How Overnight Shipping Works / Wendover Productions

You may be amazed at how it’s possible to ship a package and have it arrive anywhere in the world overnight (for a premium price), but you’ll be even more amazed when you see how it’s done. FedEx, UPS, and DHL have overnight shipping down to an art — via Youtube

Business, Food

Vegemite bought by Bega from US food giant Mondelez International

Vegemite is set to return to Australian ownership after dairy company Bega announced it would buy most of Mondelez International’s Australia and New Zealand grocery and cheese business.

Bega, in a note to the Australian Stock Exchange, said it would use bank debt to fund the $460 million acquisition.

The deal does not include Philadelphia products but will see Australian ownership of Kraft-branded products, including peanut butter, cheeses and mayonnaise — via


American Apparel is sold at auction to Canada’s Gildan Activewear

For years, American Apparel proudly touted its Made in Los Angeles motto. With its sale Tuesday to a Canadian sportswear firm, neither American Apparel’s name nor its motto will ring so true.

Gildan Activewear agreed to pay $88 million in a winning auction bid for the American Apparel brand and some manufacturing equipment, the company said Tuesday. The deal for American Apparel, which filed for bankruptcy in November for the second time, still requires approval from a Delaware bankruptcy court judge Thursday.

Gildan did not buy any of the company’s 110 retail stores in the US. Those stores are likely to close within a few months, analysts said.

Glenn Chamandy, chief executive of Gildan, said that American Apparel will be a strong complementary addition to its portfolio.

We see strong potential to grow American Apparel sales, he said in a statement. There is potential to drive further market share penetration in the fashion basics segment both in North America and internationally.

Gildan may keep some warehouse and manufacturing operations in Los Angeles, but analysts said that the vast majority of American Apparel factory workers in the Southland will be out of a job. In December, American Apparel notified nearly 3,500 Southland employees that they may lose their jobs. The message went to 332 workers in Garden Grove, 959 workers in South Gate and 2,166 workers at the company’s sprawling headquarters in downtown Los Angeles — via

Still ticking: The improbable survival of the luxury watch business

For eight days each year, Basel becomes the centre of the watch universe. The fair’s organisers claimed 150,000 paying visitors and 1,800 brands spread over 141,000 square metres of exhibition space. Admission cost 60 Swiss francs a day (almost £50), for which one could have bought a nice Timex. Near the Breitling pavilion was an obelisk for Omega, and a palace for Rolex. TAG Heuer adorned its booth with a TAG Heuer-sponsored Formula 1 racing car. One could spend many hours walking the plush carpets here, and encounter many very handsome men and women promoting Breguet, Hublot, and Longines, and very many handsome men and women buying their wares, too. Some booths were also selling jewellery — including Chanel, Gucci and Chopard — and some brands were selling watches covered in jewels: symphonies of the unnecessary, such as the Harry Winston Premier Moon Phase 36mm, with mother of pearl and 104 brilliant-cut diamonds.

The show was a celebration of our mastery of timekeeping, and of the refinement and years of training that go into making objects of beauty and accuracy. But it was also a celebration of excess and superfluousness, of watches that exist merely because they can, like animal acts at a circus. Many worked on the most intricate levels to perform functions almost beyond usefulness: there were watches with a calendar that lasts 1,000 years; there were watches showing the phase of the moon in a different time zone. And then there were items such as the Aeternitas Mega 4 from Franck Muller, assembled from 1,483 components. This would announce the hours and quarter-hours with the same chime sequence as Big Ben. At its launch, it was heralded by its makers as the most complex wristwatch ever made, and a grandiose work of art. In addition to its 36 “complications” – a complication is essentially a nice gimmick – was the ability to tell the time. Another complication was that it cost £2.2m.

And therein lies the mystery of the modern timepiece. These days, no one requires a Swiss watch to tell the time – or a watch from any country. The time displayed on our mobile phones and other digital devices will always be more accurate than the time displayed on even the most skilfully engineered mechanical watch, yet the industry has a visual presence in our lives like few others. The store fronts of the world’s big-money boulevards glow with the lustre of Rolex and Omega; newspapers and magazines appear to be kept in business largely by watch adverts; airports would be empty shells without them. The export value of the Swiss watch trade fell by 3.3% last year, due primarily to a downfall in demand from the east Asia. But it is up 62.9% compared with six years ago. In 2015 the world bought 28.1m Swiss watches valued at 21.5 billion Swiss francs.

We live in uncertain economic times, but watch prices at Baselworld show no signs of making a cut-price concession to the unstable yen or rouble, or even the recent competition from the Apple Watch. Indeed, the opposite seems to be true: the higher the asking price, the greater the appeal, for cheapness may suggest a reduction in quality — via


You don’t have to be stupid to work here, but it helps

Each summer, thousands of the best and brightest graduates join the workforce. Their well-above-average raw intelligence will have been carefully crafted through years at the world’s best universities. After emerging from their selective undergraduate programmes and competitive graduate schools, these new recruits hope that their jobs will give them ample opportunity to put their intellectual gifts to work. But they are in for an unpleasant surprise.

Smart young things joining the workforce soon discover that, although they have been selected for their intelligence, they are not expected to use it. They will be assigned routine tasks that they will consider stupid. If they happen to make the mistake of actually using their intelligence, they will be met with pained groans from colleagues and polite warnings from their bosses. After a few years of experience, they will find that the people who get ahead are the stellar practitioners of corporate mindlessness — via

Business, World

Ex-bank executives sentenced for €7.2bn conspiracy

Three former bank executives have been sentenced to prison terms ranging from two years to three and a half years for a €7.2bn conspiracy to defraud in September 2008.

Former Anglo Irish Bank executives John Bowe and Willie McAteer and the former chief executive of Irish Life and Permanent, Denis Casey, were found guilty last month of agreeing a scheme to mislead the public about the true health of Anglo.

Judge Martin Nolan sentenced Bowe to two years, McAteer to three and a half years and Casey to two years and nine months — via

Business, Politics

False Balance: ABC Directed Journalist To Target Labor NBN Plan For ‘Insurance’ Against Coalition Attacks

In the lead up to the 2013 federal election, amid a fierce political debate between the major parties over the roll out of the National Broadband Network, an ABC editor-journalist was directed by his boss to find any story he could that was critical of the Labor Party’s NBN Plan in order to provide insurance against attacks on the ABC by the Coalition.

The explosive revelations are contained in a secretly-made recording of a meeting between Nick Ross, the ABC’s former Games and Technology Editor, and Bruce Belsham, the Head of ABC’s Current Affairs division.

Ross has been the subject of growing media interest over the past week, following his resignation from the ABC on January 14. It came amid long-running speculation that Ross had been ‘gagged’ by the national broadcaster from reporting on the NBN.

That claim — that Ross was gagged — continues to be strongly denied by the ABC — via

Business, Politics, Rights, Technology

61 agencies after warrantless access to Australian telecommunications metadata

The names of 57 agencies that are seeking to gain access to telecommunications metadata stored on Australian residents without a warrant have been released under a Freedom of Information (FOI) request.

The names of four agencies have been redacted, with the Attorney-General’s Department (AGD) previously saying that disclosing the names of these agencies would be contrary to the public interest.

The FOI request originally asked for correspondence from organisations seeking to gain access to stored telecommunications metadata. The department denied this request on practical grounds, stating that 2,661 pages spread across 288 documents were related to such a request, and that 45 third parties needed to be consulted before the information could be released.

Eventually, the request was narrowed down to merely a list of agencies looking to be declared as an enforcement agency as defined under the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act.

Agencies objected to disclosure on the basis that it would compromise the trust they place in the Commonwealth, AGD said last week. During consultation, these four agencies clearly indicated that disclosure of this information would damage the relationship between the department and the relevant agencies, and could affect any future cooperation with the department
— via

Business, Politics, Rights, Technology

TPP: ISPs will hand over copyright infringer details

Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) member states will force internet service providers (ISPs) to give up identification details of alleged copyright infringers so that rights holders can protect and enforce their copyright through criminal and civil means with few limitations, according to the full text of the agreement.

The TPP, the full text of which has been published on the website for the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade a month after reaching agreement, will regulate trade between Australia, the United States, New Zealand, Canada, Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia, Japan, Mexico, Peru, Brunei, and Chile.

Section J of the Intellectual Property chapter [PDF] covers ISPs, with Article 18.82(7) stating that member states must enable copyright holders to access the details of alleged copyright infringers through ISPs.

Each party shall provide procedures, whether judicial or administrative, in accordance with that party’s legal system, and consistent with principles of due process and privacy, that enable a copyright owner that has made a legally sufficient claim of copyright infringement to obtain expeditiously from an internet service provider information in the provider’s possession identifying the alleged infringer, in cases in which that information is sought for the purpose of protecting or enforcing that copyright, the text says.

The full text of the intellectual property chapter ties in with leaks last month from WikiLeaks revealing that ISPs would be forced to give up copyright infringer details — via

Business, Technology

New top-level domains a money grab and a mistake: Paul Vixie

Dr Paul Vixie, a pioneer of the internet’s domain name system (DNS), has lashed out at the creation of hundreds of new top-level domains, ranging from .dog to .horse, and .cool to .porn, labelling them a money grab and a mistake.

Vixie, who is now the chief executive officer of Farsight Security, was speaking at the Ruxcon information security conference in Melbourne on Sunday about the importance of securing the internet’s DNS infrastructure.

In response to an audience question about the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) decision to create some 1900 new top-level domains in this first round alone, Vixie was blunt.

I think it is a money grab. My own view is that ICANN functions as a regulator, and that as a regulator it has been captured by the industry that they are regulating. I think that there was no end-user demand whatsoever for more so-called DNS extensions, [or] global generic top-level domains (gTLDs), he said.

Vixie sees the demand for the new domains as having come from the people who have the budget to send a lot of people to every ICANN meeting, and participate in every debate, that is, the domain name registrars who simply want more names to sell, so they can make more money. But these new domains don’t seem to be working.

They’re gradually rolling out, and they are all commercial failures, Vixie said — via

Business, Technology

Cisco loses logo lawsuit against WiFi inventor boffinhaus

Cisco’s suffered a legal reversal in Australia, where the nation’s Trade Marks Office has ruled the logo of Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) is not an attempt to imitate or cash in on the Borg’s bridge badge.

CSIRO’s logo is supposed to be a stylised map of Australia. Cisco’s reimagining of the Golden Gate bridge and/or an graph is well known.

Cisco objected to the CSIRO’s application to trademark its logo. The Borg’s beef seems to have been that the colours and wave design in both logos are similar and therefore perhaps confusing to punters. That CSIRO’s desire to have its logo classified as pertaining to software and “telecommunications” didn’t help either.

CSIRO has form in the latter field: astronomers there did the basic work that led to the creation of WiFi and the organisation has scooped hundreds of millions in patent royalties from technology companies, including Cisco. The case therefore has an ironic element, as Cisco makes millions from WiFi kit every year — via


FedEx bids $US4.8 billion for Australian founded TNT

FedEx agreed to buy Dutch parcel-delivery company TNT Express for 4.4 billion euros ($US4.8 billion), predicting it can succeed where bigger rival United Parcel Service was blocked by regulators in 2013.

TNT, originally Thomas Nationwide Transport, was founded in Sydney by Ken Thomas in 1946. The company merged with Hungarian refugee Peter Abeles’ transport company, Alltrans Group, in 1967. Alltrans was famously started with Sir Peter’s two trucks dubbed Samson and Delilah.

Though the merged company scrapped the Alltrans name, Sir Peter was a significant driver in TNT’s huge expansion with his motto: Anything, anywhere, any time. The company began to expand internationally with the purchase of a California truck line in 1969.

Key to the company’s expansion was Sir Peter’s close relationship with media mogul Rupert Murdoch, which was developed when the pair took joint control over Ansett in 1979, with TNT winning the contract to distribute Murdoch’s British newspapers.

TNT was eventually taken over by Koninklijke PTT Neder-land for $2 billion in 1996 in one of the largest mergers in Dutch history — via


FedEx bids $US4.8 billion for Australian founded TNT

FedEx agreed to buy Dutch parcel-delivery company TNT Express for 4.4 billion euros ($US4.8 billion), predicting it can succeed where bigger rival United Parcel Service was blocked by regulators in 2013.

TNT, originally Thomas Nationwide Transport, was founded in Sydney by Ken Thomas in 1946. The company merged with Hungarian refugee Peter Abeles’ transport company, Alltrans Group, in 1967. Alltrans was famously started with Sir Peter’s two trucks dubbed Samson and Delilah.

Though the merged company scrapped the Alltrans name, Sir Peter was a significant driver in TNT’s huge expansion with his motto: Anything, anywhere, any time. The company began to expand internationally with the purchase of a California truck line in 1969.

Key to the company’s expansion was Sir Peter’s close relationship with media mogul Rupert Murdoch, which was developed when the pair took joint control over Ansett in 1979, with TNT winning the contract to distribute Murdoch’s British newspapers.

TNT was eventually taken over by Koninklijke PTT Neder-land for $2 billion in 1996 in one of the largest mergers in Dutch history — via

Business, Technology

TPG to acquire iiNet for AU$1.4 billion

TPG has announced plans to purchase rival, and Australia’s third-largest internet service provider, iiNet.

The deal was announced to the Australian Securities Exchange on Friday morning. TPG will acquire 100 percent of iiNet shares, of which the company already had a significant stake.

The total value of the deal is worth AU$1.4 billion.

The agreement will see the combined TPG company become larger than Australia’s second-largest telecommunications company Optus, increasing TPG’s customer base to 1.7 million.

There will be combined revenues of AU$2.3 billion — via


Fox News Reportedly Used Fake Commenter Accounts To Rebut Critical Blog Posts

NPR media reporter David Folkenflik writes in his forthcoming book Murdoch’s World that Fox News’ public relations staffers used an elaborate series of dummy accounts to fill the comments sections of critical blog posts with pro-Fox arguments.

In a chapter focusing on how Fox utilised its notoriously ruthless public relations department in the mid-to-late 00’s, Folkenflik reports that Fox’s PR staffers would post pro-Fox rants in the comments sections of negative and even neutral blog posts written about the network. According to Folkenflik, the staffers used various tactics to cover their tracks, including setting up wireless broadband connections that could not be traced back to the network.

A former staffer told Folkenflik that they had personally used one hundred fake accounts to plant Fox-friendly commentary:

On the blogs, the fight was particularly fierce. Fox PR staffers were expected to counter not just negative and even neutral blog postings but the anti-Fox comments beneath them. One former staffer recalled using twenty different aliases to post pro-Fox rants. Another had one hundred. Several employees had to acquire a cell phone thumb drive to provide a wireless broadband connection that could not be traced back to a Fox News or News Corp account. Another used an AOL dial-up connection, even in the age of widespread broadband access, on the rationale it would be harder to pinpoint its origins. Old laptops were distributed for these cyber operations. Even blogs with minor followings were reviewed to ensure no claim went unchecked.  [Murdoch’s World, pg. 67]

— via


Evocca College student figures questioned, linked to training industry recruitment concerns

Figures suggest one of the country’s largest training colleges had just 19 students graduate from any of its courses in a single year, reigniting concerns about the training sector.

Data on the Government’s MySkills website showed Evocca College enrolled almost 14,000 students in 2012 but just 19 graduated.

The company has disputed the figures but others have suggested the numbers support ongoing concerns about some players in the training industry.

In particular, criticism focused on the recruitment practices of companies which sometimes targeted disadvantaged students.

Such students often struggled to cope with high-level course content and dropped out, leaving them with hefty government training loans and no qualification.

Evocca College was one of the training market leaders with almost 40 campuses around Australia.

In a statement, Evocca said the MySkills figures were wrong and many hundreds of students graduated out of 2,770 enrolments in 2012, with its graduate rates at or above industry average.

It said not all students dropped out and many went on to work or other training — via


Nonsense bullshit jobs

In 1930, John Maynard Keynes predicted that, by century’s end, technology would have advanced sufficiently that countries like Britain or the United States would have achieved a 15-hour working week. There’s every reason to believe he was right. In technological terms, we are quite capable of this. And yet it didn’t happen. Instead, technology has been marshalled, if anything, to figure out ways to make us all work more. In order to achieve this, jobs have had to be created that are, effectively, pointless. Huge swathes of people in the Western world spend their entire working lives performing tasks they secretly believe do not really need to be performed. The moral and spiritual damage that comes from this situation is profound. It is a scar across our collective soul. Yet virtually no one talks about it.

Why did Keynes’s promised utopia — still being eagerly awaited in the 1960s — never materialise? The standard line is he didn’t predict the massive increase in consumerism. Given the choice between less hours and more toys and pleasures, we’ve collectively chosen the latter. This presents a nice morality tale, but even a moment’s reflection shows it can’t really be true. Yes, we have witnessed the creation of an endless variety of new jobs and industries since the 1920s, but very few have anything to do with the production and distribution of sushi, iPhones or fancy sneakers.

Huge swathes of people in the Western world spend their entire working lives performing tasks they secretly believe do not really need to be performed.

So what are these new jobs, precisely? A recent report comparing employment in the US between 1910 and 2000 gives us a clear picture. Over the course of the last century, the number of workers employed as domestic servants, in industry, and in the farm sector has collapsed dramatically. At the same time, professional, managerial, clerical, sales, and service workers tripled, growing from one-quarter to three-quarters of total employment. In other words, productive jobs have, just as predicted, been largely automated away (even if you count industrial workers globally, including the toiling masses in India and China, such workers are still not nearly so large a percentage of the world population as they used to be).

But rather than allowing a massive reduction of working hours to free the world’s population to pursue their own projects, pleasures, visions and ideas, we have seen the ballooning not even so much of the service sector as of the administrative sector, up to and including the creation of whole new industries such as financial services or telemarketing, or the unprecedented expansion of sectors such as corporate law, academic and health administration, human resources and public relations. And these numbers do not even reflect on all those people whose job is to provide administrative, technical or security support for these industries, or for that matter the whole host of ancillary industries (dog-washers, all-night pizza-delivery drivers) that only exist because everyone else is spending so much of their time working in all the other ones.

These are what I propose to call bullshit jobs — via

Business, Wildlife

Lost & Found Service / KLM

KLM’s dedicated Lost & Found team at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol is on a mission to reunite lost items as soon as possible with their legitimate owner. From a teddy bear found by the cabin crew to a laptop left in the lounge. Locating the owners can sometimes be a challenge, so special forces have been hired… — via Youtube

Business, Politics, Rights, Technology

Copyright infringement is terrorism, screech the revolution’s losers

You might have thought that Australia’s debate over online copyright infringement couldn’t get any sillier. But this week the journalists’ union came out as a fan of internet censorship, only to withdraw when they realised what they’d done. And Village Roadshow equated copyright infringement with terrorism and paedophilia, and came out in support of, oh, moonbats or something. Hard to say.

Village Roadshow’s submission (PDF) to the government’s copyright infringement discussion paper is the loopiest, with so much shouting and whining that it’s hard to take their hyperbole seriously.

The dangers posed by piracy are so great, the goal should be total eradication or zero tolerance. Just as there is no place on the internet for terrorism or paedophilia, there should be no place for theft that will impact the livelihoods of the 900,000 people whose security is protected by legitimate copyright, the submission says.

Oh get a grip.

The tone is clearly that of Village Roadshow’s co-CEO Graham Burke, whose manner at the best of times can most generously be described as eccentric. But to equate the abstract problem of a reduction in your profit margin with the damage done to the victims of child sexual abuse and the slaughter of innocents? That takes some chutzpah — via

Business, Politics

Meet the Beer Bottle Dictator

Widely regarded as an eccentric bureaucrat, Kent ‘Battle’ Martin approves essentially every beer label in the United States, giving him awesome power over a huge industry.

For years, one man has approved virtually every beer label design in the United States. Among brewers, he’s a tyrant. A legend.

A pedantic pain in the ass.

Brewers and legal experts speak of him in hushed tones, with equal parts irritation and reverence.

He’s the king of beer. His will is law, said one lawyer who works with him regularly. The lawyer asked to remain anonymous, for fear of crossing the beer specialist. There’s one dude in the government who gets to control a multibillion-dollar industry with almost no supervision.

And he goes by the name Battle.

Any brewery that wants to market its wares in this country needs to get it through Kent Battle Martin, giving the federal official extraordinary power. With only vague regulations outlining what is and isn’t permissible, he approves beer bottles and labels for the Tax and Trade Bureau, or TTB, a section of the Treasury Department.

Those who have interacted with him describe him as brusque, eccentric, clenched. He is tensely and formally dressed on all occasions, with an encyclopedic memory of beer labels. He is bespectacled and somewhat awkward.

This year, Battle has singlehandedly approved over 29,500 beer labels, the only fact his press handler would provide. The TTB would not even provide basic biographical details about the famed regulator, much less make him available for an interview — via

Business, Technology

Service Drains Competitors’ Online Ad Budget

The longer one lurks in the Internet underground, the more difficult it becomes to ignore the harsh reality that for nearly every legitimate online business there is a cybercrime-oriented anti-business. Case in point: Today’s post looks at a popular service that helps crooked online marketers exhaust the Google AdWords budgets of their competitors.

AdWords is Google’s paid advertising product, displaying ads on the top or the right side of your screen in search results. Advertisers bid on specific keywords, and those who bid the highest will have their ads show up first when Internet users search for those terms. In turn, advertisers pay Google a small amount each time a user clicks on one of their ads.

One of the more well-known forms of online ad fraud (aka click fraud) involves Google AdSense publishers that automate the clicking of ads appearing on their own Web sites in order to inflate ad revenue. But fraudsters also engage in an opposite scam involving AdWords, in which advertisers try to attack competitors by raising their costs or exhausting their ad budgets early in the day.

Enter GoodGoogle, the nickname chosen by one of the more established AdWords fraudsters operating on the Russian-language crime forums. Using a combination of custom software and hands-on customer service, GoodGoogle promises clients the ability to block the appearance of competitors’ ads.

Are you tired of the competition in Google AdWords that take your first position and quality traffic? reads GoodGoogle’s pitch. I will help you get rid once and for all competitors in Google Adwords.

The service, which appears to have been in the offering since at least January 2012, provides customers both a la carte and subscription rates. The prices range from $100 to block between three to ten ad units for 24 hours to $80 for 15 to 30 ad units. For a flat fee of $1,000, small businesses can use GoodGoogle’s software and service to sideline a handful of competitors’s ads indefinitely. Fees are paid up-front and in virtual currencies (WebMoney, eg), and the seller offers support and a warranty for his work for the first three weeks — via

Business, Rights, Technology

Google Protects Chilling Effects From Takedown Notices

Chilling Effects is the largest public repository of DMCA notices on the planet, providing a unique insight into the Internet’s copyright battles. However, each month people try to de-index pages of the site but Google has Chilling Effects’ back and routinely rejects copyright claims — via

Business, Technology

Liam F1 Turbine / The Archimedes

Small wind turbines scaled to the right size for residential and urban areas have so far lived in the shadows of their larger wind-farm-sized counterparts. The power output has been too low for a reasonable return on investment through energy savings and the noise they produce is louder than most homeowners can deal with.

A Dutch renewable energy start-up called The Archimedes is working to solve both of those problems in a new class of small-scale wind turbine — one that is almost silent and is far more efficient at converting wind into energy. The company states that the Liam F1 turbine could generate 1,500 kWh of energy per year at wind speeds of 5m/s, enough to cover half of an average household’s energy use.

When used in combination with rooftop solar panels, a house could run off grid. When there is wind you use the energy produced by the wind turbine; when the sun is shining you use the solar cells to produce the energy, The Archimedes CEO Richard Ruijtenbeek said.

The Liam’s blades are shaped like a Nautilus shell. The design allows it to point into the wind to capture the most amount of energy, while also producing very little sound. The inventor of the turbine Marinus Mieremet says that the power output is 80 percent of the theoretical maximum energy that could be harnessed from the wind — via treehugger

Business, Technology

Australia sees rise in cyber attacks, competitors to blame: CERT

The main motivation behind rising online security attacks in Australia is competitors seeking commercial information and advantage, according to the latest Cyber Crime and Security Survey Report by Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) — part of the Attorney-General’s Department.

The main motivation for cyber-attacks is considered to be competitors seeking commercial advantage, said George Brandis, Australia’s Attorney General and Minister for the Arts. This aligns with the cyber threat of most concern to businesses, which is theft or breach of confidential information or intellectual property.

This of course has recently come to prominence through the US indicting Chinese officials for the theft of IP from US companies by cyber means.

While many of the companies surveyed reported the computer security incidents, others didn’t, raising concerns they don’t know what’s really happening on their networks — via

Business, Design

A Look Inside Shinola’s New Leather Strap Facility (And A Few Myths Debunked)

I was a bit skeptical when I landed in Detroit. This is where Shinola, purveyors of everything from bicycles to leather goods to watches, calls home. Enough has been said about Detroit, from its slow decline amid the waning American manufacturing landscape, to its current prospects for revitalization and urban renewal. But in a relatively short period of time, Shinola has been both lauded and maligned for its relationship with the city. Supporters praise the company for its local hiring practices and support of scalable business models, while detractors cite everything from a skewed perception of American manufacturing to ethically questionable marketing practices. But, before we get into those deeper questions, let’s first take a look at exactly what’s going on in Shinola’s brand new leather strap facility — via


Bacardi Leaving / Luke White

Bacardi Leaving from Luke White on Vimeo.

The first campaign I [Luke White] created for Bacardi with Martyn Smith was an attempt to bring Bacardi up to date and make it more relevant and masculine. The campaign featured DJ Ray (played by Jeff Kober) a cool Bacardi drinking expat who ran Reef Radio, a small island radio station somewhere in the Latin Caribbean. The first two ads were shot in Bahia in Brazil by Gerard de Thame and involved taking over a whole town for two weeks, which was very cool. The third as Leaving was shot by Andy Morahan in Mexico and again was an amazing experience. The campaign ran for 3 years in the UK and English speaking markets around the world and helped pave the way for the Latin Quarter campaign — via Behance

Business, Rights

Mums taking parental leave sacked: report

Almost one in five working mums lost their job before or after having a baby, a report says.

Half of Australia’s working mothers report discrimination during pregnancy, parental leave or when returning to work.

Pregnant workers say they have been sacked, threatened with sacking or didn’t have their contract renewed, according to an Australian Human Rights Commission report.

The report found 18 per cent of mothers had been made redundant, dismissed, had their job restructured or not had their contract renewed, either during their pregnancy, when requesting or taking parental leave or when they returned to work.

Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick said women had their salaries cut and missed out on training, professional development and promotional opportunities.

The most common types of discrimination … included negative comments about breastfeeding or working part-time or flexibly and being denied requests to work flexibly, Ms Broderick said on Monday.

The vast majority of mothers who copped discrimination — 84 per cent — said it had a negative impact on them — via

Business, Rights, Technology

Mozilla boss Brendan Eich resigns after gay marriage storm

The chief executive of Mozilla — the company best known for its Firefox browser — has stepped down.

Brendan Eich was appointed just last month but came in for heavy criticism for his views on same-sex marriage.

Mozilla’s executive chairwoman Mitchell Baker announced the decision in a blog post.

Mozilla prides itself on being held to a different standard and, this past week, we didn’t live up to it, she wrote.

We know why people are hurt and angry, and they are right: it’s because we haven’t stayed true to ourselves.

“We didn’t act like you’d expect Mozilla to act. We didn’t move fast enough to engage with people once the controversy started. We’re sorry. We must do better.

Mr Eich has also stepped down from the board of the Mozilla Foundation, the non-profit organisation which owns the for-profit Mozilla Corporation — via

Business, Rights

World Vision Australia distances itself from US branch

World Vision Australia has issued a statement today that re-affirmed its pro-LGBTI workplace policies and differentiated the organisation from its US counterpart following the criticism the latter faced when it reversed an inclusiveness policy.

Midway through last week, the US branch of World Vision announced a workplace policy that would’ve allowed openly-LGBTI job seekers with the appropriate qualifications to apply for jobs. However, it was soon reversed.

According to World Vision US president Richard Stearns in a statement to Associated Press, the initial policy change had caused numerous major donors and other prominent supporters to threaten to withhold their support for the organisation’s child support, education and welfare programs if they didn’t revert back to their initial policy of requiring celibacy outside of marriage and maintaining faithfulness within the Bible covenant of marriage between a man and a woman.

While the policy rollback caused a public relations nightmare for World Vision in the US, other branches of the global Christian relief agency, such as World Vision Australia, have been operating successfully under fully inclusive workplace policies for years.

In a statement today to the Star Observer, World Vision Australia chief executive Tim Costello reassured that his organisation was different to that of its American counterpart when it came to LGBTI recruitment, engagement and workplace rights — via

Business, Entertainment, Technology

Terminator-maker ‘Cyberdyne Inc’ lists on Tokyo stock exchange

El Reg readers of a more fatalistic disposition may be dismayed, but probably not surprised, to hear that Cyberdyne — the company that invented Skynet and ultimately the murderous Terminator machines – has just listed on the Tokyo stock exchange.

Of course, it’s not the shadowy defence firm of the iconic Arnie films, which unwittingly brings about the virtual destruction of mankind.

No, this one is a maker of exoskeleton suits and supports designed to help those with serious muscular, nerve or cerebral damage recover movement.

The firm also produces support gear which can be worn by carers to lift heavy loads and even markets a radiation-shielding disaster recovery suit for emergency workers.

Innocuous enough, you may think, although so were the origins of the cybermen — via

Business, Technology

Tim Cook Soundly Rejects Politics of the NCPPR, Suggests Group Sell Apple’s Stock

In an emotional response to the National Centre for Public Policy Research (NCPPR), Apple CEO Tim Cook soundly rejected the politics of the group and suggested it stop investing in Apple if it doesn’t like his approach to sustainability and other issues.

Mr Cook’s comments came during the question and answer session of Apple’s annual shareholder meeting, which the NCPPR attended as shareholder. The self-described conservative think tank was pushing a shareholder proposal that would have required Apple to disclose the costs of its sustainability programs and to be more transparent about its participation in “certain trade associations and business organizations promoting the amorphous concept of environmental sustainability.”

As I covered in depth yesterday, the proposal was politically-based, and rooted in the premise that humanity plays no role in climate change. Other language in the proposal advanced the idea that profits should be the only thing corporations consider.

That shareholder proposal was rejected by Apple’s shareholders, receiving just 2.95 percent of the vote. During the question and answer session, however, the NCPPR representative asked Mr Cook two questions, both of which were in line with the principles espoused in the group’s proposal — via

Business, Technology

Melbourne IT to purchase Netregistry in AU$50.4m deal

Melbourne IT announced today that it has entered into an agreement with competitor Netregistry to purchase the company in a deal worth AU$50.4 million.

The payment for the purchase will be made in two parts, with 4.99 percent to 9.99 percent of outstanding Melbourne IT shares offered to Netregistry shareholders, and the remainder paid in cash. This will see Melbourne IT part with 4.3 million to 9.3 million shares and between AU$38 million to AU$45 million in cash, subject to regulatory approval.

The proposed transaction will bring together two of Australia’s leading web services businesses, generating significant benefits for customers, employees, and shareholders of both companies, said acting CEO of Melbourne IT Peter Findlay — via


Do charities realise the damage street fund raisers do to their brands?

The other day I watched an overly aggressive Save The Children ambassador almost knock a cup of coffee from a man’s hand on Sydney’s George Street.

A couple of days after that, I felt thoroughly patronised by an Amnesty International representative during an awkward social exchange in Martin Place.

And last Thursday, a Cancer Council worker rudely interrupted my phone conversation as I walked up Queen Street in Brisbane.

Not that these mercenaries really work for those organisations of course. They’re just wearing the tabards.

But I can’t help but wonder whether the price of fund-raising for organisations is becoming too high for the brand damage it inflicts.

Clearly, the street fund raising strategy is a crack cocaine that charities would find hard to kick. Indeed, the very Urban Dictionary definition of Chugger (charity mugger) is now nearly a decade old — via

Business, Technology

Australia’s ongoing online retail fiasco

The continuing inability of Myer and David Jones to deliver customers a decent online brand experience disqualifies them from complaining about digital competitors eating their lunch, argues Tim Burrowes.

All credit to Myer. It’s not many retailers who can make a Boxing Day sale last for three weeks.

But thanks to comments from unhappy customers on the company’s Facebook page, it is possible to monitor in real time the continuing erosion of brand value.

I must declare an interest here. I am myself an amused and bemused consumer of that online experience. Not that Myer’s main rival David Jones has done much better, but more on that later.

Being something of a misanthrope when it comes to bricks and mortar retail sales, I actually decided to give the stores’ online sales a shot.

As it will have been hard to miss, Myer’s site crashed within hours of its Christmas night launch and remained offline for the next eight days.

In a world where Google being down for eight seconds would be remarked upon, Australia’s biggest retail brand was down for eight days.

But most curious was how unconcerned Myer boss Bernie Brookes seemed.

The nice folk at partner IBM were hard at work fixing it, he told the market.

And online was, he reassured his investors, only responsible for about one per cent of the company’s revenues. Which doesn’t sound too bad until you wonder whether the fact that it’s only at one per cent is because the store hasn’t been doing enough to catch up with its competitors.

Still, when the Myer site came back, and lured by the offer of free delivery, I gave it a shot — via


Swatch fire hits shares and alarms Swiss rivals

A fire in a workshop owned by Swatch sent shares in the world’s largest watchmaker sharply down yesterday and prompted fears about the knock-on impact on the broader Swiss timepiece sector.

The blaze broke out in Swatch’s unit at Grenchen in the Swiss canton of Solothurn. The company said it is fully insured, but Swatch’s stock nevertheless dropped 2.2 per cent in trading before recovering to end down 0.76 per cent at 589 Swiss Francs (£4.02).

The Swatch workshop, which was destroyed, made standard movements — the components that drive the moving parts of a watch. They are mainly sold to other firms, such as Richemont and LVMH, rather than being used in Swatch’s own products. LVMH owns the Tag Heuer, Hublot and Zenith brands.

It’s very serious, said Jon Cox, an analyst at Kepler Cheuvreux in Zurich, told Bloomberg. It may have an impact on the whole Swiss watch industry as Swatch is the biggest supplier of movements — via


Ellis rejects REA rumours

Outgoing REA Group chief executive Greg Ellis has dismissed claims his surprise exit from the company may have anything to do with the recent departure of chief financial officer, Jenny Macdonald, according to The Australian.

Speculation of board tensions came after Mr Ellis announced his departure yesterday, just three weeks after Ms Macdonald, but the outgoing boss has labelled it mere coincidence.

It is unfortunate that there are two senior positions that have left the company in quick succession, but they are unrelated to each other, Mr Ellis told The Australian.

It’s a pure coincidence and my decision is opportunity-based — via

Business, Technology

TPG buys AAPT from Telecom NZ for AU$450m

Telecom New Zealand is set to sell off AAPT at a fraction of the price it paid for the company back in 1999, with TPG stepping out to buy the company for AU$450 million.

Telecom NZ this morning confirmed to the Australian Securities Exchange that TPG would pick up the business telecommunications and cloud company by the end of February 2014.

The transaction was said to be free of conditions precedent.

It had been reported that Telecom NZ had been looking to sell the Australian business since at least October, with Goldman Sachs recruited to manage the transaction.

Including the AU$60 million iiNet paid for AAPT’s consumer division in 2010, the total value for AAPT is significantly lower than the AU$2.2 billion that Telecom New Zealand paid for it in the peak of the dot com boom in 1999.

AAPT’s revenue has declined over the last few years, with the company this year reporting earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortisation of AU$57 million, down by AU$10 million on the previous financial year — via

Business, Technology

New Research Says Aussie Retailers Suck At Online Shopping

Australian consumers are embracing digital commerce, but Australian retailers are failing to build long-term relationships with their customers online, according to new research.

More than 50 per cent of Australians have been described as digital buyers who prefer to buy online where possible, a statistic that puts Australians among the top digital consumers in the world.

But the Australian retail sector is late to the party. A recent Deloitte survey found that Australian retailers are going digital at a snail’s pace.

More than 50 per cent of respondents expect to generate less than 2 per cent of their Christmas sales online.

And while David Jones’ 1000 per cent quarterly increase in online sales recently made headlines, this increase comes from a very low base, with digital commerce now accounting for a mere 1% of the retail giant’s total sales figure — via