China: Leader in Labor Abuse, Solar Power

Underage, underpaid workers working 15-hour shifts, sexually predatory security guards, hourly pay of just 52 cents per hour after deductions for the canteen food. No talking during work hours, no listening to music, no bathroom breaks. These are just some of the conditions that workers at China’s KYE Systems Corp. plant in Dongguan City have to endure. The factory produces hardware for U.S. companies, including Microsoft, and its work practices have been documented in a report by the National Labor Committee. What would the directors of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation say to all this?
China currently owns 50% of solar energy production capacity. Solar energy is popular because it is clean and abundant. The problem is that it remains expensive. According to recent calculations by the International Energy Agency, power from photovoltaic systems (solar cells) costs $200-600 a megawatt-hour, depending on the efficiency of the installation and the discount rate applied to future output. That compares with $50-70 per MWh for onshore wind power in America, by the IEA’s reckoning, and even lower prices for power from fossil fuels, unless taxes on greenhouse-gas emissions are included. The costs of solar are dropping; in some sunny places it may, in a few years, be possible to get solar electricity as cheaply from a set of panels as from the grid, and later on for solar to compete with conventional ways of putting electricity into the grid. But for the moment there would be no significant market for solar cells were it not for government subsidies.
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People: Piers Fawkes, James Fox, Sly Grice

David Weiner, the New York editor of Huffington Post, recently interviewed the purple one about living and working in New York City – a city he has lived for seven years. The hirsute high-brow waxed lyrical about the change effecting the creative industries they work in; public art; and my plans for the ‘Alleyway of Ideas’. Hopefully Piers’ thatch of hair will prevent his head from becoming too swollen!
Jay Lenstrom, CEO of global marketing services company The Red Peak Group, announced today the appointment of James Fox as Chief Strategic Officer. Based in New York, Fox will lead strategic planning across the company’s client roster. He reports to Lenstrom.

Sly Bailey. Trinity Mirror chief’s pay rises to £1.7m
Sly Bailey (nee Grice), the chief executive of Trinity Mirror, pocketed an overall pay packet of £1.68m in 2009 despite the company reporting a 41% slump in pre-tax profits during the year. Bailey, the highest paid director at Trinity Mirror, netted a basic salary of £736,000 and a cash bonus of £671,000 in the year. Her overall remuneration, including a £248,000 pension contribution, rose to £1.68m, compared to £1.53m the previous year.

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Economy: Corporate America, Gen X, LA Real Estate

After hitting rock bottom during the height of greed, bailouts, and the economic crisis in 2008, the American public’s perceptions of the reputation of corporate America seem to be bouncing back, according to the findings of the 2009 Harris Interactive RQ Study. The percentage of respondents to the study, which measures the reputations of the 60 most visible companies in the US (as determined by Harris Interactive research), who see the state of reputation as “not good” or “terrible” decreased from 88% in 2008 to 81% in 2009. In addition, there was a 50% increase in the number of Americans who said that the state of reputation is “good,” moving from 12% to 18%. This is the first positive improvement in four years.
As a result of recession-shrunk Baby Boomer household wealth, Generations X and Y will fuel the shopping growth needed to spur an economic recovery, according to [pdf] a new study from PriceWaterhouseCoopers and Kantar Retail.GenX in Big Shopping Stage. Baby Boomers (ages 46-64) were largely responsible for the retail spending that fueled the recoveries from the economic recessions of the early 1990s and turn of the century. However, they have now matured to a point where they need to recoup wealth lost during the recession of the past few years in order to save and invest for the future. Therefore, even though Gen X (ages 29-45) is only about 75% the size of the Baby Boom generation, it is one of two demographic age groups that will increase retail spending in the near future. Seventy-one percent of Gen X members have children under the age of 18, and Gen Xers are entering their peak earning years.
Emi Fontana has filled vacant retail stores with art installations, and even used an empty modern house high in the hills above Pasadena to install a site-specific installation by Olafur Eliasson. In L.A.’s Chinatown, Wendy Yao sells a collection of zines, handmade jewelry and records out of a miniscule strip mall, which has led to a variety of unusual temporary venues. Nearby, Mark Allen uses his small storefront as a place for identifying (and eating) edible insects, holding welding classes and orchestrating temporary takeovers of entire museums.
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Icons: Pat Fallon, Ty Montague, Jesus

In recognition of Pat Fallon’s years of hard work helping to build and cultivate the advertising industry in Minnesota, and in honor of his induction into the American Advertising Federation (AAF) Hall of Fame, Mayor R.T. Rybak has proclaimed March 25, 2010 to be ‘Pat Fallon Day’ in the city of Minneapolis.
JWT’s top two North American executives are departing the WPP-owned network to start their own agency. Rosemarie Ryan, JWT’s co-president since 2004, and Ty Montague, its chief creative officer and co-president since 2005, have had both successes and setbacks in their tenure at the shop. They are credited with leading a resurgence of sorts in JWT’s large New York headquarters, which has seen its creative reputation improve and was bolstered by a major influx of Microsoft business beginning in 2008. But the pair also oversaw the virtual shuttering of JWT’s storied Chicago office and the folding of its standalone Detroit operation into WPP’s hybrid “Team Detroit.” In the past year it has also parted ways with key Kellogg’s business and saw its Jet Blue account go into review.
That Kit Kat Jesus fake e-mail in full…

JWT Management Changes (online.wsj.com)
Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak Proclaims Today ‘Pat Fallon Day’ (eon.businesswire.com)
Crowdsourcery (farisyakob.typepad.com)

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People: Dr. Dan Ivankovich

An inspiring story forwarded to me by my good friend Steve Ivankovich (admittedly about his “little” brother) … Dan Ivankovich was profiled by CBS for their “American Spirit” segment.

“His work takes him to Chicago‘s meanest streets. But at seven feet tall, cruising in his 500-horsepower Dodge and wearing black leather — he knows no fear. He may spend some nights playing the blues with his band, but by day, Dan Ivankovich is all business: a bone doctor with a heart as big as his frame. [Dr Dan Ivankovich] has a policy: treat first, charge later. Doing as many as 800 surgeries per year, half of his patients are uninsured.”

Truly inspiring. Watch the video here.

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Beverage: Coke vs “The Road”, RangTang vs Urban Dictionary

    an interesting addition to the Coke Happiness advertising collection. During the filming of the Viggo Mortensen movie The Road (opened quietly last year in the U.S. and then big in the UK), we are told the actors and crew took a a break during filming to create this Coke Happiness commercial. It’s entirely believable too. After all, Coke is just bottled chemicals. There’s no reason it wouldn’t taste “good” even after years inside an old, decrepit vending machine.

    RangTang Vodka Tainted by Slang Definition
    So a new orange- and tangerine-flavored extension from Proximo’s Three Olives brand — which already offers a “citrus” and an “orange” — faced a tough task in trying to find a name that could differentiate it in an overcrowded market. They came up with “RangTang,” described as “a delicious blend of imported English vodka and the bold taste of outrageously juicy oranges and tangerines.” And that sounds tasty enough, if you can get past the “English vodka” bit. The problem for Proximo — which also markets 1800 Tequila — is that RangTang has another, less appealing definition, according to Urban Dictionary (see second, original definition). One so awful, we can’t even think about typing it on this site.

      Viggo Mortensen Will Take David Cronenberg’s ‘Talking Cure’ (cinematical.com)
      Day 42 Drink: Three Olives Rangtang Vodka (lyke2drink.blogspot.com)

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      The Stimulus Appears To Have Worked

      Data Suggests The Stimulus Is Working
      It was exactly one year ago today that Barack Obama signed the $787 billion economic stimulus package, officially known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, into law. With the unemployment rate hovering around 10 percent, the White House continues to battle public perception and Republican attacks that the stimulus plan has been ineffective in creating jobs, and it just released a report reiterating claims it made last month that 2 million jobs have been saved or created.

      U.S. stimulus prevented another Depression: report (ctv.ca)
      Obama Notes What Could Have Been Without Passing Stimulus (gloucestercitynews.net)
      Obama hails stimulus plan success (news.bbc.co.uk)
      Obama Says Stimulus Bill Saved Troubled Economy (abcnews.go.com)
      The Rachel Maddow Show: Duality Bites (videocafe.crooksandliars.com)

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      Haiti: Visa’s Fees

      Visa’s Fees on Charitable Contributions
      As the tragedy in Haiti unfolds, Americans are generously donating millions of dollars to aid organizations. But when Americans donate to charity with their credit cards, the credit card companies are (in some cases) getting rich … keeping 3% of the donation as a “transaction fee”. That percentage is far more than it costs them to process the donation.

      Related:

      Should credit card companies charge for charitable donations (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
      For Haiti, Should Credit Card Companies Waive Processing Fees? (alan.com)
      Be careful when donating to Haitian relief efforts (seattlepi.com)
      Some Card Fees Waived for Haiti Aid (bucks.blogs.nytimes.com)
      The VISA Credit Card Scam: From Now On, Use Your PIN! (pindebit.blogspot.com)

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      Future: Magazines, Agencies

      Berg have been working with Bonnier R&D exploring the future of digital magazines, and creating Mag+. Bonnier publish Popular Science and many other titles.

      Mag+ from Bonnier on Vimeo.

      Agencies have played such a crucial role in helping companies market their products and services for more than a century. Names like McCann Erickson, Young & Rubicam, J. Walter Thompson, Ogilvy, and Saatchi & Saatchi (among others) are practically household names. There’s even a massively popular and critically acclaimed television show capturing life in the golden age of legendary agencies on Madison Avenue. Yet the agency model was built during a time when there were only a handful of channels in which they could push one way messages en masse. Does that model still work in a time when nearly a quarter of online US adults now create content online?
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      Top 10s

      Getting people to interact with others and upload content to a community-driven site enough may sound easy, but engagement doesn’t happen automatically. It takes time and work, and much of the right formula is deduced through trial and error. Here are 10 tips for increasing user engagement that work for news community web sites, but can apply to all types of online user-engagement communities.
      For the first time YouTube are sharing theri official Most Watched lists and some of the fastest-rising search terms on YouTube. “Some moments were big (President Obama’s inauguration), some small (a Minnesota wedding party erupts into dance), some expected (“New Moon”), some surprising (Susan Boyle) — but all of them inspired, entertained and connected millions of people around the world via YouTube.”
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