Pikitup workers affiliated to Samwu vow to continue rubbishing the city until their demands are met]]> |||
Johannesburg - It’s going to be a stinky Christmas for Joburg residents as striking Pikitup workers vow to keep piling the streets with more rubbish if their demands aren’t met.
The SA Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) is demanding a R10 000 basic salary for Pikitup workers and wants the axe to fall on the company’s managing director Amanda Nair, whom it accuses of corrupt practices and nepotism.
Samwu national spokesman Papikie Mohale said the union had sent a letter to Nair requesting a meeting but she had refused.
Pikitup spokesman Jacky Mashapu, however, claimed it had never received any formal communication from the union and this week obtained a court interdict preventing workers from continuing with their “unprotected strike”.
Mohale said members were prepared to continue striking until Christmas.
But Mashapu warned if the workers did not comply with the court order, due process would unfold in terms of the Labour Relations Act.
Meanwhile, the company was forced to employ casual workers this week to clean the city but a trashed Joburg centre and Braamfontein still looked a mess last night.
Mohale has lashed out at the company’s decision to hire the casuals as “this is not in line with the Labour Relations Act”.
He said Pikitup employs people for three months and keeps extending their contracts but doesn’t give them permanent jobs.
“The same is happening with jozi@work (the City’s job creation initiative). (It) replaces workers and offers them no benefits like medical aid, provident funds and, in some cases, UIF.”
He said the union intended to disrupt the casual workers from carrying out their duties.
“The City of Joburg should brace itself for a dirty Christmas if our members’ grievances are not met,” he said.
“Since garbage bins are Pikitup employees’ tools of trade, what they do with the bins when they strike is up to them,” Mohale told Talk Radio 702.
Pikitup workers are the most poorly paid of all Joburg’s municipal entities, and salary inequality is a concern for all members, he said.
Salaries of Pikitup staff should be evaluated and be on the same scale of employees of other entities such as City Power, Joburg Water and City Parks, said Mohale.
“A general worker at Pikitup is paid R6 000 and all other entities’ salaries are R10 000. We are trying to bridge the payment gap.”
Mashapu said the conditions of the contracts for the casual workers, which areas they will work in and Pikitup’s plan of action to clean up Joburg streets by Christmas will be discussed at a briefing session tomorrow. The strike hit all 11 Pikitup depots. Mashapu said Pikitup is “working tirelessly to ensure that services are restored as soon as possible”.
He added that management remains open to address concerns of staff and organised labour, “but for that to happen, workers must first go back to work, and are encouraged to make use of the established process for engagement”.
He said Pikitup will institute the principle of no work, no pay and will lock out employees participating in the illegal strike.
The week-long strike saw at least nine people injured when police tried to stop protesters from storming the Pikitup head office in Braamfontein. The protesters were armed with sticks and marched in the Joburg CBD, trashing the streets as they headed to towards Pikitup’s offices.
Police fired volleys of rubber bullets and stun grenades and also sprayed them with tear gas.
Pikitup urged Joburg residents and businesses to keep their refuse bins on their properties until they received a communication to do otherwise.
Residents took to social media to complain about the “smelly rubbish”, “stinking streets”, “revoltingly dirty town” – and said the uncollected rubbish in the heat posed a health hazard.
A rotting trail of rubbish and an accompanying stench by the strikers was left in Joburg streets. The litter, including burning dustbins and empty tear-gas canisters, marked some of the spots where protesters clashed with police.
Samwu’s demand for Nair to step down is fuelled by recent controversies. In June, she was held briefly by the Hillbrow police for theft. She was arrested with Donovan Denyssen, an IT department employee, who allegedly gave Nair and her close relatives cellphones without following the proper procedures.
Last year, the City’s risk management department conducted an investigation and found that several cellphones had gone missing from a safe room and that Denyssen was the only person who had the keys. Denyssen told investigators he had “issued” Nair with three Samsung phones.
A report stated that, as a result of Denyssen’s action, Pikitup incurred a loss of R33 237 and that Nair should pay it back.
Last year, Denyssen resigned after the council investigated him. He was found guilty in absentia. Despite this, in May this year, Nair rehired him on a whopping R1.4 million annual salary.
The charges against Nair and Denyssen were withdrawn in court after Pikitup officials wrote affidavits saying the cellphones no longer had any value, so charges should be dropped.
Mashapu said the board had established the facts on this matter internally and was satisfied there was “no basis to the allegations of theft”.
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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is taking two months off when his daughter is born. Jena McGregor explains why it matters.]]> |||
Washington - On Friday, with a picture on his Facebook page of a car seat, a pram and his dog, Mark Zuckerberg announced he'd be taking two months of parental leave.
It wasn't a huge surprise: The first millennial CEO of a Fortune 500 company, Zuckerberg is part of a generation of men who place more value on work-life balance and taking time off with their children. His company offers four months of paid leave to both male and female employees. His chief operating officer is none other than “Lean In” maven Sheryl Sandberg, who not only advocates for more women in leadership but for more dads doing diaper duty. Had Zuck elected not to take substantial time off, it would have sent a mixed message.
Still, it was a huge milestone - both in the national discussion about parental leave and in the ongoing debate over the gender gap and how to solve it. To have a male Fortune 500 CEO say he will take two months of paternity leave and tout its benefits for children and families is the sort of leadership by example that's necessary, both to get more men to follow suit, and to help female executives feel they can do the same.
Of course, it's hard to know exactly what parental leave will look like for Zuckerberg. He and his wife certainly have the resources for any kind of professional assistance they could need during those first exhausting weeks. It seems unlikely he'll be completely out of touch from Facebook (though neither are many professional women who step away for a few months to take care of a new child). And while his post appears to say he'll take two months directly after his daughter is born, Facebook does allow employees to take their four months at any time during the child's first year.
But even if Zuckerberg is not taking the full four months' leave the company offers, two months is vastly longer than many professional men take off after the birth of a child. Research from Boston College's Centre for Work & Family found in 2011 that 76 percent of fathers are back to work within a week of a child's birth or adoption; 96 percent return within two weeks. Last year, the same center found that less than 10 percent of fathers took six weeks or more off.
And that's among those who actually get it. Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that only 13 percent of US full-time employees had access to paid family leave in 2012 - much of which was likely maternity leave. According to the Society of Human Resources Management, just 17 percent of companies offered paid paternity leave in 2015.
That's starting to change, of course, as more companies - even those outside the cushy confines of Silicon Valley - add more paid leave for fathers or come up with innovative solutions. Goldman Sachs doubled its paid paternity leave to four weeks this summer, and Johnson & Johnson now gives new dads eight weeks of paid leave. In addition to adding six weeks of parental leave (it previously had no paid leave for new dads), Amazon recently began letting employees share part of their leave with a spouse who has none at their employers. (Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)
A few firms are also making time off after a baby more gender-neutral by giving both mothers and fathers the same amount of leave. Last week, the streaming music service Spotify said it would give both new mothers and fathers who work at the company six months of parental leave, joining companies such as Facebook and Netflix that have equal policies for men and women.
Such benefits serve two functions: They help attract employees, particularly younger ones, who are more interested in sharing parenting responsibilities and improving work-life balance. But they also make it possible for men to take the kind of leaves that could help improve the gender gap in both pay and leadership positions.
After all, if there's just as much of a risk that a male employee of parenting age could step out of a job for a few months as there is for a female one, it could help balance pay and promotions. Meanwhile, if fathers also have greater access to paid leave, it improves the chances more women will return to the workforce, or return sooner, potentially helping to ease the “motherhood penalty” that's seen as driving the gender gap in wages.
But all the extra weeks of paid leave in the world will do little if fathers, who still face a stigma when it comes to family leave in the workplace, don't see their colleagues or company leaders actually using it. Research has shown that men are more likely to take paternity leave if they see a co-worker taking it. As CEO of Facebook - and someone who has already been open about the miscarriages he and his wife have faced - Zuckerberg seems perfectly positioned to help.
So bring on the pictures of diaper duty, Zuck. These are Facebook baby pictures the world could stand to see.
THE WASHINGTON POST]]>
Twitter's Periscope live-streaming video service has had some teething problems - but brands are willing to try it to reach millennials.]]> |||
New York - When Benefit Cosmetics, a San Francisco-based maker of skin care and makeup, used Twitter's Periscope live-streaming video service to make a product demonstration, a heckler became part of the live show, typing to the presenter, “I can see down your top” even though there was no wardrobe malfunction.
During BMW of North America's debut of its M2 coupe on Periscope last month, the sound dipped in and out as the driver talked about how the car handled.
And one of Royal Caribbean International's first video streams was disrupted by a viewer posting the alphabet one letter at a time, in an attempt to clog the comment feed. Still, the company was happy with the 30 000 viewers the campaign attracted, said Kara Wallace, vice president, North American marketing at Royal Caribbean.
While glitches like those would be unthinkable in a produced, controlled advertising environment, big brands such as Royal Caribbean, BMW and Benefit are going ahead with plans to use live-streaming video to attract some of the most finicky consumers, young millennials who ignore many traditional and online ads.
“There is an authenticity to this kind of campaign,” Wallace said. “This is going to be the future of marketing.”
Periscope, which Twitter bought earlier this year, allows anyone to live-stream an event through their mobile phones, while viewers can participate by sending cartoon hearts across the video feed and typing comments which scroll across the screen for all to see. Some viewers love the chance to interact, with results that can surprise the advertisers.
It is still early days for Periscope, which currently does not charge advertisers, and had 10 million accounts as of August, compared to more than 300 million at Twitter.
Some brands are not entirely sold on Periscope as a marketing tool. Snack and beverage company Mondelez International has experimented with it a bit, but has not decided if it wants to make it a staple part of its marketing, said Cindy Chen, global head of e-commerce.
“Periscope isn't really set up right now to accommodate brands,” said Dustin Callif, managing director at Tool North America, which produced the BMW Periscope streams. “It's an experiment which is fun for a brand, but it is also risky.”
Working on the fly
While brands are well-versed in handling outside comments that come with all social media, live streaming video is extra tricky as everything is real-time, executives said.
Even Twitter was caught off guard on a Periscope stream of an earnings call when a watcher asked CEO Jack Dorsey if he was single, sending a flood of cartoon hearts across the screen.
“The biggest sort of potential headache of Periscope is that it is a live event and you can't script anything,” said Pete Harmata, digital innovations manager at BMW of North America. “You have to adjust on the fly, which can be pretty strenuous.”
BMW pulled a 24-hour teaser of its M2 coupe, showing just the front of the car, after a few minutes, when impatient viewers demanded to see the car immediately.
BMW had 5 000 viewers of the debut, a drop in the bucket compared to television, but it was a lot cheaper and it reached its biggest fans, said Dan Kelleher, co-chief creative officer at kirshenbaum bond senecal + partners, which created the campaign.
Benefit, owned by luxury-goods conglomerate LVMH, has at least one person ready to block inappropriate comments during each stream, said Claudia Allwood, director of US digital marketing, which has seen 2 000 viewers per stream.
Similarly, thousands viewed Royal Caribbean's Periscope streams, which showed scenes of everything from customers riding a zip line on the island of St Kitts to chefs preparing meals on its ships. The Miami-based cruise operator streamed the clips live on Periscope, and ran them on 80 digital billboards across New York City after a slight delay.
To prepare for any potential problems, the cruise operator had ads ready to run on the billboards if the Periscope stream went down or something unsavoury happened.
While it did not need to run the replacement ads, some issues arose. A video from a natural water slide in Puerto Rico had so many viewers that after a few minutes commenting was shut down, said John Kearse, creative director at Boston-based Mullen Lowe Group, which worked on the campaign.
Thanks to the delay between the live stream and digital billboards, the company had time to strip out the alphabet comments that delayed its stream. They prepared for worse.
“We had to know what the F-bomb was in Russian,” Kearse said.
Movie theatres know the new Star Wars movie is a big deal - and they’re determined to make more money from fans.]]> |||
Los Angeles - People headed to cinemas to see the new Star Wars next month will encounter more than the usual concession-stand popcorn and Raisinets.
Theatre chains, seeking to capture a bigger share of The Force Awakens bonanza, are creating pop-up stores to sell posters and key chains - and pouring “Yoda-rita” cocktails.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which opens on December 18, is forecast by BoxOffice.com to be the top-grossing movie of all time. But because of the way Hollywood structures agreements, exhibitors will pay a higher share of ticket revenue to distributor Walt Disney Company than with most other films. “Well north of 60 percent,” estimates Eric Wold, an analyst with B. Riley & Company.
That means cinema chains are under pressure to extract more money from patrons. In addition to moves like round-the-clock screenings, group sales and premium showings in 3D and Imax formats, exhibitors are getting creative with concession sales and adding merchandise to the mix as they seek to enhance profit margins.
The exhibitors “have to find a way to make this work for them”, Wold said. “They can do what they can to boost profitability around it by driving concessions sales.”
Princess Leia Buns
Disney, which licenses the swag, and the movie houses are borrowing from Broadway, working with New York-based Araca Group, which provides merchandise for live theatrical shows. Araca will be create pop-up Star Wars shops and items including T-shirts, bags and caps.
Marcus Corporation will have pop-ups in its 54 theatres, a first for the company. It will screen the picture around-the-clock on opening weekend, and concession stands will feature souvenir popcorn containers emblazoned with Star Wars characters, said Rolando Rodriguez, chief executive officer of Marcus’s theatre unit.
At Carmike Cinemas, the country’s fourth-largest chain, $40 will buy a Star Wars fan a T-shirt, unlimited popcorn and refills in collectible drink cups. And dine-in theatre chain Studio Movie Grill is introducing a themed brunch - with cinnamon-flavoured Princess Leia Buns for $6.95 - to cater to early risers catching the film at its 23 locations. There will also be cocktails like the “Tatooine Sunrise Mimosa” for $5 and “Yoda-rita”, an under-$10 twist on the Margarita using Sauza Blue Reposado tequila.
Marcus is running a marathon of all the earlier Star Wars movies, and doing a big business in group ticket sales, Rodriguez said. Such bulk purchases, often by companies treating their employees, typically sell at a 20 percent discount. Due to the demand for Star Wars, Marcus is collecting the full ticket price. Advance sales overall are running three times that of those sold for the latest Hunger Games installment, Rodriguez said.
“This is bigger than anything I’ve seen and I’ve seen a lot, including Harry Potter,”said Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn, who helped oversee that franchise at rival Warner Bros.
The Force Awakens could generate records with a $215 million opening weekend and a record $762 million in total in North America, according to Boxoffice.com. That money is split with theatres, though not evenly. The agreements vary by studio and exhibitor, and aren’t disclosed for individual films. On average, the distributor takes just over half of ticket-sale revenue from the largest theatre chains, which keep the rest.
Some tracking services used by the studios are projecting $175 million-plus. That would be a record for a movie opening in December.
“We will measure success by the total run, when we are months and months from December, looking back on what we expect to be a fantastic film experience,” Dave Hollis, executive vice-president for theatrical distribution for Walt Disney Studios, said in an email.
These arrangements tend to involve a sliding scale, so the more successful a film, the greater the share the theatre chains have to pay the studio. With the biggest movies, called tentpoles, such as The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2, studios can keep 60 percent or more, according to B. Riley’s Wold.
Disney declined to comment on the splits. Representatives from the biggest US movie chains, Regal Entertainment Group, AMC Entertainment Holdings, Cinemark Holdings and Carmike, either didn’t return calls or declined to discuss the rental splits.
Rising film costs have emerged as a concern for theatre-chain investors as studios release more big-budget pictures according to Benjamin Mogil, an analyst with Stifel Nicolaus & Company. “The aggregate rental split has moved up because more of the box office is coming from tentpoles,” he said in an October 8 research report.
That’s where concessions come in. At Regal, the largest chain, the gross profit margin on items like popcorn, soda and candy exceeds 86 percent. Mogil estimates concession sales at Regal will total $915.6 million this year, up 12 percent from 2013, and make up 29 percent of revenue.
Theatre chains have found stealthy ways to raise prices, according to Wold. Instead of including tax with the cost of concession items as they have in the past, some are now tacking it onto the sale, which increases the total paid by the customer, he said.
With merchandise there are always logistical issues, including how to return items and what customers do with the products when they’re in their seats, according to Marty Brochstein, a senior vice-president with the International Licensing Industry Merchandisers’ Association.
But “if you’re going to try it for any movie at all, you’ll try it for Star Wars”, Brochstein said.
China’s carbon footprint is growing alongside the prosperity of its nearly 1.4 billion people.]]> |||
Beijing - The son of peach farmers, Chen Jian relishes the fruits of his middle-class life, driving to work and flying on holiday, epitomising how China's carbon footprint has grown alongside the prosperity of its nearly 1.4 billion people.
Chen, 33, grew up without television in a village on the outskirts of Shanghai. Now he drives his own Chevy Lova to work as a manager at a foreign company and enjoys jet travel to Southeast Asia during his vacations.
“Our family's economic foundation was poor,” Chen said, sipping sparkling mineral water at a luxury hotel in downtown Shanghai and adding that he can do any job on the farm. “I am a rural child, I am not embarrassed to say it.”
China's ruling Communist Party bases its claim to legitimacy on delivering better lives to the world's most populous country, and since it embraced the market it has overseen a boom that created a burgeoning middle class, now 300 million strong.
Average incomes remain far below those of the United States, but China - now the world's second-largest economy - is already the biggest international market for both cars and smartphones. It is also the worst polluter on the planet, pouring an estimated nine to 10 billion tons of climate-warming carbon dioxide into the air in 2013.
Its economic miracle is built on the smoke-belching factories which create jobs and churn out goods for global markets, and China's ability to reduce its emissions is a major concern ahead of a crucial climate conference starting in Paris later this month.
Just 18 percent of people surveyed in China believe climate change is a “very serious” problem, while only 15 percent believe the phenomenon will harm them during their lifetime, according to a recent poll by the Pew Research Centre.
Chen used to need two and a half hours by bus to visit the family farm from his home in central Shanghai. Now the car journey takes just 45 minutes on new roads, and public transport holds no appeal.
He is planning on buying another vehicle, and his work colleagues suggest he should choose one of German luxury brand Mercedes-Benz's cars, “because it's my style”, he said.
“If I rode a bike to work, it would be too far,” he added. “Driving a car is a kind of freedom, my time can be very flexible.”
China has more than 260 million vehicles on the road, with another 23 million auto sales last year adding to its emissions output.
But Chen intends his next car to be electric, while keeping his Chevy for his wife.
At least eight Chinese cities have slapped limits on car numbers because of congestion and pollution including Shanghai, which auctions car plates at high prices but awards them free to electric vehicles - providing a powerful economic incentive to go green.
“Shanghai air is bad. A major part is factories, but cars are also a big problem,” Chen said.
Chinese factories, run on state-subsidised electricity largely from coal-fired power plants, are the bigger problem. The Asian country is the world's biggest coal user and producer and newly released official statistics showed it had under-reported its coal consumption for years.
Chen claims his mattress-making company's three plants in China have near-zero emissions, though he acknowledges other firms are not so clean.
“Our factories are completely different from local companies,” Chen said.
To control pollution, China plans to expand an experimental emission trading scheme from a handful of cities to nationwide, under which companies that produce more than their mandated share of emissions must buy unused quotas from others. But there has been scepticism about national implementation and enforcement.
“To expand the carbon emission trading scheme nationwide is difficult. China is still testing the waters,” Professor Zhu Dajian of Tongji University told AFP.
“China is now aiming to do so in 2017, but so far there are no written regulations regarding the specifics for a nationwide push.”
Chen blames global warming for threatening his parents' income, which depends on the luscious peaches which weigh down the branches of dozens of trees at their orchard in Nanhui.
“There is some impact from global warming,” he said. “Because of the weather, the overall quality is lower because there is more rain.
“It's like Bordeaux wine, there are good years and bad years - honey peaches are the same.”
Chen and his wife harbour a dream of returning to the farm to live more simply, and with a reduced carbon footprint, but those plans could themselves fall victim to climate change.
Low-lying Shanghai is considered to be among the world's mega-cities most at risk from rising sea levels, and the farm is near the coast - raising the prospect of the Chen family peach trees one day drowning in salt water.
But Chen is unconcerned.
“Rising sea levels is a universal risk and it's not only about Shanghai. If our place is flooded, then many other places in the world would also be flooded,” he said.
“There is no point in worrying about this now.”
Ashlee Vance takes a closer look at the men behind the two most promising space startups in the world.]]> |||
Palo Alto, California - For the past 15 years, Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin has been the great mystery of the space industry.
The rocket company, founded by the Amazon.com chief executive officer, received attention because of its super-rich backer and the occasional test-launch video that wowed space geeks. For the most part, though, Blue Origin avoided attention and, frankly, didn’t seem to be accomplishing all that much relative to its peers - namely, Elon Musk’s SpaceX. But it’s now very clear that Blue Origin is ready to move into the limelight and that a modern, thrilling space race is well under way.
On Monday, Blue Origin sent its New Shepard ship into space and brought the body of the rocket back down to earth. The spaceship landed just four and half feet from where it took off, despite 120-mile-per-hour crosswinds. “Now safely tucked away at our launch site in West Texas is the rarest of beasts - a used rocket,” Bezos said in a statement. “Full re-use is a game changer, and we can’t wait to fuel up and fly again.”
At present, Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies is the low-cost provider of rocket launches, charging about $60 million a pop to get something big into space. The hope is that reusable rockets could one day bring that price closer to $6 million per launch, when you’re not throwing away a very expensive piece of equipment after each trip. At such prices, the commercial space industry would be altered forever, making space travel viable for tourists, researchers, and many companies for the first time.
Blue Origin’s feat comes with several caveats. First off, this was just a test run. Blue Origin has yet to complete a single rocket launch for a paying customer. The New Shepard vehicle is also aimed more at space tourism, to take people to the edge of space, where they can hang out weightlessly for a few minutes before returning to earth. The engineering expertise required to send a rocket high enough to place a satellite into orbit or take supplies to the International Space Station is much more demanding. So, too, are the physics behind landing such a rocket on earth.
For its part, SpaceX has successfully landed its much larger rockets back on a test pad after brief flights. It has also come very close on a couple of occasions to landing its rocket on a barge floating in the ocean after sending commercial payloads into space. But SpaceX failed to execute a successful landing on a real flight before Blue Origin achieved its milestone.
The animosity between the two companies and their founders continues to swell. On Twitter, Musk briefly congratulated Bezos and then issued a series of follow-up messages explaining how SpaceX’s quest is a more difficult engineering project and that other groups had landed vehicles after “suborbital” flights in the past. In this case, calling Blue Origin a “suborbital” player is the physicist way of saying, “Your engineering is weak, bro”.
Musk’s animosity toward Bezos and Blue Origin are understandable. When Bezos founded Blue Origin in 2000, he was already an incredibly rich man thanks to Amazon. Bezos felt no pressure to turn the company into a for-profit operation. Instead, he allowed a team of engineers to work in near-total secrecy for years on end and kept funding the company, despite slow progress. He has taken a more leisurely approach to becoming a space magnate.
Musk did not have these luxuries in 2002, when he started SpaceX. He had made more than $200 million from the sale of PayPal, which he co-founded and sold to EBay, but Musk had to split that money among SpaceX, Tesla Motors, and then SolarCity. To keep SpaceX going, Musk had to quickly build the company into a global player in the aerospace industry, battling government-backed launch companies in Russia, China, Europe, and the US. These pressures almost destroyed SpaceX in the early days, but they had the added benefit of pushing the company to advance its technology at a quick clip. SpaceX has since completed about 20 successful missions and has a backlog of flights valued at several billion dollars.
Perhaps because of these different approaches, Musk has been known to hurl barbs at Bezos. SpaceX and Blue Origin, for example, fought at one point over access to a Nasa launch pad. At the time, Musk told SpaceNews that Blue Origin “has not yet succeeded in creating a reliable suborbital spacecraft, despite spending 10 years in development. If they do somehow show up in the next five years with a vehicle qualified to Nasa’s human rating standards that can dock with the Space Station, which is what Pad 39A is meant to do, we will gladly accommodate their needs. Frankly, I think we are more likely to discover unicorns dancing in the flame duct.”
SpaceX and Blue Origin have also squabbled over the poaching of employees. At one point, SpaceX set up an e-mail filter to look for anyone receiving an email with “Blue Origin” in the text, and its employees regularly refer to the competitor simply as “B.O.”, as I wrote in Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future, my biography of Musk. The SpaceX CEO has taken exception, as well, to Blue Origin’s attempts to patent the reusable rocket technology, giving rise to one of the more memorable quotations in the Musk canon: “There’s no chance whatsoever of the patent being upheld because there’s five decades of prior art of people who proposed that six ways to Sunday in fiction and nonfiction,” Musk told me for the book. “It’s like Dr Seuss, green eggs, and f**king ham. That’s how many ways it’s been proposed. The issue is doing it and, like, actually creating a rocket that can make that happen.”
Their engineering spats aside, SpaceX and Blue Origin have opened up the potential for incredible advancement in the space industry. The traditional aerospace players had shown almost no interest in pursuing reusable rockets until these upstarts came along. Now every major launch provider has fired up a research project or started talking about reusable rockets again, knowing that they may well need such technology to remain competitive.
The two startups have also proven that billionaires with sci-fi dreams really can compete with government-backed companies blessed with tremendous funding and decades of experience. Previous rich-guy space enthusiasts, such as Andrew Beal, had runs of success but never managed to emerge as real launch competitors. It now looks as if the US, having gone from dominant to becoming utterly uncompetitive in the global launch market, has the two most promising space startups in the world and will perhaps be the leader in the aerospace industry. All thanks to an online bookseller and that PayPal guy.
It's a $200bn industry that prides itself on being rooted. But global warming is forcing wine growers to change.]]> |||
Paris - It's a $200 billion industry that prides itself on being rooted to a particular spot and doing things they way they've always been done. But global warming is forcing the world's wine growers to change.
As a UN conference in Paris next week tries to limit climate change, wine makers from France to Australia are already changing their time-honoured methods, or even uprooting whole vineyards, as long-established weather patterns alter and the temperature rises.
Already, English sparkling white wine and even Nordic reds and whites have claimed shelf space in the specialist stores. But increasingly, many of the more traditional labels may begin to taste different as drier, hotter summers change the properties of their grapes.
Warmer temperatures ripen the grapes faster: the harvest in Bordeaux already takes place about 10 days earlier than in 1980; in Champagne, 15 days; and in Australia, eight.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 1983-2012 is likely to have been the warmest 30-year period of the last 1400 years in the Northern Hemisphere. And while global average temperatures rose 0.7 degrees Celsius (1.3 Fahrenheit) between 1850 and 1986, they are predicted to leap 0.5C in the next 20 years alone.
Faster growth tends to boost the grapes' sugar content, and therefore the alcohol level, and reduce the acidity.
This is generally good news in cool regions such as northern Europe, including Germany and the French regions of Champagne and Val de Loire, although it may subtly change the taste of their wines.
Southern England, the northernmost frontier for vineyards just a generation ago, has seen a rapid expansion since the 1980s thanks to its warmer summers, and especially since 2000, predominantly in sparkling wines that compete with Champagne.
“In some areas they have been making a similar kind of wine for hundreds of years, so I'm sure they will cope - but it is an opportunity for us in England to make a unique kind of wine,” said Sam Lindo, chairman of the UK Vineyards Association.
Not just polar bears
England has long since abdicated the 'northernmost' title. Warmer temperatures and new vines that can resist colder winters are bringing wine production into Nordic countries, although the risk of a soggy summer is still a high one there.
“There is this myth about the cold weather here, the moose and the polar bears,” said Goran Amnegard, from the Blaxsta winery near the Swedish capital Stockholm, which sells as far afield as Hong Kong. “We have had more or less Mediterranean summers.”
But many traditionally warmer regions could do without the extra heat.
Australian winemakers, for instance, are moving south to the island of Tasmania.
Average temperatures in Australia's main wine regions are projected to increase by between 0.3C and 1.7C by 2030, reducing grape quality by between 12 and 57 percent, according to the national science agency, CSIRO.
Treasury Wine Estates, the world's largest standalone wine company, sold its vineyards in the Hunter Valley north of Sydney in 2013, worried that the region would become “hot and dry and expensive”, and bought White Hills in Tasmania.
Some producers in Chile, the world's fourth largest wine exporter, have also moved their vineyards to cooler, wetter climes further south. Others are moving their vines uphill.
Shifting whole vineyards is not so easy, though, for the world's top three producers, France, Italy and Spain.
In France, for instance, half the output is regulated by the “Appellation of Controlled Origin” or AOC system, born in 1935, which defines each label by its “terroir”, or unique soil, climate, and viticulture practices.
Much fine-tuning has already been done, in irrigation, planting density and pruning. But any substantial change, such as changing a grape variety, means applying for a new AOC designation with proof of established quality, a process that takes years.
Too much alcohol
And in warmer regions where sugar levels are already high, the extra alcohol content of the resulting wine could also become a problem.
“If wines are too warm, too alcoholic, it will hold back consumers; one or two glasses and they will stop,” said Nicolas de Saint-Exupery, a producer in the southern French region of Languedoc, seen as vulnerable to global warming.
In these areas, winemakers and scientists are working out ways to reduce alcohol while preserving the flavour. This might mean shading the grapes, changing irrigation practices, or even artificially removing alcohol from finished wine.
The European season also appears more unpredictable than before.
“Changes in the climate used to be sporadic; now every summer is different,” said Fabio Lambruschi, producer of white Vermentino wine in the Italian region of Liguria.
Italy is the world's largest wine producer, and universities and winemakers there are trying to cope with the changes by breeding new vines that are resistant to diseases linked to bad weather.
The industry's collective memory is still traumatised by “phylloxera”, a tiny pest that ravaged vineyards across Europe in the late 19th century.
Although the Great Wine Blight all but wiped out French wine growing, it did eventually recover, and the head of the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV), Jean-Marie Aurand, says his industry is still resourceful.
“We have today other strains and cultivation techniques, so I'm not worried in the short or mid-term,” he said.
The long term may be another question altogether, though. The Paris conference already seems certain to miss, by some distance, its goal of limiting a rise in the global average temperature to 2C above pre-industrial times.
Half that rise has already happened. Another two degrees, says Jean-Marc Touzard, coordinator of a program on wine and climate change at France's INRA research institute, will simply “blow up the French vineyard map”.
Nerine Kahn, who has steered the CCMA for a decade, has decided to step down “to pursue other opportunities”.]]> |||
Johannesburg - The Commission for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration’s (CCMA) director is to step down in December, the labour relations body announced on Friday.
Nerine Kahn, who has steered the CCMA for a decade, has decided to step down “to pursue other opportunities” after two terms, CCMA governing body chairperson Daniel Dube said.
Dube said Kahn leaves a significant leadership gap in the organisation as under her leadership the organisation had grown steadily over the years, “from 14 offices employing 742 staff, to 22 offices, with a staff compliment of 1,342 full and part-time employees”.
He added that during Kahn’s tenure, the organisation had saved over 100,000 jobs since 2010 through its “job saving initiatives, significantly improved processes, expanded accessibility of services and raised key issues across the labour market”.
Kahn said: “It is with a heavy heart that I step down from an organisation that has engrained itself in me; with a cause that it is so worthy – and has been so effective. I am passionate about the labour market and am seeking other opportunities in which to make a difference in South Africa.”
The CCMA as an organisation, under Kahn’s leadership, has received unqualified audit reports since 2006, and Kahn helped the CCMA to establish the Mediation and Collective Bargaining Department in 2007, and also launched the Labour Dispute Resolution Practice Qualification that was “currently underway in five universities.”
“We regret Ms Kahn’s decision not to make herself available for another term, but respect her decision and the positive change she has delivered to the CCMA over the past ten years,” said Dube.
He added that the “South African labour market is indebted to the contribution she has made to society”.
The CCMA would seek to appoint a new Director during 2016, and has appointed its National Senior Commissioner of Legal Services Cameron Morajane as Acting Director until a suitable candidate to replace Kahn has been found.
African News Agency]]>
Alan Schwartz knows how to play a long game - he spent almost 20 years cultivating Pfizer boss Ian Read.]]> |||
London/New York - Alan Schwartz knows how to play a long game.
The executive chairman of boutique investment bank Guggenheim Partners spent almost 20 years cultivating Pfizer boss Ian Read as a client.
His strategy paid off handsomely when Guggenheim was named lead adviser for one of the biggest deals in history - Viagra-maker Pfizer's $160 billion acquisition of Botox-maker Allergan.
Schwartz, 65, had been working with Read since 2013 to find a European-registered company with which US firm Pfizer could combine and shift its headquarters to a country with a lower tax rate, so-called inverting.
But their relationship stretches far further back, to the late 1990s, when Schwartz was a banker at Bear Stearns and Read was an executive working his way up at Pfizer, according to three people who have worked with Schwartz.
Such ties with key executives partly explain why small investment boutiques like Guggenheim can sometimes trump full-service investment banks such as Bank of America for advisory roles on mega-deals.
Getting close to people in business development is very much part of the playbook of Schwartz, who has also spent the last two decades working closely with the likes of Verizon, Walt Disney and Cablevision.
He works with operational managers on a long-term basis - without doing deals - to discuss strategy and cultivate trust, according to the sources. Then, when they reach positions of power and an M&A opportunity comes up, an advisory role is the prize.
Guggenheim, whose partners rarely speak publicly, declined to comment.
The dealmaker was first noticed by Pfizer executives in the late 1990s, when he started presenting them with dossiers of possible takeover targets, according to one of the sources.
In 2000 Pfizer decided to buy Warner Lambert, a company Schwartz was advising. Since then the US company has used Schwartz on many of their deals.
He led negotiations on Pfizer's $15 billion acquisition of Hospira this year, and before that he advised on their $60 billion takeover of Pharmacia in 2003. He also played a key role on the $16.6 billion sale of Pfizer's consumer healthcare unit to Johnson & Johnson in 2006 and helped the firm on the $2.4 billion sale of its Capsugel pill unit in 2011.
The close ties he had cultivated with Pfizer and Read paid off most spectacularly recently when Guggenheim was named lead adviser on the Allergan deal - which ranks as the second-biggest M&A transaction ever.
Schwartz was the last CEO of Bear Stearns before it was sold to JPMorgan Chase in 2008, and the following year he joined Guggenheim, which is based in New York and Chicago.
Wall Street veterans who know Schwartz describe him as a masterful adviser who uses his strategic insight and dealmaking skills, rather than wine-ing and dining, to cultivate company executives.
“He has an ability to immerse himself in the details of a company's business, the competitive landscape and a potential transaction while simultaneously framing these issues in the big picture as a consigliere to CEOs,” said Flexis Capital Managing Partner Louis Friedman, a former Bear Stearns investment banker who worked with Schwartz for years.
Schwartz and other bankers working for Pfizer in its negotiations with Allergan would refer to the merger project as “Pony” in written communications to keep its identity secret, according to one of the sources. His main counterpart on the Allergan side was Steve Frank, co-head of global healthcare investment banking at JPMorgan.
Pfizer's acquisition of Allergan will be financed mostly with Pfizer's stock, so Guggenheim was not handicapped by its limited ability to provide debt financing compared with bigger rivals.
In addition to Guggenheim as top adviser, Goldman Sachs Group, Centerview Partners Holdings and Moelis & Company also advised on the deal.
Although Schwartz's previous attempt at inverting Pfizer had been unsuccessful, it led to him hiring an investment banker, a move that helped cement Guggenheim's relationship with the drugmaker.
Schwartz advised Pfizer last year when it approached Britain's AstraZeneca about a 70-billion-pound ($106 billion) bid, only for it to be snubbed. Also advising Pfizer however was Bank of America’s executive vice chairman of corporate and investment banking, Fares Noujaim, who Schwartz subsequently recruited to Guggenheim.
Noujaim, 52, is a Lebanese-American banker who had moved up through the ranks at Bear Stearns. In 2008, before moving to Bank of America, he was vice chairman of Bear Stearns' board of directors while Schwartz was the bank's CEO.
Noujaim's departure last year cost Bank of America its close relationship with Pfizer as the bank was no longer included in its advisory line-up.
Pfizer and Bank of America declined to comment.
Guggenheim was launched in 1999 by Peter Lawson-Johnston Sr, a great-grandson of gold mining magnate and New York museum founder Solomon Guggenheim. He injected $30 million of family money to fund the firm's operations in investment management, investment banking and insurance services.
But it was only when Schwartz joined that the firm focused on building its advisory business and winning major investment banking assignments. For each deal, Schwartz typically surrounds himself with a team of five to 10 people.
Guggenheim was at the bottom of US M&A league table rankings between 2010 and 2012, but entered the top 10 in 2013 with 17 deals.
The Pfizer deal moves Guggenheim to No. 12 from 18 in the worldwide M&A league table. It ranked 45 this time last year.
Guggenheim and Pfizer's three other advisers will share between $125 million and $150 million in fees on the Allergan deal, according to a separate source familiar with the matter.
“This deal is only the latest step in a series of long-lasting relationships with big corporations that often lead to mega-deals,” said another source close to Guggenheim.