If the U.S. and its allies decide to launch an attack on Syria, the speech could, ultimately, prove a pivotal moment.
Jan Scannell is a 32-year-old former accountant with a dream: to establish a national holiday in South Africa like July 4 called Braai Day. Braai is a South African barbecue of meat or vegetables over wood embers.
Mercedes-Benz is a name synonymous with luxury most everywhere around the globe. But sales of the German car have trailed in China. Mercedes is trying to change that. It’s pushing to capture a larger share of the country's giant, and growing, luxury car market.
China is quickly becoming the world’s largest auto market, and has a growing luxury sector, says Michelle Krebs, a senior analyst with Edmunds.com. “Frankly all of the German automakers -- Audi, Mercedes, and BMW -- are relying very heavily on China as a source of sales in the future,” Krebs says.
But Mercedes isn’t where it wants to be. “Mercedes has kind of stumbled and bumbled a little bit in China,” says industry consultant Ken Elias of Maryann Keller & Associates. He says Audi has outpaced Mercedes in setting up a dealer network and gaining popularity with wealthy Chinese.
“Mercedes has fallen behind Audi and BMW in the luxury market globally and they want to retake that top spot,” Elias adds.
Krebs says building Mercedes engines in China is a good way to build business there. "Otherwise they'd have to import from Germany, which is a very expensive market to build vehicles in, she says. Building in China will save on shipping costs and import duties, freeing up Mercedes to focus on expanding its share of the Chinese car market.
The federal government has for a while now been trying to figure out how to regulate Bitcoin. The Treasury, the Fed and others met about it with the Bitcoin Foundation Monday.
The five paid employees of the Bitcoin Foundation are true believers. Assistant Director Lindsay Holland says they even get paid in Bitcoin, though the exchange rate has been volatile.
“So I know exactly how much Bitcoin I’m gonna get every month," she says. "But I’m not sure how much that’s going to exchange out for me until the date that I receive it.”
The Bitcoin Foundation is made up of businesses and hundreds of individuals. They join by paying a membership fee -- in Bitcoin, of course. In addition to advocacy, the group provides an infrastructure for people to talk about Bitcoin’s open source code.
Bitcoin's community is fluid but not opaque, says Jerry Brito of George Mason University, who prepared an earlier briefing for policymakers. He says the structure of Bitcoin does not need to be a challenge for regulators.
“Because the people who are part of the Bitcoin community are very responsive,” he says. “They meet with regulators. We know who these people are and they chat.”
Sure, it’s not as easy as meeting with, say, VISA, but the Bitcoin Foundation does have a board its members vote for. Jason King is one of those members. Amid all the concerns about the illicit uses of virtual currencies, King founded a homeless outreach program called Sean’s Outpost in Pensacola, Florida. It gets lots of donations from the Bitcoin network.
“We just fed our 13,000th meal, paid for with Bitcoin," he says. "So yeah, it’s definitely making a real impact here."
Of course, the Bitcoin Foundation doesn’t speak for every Bitcoin user out there. Which is why regulators are so keen to better understand the system and to regulate it.
Lee Baca, 71, is facing calls to step down and not seek another term. His department is at the center of a federal probe into widespread allegations of prisoner abuse.
The threat of furloughs loomed large early in 2013, when mandatory budget cuts seemed certain to force federal workers to skip anywhere from 10 to 22 days of work without pay. A new tally by Federal News Radio shows that many agencies took fewer than half the days they predicted.
Dengue fever was commonplace in Florida until the 1930s. Air conditioning, window screens and better mosquito control helped break the dengue cycle. Now the mosquito-borne illness is back.
There are way more veterinarians than there is work for them to do, according to a recent survey by the American Veterinary Medical Association, as the nation's veterinary schools continue to crank out graduates.
Germany's Der Spiegel reported that the U.S. intercepted the communications of U.N. diplomats and bugged the European Union diplomatic missions in New York and Washington.
According to AllThingsD's analysis of public filings and sources, on-demand car service Uber has a value of $3.5 billion.
"It's reflective of just how quickly this has caught on in this idea of using new technology to disrupt existing industry," says AllThingsD senior editor Ina Fried. "If we look out a little bit at the future of transportation, really, cars should be an on-demand service for all. Not just the occasional taxi, but also just when you need a car. You don't need a SUV most of the time, but there are times that you do. That car should be available on-demand, this could be a bet on a future far bigger hailing a taxi or getting a towncar."
While Uber is in a good position to change the future of transportation, its stand-offs against regulators might have more impact than where technology goes.
Battles against the city of Los Angeles and elsewhere makes the future murky.
"How should services like Uber be regulated? Should they be regulated like a taxi? Should they follow the same rules?" asks Fried. "There's another service that lets you rent a car that someone else is going to park at the airport, and they're getting competition from rental car companies. A lot of these [new transportation systems] have open questions of how they should be treated."
Do you believe you have what it takes to make it in the fashion world?
Well, social networking may be allowing you to do just that: Social commerce websites like Fab.com and TheFancy.com allow users to curate their own shopping recommendations, invite friends to come view and potentially buy the items, and a cut of the sales goes back to the original user.
Fashion journalist Kate Betts says these shopping websites turn the business model upside down by democratizatizing the fashion world. Sites like Pinterest helped users create their own aesthetic, but users grew frustrated that they couldn't actually buy the items on the site.
"These sites are kind of like designing your own catalouge," says Betts. She says these new sites add the missing layer of commerce to the equation.
But Betts says with growing popularity and expansion come problems too: Because technology is moving so fast, it will be a challenge for these companies to keep up with the pace.
Just like the lottery, sports contracts can pay more when the profits are spread out over time. For example, let’s consider two of, arguably, the most bone-headed (or brilliant?) sports contracts of all time. The deal to fold the St. Louis Spirits has been called one of the best sports deals of all time. The contract has been so profitable that it’s used as a textbook example by business school professors. During basketball season, the deal inspires sports reporters to ask, “Would you believe a team that doesn’t exist still makes $17 million a year?”
The contract, signed in 1976, gave a small but lucrative portion of the NBA television broadcast revenues to three men. Dan and Ozzie Silna, who made their fortune in polyester, and their lawyer, Donald Schupak, owned a pro basketball team called the Spirits of St. Louis. The Spirits played for the American Basketball Association, or ABA. It competed with the NBA for players and fans. The two leagues took turns suing each other. From 1973 up until the end of the ABA in 1976, Michael Goldberg was general counsel for the ABA. “The league lurched to the finish line, kind of a bankrupt organization, exhausted, both mentally and physically, and hoping against hope that there wouldn’t be another ABA season because we didn’t know if we could muster ten teams to have a league and what have you,” says Goldberg.
Eventually, the ABA and the NBA struck a deal to combine forces. Four teams -- the Nets, the Pacers, the Spurs and the Nuggets -- would buy their way into the NBA. Those teams also had the responsibility to compensate the other ABA teams that didn’t make the cut. In the end, only St. Louis stood between the four teams joining the NBA. “St. Louis is holding the cards because unless they agree to something, this merger’s not going to happen for anti-trust and other reasons,” says Goldberg.
St. Louis held out for the best deal. But the teams didn’t have extra cash to sweeten the pot. So the owners of the Spirits got creative. They negotiated a cut of TV revenues expected in the future. And, here’s the kicker. They got the rights ‘in perpetuity.’ “That is something that they wanted,” says Goldberg, “because, I think that perhaps they saw, down the road, that this would be a way for them to get more money than they could have gotten from these four teams had they just kept negotiating a dollar figure.”
St. Louis negotiated a deal for one-seventh of broadcast TV revenues from each of the four teams joining the NBA. Over the years, that fraction has reportedly paid out around $300 million and counting. But back then, who knew? “The concept of cable television -- Turner Sports, ESPN -- these things didn’t exist. And it’s easy today to say, ‘Wow. They made a bad deal.’ But in those days it was not viewed upon that television would be the be-all and end-all as it is today for all sports,” says Goldberg.
The business landscape is always changing. That’s a lesson we see again in another notorious deal. It’s been more than 10 years since slugger Bobby Bonilla retired from baseball. Nonetheless, for the next 22 years, the New York Mets will pay him more than $1 million a year. “It’s very easy to look at from hindsight," says J.C. Bradbury, author of "Hot Stove Economics: Understanding Baseball’s Second Season.”
"You go and say, ‘Well, the Mets are paying Bobby Bonilla over a million dollars a year to not even play baseball. How silly is that?’” says Bradbury. But he says teams defer payments so they can afford new, and hopefully better, players. And that’s just what the Mets had in mind.
“The Mets were building a championship team around that point in time. And what they were looking to do was defer some of Bobby’s money,” says sports agent Dennis Gilbert, who negotiated the contract for Bobby Bonilla. The Mets would spend some of that deferred money on players. But some of it went into investments. “They had a fund. Or, at least, they thought they had a fund. They were investing with Bernie Madoff, and it didn’t work out the way they thought it would,” says Gilbert.
Gilbert structured Bonilla’s payment like an annuity. Here’s where his negotiating skills mattered. He locked-in the interest rate at 8 percent. With interest, the Mets will pay Bobby Bonilla $30 million instead of $6 million. I asked Gilbert for advice in negotiating contracts. “You listen well," he says. "You find out what would benefit the person that you’re negotiating against. Find out how they’ve negotiated historically and be a good counter-puncher.”
Sometimes a team will have its own financial motivations for trying to postpone a payment as long as possible. “Teams want to off-set the financial obligation as long as they can," says Michael McCann, who directs the Sports and Entertainment Law Institute at the University of New Hampshire. "And also, in some cases, they realize that the player will no longer be on that team when that amount of money is paid. Either the player is traded. Or perhaps the owner sells to a different owner who inherits that financial obligation.”
Deferring payments can work well for athletes too. But most of them (and most lotto winners) want the money now, even if it means there’s less of it. But Bobby Bonilla didn’t mind waiting to get paid. According to J.C. Bradbury, Bonilla “basically said, ‘I don’t want to have the opportunity to spend that money. I’d like to make sure that my kids have money later on. So limit the amount of money I have now.’ It’s worked out quite well for him,” Bradbury says.
Even if they involve a lower interest rate, deferred payments could work well for other athletes too. “I think there’s some logic to the idea that players may be better off when they turn 35, 40, 50 -- to get a substantial amount of money coming in -- it may be a very valuable piece of money for them,” says McCann. In 2009, Sports Illustrated reported that within five years of retirement about 60 percent of former NBA players are broke. And in pro football, the numbers are even worse. In which case, a deferred pay-day can be the preferred way to get paid.
The recent deaths of two more extreme sports enthusiasts who were trying to "fly" past mountains has brought new attention to a very dangerous sport.
The bans stem from a incident in which an American athlete tampered with the skates of a Canadian competitor. A panel found coach Jae Su Chun "reated an atmosphere which led to the tampering action."
For today's Sandwich Monday, we eat our way through a hot dog cookoff, and so far, we have lived to tell about it.
The Obama administration is under pressure to act against Syrian President Bashar Assad following last week's report of the use of chemical weapons by his regime. The U.S. says it's looking at all options in Syria.
Revelations that national security officials have used their agency's eavesdropping power to spy on love interests has sparked a new meme: #NSAPickupLines
Lydia Ko, the New Zealand golfer who last year became the youngest person ever to win an LPGA event, has played her way into the record books again. By successfully defending her title at the Canadian Women's Open this past weekend, Ko, who's now 16, is the only amateur to win two LPGA events.
The humble dumpling seems unencumbered by controversy until you start trying to define it. We asked three experts to weigh in. Tell us what you think, too.
A wildfire in California has burned more than 200 square miles in and around Yosemite National Park, and is still growing. Smoke from the fire is so thick that airports 150 miles away are canceling flights. San Francisco has shut down two generating plants at the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir.
Only 23 buildings have been destroyed so far -- but more than 4,000 more are threatened. The next step for the people whose homes have been destroyed is likely a call to their insurance company. And many of the people who live in fire-prone areas can't get regular fire insurance. Instead, they rely on a large pool of money with a surprising origin story.
Wildfires are relatively easy to predict. If you have a bone-dry forest that’s suffered two years of drought, there’s a good chance it will burn. What is not so easy to calculate is how to insure the houses there.
“One of the most difficult things in explaining wildfire is trying to ascertain and put a handle on what the risk actually is,” says Pete Moraga, with the Insurance Information Network of California, a nonprofit that provides data for consumers. He and his colleagues recently looked at data from each of California’s 58 counties and found that 2 million of the 13.7 million homes in the state sit in high to severe wildfire regions. “When we actually did the study a lot of people were surprised to find out that the most homes in the highest risk were actually in Los Angeles County.”
Most of these homes are in the Santa Monica Mountains in neighborhoods like Beverly Hills, Malibu and Bel-Air. Because of the fire risk, nearly half of all the properties there can’t get regular insurance. So they turn to The California Fair Plan Association. “Everybody calls us the market of last resort,” says Mike Harris. He’s worked at Fair Plan for 30 years.
Fair Plan is basically a big pool of money that every insurance company in the state is required to contribute to. “Approximately 300 companies that license property in California, by statute they all have to be members of the association and participate both in our profits and our losses,” says Harris.
There are 31 Fair Plan associations nationwide, most of which were created after urban riots in the 1960's.
In California, Fair Plan was created after two events. The first was the Watts riots. Years of discriminatory housing policies and police brutality in the Watts section of Los Angeles led to rising tension between black residents and police. When that tension erupted in August of 1965, more than 100 square blocks were destroyed by fire and looting.
Afterwards insurance companies refused to provide coverage there -- a policy known as redlining. This led to the creation of the Watts pool -- money designated for insuring buildings in places where redlining was common.
Around this same time, the Bel-Air Canyon fire consumed the homes of celebrities like Burt Lancaster and Zsa Zsa Gabor, and these wealthy homeowners found themselves in the same shoes as the residents of Watts. So a second pool of money was created for property in the hills above Los Angeles. “Those two pools were basically combined to form the Fair Plan,” says Harris.
Today the Fair Plan covers only 1.25 percent of the statewide market. But in the Santa Monica Mountains, Fair Plan insures nearly half of the properties. This is just one of several policies that critics argue encourages development in high-risk fire zones.
“So in effect we are incentivizing the capacity of people to move up into these mountains to live in these canyons and to enjoy that gorgeous real estate,” says environmental policy professor Char Miller at Pomona College. The problem, he says, is that these types of incentives -- whether they are in the Santa Monica Mountains or the Rocky Mountains -- combined with a lack of restrictions on where houses can be built, means that the financial and ecological costs of defending those houses from fire are paid by everyone.