A brief moment of clarity between confusion and chaos
Hey there! Welcome to Thursday, the one day this week that doesn’t have some form of holiday attached to it. This is your last chance to catch your breath before all the candles and tinsel and eggnog take over and send the next four days into a complete tizzy. Don’t ask me what a tizzy is. My mother used that word often around the holidays, though, and it is a rather fun way to describe the chaos of the season.
We have seriously bad weather shaping up for this weekend. What it comes down to is if you’re not getting snow you’re probably getting thunderstorms with the possibility of tornadoes across the central states. At least you won’t have to share road space with driverless Uber cars as they’ve had their registration suspended, and the last remaining civilians are leaving Aleppo, Syria today. I look at the news feeds from Reuters and the Associated Press and see a lot of chaos. Let’s see if we can provide a bit of clarity.
North Carolina lawmakers are still jackasses
The whole purpose of the North Carolina state legislature meeting in special session yesterday was so they could repeal the controversial HB2 bill that prohibited transgender people from using the restroom with which they identify. That didn’t happen1.
Please note that the city of Charlotte kept their end of the bargain. They met Wednesday morning and repealed the anti-discrimination bill that started this whole mess. Heaven forbid transgender people have any legal protections in the state of North Carolina. What was supposed to happen next was a complete repeal of HB2. However, Republican legislators added language to the repeal that would have called for a “cooling off” period of indeterminate length wherein no city or county could enact their own anti-discrimination law, effectively making the repeal moot. Obviously, that didn’t set well with state Democrats who backed off the bill. Meanwhile, hardline Republicans were upset that any repeal was considered at all.
I don’t know what they’re putting in the water in North Carolina but this is one of the most ridiculous displays of improper governance I’ve ever seen. The Charlotte city council has not yet said how they will respond to this breach of trust. It seems almost certain that this could lead to a new round of boycotts and job losses for the state on top of the millions already lost. I think Santa can just skip the entire state of North Carolina this year.
Security concerns across the US
After the attack in Berlin that left 12 dead, and especially given the fact that authorities across Europe are still looking for the Tunisian man accused of the attack, security is on high alert this holiday weekend anywhere large numbers of people are planned to gather2. If you are traveling, expect to see more police and TSA officers roaming the concourse and one is likely to see especially high security with international travel to and from Europe.
Here in the US, heavily-armed counterterrorism officers are standing guard at places such as New York’s pop-up Christmas markets in Union Square, Bryant Park, and Columbus Circle. In Chicago, the police presence is especially high at Daley Plaza with police vehicles parked so as to prevent a truck or any other vehicle from getting through. In Los Angeles, where there are several large events planned for the weekend and preparations are under way for the Rose parade, police have placed large equipment at the entrance to large events to prevent an attack such as what happened in Berlin.
While police presence in the largest cities are the most visible, smaller cities across the country have taken their share of precautions as well. Truck rental companies everywhere have been asked to contact local police should they encounter someone renting a truck who cannot give an adequate answer to what their plans for the vehicle might be. Police assigned to large events such as holiday football games and parades are more heavily armed and making good use of canine patrols. If ever there were a time for the phrase, “if you see something, say something,” this would be it.
Telephone patent wars
While many companies are winding down operations for the year and trying to end on a nice, tidy note, Nokia decided this would be a good time to file suit against Apple for patent infringement3. Nokia filed the suits in both Germany and the US, claiming that patents for displays, user interfaces, software, antennas, chipsets and video coding were being used by Apple outside their 2011 licensing agreement.
However, Apple says that Nokia is asking too much for the license to the disputed technologies. To that end, Apple has filed suit against Acacia Research Corp (ACTG.O) and Conversant Intellectual Property Management Inc [GEGGIM.UL], accusing them of colluding with Nokia to extract and extort exorbitant prices for the technology. Where this really gets confusing is when you realize that the Apple suit was filed just one day after Conversant named a former Apple executive as its new CEO.
What this ultimately means for consumers is that new editions of the famous Apple iPhone could be delayed and already high prices could go even higher. While Nokia phones hold an insignificant share of the market, the patents they hold are licensed by a number of phone makers around the world making this an issue that could affect almost everyone’s pocket book over the next couple of years.
The high cost of advertising
Yet another price fixing scandal is in the news this week and this time it involves the four largest holding companies in the advertising industry. Omnicom, Publicis, WPP, and IPG have all confirmed that they have received subpoenas from the U.S. Department of Justice Antitrust Division4. The subpoenas are part of an ongoing investigation into allegations of bid fixing for video and post-production services within the industry.
Without talking too much shop, what the Justice Department is claiming is that subsidiaries of the holding group, with the knowledge and implied consent of the partners in each group, are colluding with video and post-production companies to rig bids on large projects in exchange for promising the production companies additional business down the road. Those within the ad industry know this is not an uncommon practice in an effort to win a large, competitive account. Officially, however, the agencies all state that such practices are forbidden.
Where this all shakes out is that the smaller sub-contracted production companies often end up taking a loss while the big holding groups reap the profits. Small companies are hesitant to turn down the request, especially if it means getting to work on a high-profile account such as Ford or Coca-Cola. The downside is that even if the Justice Department is able to prove the big four are guilty of bid rigging, there is not a lot of teeth to their bite. Fines are the only punishment likely to be imposed and the companies would simply compensate by raising prices for their services.
And finally …
We had to do some digging to find much in the way of good news this morning, but we found it out in Arizona where a Virginia couple announced yesterday they had given birth to a set of quintuplets earlier this month5. Margaret and Michael Baudinet are the proud parents of four girls and a boy after a very careful and quiet pregnancy. The family temporarily moved to Phoenix moved to be closer to Dr. John Elliott, a specialist in multiple-birth pregnancies.
Anyone who has experienced multiple births knows how fraught with anxiety they can be. Even having twins presents a series of complications not seen in a single childbirth. However, doctors at the Arizona hospital say the delivery of the quints went extremely well. The babies all weighed a little more than three pounds at birth and were delivered within 17 minutes of each other thanks to a team of 24 medical professionals.
While the babies are still in neonatal ICU, they are all breathing on their own and are being bottle fed. The Baudinets plan to return to Virginia with their new family sometime next month.
That’s all we’re telling on this Thursday. Please do be careful as you are out and about with all those last-minute activities. We really do hope you’ll do us the favor of subscribing. That’s all we want for Christmas. Stay warm and we will see you again tomorrow.