300,000 last year.

While more than two-thirds of these schools are religious, the roundabout funding approach protects the vouchers against legal challenges that they violate the separation of church and state. Earlier this year, the state Supreme Court dismissed a lawsuit by the Florida Education Association, a teachers union, challenging the constitutionality of the voucher program.

In an education budget proposal from May, DeVos detailed her voucher plans, pitching a $250 million plan to study and expand individual state initiatives. She has since suggested that the administration may also create a federal tax-credit voucher scheme through an impending tax overhaul.

School choice advocates like DeVos have long contended that vouchers improve educational opportunities for low-income families. They reason that competition raises school quality and that parents, given more options, will select the best school for their children.

A growing body of research, though, casts doubt on this argument. It shows voucher-backed students may not be performing better than their public school counterparts—and may do worse.

A recent U.S. Department of Education study compared students who attended private schools with vouchers in Washington, D.C., from 2012 through 2014 with those who qualified for the program but were turned down due to a lack of available slots. The private schoolers performed significantly worse than their public school peers in math and no better in reading.

According to a February 2017 analysis by Martin Carnoy, a Stanford University education professor, most studies of voucher programs over the past quarter-century found little evidence that students who receive the coupons perform better than their public school peers.

The lack of evidence on the benefits of vouchers, Carnoy wrote, “suggests that an ideological preference for education markets over equity and public accountability is what is driving the push to expand voucher programs.”

* * *

Across the Florida panhandle from Orange Park, another troubled charter school for the arts has reinvented itself as a voucher-funded private school.

Founded in 2010, the A.A. Dixon Charter School of Excellence had the worst academic record in Escambia County, and the school board raised questions about its financial accounting.

“Every month they came before the board and there was a problem,” said Jeff Bergosh, a school board member at the time, adding that he supports school choice. “They tried to make it work, but they didn’t. There were serious issues that jeopardized student safety, like sanitation issues and not having supervision [for the students].”

After Dixon received two failing grades from the state—which triggers termination of a school’s charter under Florida rules—the Rev. Lutimothy May, a Baptist pastor who chaired its board, appealed to state education authorities. They allowed the school to operate for at least one more year, but he began to seek other options.

Around the same time, a local beverage distributor, David Bear of the Lewis Bear Company, told May that he was considering contributing to the state tax-credit program. If the Dixon school privatized, Bear told May, donations could help save it. In 2013, May turned the charter, which had recently been renamed the Dixon School of the Arts, into a private Christian arts academy located inside his church. Nearly all current students at Dixon receive the tax-credit vouchers, bringing the school more than $500,000 a year, according to the most recent data from the state’s department of education.

“Our goal is still the same,” but the conversion has “untied some of the strings on education,” May said.

* * *

Some of the untied “strings” to which May referred were state educational requirements. By converting from a charter to private status, Dixon and other schools largely shield themselves from accountability.

For instance, while Florida requires all private schools to test students who receive vouchers, the schools face no consequences for weak academic performance. The University of Florida publishes an annual report analyzing the test scores of students that receive vouchers, but data from only a small fraction of the schools is made public. The report excludes many schools that don’t have test results for enough students in consecutive years.

The latest report released the academic performance of only 198 schools in 2014–15, out of the more than 1,500 schools that that enrolled voucher-funded students that year. Most Florida families that receive vouchers do not have access to test data on their schools. The Dixon data was not published. Dixon’s principal, Donna Curry, maintained that the school has improved since its conversion from charter status but declined to provide exam results to ProPublica, saying they were “for internal use.”

Curry added that state test results are not necessarily reflective of student success. “I will not accept the fact that our children are not learning because they are not normalized on the state test,” she said. Her staff “knows more than what the test evaluates.”

The state also has little control over how private voucher-funded schools foster learning. There are no requirements on curriculum or teacher certification other than the criminal background checks that are required for personnel at all private schools.

Because Dixon receives more than $250,000 in voucher money, it does have to file a financial accountability report. Only about 40 percent of all voucher-funded schools met this threshold to undergo such an audit in 2016. The reports, including Dixon’s, aren’t publicly posted.

Even an official at Step Up For Students, the largest nonprofit distributor of voucher money to Florida’s private schools, acknowledges the need for closer supervision of educational quality. “As the program matures, and more students are enrolled, and as inevitably we see some schools continue to have what most people would consider to be poor performance year-in and year-out, we will be having more and more discussions about whether there should be some kind of regulatory accountability mechanisms to respond to that,” said Ron Matus, the organization’s director of policy and public affairs.

* * *

Indiana’s largest voucher program, unlike Florida’s, is directly backed by taxpayer dollars and has stricter accountability requirements. A private school that accepts vouchers can be sanctioned if its performance dips low enough. Last year, 10 schools lost their access to new vouchers, according to Adam Baker, the spokesman for the Indiana Department of Education.

The tighter supervision, though, didn’t deter Padua Academy in Indianapolis. Originally a private Catholic school, Padua had become a “purely secular“ charter in 2010 under an unusual arrangement between the local archdiocese and the mayor’s office. The school initially performed well, but soon sank from a solid A-rating to two consecutive F-ratings.

“These performance issues sounded alarm bells at the mayor’s office,” said Brandon Brown, who led the mayor’s charter office at the time. Leadership issues with the school’s board and at the archdiocese, he added, caused the school to falter. After receiving $702,000 from a federal program that provided seed money for new charter schools, the school’s board relinquished its charter.

In the meantime, Indiana had established a voucher program. So, instead of shutting down, the school rebranded itself as St. Anthony Catholic School, nailing its crucifixes back onto the walls and bringing the Bible back into the curriculum. Last year, more than 80 percent of its students were on vouchers, from which the school garnered at least $1.2 million.

Its academic performance has improved but still lags behind the state average. Only 25 percent of St. Anthony students passed both math and reading assessments this year, versus about half of all publicly funded students on average at both private and public schools, according to the state’s education data from 2017. Last year, the state gave St. Anthony a “C” grade.

Gina Fleming, superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, said through a spokesman that “significant staff turnover” at St. Anthony’s “made for a difficult start these past two years.” As a result, the archdiocese “has been studying ways in which we can recruit, retain, and reward high-quality teachers and leaders.” It has also “made shifts in scheduling, resources, diagnostic analyses and personnel to better accommodate the learning needs of our students.”

In Fort Wayne, Indiana, two other charter schools went private. Both Imagine MASTer Academy and Imagine Schools on Broadway were associated with a national for-profit charter chain, Imagine Schools, which has been under scrutiny elsewhere. In 2012, the Missouri Board of Education shut down all six Imagine charter schools in St. Louis for financial and academic woes. In response to such setbacks, Imagine Schools has moved toward “an even deeper commitment to increasing the consistency of our network-wide performance,” said Rhonda Cagle, a spokeswoman for the chain.

The two Fort Wayne schools performed well initially, but by the time their charters were up for renewal, they had some of the worst test results in the area, said Robert Marra, executive director of the charter office at Ball State University, which was responsible for the schools’ oversight. ImagineMASTer received a “D” grade, and Imagine Schools on Broadway an “F,” from the state in 2013.

The data for the two schools “showed clear room for improvement but indicated consistent growth,” Cagle told ProPublica.

In 2013, Imagine merged its two failing charters with a local parochial school, Horizon Christian Academy. Since then, the Christian academy’s enrollment has soared from 23 students to 492. About 430 students paid their tuition with the help of state vouchers last year, totaling about $2.4 million in public funds.

While some of Imagine’s students and staff have stayed on, Cagle said that Imagine has no involvement in the merged academy other than owning the building.

“We could have allowed the buildings to just be empty, but we felt like if there was an interest by another entity for the purposes of education, that would be doing the right thing,” she said. Imagine “does not utilize vouchers for any of our schools,” she added.

Academically, Horizon Christian is far below average. Only 7 percent of its students passed both state exams this year, according to state data. One of its campuses received a “D” grade last year, and its other two campuses failed. The academy did not respond to questions.

“Low-performing operators in Indiana and elsewhere have skirted accountability by converting their charter schools to private schools either right before or right after a charter revocation or nonrenewal,” said Brown, the former Indianapolis official. “I can say unequivocally that any attempt to keep a low-performing school open by evading rigorous accountability is not good for students, families, or the broader school choice movement.”

* * *

As it awaits its first infusion of voucher funds later this month, the Orange Park Performing Arts Academy is strapped. The district has repossessed most of the former charter school’s instructional supplies, including 200 Chromebooks, 34 laptops, 27 iPads, and hundreds of textbooks. The arts—the school’s core mission—have been cleaned out: 10 easels, nine digital pianos, eight heartwood djembes, and four conga drums, all gone. Once lined with silver bleachers, the walls of the cavernous gym are now bare.

Many children have left, too. While the school had about 170 students last year, only 94 enrolled this fall. At least one-quarter are kindergarteners who didn’t attend the charter school. Tanya Bullard, who pulled her three daughters out of Orange Park, predicted it would slide further as a private school because there will be “no one to keep an eye on it and issues will be swept under the rug.”

The school’s new principal, Kelly Kenney, isn’t deterred. She said that she has already made significant strides to separate the school from its failed days as a charter. Most of the teachers and administrators are new hires, although half of the teachers are uncertified. Kenney plans to get the school accredited and strengthen the board of directors. “It can’t be a board of friends,” she said. She has been working with each teacher individually to raise standards and improve curriculum.

“Most people would have been defeated,” Kenney said. “Sometimes when you’re knocked down the hardest, you come back the hardest. And so for parents that have been skeptical, I’m like ‘This will be the best year of education your child will ever have. We’re going to be looking at every detail of their progress, every detail of their learning gap to make sure that we’re closing it.’ ”

Even though it’s not required, Kenney intends to publish her students’ performance data on the school’s website. “It’s important for us to show how we did compared to last year,” she said.

To recruit students this past summer, Kenney went door-to-door in nearby apartment complexes, hosting information sessions in laundry rooms. Believing that they couldn’t afford a private school, many families were reluctant to send their children to Orange Park—until Kenney told them about vouchers. For weeks, she and her staff have worked around the clock to sign up all the students in the voucher program, even helping them organize, fill out, and fax in the necessary paperwork.

Bria Joyce is a loyalist. When her son started kindergarten at the local public school, she says he was “bumping heads” with classmates and she worried that he wasn’t receiving enough attention from teachers. She transferred him to the Orange Park charter school where he took piano lessons and played Grandpa Joe in a production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

When Joyce heard that the school was converting to a private school, she was nervous that she wouldn’t be able to afford the tuition. But the school reached out to her immediately and walked Joyce through the voucher process. Now Joyce’s son is starting fourth grade there.

“They were prepared and made it as easy as they could, considering everything,” she said. “I believe in what they’re trying to get done.”

Craigslist Posters Are Already Trying to Sell Their Used Eclipse Glasses as Collectors’ Items

Craigslist Posters Are Already Trying to Sell Their Used Eclipse Glasses as Collectors’ Items

by Aaron Mak @ Slate Articles

For many of us, tracking down the correct eyewear was hassle enough leading up to Monday’s total eclipse. But what about unloading them now that it’s over?

Just hours after the eclipse, people are looking to make some quick cash by selling their “gently used” protective glasses. On Craigslist sites for cities in and around the path of totality—a narrow region running across the country in which you could see the moon completely block the sun—dozens of eclipse viewers are now putting up listings for their secondhand spectacles, often for exorbitant prices. Though the best-selling glasses on Amazon are priced at around $30 to $50 for a pack, it’s not uncommon to see used glasses listed for hundreds of dollars on Craigslist.

Enterprising vendors have come up with a variety of selling points to justify the steep costs, often describing the glasses as historical artifacts. As one $100 listing in Portland, Oregon, reads, “These glasses are a rare treat for anyone interested in space science! These glasses actually witnessed the Eclipse! Not like the ‘new’ glasses so common on the net. Why buy new when you could own EXPERIENCED glasses!” Others emphasize how prepared the buyer will be for the next eclipse, given that the eyewear had just been proven to work. A seller in St. Louis, also asking for $100, wrote, “I know the Eclipse is done and over with. But why not have a pair of glasses, for keep sake? Plus you can always have them for the next Eclipse in 2024!”

These numbers, though outrageous, aren’t as high as the asking prices found in listings posted just before the eclipse, presumably aimed at procrastinators struck by a sudden fear of missing out. Craigslist hucksters seemed to take advantage of this desperation, often charging thousands of dollars for a pair of spectacles.

Others highlighted the extraordinary qualities of their products:

Glasses that let you not only see the eclipse but ­hear it? Those might be collectors’ items one day. Plain old normal eclipse glasses that happened to be in the right path at the right time? Total rip-off.

Your Misery at the Airport Is Great for Business

Your Misery at the Airport Is Great for Business

by Daniel Gross @ Slate Articles

RadioShack is barely walking—but InMotion Entertainment Group, which sells electronics in airports, is thriving. It now has 125 locations and is the 43rd-largest consumer electronics company in the U.S.

Newsstands are shutting down—even Harvard Square’s famous Out of Town News is in jeopardy. But Hudson News, many of whose locations are in airports, has dozens of stores under construction.

Yes, there is a brick-and-mortar retail apocalypse afflicting large chunks of the industry. Sure, home-improvement stores and dining establishments are doing OK, but retail chains are going bankrupt at a furious pace, malls are emptying out, Sears is enduring its decadelong calvary, and Manhattan’s avenues are suddenly pocked with vacant storefronts. But there is one chunk of the vast retailing sector that seems to be going strong, with no caveats: stores in airports.

When was the last time you saw blight in a terminal? Selling electronics, books, clothes, food, and services in U.S. airports is a booming business. Globally, airport retail sales rose 4 percent in 2016.  According to Micromarket Monitor, revenues from U.S. and Canadian airport retailing should rise from about $4.2 billion in 2015 to nearly $10 billion by 2020—an impressive compound annual growth rate of nearly 20 percent. Enterpreneurs are having success building chains that exist only in America’s great in-between spaces. Avila Retail has nearly two dozen specialty stores based in airports, including its Earth Spirit folk-art emporia and the awkwardly named Indigenous, which peddles Native American crafts at the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.

It shouldn’t be surprising. Airport-based retail, which underwent a transformation in the 1990s as an effort to improve the travel experience, has some significant advantages over its non-airport-based counterpart. As much as traditional brick-and-mortar operations are suffering due to mega-trends—millennials’ preference for experience over stuff, the relentless onslaught of e-commerce in general and Amazon in particular—physical retail in airports seems to be thriving in part due to them. What’s more, many of the factors that have made air travel a miserable experience are weighing in favor of airport retail.

Airports supply the greatest desideratum of physical retail: foot traffic. Outside them, people can easily go through their days without having to pass a shop window. But in airports every passenger has to walk past dozens of them. And foot traffic is increasing. The number of passengers flying has risen in every year since 2009. In 2016, according to the U.S. government, U.S.-based airlines carried a record 823 million passengers, up from 700 million in 2009. And these are good customers. While air travel is mass transit, flyers tend to be wealthier than typical Americans, and thus have more money to spend.

Another advantage: Physical retail tends to see activity concentrated in a small number of hours and often sees business drop off sharply on weekends and holidays. But airports are busy starting at 6 a.m. and don’t start to empty out until about 10 p.m. Which means a lease on a few thousand feet of airport space gets you a solid 16 hours per day of operations. It’s not quite 24/7, but it is 365 days a year. Indeed, weekends and holidays are among the busiest times at airports.

Then there are delays, which make air travelers crankier but which actually work in favor of airport retail. When bad weather or missed connections or general crappiness strands passengers for hours—out of the reach of e-commerce—one of the things they do is walk around and buy stuff. Or relieve stress by getting a massage. XpresSpa, a chain of spas based solely in airports, was acquired for $40 million last year.

There’s another way in which the immiseration of flyers brings joy to airport retailers. On many coach flights, the airline now supplies you with virtually nothing to eat or drink. Worse, the Transportation Security Administration will confiscate any liquids greater than 3.4 ounces you bring with you through security. That means there is a category of necessities that you might need on the plane but that you can only buy in the terminal. Cha-ching!

In addition, people who travel routinely forget to pack things they will need while traveling. Plans change, as well—you’re on vacation and have to go to a business meeting, say. And in these instances, e-commerce can’t be of help. If you’ve left the house without headphones and are about to board a nine-hour flight, or if you realize that you need a tie but are 4,000 miles from your closet, Amazon Prime is worthless. Here are some of the things I’ve purchased at airport retail over the years that I already owned but were inaccessible because they were in my house: inflatable pillows, eyemasks, shampoo, saline solution, contact lens cases, sunglasses, reading glasses, 17 toothbrushes, 14 containers of toothpaste, collar stays, a tie, a dress shirt, headphones, chargers, extension cords, adapters, a sweatshirt.

Many people who travel through airports are either going to a destination, or returning to one, where they are expected to show up with a gift. For a significant percentage of travelers, airport retail is the only thing that prevents them from showing up empty-handed. These are some of the gifts I’ve purchased at airport retail in recent years that I would not ordinarily buy when at home: Vanderbilt T-shirts, plastic Minnesota Viking helmets, See’s Candies, mugs, snow globes. Snow globes!

There’s more. America’s rising snobbishness surrounding food and coffee is pushing more people to purchase food and drinks in terminals. It’s not just that you have to pay for whatever fare is offered onboard; it’s that what you’re offered is likely to be swill (airline coffee) or crap (sandwiches wrapped in plastic, wan salads, highly processed protein packs). Fortunately chains (Starbucks, Shake Shack) have picked up some of the slack. And celebrity chefs and higher-end operations have viewed airports as an expansion opportunity. In the past couple of years, here are a few airport meals my family and I have devoured: burgers at the Shake Shack at JFK, a choriqueso torta from Rick Bayless’ Tortas Frontera at Chicago O’Hare, Cubano sandwiches at Café Versailles in the Miami airport, a decent brisket sandwich from Noshville at the Nashville airport, chicken tacos from Urban Taco at Dallas–Fort Worth, and a Blonde Bock at the Gordon Biersch bar in San Francisco.

There’s little relief in sight for the woes that contribute to the anxiety and depression of frequent flyers. But we’ve found on old-fashioned way to take the edge off as we wait to board: retail therapy.

Read the rest of our series about the airport as the hub of American anxiety.

20 Ways to Get More from Life in “Retirement”

by Margaret Manning @ Fashion, Hair, Makeup for Older Women, Senior Dating, Travel

Retirement ain’t what it used to be! This is one of the things that I have learned as I have talked with all of the wonderful women in our community. Unlike our own grandmothers, we see life after 60 as a time for exploring, growing, learning and giving back. We are raising our voices rather than keeping quiet. We are getting out into the world rather than sitting in front of the TV. We are embracing technology rather than getting stuck in our ways. So, in celebration of the dynamic and wonderful women in our community, today, I want to offer 20 ways to get more from life in "retirement." Even if you haven’t retired – or never plan to – I think that you will find these idea useful!

WHAT MAKES DOVE MEN + CARE DIFFERENT THAN REGULAR DOVE?

WHAT MAKES DOVE MEN + CARE DIFFERENT THAN REGULAR DOVE?


Essential Homme Magazine:

Dove’s been around so long that when they finally started making Dove Men + Care a few years ago, it almost felt like a gauntlet had been thrown in the soap aisle in our drug store. Even with its soft and curvy everything, it had always been a “her brand” that a guy didn’t really... Read more →

Amazon’s Hit Clothing Brand for Kids Is a Crime Against Taste and Childhood

Amazon’s Hit Clothing Brand for Kids Is a Crime Against Taste and Childhood

by Cleo Levin @ Slate Articles

In the past year, Amazon has quietly slipped into the apparel-manufacturing business, with goods ranging from lingerie to men’s dress shoes. These private-label brands have innocuous names like Paris Sunday and Goodthreads, and they haven’t made huge splashes in their respective markets—except for one. Scout + Ro, Amazon’s children’s brand, has exploded, according to a recent report from analytics firm 1010data. The brand has increased its offerings five times over and achieved a 542 percent increase in overall growth year over year. The kids are wearing Amazon.

As a faceless corporation begins to dress children, the truly scary prospect is not simply the threat that Scout + Ro poses to precious, local brick-and-mortars. It’s how mind-numbingly dull these Amazon clothes are.

If you search for Scout + Ro on Google, you’ll find no dedicated online store or URL, just an Amazon landing page that features a small logo and generic campaign image. The store, such as it is, borrows its palette of gray and tangerine straight from the Amazon mothership, and with a half-hearted nod toward whimsy, perches a bird atop the o in Scout.

The brand is generally designed to be as unobtrusive as possible, with just enough creativity to seem relevant. The name itself follows the well-worn millennial tradition of sticking an ampersand or plus sign between two cute, vaguely vintage-sounding words. Scout scores double points, as it’s also part of the somewhat inexplicable To Kill a Mockingbird–inspired baby names trend.

The brand’s message is based around the very simple principle that children’s clothing should be comfortable and designed for play. Beyond that, it’s really more about what the clothes are not than what they are. One of the brand messages is, “Never interrupt a playdate with itchy fabrics or fussy styles.”

The clothes are all remarkably similar with only slight variations from item to item. You can, for instance, buy almost the same short-sleeve dress in five different, equally safe patterns. This is not to say that children need to be dressed in shoulder pads or asymmetrical hems, just that Scout + Ro’s offerings appear to have been filched from the closet of an extremely unimaginative doll.

While the kids offerings at stores like Target and the Children’s Place try to cater to modern sensibilities with hashtagged catchphrases and destroyed denim, Scout + Ro clothing doesn’t even necessarily look contemporary. Instead, the pieces seem like something any child from a Disney sitcom in the past 30 years could have worn. There are no obnoxious slogans, no overly prissy ruffles or aggressive camouflage. While shirts that say “#1 Princess” or “Future Heartbreaker” won’t get points for panache or creativity, at least they show some character.

If clothes this dull were being sold somewhere other than Amazon, they would likely be left in the remainders basket, but Amazon already has a huge, captive audience and pool of Prime subscribers. A study from last year estimated that Amazon captures 43 cents of every dollar spent online. The site’s shoppers are happy to stock up on a whole variety of basic items with free, two-day shipping, which has led to success with other private label lines, showing that they can dominate categories like batteries and baby wipes. Scout + Ro clothes are simple enough that they can be thrown into the shopping cart with the rest of your Prime order—kids don’t really need to try on clothing in stretchy fabrics and unobjectionable colors.

Retail analysts also note that because Amazon aggregates data on the market, it can use that to inform its own designs and create logical price points. Quickly identifying and manufacturing trends is key to success in a fashion market moving ever more quickly. As Marc Bain at Quartz points out, the speed of production is what has allowed fast-fashion brands to overtake longtime favorites like Gap.

The clincher is that Amazon’s scale allows it to slightly underprice its competitors. The site encourages shoppers to comparison shop, placing equivalent brands in tabs next to the Scout + Ro items, which are priced just low enough that they seem of similar quality, but clearly the better deal, an average of about 35 percent cheaper.

Scout + Ro clearly has a winning business model, and parents will appreciate the ease of buying their kids’ wardrobe at the same time as their light bulbs and hedge trimmers. But dressing hideously as a child is a rite of passage, one that even the convenience of Amazon shouldn’t force us to ditch. Kids’ clothing should not be data-driven; kids should learn to root through messy piles of sale T-shirts to find one in a heinous shade of neon green printed with a giant cat head. They should have to occasionally wear a fussy velvet dress with an itchy collar or starchy pants. Cheesy, attention-grabbing, even ugly clothing is a key part of childhood. Let’s not one-click it into obsolescence.

Toys R Us Is Dying From a Lack of Imagination

Toys R Us Is Dying From a Lack of Imagination

by Daniel Gross @ Slate Articles

Of course Toys R Us has filed for bankruptcy protection. We’re in the midst of a retail apocalypse. Brick-and-mortar chains are losing market share to e-commerce. Big box and mall-based stores are suffering from declines in foot traffic. Kids—even little kids—prefer tablets, phones, and screens to toys and games. Live births have fallen since the onset of the Great Recession, so there are fewer toddlers for which to buy stuffed animals. How would you expect Toys R Us to survive in the Amazon age?

And yet, in some ways, this was not inevitable—or it was not inevitable that Toys R Us would meet its end as a viable company so soon. In the New York Times, Kevin Roose writes this week about how Best Buy, another big-box retailer beset by competition from e-commerce whose products are subject to massive deflation, is actually doing quite well. “Revenue figures have beaten Wall Street’s expectations in six of the last seven quarters,” Roose writes. “The company’s stock price has risen more than 50 percent in the past year. Workers are happy.”

What accounts for the difference? In two words, the balance sheet. And in one word, management. Toys R Us was owned and run by financial engineers when what it needed most was some business re-engineering.

In 2005, Toys R Us was taken private by a consortium of private equity investors—KKR, Bain Capital, and Vornado Realty Trust—for $6.6 billion. In recent years private equity investors have talked a good game about how they improve businesses. But the reality is they use a blunt instrument to impose discipline on the managers they hire to run their companies: debt.

Leverage can be a powerful motivating tool—unless you stay current on your debt, you go bust and surrender ownership. Businesses with large debt loads often act with great urgency to restructure, to cut costs, and to rationalize so they can be sure they have the cash to survive. This exercise often makes companies stronger and more valuable. The tactic works particularly well in industries where managers can rely on steady growth and don’t have to fret too much about fundamentally reinventing the business.

But this modus operandi has its limits if you’re in a deflationary environment and have a tough time maintaining positive margins. And it especially has its limits if your industry is facing fundamental, life-threatening disruption, like, say, Amazon. In these instances, the necessity to pay interest first crowds out other investment. Every penny you spend making bondholders and banks whole is a penny not spent on building new payment systems, constructing whiz-bang superefficient distribution centers, acquiring labor-saving robots, sprucing up stores so that they are more appealing to customers, or raising wages so you can attract and retain the best salespeople and managers in an increasingly competitive labor market.

There’s no guarantee that retailers who successfully make such investments will thrive. But if you’re not trying that hard, there’s no way to keep up with better capitalized competitors. Unfortunately, for the past decade, while it should have been aggressively reinventing itself, Toys R Us has been laboring under $5 billion in debt used to finance the acquisition. In 2016, a year in which Toys R Us sales fell 2.2 percent to $11.5 billion, the company spent $457 million on interest payments on its $4.6 billion in long-term debt. By comparison, the company’s operating income for the whole year was $460 million. Put another way, after paying interest, Toys R Us had only a few million dollars to invest.

Best Buy provides a good example of how to turn around a company in the same position as Toys R Us. The companies were suffering from all the same macro woes. And electronics is a brutal business. But Best Buy’s CEO is a professional business engineer, not a financial engineer. As Roose notes, since taking over in 2012, Hubert Joly, a former McKinsey consultant, has managed a turnaround by focusing on low prices, investing in customer service (so that people could have consultations on products before buying), revamping stores so they have dedicated kiosks for popular manufacturers like Apple, and quietly cutting costs.

In the most recent fiscal years, Best Buy’s sales were essentially flat at $39.4 billion. But the chain, whose sales are nearly four times larger than those of Toys R Us, has only $1.4 billion in debt—about one-third the total Toys R Us has. In all of fiscal 2017, Best Buy spent only $72 million on interest—just .2 percent of its revenues, compared with 4 percent of revenues for Toys R Us. The sharply different financial profile means that Best Buy, for the past several years, has had a far greater ability to use the cash flow it generates to pay for investments that bolster its competitive standing instead of simply channeling it all to interest payments.

Toys R Us could have borrowed from Best Buy’s playbook and added some wrinkles: strengthen its logistics systems so it could compete on price with Amazon, create party and play spaces for kids, spend more to hire employees who will engage children, offer toy and gadget repair. Ultimately, Toys R Us was undone by the lack of the precise attribute that it aims to appeal to in its core customers: imagination.

New Fidget Spinner Safety Guidelines Prove We Can’t Have Nice Things

New Fidget Spinner Safety Guidelines Prove We Can’t Have Nice Things

by Nick Thieme @ Slate Articles

Along with “decline of civilization,” add “danger” to the list of reasons fidget spinners are bad for the youth: Two recent incidents reveal the mindfulness tool and classroom distraction can burst into flames and explode.

Michelle Carr of Fenton, Michigan, told an NBC outlet in May that her Bluetooth fidget spinner caught fire while it charged on her bookshelf. Another incident in June in Gardendale, Alabama, ended with a screaming child dousing a flaming fidget spinner in the sink. Like the Samsung Galaxy Note 7s of flammable products past, the culprit seems to be the batteries: In both cases, the spinners were Bluetooth-enabled and were charging when they caught fire.

On Thursday, Ann Marie Buerkle, acting chairwoman of the U.S Consumer Product Safety Commission, released a statement addressing reports of “fires involving battery-operated fidget spinners” and providing guidelines for usage. The regulations recommend being present when the batteries are charging, only using the charger provided with the spinner, and unplugging the spinner as soon as the batteries are fully charged—the “do not look into the sun” of safety recommendations. If their recommendations on the obsolescing toy seem uninspired, well, we’ve been here before.

The CPSC has also released guidelines in response to reports of children choking on nonbattery spinners. The most notable of these accidents happened in May, when a 10-year-old girl from Texas needed surgery to remove a bearing from her throat. The CPSC reasonably recommends not putting fidget spinners in your mouth. You can imagine the eyeroll that accompanied the writing of that sentence.

Fires and choking kids undoubtedly give ammunition to humbugs and culture critics. But the CPSC disagrees, noting “they can be fun to use,” and giving a list of ways to stay safe. Maybe instead of knocking fidget spinners, pick one up and let loose. Just make sure not to mistake it for a snack.

Trump’s Best Plan to Save the Rust Belt Is Telling Upstate New Yorkers to Move

Trump’s Best Plan to Save the Rust Belt Is Telling Upstate New Yorkers to Move

by Henry Grabar @ Slate Articles

Donald Trump won the presidency in part on the promise of reviving the Rust Belt, ending job loss and population stagnation, and bringing back the halcyon days of meaningful factory work.

But if that doesn’t work, the president conceded in an interview with the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday, you should probably just move:

I’m going to start explaining to people: When you have an area that just isn’t working like upper New York state, where people are getting very badly hurt, and then you’ll have another area 500 miles away where you can’t get people, I’m going to explain, you can leave.

With that, Trump appeared to acknowledge—to the chagrin of whoever penned his inevitably ignored talking points—what most economists believe about migration and job growth, but that his campaign was premised on denying: It’s easier to move people to jobs than to move jobs to people. For politicians in Upstate New York, including some Republicans who have supported the president, it was a disheartening comment to read. Even the president who promised to resurrect American manufacturing had given up on them, not to mention his own quest to implement or advance any kind of national policy to back his “Made in America” campaign.

The occasion was an otherwise celebratory announcement that Foxconn, the Taiwan-based manufacturer that builds iPhones and other electronics, would be (maybe) building a massive plant in Southeastern Wisconsin, between Milwaukee and Chicago. Wisconsin beat out New York with an offer of subsidies that ranks among the largest in U.S. history—$3 billion for 13,000 jobs on the high end ($231,000 per job) or something closer to $2 billion for 3,000 jobs on the low end ($666,000 per job).

Wisconsin claims it’s the largest “corporate attraction project” in U.S. history, measured by jobs. Gov. Scott Walker said the development would be called “Wisconn Valley”—the Silicon Valley of Wisconsin. (And an extra “n” for the “conn” in Foxconn.)

Trump may have felt free to lob an insult at the one depressed Rust Belt area that had responded enthusiastically to his campaign trail talk but doesn’t sit in a politically competitive state like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, or Wisconsin. In 2016, he visited Syracuse and other hard-hit upstate cities, promising the return of factory work. He called the area a “ghost town,” but claimed he could win the state on the backs of its voters, for whom, he told CNN, "I'm like the most popular person that has ever lived, virtually.”

Slightly less popular now. Anthony Picente, a Republican and Oneida County executive who had tried to lure Foxconn to an industrial park near Utica, said he was “disappointed in Trump.”

Rep. Claudia Tenney, a Republican congresswoman and early Trump supporter who stood by the president during his recent “Made in America” showcase at the White House, said she hoped the president’s comments had been taken out of context.

"It’s OK,” the president told Tenney’s constituents, in urging them to decamp for the Milwaukee suburbs. "Don’t worry about your house.”

It’s true that Upstate New York has been battered by deindustrialization, and has tried to swim against the tide. Since 2000, New York State leads the nation in the value of “megadeal” corporate subsidies, defined by Good Jobs First, a tax break watchdog, as projects involving more than $50 million in subsidies. New York made 24 such deals, worth $11.8 billion. Only a quarter of those were in the New York City area, which accounts for more than two thirds the state’s GDP and nearly two thirds of its population. The rest were upstate, including the six biggest deals.

It hasn’t been enough to spur a general recovery, as Jim Heaney and Charlotte Keith showed in an Investigative Post investigation in March. During Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s tenure, upstate job growth is at 2.7 percent, compared to 16 percent in New York City, 7.4 percent in its suburbs, and 11 percent nationally, despite the governor’s efforts to redirect downstate productivity north.

So in a funny way, Wisconsin is actually taking a page from New York here in giving Foxconn a pass on future state income tax, capital investment tax, and sales tax exemptions on construction materials. The largest state subsidy ever awarded in Wisconsin had been about $65 million, to Mercury Marine in 2009, not all of which has been claimed.

At any rate, Trump is wrong that New Yorkers should move to Wisconsin to get a job, which isn’t exactly thriving either. (They’d be better off moving to New York City.) But the real lesson in the Foxconn deal is that Trump has conceded that his “Made in America” policy, such as it exists, consists of the usual political horse-trading and subsidies that prop up isolated, negotiated investments in American manufacturing.

If the president had made a concerted policy push to revive Rust Belt factories, or was planning on it, Upstate New York and Wisconsin might both stand to benefit. Instead, they’re where U.S. states have been for decades: In competition to dismantle tax and regulatory systems to appease flighty corporate bosses.

[FORBES] 3 Lessons from Alibaba for Chinese Companies Going Global

by Joel @ The China Observer

Jack Ma, chairman of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, recently returned to the city where his firm made history last year with its record-breaking $25 billion IPO. First in New York and then in Chicago, Ma emphasized the importance of ‘cross-border e-commerce’. This relatively new form of e-commerce enables Chinese consumers to purchase products directly from the US and other international markets via Alibaba’s TMall Global online platform. This booming industry is expected to grow from $40 billion in 2014 to as large as $240 billion by 2020. There’s a huge market up for grabs, and competition is intensifying – NASDAQ-listed [...]

Schweizer wins, sets course record in Commodore Classic

by Titus Wu @ The Maneater: Latest Stories

Women’s cross-country finishes third, while men need to perform better, Coach Burns said.

What is the Best Shampoo for Grey Hair, According to Women Over 60?

What is the Best Shampoo for Grey Hair, According to Women Over 60?


Fashion, Hair, Makeup for Older Women, Senior Dating, Travel

What have you found to be the best shampoo for grey hair? Which brand do you use and why? Are there any shampoos that you have tried and rejected because they didn’t give you the results that you wanted? Read More

The Economy Minus Houston

The Economy Minus Houston

by Daniel Gross @ Slate Articles

It’s too early to tally the economic losses from Hurricane Harvey. But with the waters yet to subside, analysts are already suggesting that the financial impact of Harvey may not be as bad as Katrina was—at least for insurers. As CNBC reported on Monday, “Damages from Harvey, the hurricane and tropical storm ravaging Houston and the Texas Gulf Coast, are estimated to be well below those from major storms that have hit New Orleans and New York, according to [reinsurance company] Hannover Re.”

The analysis may be correct when it comes to the financial losses suffered by insurers. But the suffering is massive—in this natural disaster and in every natural disaster. And while it is understandable to look at Harvey through the lens of Katrina—they’re both hurricanes that swamped low-lying Gulf Coast areas with lots of energy infrastructure—doing so doesn’t provide the clearest possible picture of the economic damage. And it misconstrues the relative importance and economic power of New Orleans and Houston.

For the U.S. economy to lose New Orleans for a couple of weeks was a human and cultural disaster and an economic challenge. For the U.S. economy to lose Houston for a couple of weeks is a human disaster—and an economic disaster, too.

The Houston metropolitan area, with a population of well over 6 million, has nearly five times the number of people as the New Orleans metropolitan area. More significantly, Houston has more than five time as many jobs as New Orleans, 3.06 million to 578,000. And they tend to be well-paying jobs. The Houston metropolitan area gross domestic product in 2015 was $503 billion, compared with $78 billion for New Orleans. For any retailer or large e-commerce company, the Houston region likely represents close to 3 percent of annual sales.

Houston, America’s fourth-largest city, has a massive, diversified economy. Sure, New Orleans sits near the mouth of the mighty Mississippi River and is an important entrepôt and site for export of raw materials, agricultural commodities chemicals, and petroleum products. But Houston is a larger, busier, and far more important node in the networked economy. Economies derive their power and influence from their connections to other cities, countries, and markets. And Houston is one of the more connected. It is one of the global capitals of the energy and energy services industries. The Johnson Space Center has 10,000 employees. Houston is home to the headquarters of 20 Fortune 500 companies and the massive MD Anderson Cancer Center. The two airports, George H.W. Bush Intercontinental Airport and William P. Hobby Airport, combined handle about 55 million passengers annually, about five times the number that Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport does.

Yes, there’s a degree to which consumption and other economic activity that is forestalled or foregone during a flood is consumption and economic activity deferred. And cleanup efforts tend to be additive to local economies. But in today’s economy, a lot of value can easily be destroyed very quickly. With only a small portion of the housing stock carrying flood insurance, billions of dollars in property will simply be destroyed and not immediately replaced. People who get paid by the hour, or who work for themselves, won’t be able to make up for the income they’re losing a few weeks from now. Hotel rooms and airplane seats are perishable goods—once canceled, they can’t simply be rescheduled. Refineries won’t be able to make up all the time offline—they can’t run more than 24 hours per day. And given that supply chains rely on a huge number of shipments making their connections with precision, the disruption to the region’s shipping, trucking, and rail infrastructure will have far-reaching effects. If you’re a business in Oklahoma or New Mexico, there’s a pretty good chance the goods you are importing or exporting pass through the Port of Houston.

There’s a conventional wisdom that holds that natural disasters aren’t always that bad for the economy. Reconstruction and relief efforts often function as miniature stimulus packages. And many sectors of our economy are indeed highly resilient and flexible—and hence able to weather the storm. Writing in the New York Times earlier this week, Neil Irwin was relatively sanguine about the economic impact of Harvey on the system at large. He noted that any disruption to supply chains was likely to be short-term and that insurers were well-situated to weather the storm. So, yes, it is tough to quibble with the notion that taking a long-term perspective, Harvey will be a blip. But we all know what John Maynard Keynes said about the long run. And in the meantime, there will be a lot of financial and human suffering.

Flying While Brown Is Getting More Traumatic

Flying While Brown Is Getting More Traumatic

by Prashant Sinha @ Slate Articles

If your skin is brown and you spend as much time going through security in American airports as I do, you’re likely to eventually lose your cool. For me, it happened in customs coming into one of New York’s airports, on the tail end of a work trip I took last year to India.

Exhausted, I was looking forward to clearing the line and catching the final leg of my trip back to the Bay Area, where I live. My colleague, also brown, cleared the line. As I thought I was about to follow her, a Customs and Border Protection agent looked at me and directed me to the “special screening” line. There, I knew, agents would open my bags one by one and give me a pat-down.

Without thinking, I snapped back at the officer: “This happens to me every single time I come back through customs, and no one else. Is this racially motivated?

The officer was thrown. “Uh, no not that I know of,” he said. “We just picked you randomly.” But this wasn’t the first time I’ve been taken out of the line. It had already happened to me in customs that January, and I was singled out for an extra security screening entering the Seattle airport on another trip—meaning an extra pat-down, followed by agents rifling through and messing up my bags. I’ve been “randomly” pulled out of line returning to SFO, my own airport. On a trip in July 2015, I was coming back from a vacation in Amsterdam. As I walked up, a white CBP agent gave me a derisive look and said, “Yo dawg, you coming back from the Netherlands—you have any drugs on you?” I actually had eaten a pot cookie in Amsterdam to make the flight easier—he didn’t need to know that—which felt especially justified once I encountered the agent. These are just some of the humiliating experiences I’ve had traveling through U.S. airports. After I cleared that special screening in Philadelphia, my co-worker ruefully said to me, “It’s because you are brown and traveling with a beard.” When I shared my experience later with a good friend who is a white woman, she said, “Airports are just like a big mall to me. I don’t get hassled.”

Whether you’ve had these kinds experiences or simply heard of them, they are not new: Muslim, Sikh, and Hindu travelers with brown skin have known to expect extra scrutiny at the airport for a long time. And yet—perhaps because of my frequent travel, or perhaps because of my day job, which makes me hyperaware of broad-brush surveillance against communities of color—it is clear to me that this experience has become even worse during the presidency of Donald Trump.

I was born in New York City to parents who emigrated from India. I grew in New Mexico and made my adult home in California. I’m a brown kid, a little on the hippie side, sometimes with brown hair, and sometimes I grow a beard because I’m just that lazy about shaving. I work as a technologist—helping analyze how computing technologies such as encryption, machine learning, and networking impact surveillance and expression throughout the world. As such, I know that moving through the airport is just one of many places that makes us vulnerable to the modern panopticon.

That panopticon has had its eye trained intently on a lot of Americans for a long time. While some kind of screening is of course necessary for air travel, TSA and CBP’s methods are traumatic for many groups, as I hear often from my trans friends, my friends with disabilities, my immigrant friends. While we don’t have reliable statistics on discrimination against Muslims and other groups in airport screenings, many advocacy groups have sounded alarms about the issue for years, responding to countless shocking anecdotes. Earlier this year, the Muslim travel ban resulted in another round of arbitrary and near-malicious conditions of travel, dropping a dragnet not only on immigrants and refugees but even U.S. citizens, including small children detained away from their families and engineers who had their work devices confiscated. It felt like a sudden and violent expression of a more subtle message brown-skinned travelers have been hearing from airport officials for a long time: Leave this place.

But I also now hear that message in another way. Since the introduction of full-body scanners to the standard security procedure in the last decade, I have also been one of the small group of travelers that opts out of this process. Sometimes, one may choose a pat-down instead of the scanner because of a disability; sometimes you are randomly chosen, as I have been. I have many personal and political reasons for choosing to opt out, as do others: I have unresolved health concerns as well as a general desire to have my biometric data be kept to myself. I first came to that decision because of the scandal in which TSA agents traded nude images produced by the scanner. However, as machine-learning technology improves, I also want to protect the data of a 3-D profile of my body from future automated scanners. The manufacturers of such scanners can rely on data produced from the terrawave scanners as a training data set, much like current cameras with facial recognition technology can be trained on your social media. If this data is properly harvested, then it can provide the basis for new surveillance technology based on the contours of your body.

I noticed a change in Transportation Security Administration protocol not long after Trump’s inauguration. During the pat-downs I’ve experienced since this spring, agents performed a genital screening. In order to get to my flight, I first had to endure TSA agents rubbing their hands three times over my genitals. This screening method has left me feeling profoundly violated every time—so much so that I want to avoid flying itself. It says the same thing as the travel ban: Leave this place. And also: Submit.

The TSA rolled out this policy, which it calls more “comprehensive” and which one Pennsylvania traveler described as “groin security” to his hometown paper, in March. This more “intimate” approach (which varies slightly by airport) was already one of several options agents had to use when conducting pat-downs; now it’s the only one, according to Bloomberg. And it has caused some controversy already, including an incident in which a distraught mother posted a video of the TSA applying the more invasive pat-down to her disabled son. I thought of that family’s experience on a recent flight from the Southwest, before which a TSA agent seemed to take extra delight in the pat-down, tightening my clothes and rubbing my genitals in front of my father. When I have asked TSA management at an airport on how to give feedback on these policies or a particular agent, I have been told to “talk to my senator.”

I don’t think that agents should have such arbitrary powers, or that our screening process should be so invasive as a rule. (Nor do I think every TSA agent abuses those powers. I’ve experienced large and small kindnesses from many of them, and understand they have a difficult and important job.) Our needs of security need to be balanced with needs of basic human dignity. American travelers should have methods for redress and feedback while traveling domestically or internationally. And no groups should ever feel that airports are a place where they don’t belong.

Read the rest of our series about the airport as the hub of American anxiety.

Let’s Talk About “Next”

Let’s Talk About “Next”

by Katy Waldman @ Slate Articles

Always Right is Slate’s pop-up blog exploring customer service across industries, technologies, and human relationships.

In an interview with New York magazine in March, David Letterman recalled the time a cashier at DSW sent him into existential crisis. “I’m waiting in line,” the former late-night host related, “and the woman checking people out says in a big loud voice, ‘May I help our next shoe lover, please?’ I just started to tremble.” Worse than the invitation’s presumption of intimacy could be the unholy way it combines stultifying cheerfulness with capitalist coercion. You’re going to buy these shoes, and you’re going to love it.

The Soup Nazi screamed “NEXT!” Sometimes you hear “Ma’am?” and you wonder how old you look that day. Sometimes it’s a smile or a nod or lingering eye contact and the next thing you know you and the barista at Saxbys are in bed together. (This is not something that’s ever happened to me, but I imagine it transpires frequently, what with all the smiling, nodding, and eye contact. Either that or you wind up with three more Luna bars than you wanted.) How do cashiers select the words they use to indicate that it’s your turn? And do they have any choice in the matter?

The 21st-century boilerplate for this interaction is, of course, “May I help the following guest?” which many Slatesters recall leaping to the fore at Starbucks, drugstores, and elsewhere sometime in the previous decade. With its classy substitution of “guest” for “customer” and its ostentatiously grammatical swap of “following” for “next,” the phrase threatens to turn your trip to Staples into an unwritten Bertie Wooster novel. A New York Times article from 2015 conceded: “Clearly the word ‘guest’ is supposed to lend an aura of warmth and welcoming.” But guest—which evokes coffee, biscuits, and a place to sleep—is hardly compatible with jamming your credit card into one of Giant’s chip readers while a bored teenager throws your detergent in a bag. “Be Your Guest? How About I Just Pay and Leave?” the headline complained.

Yet it is tough to fault salespeople (and their corporate overlords) for wishing to wrap us in an illusory heating blanket of kindly intentions. Some employees know that gracious service pays off; others genuinely want to be nice; often it’s a mixture of both. When I started asking friends and colleagues who’ve worked the register about communicating “nextness,” what emerged was a portrait of the contradictions that plague service industries in general. “I can help the next person in line,” said a literalist Urban Outfitters clerk. A cashier at a corner store relied on “subtle umming.” A shy Toys R Us counter drone opted for the minimal “Next, please.” A Nike store employee would occasionally produce “an out-of-the-ordinary noise to get someone’s attention, like ‘Heyyyyooooooooo, next up.’ ” Since he was in Florida, he added, the noise had a way of coming out vaguely Spanish, a polite variation on “oye amigo, look alive.”

Shoppers usually regard a cashier as a mechanism by which to obtain a latte or flat-screen TV. And for the cashier, the guy lugging his swag to the counter represents a simple task to be dispensed with, like a turtle you jump over playing Super Mario Bros. (Most of the jumps are easy, but remember, if you let your concentration flag for even a moment, that turtle could wreck you.) Each transaction involves a two-way depersonalization; yet only one of the sides is forced to pretend that they see the other as an important and multifaceted individual.

Consider the screen glimpsed by reporter Nathan McDermott at his local Starbucks.

“Recognize me,” the directive read, apparently in the customer’s voice. “Include me. Appreciate me. Support me. Delight me.” Is there anything less personal than corporately mandated, one-size-fits-all solicitude? (“Gag me,” one is tempted to reply.)

For all that the archetypal customer experience is being put on hold, it’s the cashiers, suppressing their feelings in the name of efficiency and profit, most often asked to place themselves on hold, and to defer their true emotions and responses until the shift ends. At the same time, an authentic connection can move products, and it makes human beings feel that their work is worthwhile. So what’s the answer—do you, drooping employee, pray for those moments in which capitalist imperatives and inner impulses align? Just get really, really good at faking it?

I had always suspected that modern, ruthlessly customer-focused businesses would mandate a certain greeting, or range of greetings, with the same sterile corporate spirit encapsulated by that Starbucks register screen. But no one remembered following a script. I reached out to the corporate brass at Target, Walmart, Starbucks, CVS Pharmacy, and Walgreens for thoughts on nextness signaling. (Free business jargon for the next retreat, guys!)

None of them got back to me. Insert your joke about poor customer service here.

Next!

Reco, 26, works at the counter at an H&M clothing store in D.C. When I approached with a $9.95 pack of underpants that I grabbed out of a bin by the register, he acknowledged me with a radiant smile. He said he switches up his language both to prevent boredom and to deliver a more tailored experience to individual shoppers: “I don’t like to make it too mechanical.” Reco prefers everyday words and gestures—“just smiling and nodding will get you a long way,” he observed. While H&M doesn’t prescribe specific phrases, he thinks the chain’s interview process screens for sunny cashiers like him. He wouldn’t have this job “if I was miserable having to deal with people all the time.”

What about rude people?

“That hasn’t really happened,” Reco said. “Are you going to buy this underwear?”

I also called one of the many Starbucks peppering the neighborhood around Slate’s D.C. office. I spoke to a manager who revealed that the company has no “actual policy” and leaves such matters to the discretion of the local franchise heads. “We do one person at a time,” he said, of his own store, “and we want everyone to feel taken care of. Rudeness isn’t tolerated.” When I pressed him about scripted expressions, he noted the most common ones he hears from his employees are “can I help you?” and “next in line.” But he added that “it is common courtesy to ask what’s going on.”

“Does that mean that Starbucks cashiers will actually say, ‘What’s going on?’ ” I responded, delighted at the caj vibe of such an icebreaker.

Silence. “Would that be a problem?” he asked.

Then I tried to get his name, and he hung up on me. Next!

Actually, can we pause for a second over how great it feels when your turn arrives? This is one of the core paradoxes of “may I help the next person”—that a moment so repetitious and dream-shriveling for the cashier carries such a singular affirmative power for the customer. There you are, waiting for the people ahead of you to resolve their business, sagging a bit under the weight of the social compact that equates every single other schmoe’s desires with yours. And then: The karmic klieg light swivels to soak you in its golden glow.

Whether you are picking up your prescription or buying a bagel, there’s primal, joyful satisfaction in approaching the counter, because you—you!—are “next.” But on the other side of that counter, all of the yous blur together into one long yawn. And by convention, that person, the bored one, is the party that is supposed to act cheerful. And so capitalism goes, until the moment you arrive at the gates of Heaven to find a smiling St. Peter amiably processing his long line of souls. “Oye amigo, look alive,” he’ll joke, at which point a lifetime of consumer interactions will have hopefully taught you how to see past the façade and respond with empathy. Cashiers are there to help the following guest. But God helps those who help themselves.

Dove's ridiculous new body wash bottles are the apotheosis of its "real beauty" campaigns

Dove's ridiculous new body wash bottles are the apotheosis of its "real beauty" campaigns


Quartz

All soap bottles—I mean, women—are beautiful as they are.

The Secret Psychology Behind Selling Beauty Products to Men

The Secret Psychology Behind Selling Beauty Products to Men


Racked

In 1960, in the aftermath of the first-ever televised presidential debate, Richard Nixon wished he hadn't passed on the concealer, bronzer, and foundation. His opponent, John F. Kennedy, looked...

Dove

Dove


Unilever USA

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This Startup Will Let You Go to the Movies Anytime for $10 a Month. It’s Probably Doomed.

This Startup Will Let You Go to the Movies Anytime for $10 a Month. It’s Probably Doomed.

by Jordan Weissmann @ Slate Articles

Thanks to streaming services like Netflix and Spotify, Americans have gotten used to thinking about home entertainment as a $10-per-month, all-you-can-binge buffet. Now, a company run by one of Netflix's co-founders wants to bring a similar model to movie theaters—which are decidedly unhappy about it.

This week, the 6-year-old startup MoviePass announced that it was dropping the cost of its ticket subscription service to $9.95 a month. For a little more than the price of a large popcorn, users will (theoretically) be allowed to catch one flick every day at any theater in the country that accepts Mastercard. (According to the company's website, that covers 91 percent of theaters nationwide). However, the announcement drew a quick rebuke from AMC, the country's biggest cinema chain, which said in a statement that it was conferring with lawyers about whether it could block customers from using MoviePass at its theaters.

It's unclear whether AMC can do such a thing. Then again, it might not need to, since MoviePass seems to be counting on AMC's long-term cooperation to survive.

At the moment, MoviePass is poised to burn a prodigious pile of cash subsidizing the cost of its subscriptions. That's because every time a customer buys their movie ticket using one of the company's debit cards, it pays the theater for the full cost of admission. Given that the average film ticket cost $8.65 last year, MoviePass will end up losing money on every user who sees two or more showings a month. In big markets like New York, where catching the latest Avengers installment can easily cost $15, they'll come out behind on users who see just one movie a month.

This is not promising arithmetic. But CEO Mitch Lowe, the Netflix co-founder and Redbox executive who took the reins at MoviePass last year, thinks he has a vision to make his low, low price point work. He argues that his company's service gives theaters a big boost to ticket and concession sales, and eventually, theaters will feel compelled to hand MoviePass a slice of the extra profits, or maybe pay them back via advertising.

“There must be some way to make us whole,” Lowe told Variety. “We know we have to prove the value we deliver and, at that point in time, where we’re delivering value to studios and theaters, we can work together with them in a constructive manner so that everybody makes more money.”

That might not be quite as crazy as it sounds. U.S. movie ticket sales have been stagnant for about a decade now, as Americans have come to prefer Netflixing and chilling to sipping $6 Sierra Mists in an air-conditioned cavern full of strangers. At the same time, ticket prices have continually hit record highs, thus chagrining regular filmgoers, along with anybody who has ever suffered the indignity of paying out the nose to see a mediocre summer blockbuster. And while box office totals have edged up slightly over that time, they've failed to keep pace with inflation since 2009. In the era of unlimited TV and tunes, trying to lure Americans to go back to the cinema by cutting prices conceivably seems worth a try.

But it's also easy to guess why a company like AMC would recoil at Lowe's plan. In its statement, the chain argued that MoviePass' pricing was economically unsustainable, and “only sets up consumers for ultimate disappointment down the road if or when the product can no longer be fulfilled.” That's probably a valid concern. But more broadly, AMC can't be happy about the idea of a digital middle-man inserting itself into its industry, ultimately angling for a cut of the profits from each moviegoer even as it puts downward pressure on the price of an individual ticket. (AMC and MoviePass actually launched a pilot program together a few years ago when the startup's subscription prices were much higher, but the relationship has clearly soured.)

The sort of odd thing about MoviePass is that it's trying to become a middle man without asking permission first—or securing any payment for its services. Online ticketers like Fandango strike deals with theaters for the right to sell their seats, then market their service to the public. MoviePass is going to the public first, and hoping to gin up so much business that theaters will eventually strike a deal. The reason it can go that route is that its product is essentially just an app with movie times and a subscription debit card that customers can use to charge tickets to the company's account. Lowe argued to Bloomberg that for AMC to block his service from their theaters, they'd have to start declining Mastercard. Still, he's not going to make any money until he wins them over.

And if he can't? It's possible MoviePass could find other paths to profit. Eventually, it wants to use data on its users' moviegoing habits to sell targeted advertising. (How lucrative that could really be seems like an open question.) Or, it's possible that at $9.95, hordes of would-be film buffs will sign up for the service, then fail to see a movie each month. Milking money from subscribers who don't actually use the service was the company's original plan back when it was founded in 2011 and charged $30 a month, Bloomberg notes. But becoming the AOL of movie tickets doesn't seem like a recipe for long-term success.

It's a rather daring plan, all in all, made slightly less daring by the fact that MoviePass has already offloaded some of the risk: It sold a majority stake to a data-analytics firm on Tuesday to finance the scheme. If it succeeds, Lowe will have pulled off the impressive feat of fixing theaters' business model against their will. If it crashes and burns, at least savvy moviegoers will get a few cheap flicks out of the deal.

How beauty giant Dove went from empowering to patronising

How beauty giant Dove went from empowering to patronising


the Guardian

The £3bn toiletries brand was one of the first brands to embrace ‘femvertising’, but its body-shaped bottles have been roundly ridiculed. Can it repair the damage?

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The post Jc Penney Coupons appeared first on Printable Coupons In Store & Coupon Codes.

Malls and Restaurants Schedule Workers at the Last Minute. Oregon Just Made That Illegal.

Malls and Restaurants Schedule Workers at the Last Minute. Oregon Just Made That Illegal.

by Henry Grabar @ Slate Articles

As the Democratic Party continues to flail over what besides resistance to Donald Trump it stands for (what’s the health care plan, anyway?), they can look for inspiration to Oregon, where Democratic Gov. Kate Brown signed the country’s first statewide employee scheduling law on Tuesday.

Want to listen to this article out loud? Hear it on Slate Voice.

Starting in July 2018, Oregon will require big companies in retail, hospitality, and food service to give employees schedules at least a week ahead of time, and offer stress pay to workers who don’t get a 10-hour break between shifts. By 2020, employers covered by the law will have to hand out schedules two weeks in advance.

Oregon is the first state to pass such a law, which grows out of a vibrant municipal movement to humanize low-wage fast food and mall jobs that can no longer be thought of as stopgap positions, if they ever were. The median age of a retail employee, for example, is 39. According to a New York state study, most retail workers are breadwinners. It's hard to spend time with your family if you never know when you get off work.

San Francisco, Seattle, and New York City all have similar policies in place. The Oregon bill may be a sign that the movement is about to jump from cities to states. In December, the Illinois attorney general announced that a group of large retailers including Aeropostale and Disney would stop using on-call scheduling after an investigation. A handful of other blue-state AGs are also looking into it. In 2015, Elizabeth Warren introduced a fair scheduling bill in the Senate.

Conservative states have rallied against the movement, drafting pre-emption bills to prevent cities from passing their own ordinances. Georgia, Arkansas, Iowa, Michigan, and Tennessee have such laws on the books. But voters seem to generally approve of protections for low-wage workers: In November, deep-red Arizona voted by referendum to mandate paid sick days, in a rebuke to the Legislature's broad anti-worker pre-emption bill.

The bigger pictures is that scheduling laws are the latest addition to a slate of state-level progressive policies, inspired by city-level reforms, to help the largely ignored 25 million Americans who work in retail and food service. Those include:

  • Paid sick leave laws
  • Bans on noncompete agreements (yes, even Jimmy John’s and Amazon warehouses have forced workers to relinquish their value on the labor market)
  • Minimum-wage hikes

It’s adding up to something like a platform. Want to be the party of workers? Go to where the jobs are.

In that sense, it could be a particularly salient counterpoint to Donald Trump’s inane quest to resuscitate the tiny, tiny coal-mining industry, with its immoral effects on both workers and the environment. Retail work is flagging in some sectors but remains an enormous section of the labor force (16 million workers), and warehouse employment is skyrocketing to keep pace with e-commerce demand. Restaurants have created more jobs since January than health care, construction, or manufacturing.

That reflects a structural change in American life. In 2016, for the first time ever, Americans spent more money at restaurants and bars than on groceries. We’ve been eating out more since the ’70s, when female labor force participation was rising dramatically. But even as that rate has plateaued and slowed, the trend toward restaurant spending has increased as young people delay marriage and household formation. It also helps that the supermarket is cheaper than ever, meaning we can spend more money away from home. (It’s not just that Americans are trading TV dinners for Chipotle; it’s also that we are spending less on groceries—down from 8.3 percent of disposable income in 1982 to 5.7 percent in 2011.) By 2020, Derek Thompson writes at the Atlantic, restaurant work will surpass manufacturing.

In short, there is nothing niche about improving the quality of retail and restaurant work.

Why don’t we pay as much attention to retail and restaurant jobs? Demographics are partly to blame. The retail jobs that have been hardest hit by job loss tend to be held by females and an above-average share of minorities. The female employment share in restaurant work is two points above the BLS average; the black-American share is two points above, and the Hispanic share is nine points above. This translate to a perceived lack of value, Slate’s Jamelle Bouie wrote in April:

Work is gendered and it is racialized. What work matters is often tied to who performs it. It is no accident that those professions dominated by white men tend to bring the most prestige, respect, and pay, while those dominated by women—and especially women of color—are often ignored, disdained, and undercompensated.

But the problem is also that restaurant and retail jobs just aren’t that good. They pay, on average, just over half as much as manufacturing jobs. They don’t provide the routine shifts of punch-in, punch-out factory work.

Make the jobs better, and people will care more about them—both politicians and the workers who hold them. Fair scheduling is a more bulletproof policy than the progressive stalwart Fight for $15. (There are early signs that the rising-to-$15-wage has caused low-income workers to take home less as a group, even in booming Seattle.) Ensuring that workers have predictable, human schedules could be easily implemented across rich and poor cities, and it doesn’t need to cost a dime.

Should You Use Men’s Hair Products?

Should You Use Men’s Hair Products?


StyleCaster

A gender-swapped product lineup can actually do wonderful things.

No, You Don’t Want a Four-Day Workweek

No, You Don’t Want a Four-Day Workweek

by Allard Dembe @ Slate Articles

This story was first published on the Conversation and has been republished here with permission.

Many employers and employees love the thought of a four-day workweek. Supposedly, a four-day work schedule allows workers extra time to pursue leisure activities and family togetherness. Spurred on by visions of spending more time at the beach, many people are now encouraging businesses to adopt this kind of work plan.

There are many purported advantages. Some authorities say that a four-day work schedule facilitates the ability to provide child care and assistance for the elderly.

Proponents of such “compressed” work schedules—those in which employees work longer hours for fewer days of the week—point to gains in productivity that result from decreased overhead costs, such as not having to keep the lights on when nobody is working. Additional cost savings can be obtained from reducing total weekly commuting time.

A variety of businesses has tested the four-day concept, including Amazon, Google, Deloitte, and a host of smaller firms. Amazon announced in 2016 that it was experimenting with an even shorter workweek of 30 hours for select employees, who would earn 75 percent of their full-time salary, should they choose to opt in.

Many of the pilot programs have shown promising results. Statistics from the Society for Human Resource Management indicate that 31 percent of employees were in a compressed workweek schedule as of 2015. That’s the case, however, for only 5 percent of large companies.

This is an issue in which I have considerable experience. I have been studying the health effects of long working hours for nearly 30 years. All the studies point to the potential dangers that can occur as the result of the additional risks created when work demands exceed a particular threshold. Most of the studies I have performed suggest that the dangers are most pronounced when people regularly work more than 12 hours per day or 60 hours per week.

The idea of a four-day workweek is not new. Labor experts have been studying and advocating these approaches since the 1970s. For example, in 2008, researchers from Brigham Young University conducted a series of surveys among employees and community members to assess their perspectives about a four-day workweek. The researchers found that about four-fifths of the employees reported a positive experience working that type of schedule.

Based on these positive results, Utah’s governor enacted a mandatory four-day workweek for all state employees. The state’s goals were to curb energy costs, improve air quality, ensure that needed services would still be available (for instance, garbage collection), and help to recruit and retain state employees. In 2011, however, Utah reversed course, saying that savings never materialized.

Other research has also supported the development and adoption of compressed work schedules. A 1998 study found that compressed schedules were related to high levels of job satisfaction and employees’ satisfaction with their work schedules; supervisors also reported they were pleased with the four-day workweek schedules.

Despite the widespread enthusiasm for a four-day week, I am not convinced that kind of schedule is beneficial for employees or for businesses. The primary problem with the idea is that whatever work needs to be done needs to get done in the same amount of total time. Despite wishes to the contrary, there are still only 24 hours in a day.

The math is simple: Working five eight-hour shifts is equivalent to working four 10-hour shifts. That’s true. But the implications of these schedules are different. The danger is in disregarding the health effects that can occur as a result of fatigue and stress that accumulate over a longer-than-normal working day.

I performed a study showing that the risk of suffering an industrial accident is raised by 37 percent for employees working more than 12 hours in a day. The risk is 61 percent higher for people in “overtime” shifts. Working more than 60 hours in a week is related to an additional injury risk of 23 percent. As the hours worked in those schedules increase, the risks grow accordingly.

More recently, Dr. Xiaoxi Yao, a colleague of mine who is now at the Mayo Clinic, and I recently performed another study using 32 years of work-hour information to analyze the relationship between long working hours over many years and the risk of being diagnosed with a chronic disease later in life. We found that the dangers were quite substantial, especially for women.

Women working more than 60 hours per week, equivalent to 12 hours per day, were more than three times as likely to eventually suffer heart disease, cancer, arthritis, or diabetes, and more than twice as likely to have chronic lung disease or asthma, as women working a conventional 40-hour workweek. Working just a bit more, an average of 41 to 50 hours per week, over many years appeared to substantially increase the long-term risk of disease.

These studies show that not all hours are created equal. The research suggests that harm may occur past a certain point. A four-day week causes workers to squeeze more hours than usual into a day. For workers who are already prone to overwork, the additional burden of compressing five days into four could break the camel’s—or worker’s—back.

Besides the health issues, employers and workers also need to consider the effect that compressing hours into a four-day period has on workers’ mental health, stress levels, and fatigue.

Occupational psychologists realize that people do not function as effectively when tired or stressed. This may be even more of a concern for older workers.

Moreover, just squeezing five days of 10-hour-a-day work into a compressed 40-hour schedule can create more rigidity and reduced flexibility for families and children. For example, if the two additional work hours per day are added onto a conventional day schedule that begins in the morning at approximately 8 or 9 a.m. and extends into the late afternoon hours at about 4 to 5 p.m., then many working parents will lose the ability to interact with their children just at the “prime time” of about 5 to 7 p.m. when kids otherwise would be most likely to be in the house and potentially available to socialize with their siblings and parents—before their bedtime arrives.

There are many obvious ways to address these concerns and make life easier for workers and their families. Don’t overwork. Don’t stay too long at work. Find a job with an employer that has flexible working hours.

I don’t know about you, but the prospect of a four-day week scares me. I already have a hard enough time getting my regular weekly work done over five days. And it’s always so tempting to glance at my work email—just a couple more notes to jot down.

Instead, why not just pull back at a certain point? Maybe it’s time to take Friday off every so often. How about ending work at noon on Fridays, as is the practice of many Jews, to bring in the weekend in a gradual way? The trade-off, if necessary, would involve adding a small increase of one hour per day to the normal Monday through Friday schedule. That approach is actually my personal favorite.

My friend Lonnie Golden, a professor at Pennsylvania State University, Abington, advocates adopting a “Goldilocks” workweek: one that is not too long, not too short and that satisfies the employer’s interest in productivity and the employee’s interest in attaining good health and well-being.

Dove Coupons - Printable Coupons In Store & Coupon Codes

Dove Coupons - Printable Coupons In Store & Coupon Codes


Printable Coupons In Store & Coupon Codes

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We’ve Sentenced Puerto Rico to a Greece-Like Economic Catastrophe

We’ve Sentenced Puerto Rico to a Greece-Like Economic Catastrophe

by Jordan Weissmann @ Slate Articles

Chances are you haven't thought much lately about the economic tragedy that's unfolding in Puerto Rico. Not with nukes in North Korea and neo-Nazis and Obamacare repeal to dwell on. But Thursday at the New York Times, Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic and Policy Research has written a grim reminder that, in the wake of the island's debt crisis, we've essentially sentenced it to another decade of austerity-fueled economic depression.

Puerto Rico has been in a recession more or less continuously since 2007, which helped force it into an unsustainable spiral of borrowing that ended in default last year. Congress responded to the growing crisis by passing PROMESA, an act that placed the territory under the oversight of a bipartisan financial control board. This March, that panel finally approved a fiscal repair plan meant to close Puerto Rico's budget deficit while setting aside some money for bondholders. There’s an upsetting assumption behind this road map: that it will face another full 10 years of stagnation. As this graph from the plan shows, the territory's economy isn't expected to start growing again until 2022.

Even then, the island's economy will still be smaller in 2026 than it is today, even before accounting for inflation.

And that's probably too optimistic. As Weisbrot writes, the plan doesn't factor in the effects of austerity,  “which would add more years of decline.” More generally, these sorts of debt-sustainability projections are notoriously too sanguine about the ability of governments to keep paying their creditors while absorbing deep budget cuts. We've seen this show play out repeatedly in Greece, where international technocrats spent years making fanciful projections about how the country could slash its spending, raise taxes, gradually bounce back from a depression, and somehow make good on its (reduced) debts. The difference is that, as John Jay College economics professor J.W. Mason notes, Puerto Rico is just now entering into an austerity plan after already experiencing an employment collapse similar to Greece's. And if you take the official projections seriously, Puerto Rico's economy—measured by gross national product—should reach Greece's recent nadir within the next few years.

Europe's austerity politics have reduced Greece to a perpetual economic crisis. We're handing Puerto Rico the same prescription, and bizarrely expecting different results.

Dove ads with 'real' women get attention

Dove ads with 'real' women get attention


msnbc.com

Gina Crisanti was taking out the trash at work one day when a stranger approached her with an odd request. It was a talent scout who wanted her to try out for an ad campaign to sell Dove beauty products _ wearing nothing but her underwear.

'You're fat and ordinary': Dove ad reveals what women really think about themselves

'You're fat and ordinary': Dove ad reveals what women really think about themselves


Telegraph.co.uk

A new advert forces women to confront the negative thoughts they have about their own bodies

Dove, please for the love of God, stop making videos and just make soap

Dove, please for the love of God, stop making videos and just make soap


The Daily Dot

Dove, please for the love of God, stop making videos and just make soap.

Meijer: Dove Deals this Week {Great Deal on Women's Dove} - A Mitten Full of Savings

Meijer: Dove Deals this Week {Great Deal on Women's Dove} - A Mitten Full of Savings


A Mitten Full of Savings

Meijer: Dove Deals this Week {Great Deal on Women's Dove}

The Problem with Dove | THE ILLUSIONISTS

The Problem with Dove | THE ILLUSIONISTS


THE ILLUSIONISTS - a documentary about body image and globalization

The dark side of Dove's Real Beauty Campaign: from its controversial parent company, to the marketing of Dove skin whitening deodorants in India...

Dove targets older women

Dove targets older women


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First of all Unilever's Dove brand was used to target everyday women of all shapes, sizes and ages. Now the company is fine-tuning its marketing campaign to tap into the 50-plus age group.

That Ridiculous San Francisco Craigslist Ad Is Actually a Sign of Progress

That Ridiculous San Francisco Craigslist Ad Is Actually a Sign of Progress

by Susan Matthews @ Slate Articles

A couple of San Francisco–based, fortysomething executives posted a Craigslist ad looking for a personal assistant on Wednesday. The post is a good example of why not everyone is cut out to be an HR director: It’s a long, stream-of-conscious list of required and desired qualities that, interpreted generously, tries to offer a potential employee a full picture of the gig. Read less generously, it strikes several bizarre notes that border on offensive (most specifically in its all-caps insistence on English-language FLUENCY) and scream micromanager.

The posting has gone viral, thanks in no small part to our collective urge to hate out-of-touch elites and the communal release that comes from complaining that they are awful. Sure, the posters’ decision to explicitly update the listing to state that “due to high demand, we’re offering $15-35 an hour (vs. the former $25-35 an hour)” is a telling indication of how deeply they believe in the harsh efficiency of the market, and a good reason to question what life as their underling would be like. And yes, it is bizarrely specific and unprofessional, particularly the section that attempts to assure applicants that the employers’ insistence that “you take pride in how you look” isn’t weird because they embrace “whatever that ‘look’ or style may be for you.”

It is boring to point out that anyone tweeting the screenshots to this ad ought to read the actual thing and realize the applicant qualifications are broken into “requirements” (mostly reasonable if occasionally ill-put) and “bonus points” (largely ridiculous, but also indisputably not required or expected, and certainly not all at once).

But ultimately, there is an easy way to explain how this post, and its annoyingly intimate rhetoric, came into being, and why it strikes such a nerve. The posters are not just looking for a personal assistant. They are looking for a mom.

The section of the post that establishes the “problem” is both hilariously out-of-touch and occasionally relatable:

…personal social media accounts are neglected, I buy fresh flowers but don't have time to trim daily and change the water, indoor plants are dying, vacations and fun trips aren't taken because there's no time to plan them, dirty laundry is neglected until we run out of clean clothes to wear, merchandise that should be returned doesn't get returned, phone calls to customer support don't get made, prescriptions aren't refilled, instead of dry cleaning something it will just never be worn again, pants that are too long never get hemmed, that cute dog doesn't get taught new tricks or get his coat brushed out as often as it needs to be, things that we're meaning to order don't get ordered, items slated for donation sit in a corner for months, groceries aren't put away into the cabinet, the sink is eternally filled with soaking dishes/pots/pans, picture frames hang on the wall with no photos inside, the closet is in need of reorganization, appointments aren't scheduled, information isn't updated, nail polish gets chipped and remains chipped…

Flowers, Instagram, and chipped nail polish aside, this is a laundry list (no pun intended) of the daily mundanity pretty much everyone needs to deal with to simply exist in the world. And of course, until very recently, we didn’t have to think about these tasks because they were done by people who had little choice in the matter—by servants, or slaves, or women.

We could, and probably should, mock these posters’ naïve assumption that they will have a flourishing and close personal relationship with the serf they are hoping to hire for just a squeak above minimum (and in San Francisco, unlivable) wage. Indeed, I’d suggest that the main source of irritation that comes from reading it is due to the problematically mixed messaging of “we want to pay a professional” and “we expect you to be family.” (Though it also seems to me that part of being a good personal assistant is being a personality match, but having neither had nor been a personal assistant myself, I can’t quite say how out-of-line that particular desire of the post is.).

So, sure, it’s annoying. And it’s by no means a solution—hiring a personal assistant to do housework is not viable for most people. But this ad is just one indication that even annoying people in Silicon Valley have begun to realize the value of housework—indeed, it’s a cousin to the numerous apps that now exist to also try to “solve” this problem. Neither of these solutions will work in the long run. But I’d argue that instead of lamenting this clueless ad as indicative of everything wrong with Bay Area culture, we should file it under “evidence” as we work toward a world that actually accounts for the cost of housework, and doesn’t just ignore it or leave it to certain groups.

Dove Top Products Review 2017: Don't Drop The Soap! | Maple Holistics

Dove Top Products Review 2017: Don't Drop The Soap! | Maple Holistics


Maple Holistics

Looking to learn about the very best from Dove? Look no further than Maple Holistics - check out our Dove Top Products Review!

Trump’s Cabinet Secretaries Are Innovating Government Like a Fork Innovates Soup

Trump’s Cabinet Secretaries Are Innovating Government Like a Fork Innovates Soup

by Henry Grabar @ Slate Articles

It has been nearly five months since Donald Trump formed the Office of American Innovation, an initiative led by his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to make the federal government run more like a business.

Aside from the presence of Kushner, the New Jersey housing heir who married the president’s daughter and who once demonstrated his business acumen by spectacularly overpaying for a Manhattan skyscraper, this was a classic presidential gambit. Reagan, Clinton, Bush, and Obama all tried their hand at making the federal government more efficient, always with the rhetoric of the private sector close at hand.

The initiative was also of a piece with Trump’s strategy of nominating business leaders (or simply rich people) to Cabinet positions, several of whom signaled a break with the executive branch’s long-standing preference for expertise and government experience: Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson at the State Department, neurosurgeon Ben Carson at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, billionaire conservative activist Betsy DeVos at the Department of Education.

You had to wonder: Would these private-sector success stories reboot their respective bureaucracies as corporate-style dynamos? Would career staff push back to maintain the status quo or resign en masse? Would politically inexperienced Trump appointees be able to implement the president’s agenda?

Four new, in-depth magazine articles have offered some insight into those questions, portraying an executive branch that does look like a business—just not a very successful one. Instead, the departments in question resemble takeover targets being sold for parts, where the talented are leaving, the opportunistic are plotting their next steps, and nobody else knows what to do. More like Yahoo, less like Amazon.

In the September issue of Vanity Fair, Michael Lewis profiles the Department of Energy—the one being run by a man who once believed it should be eliminated, and then forgot its name. In Monday’s issue of New York, Alec MacGillis looks at HUD under Carson, the neurosurgeon with no prior experience in housing or government. In Foreign Policy, Robbie Gramer, Dan De Luce, and Colum Lynch write about the State Department under Tillerson, the Texan who spent his career hunting the world for oil. In GQ, Elaina Plott goes horseback riding on the National Mall with Ryan Zinke, the secretary of the interior who served a two-year term in Congress before being offered the job in January, after a 100-second conversation with the president-elect, during which he was also offered a different Cabinet post, as the head of Veterans Affairs.

Some departments, of course, have been effective in implementing right-wing policy—the Environmental Protection Agency, for example, has been transformed by industry priorities, and the Department of Homeland Security's immigration police force has struck fear in immigrant families across the country.

But the impression left from reading these four accounts in succession is that Trump may well be fulfilling erstwhile aide Steve Bannon’s goal, the “deconstruction of the administrative state.” Only by accident, though. What follows are some common threads from those pieces, each of which is worth reading in full.

We see, for example, how slow the Trump transition was compared with those of his predecessors. It’s said that between the election and the inauguration, Lewis reports, no one from the Trump team set foot inside the Department of Agriculture, which employs more than 100,000 people. Meanwhile at DOE, where Obama had sent several dozen representatives the day after the election, it took a month for the leader of the Trump “landing team” to arrive—an oil and gas lobbyist named Thomas Pyle. His time inside the department barely added up to half a day. The invaluable opportunity to mine the knowledge of predecessors went unused.

Pyle was typical of the bunglers and bundlers Trump sent in. At HUD, MacGillis reports, the January “beachhead" team included a Manhattan real-estate broker, the campaign’s “student and millennial outreach coordinator,” and the degree-exaggerating party planner-turned–housing administrator Lynne Patton. The leader of the group wound up being a startup employee with a Trump connection who, prior to landing at HUD, helped investors find rental properties to buy. At Interior, the recently confirmed deputy interior secretary—a former water bottle lobbyist—just reversed an Obama-era rule to reduce water bottle sales in National Parks.

Across the executive branch, the first moves included purging Obama appointees and digging for dirt. At DOE, Pyle initiated a small, early scandal by requesting a list of employees and contractors who had been involved in climate change research. “It reminded me of McCarthyism,” Obama-era Deputy Secretary Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall told Lewis. This happened at the State Department, too. In a speech to former colleagues in May, a onetime U.S. ambassador to Russia "warned against ‘pernicious' attempts to question the loyalty of career diplomats 'because they worked in the previous administration,’” Gramer, De Luce, and Lynch write. The emphasis on loyalty continued: In February, one of Carson’s top aides at HUD was fired after Trump’s people learned he had been critical of the president during the campaign.

Once they were installed, Trump’s team blended general disinterest with stifling micromanagement. At HUD, for example, all requests had to be rooted through the top brass, which rejected routine requests. At State, Tillerson hired a management consulting firm to administer a survey, asking how staffers might eliminate aspects of their job. Half the 75,000-person staff did not fill it out, Foreign Policy reports. A further layer of administration consisted of the “shadow Cabinet” that allowed the White House to supervise and clash with its appointees, which a Republican operative described to Plott as “zombies loyal to Jared.”

For the most part, though, top-level positions went vacant. At State, that meant regional assistant secretaries for conflict zones and important ambassadorships. Memos that once took hours to sign languished for weeks. Across the Cabinet departments, outsiders didn’t know whom to call. Canada, for example, is now discussing climate change and trade policy with states, rather than State.

Part of the problem begins with Trump: According to the Partnership for Public Service, out of 591 agency positions that require Senate confirmation, only 117 have been confirmed. There are 368 open positions with no nominees. But the department heads are having trouble, too. Zinke was two for 15 at the end of July, and the Senate committee delayed the hearings for Zinke’s other nominees for his department the day after he threatened its chairwoman, the GOP Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, for her lack of support for the president’s health care bill.

Of the four secretaries, Zinke seems the most interested. At Energy, Perry “has no personal interest in understanding what we do and effecting change,” a staffer told Lewis. “He’s never been briefed on a program—not a single one, which to me is shocking.” “Secretary Perry is a wonderful guy," Zinke told Plott. "I think he thought his department was more about energy than … science. Mostly, it's science.” At a HUD MacGillis portrays as slipping into disfunction, an oblivious Carson can only tell him, in response to a query at a press conference, “it’s coming along quite nicely.”

Across the executive branch, the career staff—granted anonymity to express themselves—give strikingly similar descriptions of the atmosphere. These are less offices run by hardcore ideologues than offices not run at all.

  • At HUD: “It was just nothing,” said one career employee. “I’ve never been so bored in my life. No agenda, nothing to move forward or push back against. Just nothing.”
  • At Energy: “The biggest change is the grinding to a halt of any proactive work. There’s very little work happening. There’s a lot of confusion about what our mission was going to be. For a majority of the workforce it’s been demoralizing.”
  • At State: “I used to wake up every morning with a vision about how to do the work to make the world a better place. It’s pretty demoralizing if you are committed to making progress. I now spend most of my days thinking about the morass. There is no vision.”

Tom Countryman, a longtime State employee who retired in January, told FP that morale was at an all-time low. That means, he says, that people are seeking opportunities to exit. He has tried to dissuade them. “My advice was to do your best to stay and serve the American people until it becomes truly unbearable for you in a moral sense. … I sought to encourage them by reminding them that no administration lasts forever.”

The same is true at Energy, especially among the cadre of supersmart scientists who can easily find more lucrative work than monitoring the nation’s nuclear waste. “People are heading for the doors,” Tarak Shah, a former chief of staff to the undersecretary for science and energy, told Lewis. “And that’s really sad and destructive. The best and the brightest are the ones being targeted. They will leave fastest. Because they will get the best job offers.”

The result of all this is a talent whirlpool, as thousands of years of institutional knowledge drains from Washington all at once. At HUD, MacGillis writes, the Bush appointee and homelessness official Ann Marie Oliva "was barred from attending a big annual conference on housing and homelessness in Ohio because, she inferred, some of the other speakers there leaned left.” At State, Tillerson has substituted an expanded front office of political hires with little diplomatic experience for the vast collected knowledge of Foggy Bottom, and is increasingly turning only to them.

At Energy, Lewis writes, the CFO simply departed, not having been told what else to do. The head of the nuclear weapons program—a three-star Air Force general—was asked to resign, before the Obama Energy chief, nuclear physicist Ernest Moniz, called senators to warn them of the danger, and he was called back. He was the exception that proved the rule: Many people like him left.

To say nothing of all those who never arrived.

How We Ruined Airline Jobs

How We Ruined Airline Jobs

by Jeff Friedrich @ Slate Articles

Nobody wants to be a pilot anymore. As the airlines tell it, a so-called pilot shortage has made it impossible to staff their fleets, forcing them to cancel flights and park hundreds of airworthy planes in the desert. One airline ventured to blame its 2016 bankruptcy on its inability to hire enough pilots, and even at always-profitable and carefree Southwest Airlines, the challenge of recruiting millennial aviators keeps middle management awake at night. “The biggest problem,” a Southwest executive told Bloomberg, “is a general lack of interest in folks pursuing this as a career anymore.”

Airline execs tend to make the shortage seem more mysterious than it is, as if something in the contrails is fueling this “general lack of interest” in the profession. That’s evasive. Rather, the shortage is best understood as an obvious manifestation—and perhaps the nadir—of a long-term deprofessionalization of what was once a solidly middle-class career: We made the pilot occupation so unattractive, so tenuous and poorly paid, that people stopped wanting to do it.

Flying, meanwhile, has also become unbearable for passengers. The airlines that survived the volatile decade following 9/11 have since consolidated themselves into a lucrative oligopoly, prompting questions about why smaller cities continue to lose service, why seats keep getting smaller, why fares have remained stubbornly high even as fuel prices dropped and profits soared, and why paying passengers are being quasi-defenestrated from overbooked flights.

The degenerating passenger and pilot experiences aren’t separate phenomena but in fact are intimately related, both resulting from policy choices that have propelled a decadeslong, ongoing makeover of the national air-transit system. The difference, perhaps, is that we are more conscious that we, the passengers, are getting a raw deal.

So are aviation workers, but there is more to the pilot shortage than just pay. Industry representatives are pushing Congress to address the rising cost of pilot training, which can exceed $100,000 after requirements became more stringent in response to a 2009 crash. Competition for pilots has also gone global, causing many young pilots to leave the U.S. to chase more exotic opportunities with Emirates and other Middle Eastern carriers. And there are class-conscious obstacles to recruitment—flying has become less glamorous.

But at the regional airlines where the effects of the pilot shortage are most acute, even management seems to have finally acknowledged that pay matters, as evidenced by their recent efforts to raise starting salaries that paid first-year pilots as little as $15,000 to $20,000. And although many jobs have gotten worse in the past few decades, pilot wage stagnation distinguishes itself in several respects.

First, airline jobs appear to be caught in a steeper free fall. Before President Carter and a Democratic Congress deregulated the airlines in 1978, few industries paid higher wages. In the 1990s, a number of studies reviewed deregulation’s impact on airline wages, attributing decreases in the range of 10 to 20 percent for pilots, and more for flight attendants. While many observers hypothesized that wages would stabilize as the shakeout from deregulation attenuated, wages never managed to find a floor in the decade after 9/11. According to a Government Accountability Office analysis, pilots’ median weekly earnings fell another 9.5 percent from 2000 through 2012—lower wage growth than 74 percent of the other professions included in the GAO’s review.

Nor has this wage erosion been limited to pilots. Today, many flight attendants begin their careers making less than minimum wage—as I did as a flight attendant for Pinnacle Airlines, where I was employed from 2011 to 2013. It’s even worse for those who work outside the aircraft. Average weekly wages for airport operations workers, a category that includes baggage handlers and other support staff, fell by 14 percent from 1991 to 2011—a growth rate that was lower even than the low-wage retail and food service industries, according to a 2013 study. Airline workers also work much harder than they did in the past; the industry had the second highest multifactor productivity growth from 1997 through 2014, according to an analysis by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Declining wages and inequality are sometimes described as an inevitable, deterministic outcome of abstract economic forces, but none of the usual suspects seem to adequately explain what’s happening to airline jobs in the U.S.—not immigration (pilots and flight attendants must speak English), globalization (so-called cabotage laws have limited the scope of international outsourcing), automation (robots haven’t yet displaced pilots), or the decline of unions (union density remains high). How, then, could the airline industry have fared worse than most other industries?

* * *

In the recent history of pilot wages, two related trends have tipped the balance of power between the airlines and their labor force: the proliferation of outsourcing strategies after 9/11 and the consolidation of the country’s major air carriers.

Regional airlines are having the hardest time hiring pilots. These companies, where most pilots now begin their careers, operate almost half of all domestic flights on behalf of major carriers like Delta, United, and American. David Dao was actually kicked off a United flight that was operated by Republic Airways. Though the employees on the plane wore United uniforms, their paycheck came from Republic.

The regional industry grew as a strategic response to the downturn after the Sept. 11 terrorism attacks. The airlines’ losses were unprecedented. Through 2005, the airlines lost more than $50 billion and received more than $5 billion in direct government aid. Four major carriers went bankrupt, and the industry shed more than 100,000 jobs, around 15 percent of its entire workforce.

The 50-seat regional jet played a key role in the industry’s recovery. Until about 1998, smaller airports were served either by larger jets, which were oversized for these markets, or turboprops, which flew slow and not as far. As the airlines attempted to stave off bankruptcy, they began buying a repurposed corporate jet manufactured by Bombardier, the CRJ200. The plane allowed the airlines to better match their smaller markets with demand, which in turn allowed them to redeploy larger planes to more lucrative international routes. The jets could also reach markets that were beyond the reach of the turboprops, allowing airport hubs to expand their customer base.

At first these planes were operated in house or through wholly owned subsidiaries, but after a time the flying was outsourced to independent companies. That strategy was initially constrained by the pilot unions, because collective-bargaining agreements typically limited how much flying could be outsourced.

A standard response emerged: If the unions refused to renegotiate their contracts, the airlines threatened to declare bankruptcy, where they might be judicially absolved from the commitments they had promised to workers. Forced to make concessions, the unions allowed more outsourcing to avoid options that would hurt their current members more, like additional layoffs or pay cuts. Because of these dynamics, every major airline had secured permission to fly more regional jets by the mid-2000s. As a result, regional jet capacity grew by 97 percent between 2000 and 2003, suddenly making these planes an integral part of the system.

Regional airline pilots and flight attendants have always made less than their mainline counterparts, but before 2000, the regional airline workforce was much smaller. In 1978, regional aircraft flew approximately 5 percent of all domestic departures; in 2000, 16 percent; in 2015, 45 percent.

Through outsourcing, the major carriers effectively introduced a permanent secondary scale. The result is that today’s young pilots are embarking on careers that look markedly different from the ones their senior colleagues began a generation ago. Though it’s still possible to make $200,000 flying international routes at a top airline, new pilots must now progress through a regional pay scale before they begin their ascent of a major’s scale, meaning it will take them longer to get to top pay, and their lifetime earnings will ultimately be lower. This helps explain why more than $100,000 in income now separates the top-earning 10 percent of pilots from the lowest-earning decile, a wage differential matched by few occupations.

* * *

Toward the latter half of the 2000s, consolidation played an equally important role in forcing down the pay of entry-level pilots. Though Congress intended for the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 to promote competition, the four largest airlines now find themselves in control of 80 percent of the market. When the reform passed, five airlines controlled 70 percent of the market. This has helped awaken political interest in consumer rights, but less attention has been paid to how airlines could wield market power to depress wages.

In the midaughts, regionals often earned substantial profits, but as the majors struggled through bankruptcies and the 2008 recession, they sought to renegotiate the amount they were paying to the regional carriers, ultimately securing new agreements on much less generous terms. Several concurrent trends also caused the airlines to re-evaluate their reliance on 50-seat regional jets. Most significantly, jet fuel prices rose almost 500 percent between 2002 and 2008. When Bombardier released a larger, 76-seat version of the CRJ200 that had far superior fuel economy, there were suddenly powerful incentives for the airlines to find ways to get rid of their 50-seaters.

Market power made it easier for the airlines to achieve this goal. After the mergers between Delta and Northwest in 2008, United and Continental in 2010, and American and US Airways in 2013, each combined carrier found itself in control of a large fleet of undesirable 50-seat jets. The regionals, on the other hand, had fewer customers to whom they could sell their flying. The majors used their leverage, which resembles what economists call “monopsony power,” to continually bid down the price they paid to regionals.

Delta took an especially aggressive tack, suing three of its regional partners for what it alleged were performance issues, in each case withholding millions of dollars in payments it would have ordinarily owed. This helped force Mesa Airlines into bankruptcy, and all three carriers eventually consented to reworking their agreements with Delta. In the new agreements, Delta sought to pay less for its flying and to retire 50-seat aircraft.

Even as they continued to put downward pressure on regional airline wages, Delta and the other  majors began to earn record profits. Under such conditions in an ordinary market, economists would have expected the majors to face pressure to raise wages (the majors have raised the pay of direct employees, to Wall Street’s occasional chagrin), but outsourcing and market power have positioned the companies to exclude certain workers from their gains.

Certainly, a case can be made that the government should have more closely scrutinized some of the mergers of the past decade. But current antitrust law prioritizes a consumer focus. Prior to deregulation, merger review would have concerned itself with employee welfare, but as currently practiced, questions about monopsony—when there is only one buyer, in this case of labor—still might have escaped the attention of a more vigilant merger review.

In the “hipster antitrust” corner of Twitter, some are arguing for a more expansive form of trustbusting, one that could mitigate the effects corporate concentration appears to be having on wages in certain parts of the economy, and as appears to be happening in the airline industry. It’s a policy solution that deserves more consideration, but for reasons made clear to me by my own experience as a flight attendant, one that might not be enough to arrest the fall of airline wages.

* * *

The airline industry has no formal minimum wage because the Fair Labor Standards Act exempts transportation workers. Because of that, unions are it—the de facto wage floor. The problem is that America’s uniquely permissive bankruptcy laws have undermined the strength of unions.

When I interviewed for my flight attendant position at Pinnacle Airlines in 2010, the hiring manager slid a piece of paper across the table and told me, as if issuing challenge, “That’s how much you’ll make in your first year”—a fairly cinematic way of telling someone their salary is $15,500, though at least she was candid. It compelled me to justify myself, to explain to my interrogators how I planned to live in New York City on so little—less than minimum wage after accounting for the cost of my uniform and unpaid training time.

After I convinced them, I was soon working with pilots who were making about $20,000. Some of them had worked for one or even two failed regional airlines before landing at Pinnacle, where they’d once again found themselves at the bottom of the pay scale.

Nonetheless, when Pinnacle went bankrupt in 2012, a victim of what my CEO termed “a race to the bottom” among the regional carriers, labor became the focus of attention, just as it does in all airline bankruptcies. A judge agreed that the company’s pilots were paid “substantially over market,” granting approval of a reorganization plan that included a 9 percent reduction in pilot pay, plus smaller cuts to flight attendant pay and employee benefits.

As an academic matter, bankruptcy law strives to treat all creditors as equals. But in its actual practice, the law has evolved to allow certain creditors to skip to the front of the line. When that allows one party to successfully evade its fair share of the losses, other parties, including labor, stand to lose more.

Plane financiers, in particular, enjoy special treatment through Section 1110 of the bankruptcy law, a provision that essentially bankruptcy-proofs an airplane, allowing lenders to reclaim an asset that might otherwise be sold in order to pay off other creditors. This protection is unique to the perennially insolvent airline industry and helps explain why the financial industry remains willing to lend it money.

This is a notable intervention into a supposedly “deregulated” industry, and without it the airline industry might require more direct forms of public subsidy. In the case of the regional airline industry, 1110 made it much easier for airlines to make consequence-free escapes from their leases after rising fuel costs made their 50-seat jets less economical.

Labor, conversely, cannot cut the creditor line, and the courts can discharge collective bargaining contracts and employee pensions just like any contractual obligation that isn’t an aircraft. The Supreme Court’s Bildisco decision required the airlines jump through some additional hoops before a judge can allow them to rip up a union contract, but the mere fact of its possibility weakens the bargaining power of unions by making companies less accountable to what they’ve promised workers. Accordingly, the rejection of labor contracts “has not been the mechanism of last resort to save a failing business,” the Air Line Pilots Association told Congress in 2010, “but instead has often been used by employers as a business model to gain long-term economic advantage by unfairly gutting the wages and working conditions of airline and other employees.”

Most other countries’ bankruptcy courts do not work this way. Canada does not let bankrupt companies tear up labor contracts. Some countries jail the executives of bankrupt companies while the boards of insolvent American operators often award “retention bonuses” to their executives. U.S. laws don’t even require bankrupt companies to prove they’re bankrupt, allowing a number of U.S. airlines to enter the process with healthy stores of cash. Of late, as the U.S. airlines have sought to prevent Middle Eastern carriers from securing permissions to serve more U.S. airports, they have pointed out various subsidies these airlines receive from their governments. In response, the Middle Eastern carriers have inventoried the ways in which Chapter 11 shelters U.S. airlines from the free market.

* * *

Even as the airlines have earned record profits in recent years, they’ve canceled or reduced service to cities across the country, quietly rendering a dramatic remapping of the national air transit system. Twenty-three percent of U.S. airports lost more than 20 percent of their flights between 2013 and 2016, and at least 18 airports lost service altogether, according to numbers provided by the Regional Airline Association. The airlines say this is simply the pilot shortage in action, but it’s more accurately understood as the ongoing legacy of the decision to deregulate the industry.

It’s always been tough to make a buck running an airline. In general, the fixed costs of operating any airplane are high, but bigger planes tend to have lower costs per passenger. We have airline hubs because very few pairs of cities are large enough to sustain a high frequency of service using large airplanes. The hubs allow airlines to assemble enough passengers to fill a larger plane, allowing them to profitably increase service between two cities. The academic and former airline executive Michael Levine, one of intellectual forefathers of deregulation, has described hubs as “factories [that] manufacture route density.”

Southwest and other low-cost airlines have famously scorned hubs. They operate as point-to-point operations, mostly flying lucrative routes between major cities, and only as often as they can fill an airplane. By comparison, operating hubs is considerably more expensive and complex. Hub operators—these days Delta, United, and American—have historically recouped these costs by operating as “everywhere to anywhere” airlines. Through the cross-subsidization of routes, consumers paid a premium to access a comprehensive network that could get them from Bemidji to Bamako.

In the first two decades after deregulation, there was enough competition and industry turmoil to inhibit the expansion of low-cost airlines like Southwest. But in the mid-’90s government regulators began to regard Southwest as a positive competitive influence on the hubbed airlines—whenever Southwest managed to enter a new market, fares fell. To promote the expansion of what became known as the “Southwest effect,” the government helped ensure that low-cost airlines were getting opportunities to service major airports.

As more low-cost airlines began competing on the lucrative routes between major cities, it was harder for the hubbed operators to charge the premium they required to recoup their higher operating costs. In short, the point-to-point business model was compromising the sustainability of the network model. That competitive pressure motivated the hubbed carriers to use outsourcing and the market power they acquired from consolidation to continue pushing regional wages down, even while they earned huge profits.

The pilot shortage is the limit of that strategy—pay got too low, so people stopped wanting to do the job. The airlines could try to charge more money to the passengers flying from smaller airports, but that has its own drawback—at some point those passengers will opt to begin their trip by driving to a larger city. Consolidation has also made it less essential for the hubbed airlines to worry about smaller markets. As the airlines consolidated, more traffic is being handled by the largest hubs. This means airlines don’t need to reach as deep into the country to fill a large plane that’s bound for Paris or New York. In some ways the hubbed airlines have become more like Southwest.

Essentially, we have made a consumer-welfare trade-off, swapping a more comprehensive system with somewhat higher fares for a more limited one that can deliver the best value on the country’s most popular flights. The winners of the trade-off are people who make frequent trips between New York and L.A. The losers live two hours outside of Memphis, or work entry-level jobs on the flights that would serve those communities.

This is a defensible policy trade-off. But as has often been the case in the years since deregulation, the changes we made to the air transit system didn’t happen after a vigorous public debate. We have continued to allow the market to sort it out, even as it becomes clearer that the market’s imperfections might prevent it from delivering a system that can satisfy all parts of the country. It’s also an approach that has continued to pass the expense of policy transformation on to employees. We should bear such costs in mind as we continue to demand lower and lower fares.

Read the rest of our series about the airport as the hub of American anxiety.

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Harvey Is an Equal-Opportunity Disaster. The Poor Won’t Be Left Behind Until the Recovery.

Harvey Is an Equal-Opportunity Disaster. The Poor Won’t Be Left Behind Until the Recovery.

by Henry Grabar @ Slate Articles

One of the bewildering things about Hurricane Harvey, for observers and especially for Houstonians themselves, has been the lack of a comprehensive sense of the extent of the flooding. We don’t quite know, quite yet, who has been hit the worst.

Storm surges come from the sea; a swollen river envelops a downtown along a predictable route. But the Houston metro area is nearly the size of Massachusetts. Harris County, which includes most of Houston, has 2,500 miles of channels. Everyone in Houston lives near a bayou; there is no “railroad track” stigma to these waterways. They are simply everywhere. And because the variance in rainfall totals from one part of the region to the next are running in the feet, it’s hard to anticipate which blocks will flood.

There is an assumption, forged by the experience of Hurricane Katrina, that natural disasters will do their worst to low-income neighborhoods of color.

At City Lab, Tanvi Misra writes: "Within cities, poor communities of color often live in segregated neighborhoods that are most vulnerable to flooding, or near petrochemical plants and Superfund sites that can overflow during the storm. This is especially true for Houston.”

But actually, Houston’s floods have proven to be great equalizers. On the one hand, there are very poor neighborhoods in Harris County that have been hit hard, repeatedly, by flooding. Greens Bayou in Greenspoint has overflowed its banks three times in the past two decades, and nearly half the housing there is in the 100-year-flood zone after FEMA revised its Harris County flood maps in September. More than 1 in 3 residents lives below the poverty line. Some of them are among the nearly 1,000 Houston families who live in HUD-subsidized housing in the flood zone. This weekend, Greens Bayou overflowed again, causing mass evacuations and sweeping a family of six downstream as they tried to escape the swirling river.

At the same time, underwater houses in the flood zones adjacent to the two great Houston reservoirs whose dams protect downtown can go for more than $750,000. Some of the worst damage during the 2015 Memorial Day floods came in the sliver of high-income neighborhoods south of I-10 on Houston’s west side; among the worst-hit areas were the neighborhoods adjacent to Brays Bayou, where houses routinely sell for more than $1 million. The 2016 floods shut down the Exxon-Mobil corporate headquarters in the Woodlands.

We don’t yet have a good sense of which parts of the city are flooded this time around. We know that this storm, strengthened to new heights by an overheated atmosphere, has taken out the country’s second-largest refinery, the Exxon Mobil facility at Baytown. That’s ironic. But in the end, the consequences will be the same as they always are.

"The pain is greater in low income neighborhoods because they don’t have insurance and have no place to go,” says David Crossley, the founder of Houston Tomorrow, a nonprofit focused on Houston’s growth. He described seeing a neighbor, an artist with a flooded studio adjacent to a nice house, ripping out carpets and making repairs before the storm had even ended. “Someone who’s got a $600,000 house out in the suburbs can probably recover.”

Look over the Harvey rescue map and you start to see how, even if their houses are flooding at the same rate, the poor are less resilient. A diabetic out of medicine. An elderly woman with no spare oxygen tanks. A man in need of a dialysis treatment. The list of needs goes on. Seizure meds. Food.

It’s just easier for some people to get help.

That’s true now, and it will be even more true when the time comes to rebuild.

CEOs Are Running Out of Reasons Not to Bail on Trump

CEOs Are Running Out of Reasons Not to Bail on Trump

by Daniel Gross @ Slate Articles

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CEOs of large public companies have faced something of a conundrum in the age of Trump. On the one hand, here was a historically unpopular president who lost the popular vote, who is actively hostile to many of the values to which their companies are committed—diversity, inclusion, reckoning with climate change, globalization, free trade, and all the other Davos virtues. Put aside whatever their feelings as individuals are. As leaders of companies with huge global operations and large employee bases, CEOs of large firms have to be careful not to publicly side with someone who is openly antagonistic to their modus operandi.

On the other hand, the federal government—as a policymaker, as a procurement agency, as a customer, as a dispenser of favor and tax breaks, as a rule- and standard-setter—has a great ability to impact the short-term fortunes of many companies. Trump has been in favor of much of what businesses generically want, from lower taxes to lighter regulation. And this window in which Republicans control the White House and Congress presents a rare opportunity for achieving some long-desired goals. (Global companies would really, really like to be able to repatriate all the profits they’re holding overseas on a tax-favored basis.) So the general consensus of CEOs was to not take any rash or immediate action. While it might anger their employees or spouses or children, publicly breaking with and attacking Trump wouldn’t pay any immediate dividends.

There was another reason that CEOs were circumspect. If you run a large, publicly held company, there are norms about the types of things you say. Everyone deserves a chance. We respect the office. When the president of the United States calls and asks you to come to a meeting or to serve on an advisory board, you show up. It’s part of being a public statesman or stateswoman. And with a president who insulted his way to an election victory, there was an extra reason to show up. Those who cross him are likely to be targets.

So you can understand why CEOs like Ken Frazier of Merck and Elon Musk of Tesla and so many others agreed to serve on Trump’s advisory council on manufacturing. They all had specific—and general—needs and asks. Trump would almost certainly be the president for at least the next four years. As one Trump-hostile billionaire put it to me, “He’s got the gavel now.”

But seven months into the Trump administration, we’re seeing that showing up and uttering pro forma support may not be a viable PR, business, or personal strategy for CEOs who want to lead their companies while being true to themselves.

Some CEOs have discovered that mouthing even anodyne support for Trump can have a really negative impact on their business relationships and stock price. In February, Kevin Plank, the CEO of apparel-maker Under Amour and a member of the manufacturing council, said "to have such a pro-business president is something that is a real asset to this country." In response, some of the company’s leading endorsers, including Stephen Curry, expressed their anger, customers rebelled, and the stock was ultimately downgraded.

Other CEOs have discovered that while the policies of Trump and the GOP may be theoretically good for “business,” they are really bad for their particular business. Duh. Musk was the first to bail from Trump’s manufacturing council after Trump announced the U.S. would pull out of the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Meanwhile, companies are coming to two collective realizations. First, while the Trump administration is delivering favorable policy to energy companies, Wall Street, and for-profit colleges, the prospects for broad-based tax reform (or even tax cuts) aren’t particularly good. Second, given Trump’s unpopularity, his power to inflame the public against any single company has diminished.

Still others have concluded that, regardless of whatever pressure their business might come under, they simply can’t abide sitting quietly while Trump rampages his way through his term. That was the conclusion that Ken Frazier, the CEO of drug giant Merck, apparently reached over the weekend, as a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, turned deadly and Trump condemned the violence only in broad, ambiguous terms. On Monday morning, Frazier announced over Twitter that he was resigning from the manufacturing council.

Why? “Our country’s strength comes from its diversity and the contributions made by men and women of different faiths, races, sexual orientations and political beliefs. America’s leaders must honor our fundamental values by clearly rejecting expressions of hatred, bigotry and group supremacy, which run counter to the American ideal that all people are created equal. As CEO of Merck and as a matter of personal conscious, I feel a responsibility to take a stand against intolerance and extremism.”

Frazier’s move—and note that this is precisely the statement that Trump should have made on Saturday—now puts the other CEOs on the manufacturing council in a tough spot. Each will likely face questions as to what they think about Trump’s response to last weekend’s events and why they remain on the council now that its only black member has resigned.

Frazier has given them all an out if they want it. Sure, Trump responded in typical fashion, immediately attacking Frazier and his company on Twitter:

But it’s not likely Frazier or his firm will suffer any immediate damage. In early trading Monday morning, Merck’s stock was up .8 percent.

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What CEOs Can Suffer

What CEOs Can Suffer

by Daniel Gross @ Slate Articles

Want to listen to this article out loud? Hear it on Slate Voice.

Slowly, and then all at once. That’s how President Trump’s CEO councils—the Strategic and Policy Forum and the American Manufacturing Council—came apart on Wednesday in the wake of Trump’s disastrous press conference.

It wasn’t because the nation’s executive class collectively woke up at exactly the same time. Rather, it was because Trump’s behavior and the very nature of the role of a modern American CEO made their positions on any body connected to Trump untenable.

I’m generalizing here, but bear with me. Typically CEOs of large organizations are actually quite constrained considering the power they have and the very high compensation they earn. They spend a lot of time doing things they’re supposed to do, behaving the way they’re supposed to behave, and saying things they’re supposed to say. At shareholder meetings or on earnings calls, they talk about how they’re really working hard for shareholders and thinking about the long term. In China, they marvel at the remarkable progress and bright future they see. At employee all-hands meetings, they talk up diversity and inclusion. At the World Economic Forum, they nod earnestly and pledge to reduce emissions. After elections, they express their willingness to work with the new president, no matter how bitter the campaign was. And when they’re called to the White House and Washington, they discuss the need for common-sense solutions to the big issues that plague America.

Of course, many (though by no means all) of them don’t actually care much about diversity or shareholders or Washington. You get to be a CEO because you have the ability to focus like a laser on running your division or your unit or your company to make a profit. You’re passionate about winning sales, gaining market share, doing deals, competing, and getting paid. But part of the deal is that in order to do all of those things these days, you have to adhere closely to the script.

And that’s why when a CEO goes off script—like, say, when the CEO of a big private equity firm compares mild increases in marginal tax rates to Hitler invading Poland, or when the CEO

of a giant software firm rampages on stage like a pro wrestler—it’s so noteworthy.

Typically CEOs can carry off their roles with fairly little cognitive dissonance. Having a more diverse and inclusive workforce generally leads to better results, and helps you market to an America that is increasingly diverse. To a large degree, measures that reduce emissions and promote sustainability actually save money and improve profits. When Washington does policy right and puts resources behind it, it can have huge benefits for companies and entire industries. So mouthing expected bromides about these issues is no big deal—and maybe even helps the bottom line.

But President Trump is a person who almost never says what he’s supposed to say. During the campaign, he flagrantly violated norms regarding the way you talk about women, minorities, and foreigners; he scoffed at the concepts of diversity, inclusion, and climate change; he let China have it constantly. His refusal to adhere to the script was, in fact, one of the reasons that so few CEOs of big companies publicly supported him.

Once Trump was elected, the convention called for CEOs to show up when invited. But that mismatch between Trump’s behavior and the norms and behaviors that CEOs have internalized made the meetings incredibly awkward. Look at that iconic photo of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos sitting in Trump Tower with the president-elect and other tech CEOs—you can see the cognitive dissonance on their faces. They knew they were supposed to show up. But they recognized that the professed values and beliefs of the person they were sitting with differed from the values they publicly espoused (and, in many instances, privately held).

In the intervening months, Trump has done little to ease that tension. All the while, CEOs continued to defend their engagement and association with Trump with the bromides typical of their position. “We have a responsibility to engage our elected officials,” JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon said, explaining why he would remain on Trump’s business advisory council even though Trump had just announced his intention to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement. On Tuesday, Newell CEO Michael Polk said he would stay on Trump’s manufacturing council because he wanted to retain a “voice in the conversation.” A spokesman for Michael Dell this week said he would continue to “engage with the Trump administration and governments around the world to share our perspective on policy issues that affect our company, customers and employees.”

But the highly public actions by some CEOs to quit the councils earlier this week—and to call out Trump’s coddling of racists as they did so—and Trump’s bizarre statements on Tuesday defending white nationalists made these protestations laughable and untenable. What’s the point of engaging with someone who expresses views that would likely be cause for the dismissal of any middle manager? What sort of bipartisan policy is possible in an administration run by this president? What’s the point of serving as a prop in somebody else’s show? And how do you justify it to your shareholders, colleagues, employees, and family?

Simple: You don’t.

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Dove Go Fresh Body Wash, Revitalize, Mandarin & Tiare Flower Scent, 16.9 Ounce / 500 Ml (Pack of 3)
$15.98
Dove Weightless Moisturizers Smooth and Soft Anti-Frizz Cream, 4 Ounce (113g)
$3.99
Dove Clinical Protection Antiperspirant Deodorant, Original Clean, 1.7 Oz (Pack of 3)
$21.98
Dove Clinical Protection Antiperspirant Deodorant, Cool Essentials 1.7 Ounce, (Pack of 2)
$14.49
6 Pack Dove Cotton Dry Anti-Perspirant Deodorant Spray 48 Hour Protection 150 Ml
$17.06
Dove Go Fresh Restore Beauty Bars, Blue Fig and Orange Blossom Scent, 4.75 Oz (Pack of 12)
$18.40
Dove Invs Sold Pwd Size 2.6z Dove Powder Invisible Solid Antiperspirant Deodorant
$10.46
Dove Men + Care Antiperspirant & Deodorant, Cool Silver 2.70 oz (Pack of 4)
$14.99
Dove Advanced Care Antiperspirant, Clear Finish 2.6 oz, 4 Count
$19.52
Dove Ultimate go fresh Cool Essentials Anti-perspirant/Deodorant, 2.6 Ounce (Pack of 4)
$19.99
Dove Advanced Care Anti-Perspirant Deodorant, Revive 2.6 Oz (Pack of 3)
$16.48
DVO2979401 - Moisturizing Gentle Hand Cleaner
$122.28
Dove Original Spray Deodorant Anti Perspirant 150 Ml 5.07oz (Pack of 3)
$11.00
Dove Men+Care Antiperspirant Deodorant, Sensitive Shield, 2.7 Ounce (Pack of 4)
Dove Hair Therapy Daily Moisture Conditioner, 40 Fl Oz
$14.99
Dove Go Fresh Beauty Bar Soap, Cool Moisture, 6 Count
$10.59
Dove Go Fresh Cucumber & Green Tea Deodorant 48h Spray 150 ml / 5 fl oz (6-Pack)
$16.49
Dove go fresh Beauty Bar, Cucumber and Green Tea 4 oz, 6 Bar
Dove Deodorant 2.6 Ounce Adv Care Anti-Perspirant Sensitive (76ml) (3 Pack)
$12.46
DOVE Winter Care Nourishing Body Wash 24-Ounce - 3-Pack
$23.99
Dove Invisible Dry Anti White Marks Antiperspirant Deodorant, 150 Ml / 5 Oz (Pack of 6)
$17.50
Dove Winter Care Beauty Bars - 14/4oz
$28.95
Dove Men + Care Dry Spray Antiperspirant, Clean Comfort (Pack of 4)
$15.83
Dove® Beauty Bath Shower Gel Indulging Cream 16.9 Oz / 500 Ml
$7.77
Dove Men + Care Body + Face Bars Aqua Impact - 6 ct
$12.82
Dove Go Fresh Cool Moisture Body Wash, Cucumber and Green Tea Pump 34 Ounce (Pack of 2)
3 Dove Nourishing and Restore Body Wash 500ml/19.9oz (3X 500ml/16.9oz, Purely pampering-Almond cream with hibiscus)
$17.99
Dove Advanced Care Deodorants, Cool Essentials (2.6 oz., 3 pk.)
$16.87
Dove Nutritive Solutions Daily Moisture, Shampoo and Conditioner Duo Set, 40 Ounce Pump Bottles
$24.90
Dove Men + Care Body & Face Wash, Sensitive Shield 13.50 oz (Pack of 3)
$20.70
Dove Go Fresh Revive Anti-Perspirant Deodorant Stick for Unisex, 2.6 Ounce
$6.69
Dove Men + Care Extra Fresh Non-irritant Antiperspiration 5 Pack
$24.99
Dove Invisible Dry Anti White Marks Anti-Perspirant Deoderant
$5.12
(Duo Set) Dove Damage Therapy Intensive Repair, Shampoo & Conditioner, 12 Oz. bottles
$13.19
Dove Men+Care Body and Face Wash, Clean Comfort 18 oz
Dove Damage Therapy Daily Moisture Shampoo, 2.8 Pound
$14.99
Dove Men Care Non-Irritant Antiperspirant Deodorant, Extra Fresh - 2.7 Ounce (5 in Pack)
$22.47
Dove Nutritive Therapy, Nourishing Oil Care, DUO Set Shampoo + Conditioner, 12 Ounce, 1 Each
$12.98
Dove Men+Care Post Shave Balm, Hydrate+ 3.4 oz (Pack of 2)
$12.65
Dove Beauty Bar, Pink 4 oz, 14 Bar
$17.99
Dove Original Beauty Cream Bar White Soap 100 G / 3.5 Oz Bars (Pack of 12) by Dove
$16.99
Dove Shave Gel Sensitive 7 oz. (Pack of 3)
$17.26
Dove Cotton Soft Anti-Perspirant Deodorant Spray Dry 48 Hour Protection (Pack of 6) 150 Ml by Dove
$20.98
Dove Clinical Protection Anti-Perspirant Deodorant Solid, Revive 1.70 oz(Pack of 2)
$13.48
Dove Shampoo, Dryness & Itch Relief 12 oz
$5.59
Dove Body Wash Deep Moisture 24 oz, Pack of 3
$15.16
Dove Purely Pampering Body Wash, Coconut Milk (24 fl. oz., 3 pk.)
$24.09
Dove go sleeveless Antiperspirant, Beauty Finish 2.6 oz, 2 Pack
$4.99
Dove Beauty Bar, White 4 oz, 2 Bar
Dove Men + Care Revitalize Face Cream Lotion 1.69oz (Quantity 1)
$4.97
Dove Oxygen Moisture Shampoo and Conditioner Set 12 Ounce
$13.85
Sensitive Skin Unscented Moisturizing Cream Beauty Bar By Dove, 12 Count 4 Oz Each
$19.99
Dove Beauty Bar, Sensitive Skin 4 oz, 6 bar
$12.99
Dove Regenerative Nourishment Shampoo and Conditioner Set, 8.45 FL OZ each
$15.99
Dove Purely Pampering Shea Butter Beauty Bar with Vanilla Scent Soap 3.5 Oz / 100 Gr (Pack of 12 Bars)
$17.48
Dove Antiperspirant Deodorant, Powder 2.6 Ounce, (Pack of 6)
$21.36
Dove Body Wash Deep Moisture 24 oz, Pack of 3
$15.16
6 Cans of Dove Men+Care Invisible Dry 150ml Anti-Perspirant Anti-Transpirant Spray
$18.72
Dove Clinical Protection Antiperspirant Deodorant, Cool Essentials 1.7 oz
$7.72
Dove Sensitive Skin Nourishing Body Wash, 12 Ounce (2 Pack)
$19.33
Dove Men+Care Body Wash, Extra Fresh 23.5 Ounce (Pack of 2)
$20.45
Dove Men + Care Face Wash, Hydrate, 5 Oz (Pack of 3)
$18.40
Dove Men+Care Body Wash, Extra Fresh 13.5 oz, Twin Pack
$16.99
Dove Hs Srength/Shine Xho Size 7z Dove Hs Srength/Shine Xhold 7z
$8.77
Dove Dry Shampoo Refresh and Care Volume and Fullness, 5 Ounces, 3 Pack
$16.80
Dove Men+Care 2 in 1 Shampoo and Conditioner, Fresh and Clean 25.4 oz
Dove Sensitive Skin Unscented Hypo-Allergenic Beauty Bar 4 oz, 2 ea (Pack of 2)
$11.14
Dove Men + Care Body & Face Wash, Clean Comfort 13.50 oz ( Pack of 3)
$16.10
Dove Men + Care Fortfying Shampoo+conditioner 2 in 1 32fl Oz
$16.05
Dove Go Fresh Cucumber & Green Tea Scent, Antiperspirant & Deodorant Stick, 1.4 Oz / 40 Ml (Pack of 4)
$9.98
Dove Body Wash, Sensitive Skin Pump, 34 Ounce (Pack of 2)
$27.33
Dove Body Lotion, Cream Oil Intensive, 13.5 Ounce (Pack of 3)
$23.49
Dove Damage Therapy Cool Moisture Shampoo (12 oz) and Conditioner (12 oz)
$11.99
Dove Go Fresh Antiperspirant & Deodorant, Cool Essentials - 2.6 oz - 2 pk
$12.99
Dove Go Fresh Antiperspirant Deodorant, Restore, 2.6 Ounce (Pack of 2)
$9.11
Dove Men+Care Body and Face Bar, Deep Clean 4 oz, 6 Bar
$9.39
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