Summary of “Are Stock Buybacks Starving the Economy?”

The new Roosevelt and NELP research examines public firms in three major but notoriously low-wage industries- food production, retail, and restaurants-weighing buybacks against worker compensation.
The restaurant industry spent 140 percent of profits on buybacks between 2015 and 2017, meaning that it borrowed or dipped into its cash allowances to purchase the shares.
All in all, public companies across the American economy spent roughly three-fifths of their profits on buybacks in the years studied.
“The amount corporations are spending on buybacks is staggering,” Milani said.
How much might workers have benefited, if companies had devoted their financial resources to them rather than shareholders? Lowe’s, CVS, and Home Depot could have provided each of their workers raises of $18,000 a year, the report found.
The report examines the period just before President Donald Trump’s $1.5 trillion tax cut came into effect, leading to an even greater surge of buybacks and thus an even greater surge of new wealth for the owners of capital, as wages have continued to stagnate.
The tax legislation cut both the top marginal corporate tax rate from 35 to 21 percent-dropping the estimated effective tax rate on profitable businesses to just 9 percent, well below the effective tax rate for households-and encouraged firms to bring money back from overseas.
At a Wall Street Journal CEO confab held last fall, the former Trump economic adviser Gary Cohn asked a room of executives, “If the tax reform bill goes through, do you plan to increase your company’s capital investment? Show of hands.” Most participants sat still, prompting Cohn to ask, “Why aren’t the other hands up?” Surveys showed that corporations were planning to shunt money to shareholders, rather than putting it into research, mergers and acquisitions, equipment upgrades, training programs, or workers’ salaries.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Why I don’t invest in AI”

Last year AI companies attracted more than $10.8 billion in funding from venture capitalists like me.
This is why I don’t invest in AI or “Deep tech.” Instead, I invest in deep value.
Do we really need a WordPress page developed by AI? By focusing on the technology, deep tech verticals – such as AI or blockchain-only startups – are ignoring the most commercially valuable part of a startup: What problem are they solving? What deep value are they creating?
The shirts produced using Original Stitch’s AI were poorly fitted – many were made too tight, or the sleeves were too long – and the company ultimately had to ask customers to submit their shirt sizes.
Instead, I choose to invest in companies that leverage AI to deliver deep value to their customers.
Future proofing: Focus on creating deep value Today, calling your company an AI startup is one of the quickest ways to signify that you are a forward-thinking, commercially-sustainable company.
Today, those seven companies are doing research in AI and other deep-tech software, but most of them didn’t start off as deep tech companies.
In the years since Facebook launched, the company has built deep technology into its product, leveraging new innovations to expand its value and make its product better, all on the foundation of delivering deep value to its customers.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Inside Google’s Shadow Workforce”

Google has a name for them: TVCs, or “Temps, vendors and contractors.” They are employed by several outside agencies, including Adecco Group AG, Cognizant Technology Solutions Corp. and Randstad NV. Google declined to say how many agencies the company uses.
Yana Calou, an organizer with advocacy group Coworker.org who speaks with Google employees and contractors, said that both groups are concerned about the workers who aren’t full Google employees.
Google’s initial flood of contractors came with its first “Moonshot.” Dozens of temporary workers were hired, more than a decade ago, to photocopy dog-eared pages for the company’s free digital library, Google Books.
One 2016 TVC employment contract from Zenith Talent Corp., a recruiting agency, states that TVCs “Will not be entitled to any compensation, options, stock, insurance or other rights or benefits accorded to employees of Google.” The terms hold even if a court later determines the worker was legally a Google employee.
In Google’s home county of Santa Clara, a family of four with an income of as much as $94,450 a year is considered by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development to be “Low income”; total annual compensation for a full-time Google janitor-including benefits as well as wages- is a bit over half that amount.
Contractors must agree to assist Google in securing the company’s intellectual property, and if Google is unable to get the worker’s signature, the search giant becomes the worker’s de facto attorney.
Google did not provide comment on that episode, but a spokeswoman said that TVCs have access to Google’s complaint channel, and that it reviews those it receives and investigates when appropriate.
According to two former Google managers, Adecco takes roughly 20 percent of the pay of Google’s contracted employees.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Departing Facebook Security Officer’s Memo: “We Need To Be Willing To Pick Sides””

“With Facebook’s complexity, you need people who can stand up and advocate. Alex has a tremendous depth of expertise and reputation – he’s the person you’d want in your corner to help get the company on track. If you didn’t want him, who else would you want? It’s a big loss.”
We need to change the metrics we measure and the goals we shoot for.
We need to think adversarially in every process, product and engineering decision we make.
We need to build a user experience that conveys honesty and respect, not one optimized to get people to click yes to giving us more access.
We need to intentionally not collect data where possible, and to keep it only as long as we are using it to serve people.
We need to listen to people when they tell us a feature is creepy or point out a negative impact we are having in the world.
We need to be willing to pick sides when there are clear moral or humanitarian issues.
We need to be open, honest and transparent about challenges and what we are doing to fix them.

The orginal article.

Summary of “INVESTIGATION: How Drugmakers Exert Influence On Medicaid’s Preferences”

INVESTIGATION: How Drugmakers Exert Influence On Medicaid’s Preferences : Shots – Health News Drug companies have infiltrated nearly every part of the process that determines how their drugs will be covered by Medicaid, an investigation by NPR and the Center for Public Integrity finds.
CPI reporters Liz Essley Whyte and Joe Yerardi dug into how states decide which prescription drugs Medicaid programs will prioritize – and whether pharmaceutical companies influence the process.
A Center for Public Integrity and NPR investigation found drug companies have infiltrated nearly every part of the process that determines how their drugs will be covered by taxpayers: giving free dinners and consulting gigs to many doctors on the obscure committees advising state Medicaid programs; asking speakers who don’t disclose their financial ties with drug companies to testify about their drugs; and paying for state Medicaid officials to attend all-inclusive conferences where they can mingle with drug representatives.
Around the country, drug companies are working to influence state Medicaid drug cost controls to keep their profits flowing.
After a Center for Public Integrity reporter made inquiries, one top Medicaid official divested his stock in pharmaceutical companies and a doctor advising Medicaid drug decisions resigned his position because he failed to disclose payments from drugmakers.
Dr. James Saperstone, who served on New York’s Medicaid drug committee, took in more than $39,000 in payments from drugmakers over four and a half years.
It’s hard to tell how much influence Ramadan had in Arizona’s drug decisions: The committee’s final discussions happen behind closed doors, and the state’s Medicaid agency must sign off on the group’s recommendation.
In Louisiana, about 20,000 Medicaid patients have hepatitis C. To treat them all would cost the state approximately $166 million – almost half what it spent on all drugs for its Medicaid patients in 2016.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Health Insurers Are Vacuuming Up Details About You”

With little public scrutiny, the health insurance industry has joined forces with data brokers to vacuum up personal details about hundreds of millions of Americans, including, odds are, many readers of this story.
Up front, the prime real estate belonged to the big guns in health data: The booths of Optum, IBM Watson Health and LexisNexis stretched toward the ceiling, with flat screen monitors and some comfy seating.
Patient advocates are skeptical health insurers have altruistic designs on people’s personal information.
The Affordable Care Act prohibits insurers from denying people coverage based on pre-existing health conditions or charging sick people more for individual or small group plans.
The Trump administration is promoting short-term health plans, which do allow insurers to deny coverage to sick patients.
At the IBM Watson Health booth, Kevin Ruane, a senior consulting scientist, told me that the company surveys 80,000 Americans a year to assess lifestyle, attitudes and behaviors that could relate to health care.
Actuaries calculate health care risks and help set the price of premiums for insurers.
She points to a study by the analytics company SAS, which worked in 2012 with an unnamed major health insurance company to predict a person’s health care costs using 1,500 data elements, including the investments and types of cars people owned.

The orginal article.

Summary of “What happened to Tim Hortons? The downfall of Canada’s brand”

What makes Tim Hortons Canadian? Is it the fact that the coffee is quite bland?
While it may have been a one-off by an inordinately upset punter, the episode seemed to encapsulate the, well, shitshow, that is the Tim Hortons brand at the moment.
There are almost 4,000 Tim Hortons locations in Canada.
Then there’s the fact that Tim Hortons “Has got Canada in its DNA”.
“Over the years,” Mackalski explains, “The company has cultivated Canadiana through its marketing. It’s involved in all the communities; it sponsors community hockey from coast to coast. When Canadians were involved in the Afghan war Tim Hortons opened up a coffee place on the military base for the soldiers overseas.” Through strategic spokespeople like Sidney Crosby and canny marketing, Timmies has turned itself into an embodiment of Canadian values.
While Tim Hortons may be facing troubling times, all is not lost; the brand still has a chance to bounce back.
“It’s such a big part of our culture. People go to the beach with a cup of Tim Hortons coffee. They’re everywhere. We have about four in the small town where I live. Actually, I’m drinking a Tim Hortons coffee right now.”
“The recent banter between Trump and Trudeau is sparking a little bit of nationalism, so I think that could play quite well for Tim Hortons. Canadians are an interesting group, they don’t go out there and loudly do a pledge of allegiance to Canada, but they do like to feel a part of the Canadian fabric. And a cup of Tim Hortons has always been there for that.” Who knows, maybe Trump will succeed in making Tim Hortons great again.

The orginal article.

Summary of “The Scooter Wars will be a bloodbath”

Who is going to win the Scooter Wars? Startups like Bird, Lime and Spin have invaded dozens of U.S. cities with their tech-savvy scooter fleets in the last few months.
Investors are pouring hundreds of millions into the scooter companies with the hope that the best-capitalized scooter company will win.
For all the attention and money that Bird, Lime and Spin have raised, they are not going to win the Scooter Wars.
The early days of ride-sharing looked a lot like the Scooter Wars.
To be successful, scooter services must position scooters when and where there is demand from consumers.
Even scarier for a scooter investor is the risk that Uber and Lyft, with their expensive customer acquisition, would use scooters as a way to acquire customers for their more lucrative ride-sharing businesses.
If a scooter rider is using Uber or Lyft to find scooters, what happens when it is raining, or the rider is running late? They are likely to pay up for a car ride instead of saving money with a soggy, late, scooter ride.
So look for the ride-sharing companies to test free or subscription-based scooter rides as a way to cut their own customer-acquisition costs.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Ireland becomes world’s first country to divest from fossil fuels”

The Republic of Ireland will become the world’s first country to sell off its investments in fossil fuel companies, after a bill was passed with all-party support in the lower house of parliament.
Norway’s huge $1tn sovereign wealth fund has only partially divested from fossil fuels, targeting some coal companies, and is still considering its oil and gas holdings.
The fossil fuel divestment movement has grown rapidly and trillions of dollars of investment funds have been divested, including large pension funds and insurers, cities such as New York, churches and universities.
Supporters of divestment say existing fossil fuel resources are already far greater than can be burned without causing catastrophic climate change and that exploring and producing more fossil fuels is therefore morally wrong and economically risky.
The Irish state investment fund holds more than €300m in fossil fuel investments in 150 companies.
The bill defines a fossil fuel company as a company that derives 20% or more of its revenue from exploration, extraction or refinement of fossil fuels.
The bill also allows investment in Irish fossil fuel companies if this funds their move away from fossil fuels.
Gerry Liston at Global Legal Action Network, who drafted the bill, said: “Governments will not meet their obligations under the Paris agreement on climate change if they continue to financially sustain the fossil fuel industry. Countries the world over must now urgently follow Ireland’s lead and divest from fossil fuels.”

The orginal article.

Summary of “Smart Toilets: Is the World Ready For Connected Lavatories?”

Today’s Tedium talks about smart bathrooms, because we couldn’t get our dumb minds out of the gutter.
How Microsoft invented the world’s first portable smart bathroom, denied it, then admitted its denial was wrong.
Eagle-eyed readers may be well aware that Japan has spearheaded toilets of similar intelligence for decades to the point where they have museums, but Kohler’s full embrace of the smart toilet approach suggests that there might be room for something similar in the American market someday.
The real value of the smart bathroom will eventually show itself in public restrooms.
The question needs to be asked: How smart do we actually want our bathrooms to be?
Are we really ready for a bathroom receptacle with machine learning capabilities? Do we actually want our toilets to be that smart?
Kohler, not limited to smart toilets, is also selling smart mirrors that are compatible with the smart toilets.
If we’re going to try and make our bathrooms smart and internet-connected, it’s probably better to put our reflections in the middle of everything.

The orginal article.