More than a ton of advanced electronics crashed into Earth's atmosphere Sunday night, when the European GOCE orbiter ended its four-year mission. When it re-entered the atmosphere over the South Atlantic Ocean, most of the 2,425-pound craft disintegrated; about 25 percent did not.
Distraught over the devastation wreaked on his nation by Typhoon Haiyan, the Philippines' representative at a global climate change conference said he will fast during the 11-day forum. Yeb Sano links weather catastrophes of recent years to global warming.
Last week a Tennessee man's car caught fire and was destroyed after he ran over a metal trailer hitch. There are about 150,000 vehicle fires in this country every year, but this one made national headlines because it was a Tesla. This is the third Tesla to catch on fire. Within three days the company's stock was down 22 percent.
For a company so focused on a single product, even just a few fires can have a huge impact. But no other car company has Elon Musk at the helm.
When the New York Times came out with an unfavorable review of the Model S, Tesla's CEO accused the author of ethics violations, "which is sort of hilarious and also very Nixonian," says jalopnik.com editor in chief Matt Hardigree. He wrote an article that compared Musk to the famously paranoid president, saying, "both Elon Musk and Richard Nixon had great Visions for the future."
It's that vision of the future that lots of people credit as the reason for Tesla's success, which at the moment is built around a single product, the Model S electric car. "Whether that's Ford and Henry's model T or Volkswagen and Dr. Porsche's Beetle, all the world's largest car manufacturers started with one," says analyst Eric Noble.
But with Tesla it's a little different. What's different, says Noble, is "there is a very strong argument that the cost of producing Model S is well above the transaction price for the vehicle."
In other words, the company loses money on Model S. As a result, Tesla more than any other car company, relies on investor goodwill and high share prices to stay afloat. Those are things that can be influenced by a charismatic, visionary leader who's great at generating buzz. But there are limits to that charisma.
When the company's defining product burst into flames not once, but three times, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration started considering an investigation. All three incidents were the result of punctured batteries and not product malfunctions, but nonetheless, investors are starting to worry.
God may have rested on the seventh day, but the Postal Service won't. Amazon is teaming up with the U.S. Postal Service to deliver packages to customers in Los Angeles and New York on Sundays.
"Here’s a dirty secret — the post office has been delivering on Sundays for quite awhile for its Express Mail Service," says Carl Howe, Vice President of Research at the Yankee Group. "So this is an opportunity to take advantage of infrastructure they already have in place and make some more money."
The post office brings in about the same amount of money as Amazon does every year: Roughly $60 billion. The difference is the post office’s business has been steadily declining.
"This comes at a very good time because they’re starved for cash and this will hit the bottom line immediately," says John Callan, Managing Director with Ursa Major Associates and founder of Postal Vision 20/20--an independent entity which studies the postal business model. Callan says teaming up with a progressive online company shows that the Post Office is starting to look to the future. "It helps them play into the growing marketplace of e-commerce so that they don’t have to worry so much about the dying marketplace of letter mail."
For Amazon, this is all about customer service.
"It’s about time that they did something like this for guys like me," says Tim Bajarin, a tech consultant with Creative Strategies. He's a member of Amazon’s prime service, which offers free 2 day shipping. He says it’s frustrating to order something on a Thursday and know it won’t arrive until the following week. "If you’re eBay, Amazon or Google, you still have to deal with instant gratification of a person going to a store and buying what he wants now,"
Bajarin says this deal means Amazon can get the customer closer to the immediacy of the brick and mortar experience without them having to schlep to the store.
Disaster relief is being rushed to the Philippines by organizations large and small. Rough estimates suggest more than 10,000 people died when a powerful typhoon stuck on Friday.
Big, traditional relief organizations like the Red Cross are mobilizing. But there are also many smaller efforts.
The U.S. is home to some four million Filipino-Americans. The largest Filipino community is here in Los Angeles.
The disaster was personal for Alex Montances. His mother’s side of the family is from Tacloban, the city decimated by the typhoon.
“I have a lot of first cousins back there who we haven’t heard from since Friday. It’s a pretty scary situation,” says Montances, who works with the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns.
A person can feel powerless sitting by the phone waiting. But Montances says Filipino-Americans are raising money for disaster relief at the grass-roots level. Churches are taking collections. To raise funds, one group held a 5k run.
"There’s one thing I can say about the Filipino community – there’s really a sense of ‘bayanihan’ spirit. ‘Bayanihan’ in Filipino really means like the whole community coming together to help each other out," says Montances.
These small, ad hoc relief efforts have some advantages over the big international aid groups.
Gene Tempel is dean of Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. He says local Filipino groups are best at raising money from that community.
"The advantage of these diaspora organizations is that they will know how to mobilize some people at the local level – people who may not think of giving to these larger relief organizations," says Tempel.
Many Filipino-Americans could donate more than money.
“In this particular case, a lot of the immigrants are doctors and nurses. And you could perhaps see direct response from doctors and nurses to organize mission trips,” says Tempel.
Filipino groups here in the U.S. coordinate with their counterparts back in the Philippines who know how to navigate around the bureaucracy and corruption.
"Because these typhoons and disasters and earthquakes happen so frequently in the Philippines, they pretty much know the communities that they’re serving with medical or disaster relief," says Montances.
Gene Tempel agrees.
"They know the local organizations with whom to work. And I think that’s a huge advantage for them."
In fact, the big international aid groups will often partner with local nonprofits to distribute relief. So while they might be small, Tempel says, the contribution of local relief groups is vital.