Category: Business

The Fifth Column’s business section focuses on more than just Profit and Loss statements.

AT&T, Time Warner To Merge: Here Are The Reasons You Should Care

Time Warner Cable Building [Image by Ildar Sagdejev, Wikimedia Commons]

AT&T and Time Warner are set to merge in an $86 billion deal that will almost certainly change the landscape of American media, and indeed, media in general.

The deal, months in the making, is the second massive merger this year with long term ramifications for consumers across the globe, the first being the recent Bayer-Monsanto merger that will unite two aggro-chemical giants, which will control a 25 percent share of the world’s agricultural business. The current AT&T Time Warner deal will similarly unite two giants of media and communication.

How Much Longer Will Investors Trust the Central Banks?

“There is no simple, painless solution. The world has to reduce debt, shrink the financial part of the economy, and change the destructive incentive structures in finance. Individuals in developed countries have to save more and spend less. Companies have to go back to real engineering. Governments have to balance their books better. Banking must become a mechanism for matching savers and borrowers, financing real things. Banks cannot be larger than nations, countries in themselves. Countries cannot rely on debt and speculation for prosperity. The world must live within its means.”

~ Satyajit Das, Extreme Money: Masters of the Universe and the Cult of Risk

Bayer, Monsanto Merger Will Devastate World Agriculture

The Bayer – Monsanto merger, announced last week, will no doubt be good for shareholders in the short term, with the sale price of seed and GMO giant Monsanto ending up at $66 billion, or $128 cash for each share. But the result for farmers across the globe will likely be far less rosy.

The Bayer – Monsanto merger deal, which took months of negotiations to finalize, will create the largest agribusiness in the world. Bayer, mostly known for their aspirin and other pharmaceutical products (including, long ago, heroin) are actually an agriculture product giant in and of themselves,with a large chunk of their yearly profits being from the sale of agricultural chemicals.

The end of the grant era

Asking donors for money and then implementing programs is an old model from which civil society must break free. A contribution to the openGlobalRights debate on funding and human rights.

The changes in the funding landscape are fast and furious, especially for organizations that promote equality, human rights, and climate justice. We are increasingly witnessing efforts by governments and big corporations to silence dissent or clamp down on foreign funding.

Job automation threatens peoples’ livelihoods. Can universal basic income save the day?

In early 2013, a colleague and I attended the inaugural meeting of the UK Robot Ethics association. There, we suggested that developments in robotics and computing technology meant that we needed to re-evaluate some of our economic thinking. Machines were now increasingly capable of replacing human cognitive power as well as physical power, as had primarily been the case in the past. There is an orthodox idea in economics according to which increases in productivity driven by technology will not create long-term or ‘structural’ unemployment. Conventional thinking has it that as technology-driven productivity increases expand the economy, new jobs will be created. And indeed, this has been the case historically.

Machines are now increasingly capable of replacing human cognitive power as well as physical power

We pointed out that while in the past the automation of traditional physical-labour-intensive jobs had led to the expansion in the labour market of jobs requiring cognitive rather than physical force, this time around the automation of human cognitive power would leave us struggling to figure out what capacities we had left to exploit in the labour market. There are three obvious answers: really high cognitive function roles, such as computer programming; emotional work like therapy and some care roles; and jobs requiring a great deal of physical human-to-human contact like physical or massage therapy. But these are relatively niche parts of the labour market. When machines replaced horses as the main suppliers of power for the transport industry, horses did not vanish altogether from the economy, they simply became confined to very niche areas of it, namely recreation. Could something similar happen to human beings in the age of intelligent machines?

Kazakhstan: Making a Tentative Foray Into Digital Money

With confidence in Kazakhstan’s national currency at an all-time low, some see an opening for the ascent of digital currencies, of which Bitcoin is perhaps the best known.

Daniyar Akishev, the youthful head of the National Bank of Kazakhstan, appeared to row against the tide of official wariness on the issue earlier this year, when he revealed that a working group had been created to study what he described as surrogate currencies.

“This is a reality with which we will come up against in the very near future, and ignoring it is not possible,” he said in June.

EFF to FTC: Online Retailers Must Label Products Sold with Digital Locks

iphone

Consumers Need Warning If Movies, Music, Games Restrict When and How They Are Used

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and a coalition of consumer groups, content creators, and publishers asked the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) today to require online retailers to label the ebooks, songs, games, and apps that come with digital locks restricting how consumers can use them.

In a letter sent to the FTC today, the coalition said companies like Amazon, Google, and Apple have a duty to inform consumers if products for sale are locked with some kind of “digital rights management” or DRM. Companies use DRM to purportedly combat copyright infringement, but DRM locks can also block you from watching the movie you bought in New York when you go to Asia on vacation, or limit which devices can play the songs you purchased.

Work or Die

The Federal Reserve is giving us a choice – work forever, or make sure to die before running out of money.

The New York Times just featured a spry 71-year old Judith Lister who is teaching kindergarten in Pahrump, Nevada. While Ms. Lister enjoys teaching, she admits she can’t live on her Social Security checks and needs her teacher’s pension, which she can’t collect for three years.

Seniors who can’t find work sometimes look for a quick exit.The Times’ Paula Span explains that Ms. Lister is not alone, writing, “Over 16 years, employment rose not only among 65- to 69-year olds (close to a third now work), but also among those 70 to 74 (about a fifth). In the 75-plus population, the proportion still working increased to 8.4 percent from 5.4 percent.”

Why Garbage Men Don’t Make As Much as Bankers

Why don’t teachers make as much as entertainers? Why don’t garbage collectors make as much as CEOs or financiers? Examples like this seem to show markets are unjust: any system that pays X more than Y (when Y seems to produce more real value) can’t be one with good priorities. We should resist that conclusion, though. There may be good reasons why financiers earn more than trash collectors.

Articles like “Why Garbage Men Should Earn More Than Bankers,” by Evonomics’ Rutger Bregman, and “Teachers Should Make More Than Athletes,” by Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Bill Cuningham, reflect a lot of people’s intuitions.

“Any way you look at it,” Bregman writes, “garbage men do a job we can’t do without.” Compare that to “slick Wall Street traders who line their pockets at the expense of another retirement fund.” So why do traders often make six or seven figures, while garbage men barely get by? It’s a good question, to which there are some good answers.

The Anti-KFC Protests Spell Trouble for Chinese Authorities Trying to Confine Nationalism to the Internet

For years, authorities under President Xi Jinping have stoked nationalistic sentiments in China as part of a larger campaign to push Chinese Communist Party ideology. Part of that effort includes “civilization” volunteers, who are recruited by the Communist Youth League and tasked with spreading the party’s message online.

“Online” being the key word. It seems protesting in the street is a step too far for the Chinese government, which finds itself at the moment in the odd position of denouncing demonstrations against American fast food chain KFC — fueled by the very brand of aggressive nationalism they helped foment.

Since July 16, Chinese people in at least a dozen towns and cities have protested in front of KFC restaurants because they are seen as representing the interests of the United States. Many in China think US meddling helped lead to an embarrassing ruling on July 12, in which an international tribunal shot down Beijing’s extensive claims over the South China Sea.

The Czexit debate is coming – are you ready?

Czexit? With President Milos Zeman calling for a referendum, it is becoming increasingly possible.

Believe me, you don’t want to feel like I did on the morning of June 24. And every day since.

Brexit means losing my EU citizenship and with it the ease with which I live and work here in the Czech Republic. But beyond practicalities, it means losing so much more.

China and Latin America: strategic relations in times of change

“Venezuela will not drag on its debt” was the title of a recent editorial in the People’s Daily, the official mouthpiece of the Communist Party. The piece makes a bold claim and a display of realpolitik: “Any country, whatever the political ideology of its ruling party, prioritises economic development and the betterment of the livelihood of its people. Which country in the world would not want to ride on China’s express train to economic development?”

This official editorial was published in response to a wave of speculation about the solvency of the Venezuelan government, against the backdrop of a failing economy, that could precipitate the end of the Chavista government which, for over a decade, has been friendly towards Beijing.

ExxonMobil’s Significant Oil Find Off Guyana Leads to Questions About the Country’s Future

U.S. oil giant ExxonMobil made waves in Guyana on Thursday June 30, 2016 by announcing it had confirmed a “world-class discovery” of oil offshore. The company said results from its exploration well in the Stabroek block, about 120 miles (193 kilometres) offshore Guyana, found between 800 million and 1.4 billion oil-equivalent barrels.

Guyana’s natural resources minister, Raphael Trotman, called the discovery fantastic news, telling News Source Guyana that “the future of Guyana has now been written and I think that this is going to send ripples throughout the world.” Minister Trotman added that the country was receiving support and guidance from the international community, including the Canadian, U.S. and Mexican governments, the European Union and the Commonwealth Secretariat.