Items tagged with: industry
HN Discussion: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20122702
Posted by Ygg2 (karma: 3731)
Post stats: Points: 76 - Comments: 30 - 2019-06-07T08:32:53Z
#HackerNews #because #data #industry #left #our #terrified #the #tracking #use
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On this day, 31 May 1831, the Merthyr Tydfil uprising was sparked when bailiffs from the Court of Requests attempted to seize goods from the home of Lewis Lewis, known as Lewsyn yr Heliwr (Lewis the Huntsman).
Lewis refused to let them in, and with his neighbours managed to prevent them from entering his home. The following day a demonstration by ironworkers began ransacking the houses of bailiffs and returning property to the original owners. The rebellion spread and lasted until mid-June.
More info here: https://libcom.org/library/1831-merthyr-tydfil-uprising
#otd #birthday #history #manufacturing and materials #steel #industry #UK #Wales
#job losses #massacres prices #riot #strike #uprisings #capitalism #history
HN Discussion: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20055517
Posted by headalgorithm (karma: 4620)
Post stats: Points: 107 - Comments: 58 - 2019-05-30T20:21:35Z
#HackerNews #almost #cell #down #for #how #industry #phone #qualcomm #shook #the #years
HackerNewsBot debug: Calculated post rank: 90 - Loop: 124 - Rank min: 80 - Author rank: 61
Best #President for the #Environment in 100 Years!
No #President did as much for the #environmental #protection of the #world as #DonaldTrump!
Most #environmentalists think #Obama and other #leftist politicians are good for the #Environment, but the #numbers tell a different story:
The Real Science Behind Keeping A Battery In Good Shape For A Theoretically Unlimited Number Of Charge Cycles.The Battery Industry Has Kept This Secret From You And No Battery Charging Or Rejuvenation Expert Will Tell You This!"
REVEALED:Learn why virtually all battery chargers on the market are actually designed to KILL your batteries and what the chargers actually do need to do in order to give them longer life!
#Battery #charger #BEDINI #LINDEMANN #TECHNOLOGY #SCIENCE #INDUSTRY #LEAD ACID
Förderturm / Winding tower
in Essen, März 2006
Kettenantrieb / Chain drive
Kettenantrieb / Chain drive
Schalter / Switches schaltrelais
Korrosion / Corrosion
Bohrkopf / Drill bit
#Förderturm #Industrie #Zechen #Architektur #Industrieanlagen #Essen #Ruhrgebiet #ZecheZollverein #foto #photo #fotografie #photography
#architecture #industry #industrialfacilities #coalmines
The long read: The ‘Dieselgate’ scandal was suppressed for years – while we should have been driving electric cars
Article word count: 4147
HN Discussion: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19467494
Posted by NeedMoreTea (karma: 5669)
Post stats: Points: 123 - Comments: 81 - 2019-03-22T22:14:37Z
#HackerNews #about #car #diesel #emissions #hid #how #industry #the #truth
John German had not been looking to make a splash when he commissioned an examination of pollution from diesel cars back in 2013. The exam compared what came out of their exhaust pipes, during the lab tests that were required by law, with emissions on the road under real driving conditions. German and his colleagues at the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) in the US just wanted to tie up the last loose ends in a big report, and thought the research would give them something positive to say about diesel. They might even be able to offer tips to Europe from the US’s experience in getting the dirty fuel to run a little cleaner.
But that was not how it turned out. They chose a Volkswagen Jetta as their first test subject, and a VW Passat next. Regulators in California agreed to do the routine certification test for them, and the council hired researchers from West Virginia University to then drive the same cars through cities, along highways and into the mountains, using equipment that tests emissions straight from the cars’ exhausts.
It was clear right away that something was off. At first, German wondered if the cars might be malfunctioning, and he asked if a dashboard light had come on. That didn’t really make sense, though – the cars had just passed the California regulators’ test. His partners thought there might be a problem with their equipment, and they recalibrated it again and again. But the results didn’t change. Nitrogen oxide (NOx) pollution from the Jetta’s tailpipe was 15 times the allowed limit, shooting up to 35 times under some conditions; the Passat varied between five and 20 times the limit. German had been around the auto industry all his life, so he had a pretty good idea what was going on. This had to be a “defeat device” – a deliberate effort to evade the rules.
“It was just so outrageous. If they were like three to five times the standards, you could say: ‘Oh, maybe they’re having much higher NOx emissions because of the high loads,’” or some other external factor. “But when it’s 15 to 30 times the standards, there is no other explanation,” he says. “It’s a malfunction or it’s a defeat device. There’s nothing else that could possibly get anywhere close.”
German wasn’t ready to level such a serious accusation against a huge company such as Volkswagen, so he kept quiet while the research moved forward. Much later, his boss was surprised to learn how early he had suspected the truth. “He said: ‘You knew there was a defeat device? Why didn’t you tell me?’” The answer was simple. “We’re an $8m organisation. VW could have squashed us like a bug.”
German and his colleagues pressed ahead with their work and, when the study was finished, they posted it online. That was May 2014. He was still nervous, so the council didn’t issue a press release, nor did the report name the manufacturer. As a courtesy, he sent a copy to someone he knew at Volkswagen, noting “by the way, Vehicles A and B are yours”. German’s group also forwarded the findings to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and California’s Air Resources Board (Carb). “We were definitely scared. We wanted EPA and Carb to take over.” After the results were posted, he would email the agencies now and then. No one replied, and having spent more than 13 years at the EPA himself, he knew what that meant.
The regulators were investigating. And while they struggled to determine what was causing the discrepancy between pollution in the lab and on the road, Volkswagen executives quietly debated their next move. After months of foot-dragging, Volkswagen promised to remedy the problem, which it blamed on a technical glitch. It began recalling cars, updating the software in hundreds of thousands of them.
Months later, California ran new tests. Emissions were still far over the limit. Now regulators wanted to see the software controlling the vehicles’ pollution systems. And they made an extraordinary threat to get it: if Volkswagen did not turn over the code, it would not get the approvals it needed to sell cars in California and a dozen states that used its standards. The EPA threatened to withhold certification for the entire US market. “That,” German says, “was when VW came clean.”
Dieselgate, as it became known, exploded into one of the biggest corporate scandals in history. Over almost a decade, Volkswagen acknowledged, it had embedded defeat devices in 11m cars, mostly in Europe, but about 600,000 in the US. The software detected when emissions tests were being run, and pollution controls – components inside the engine that reduce emissions, sometimes at the expense of performance or fuel consumption – worked fine under those circumstances. But outside the lab, the controls were switched off or turned way down, and NOx levels shot up as high as 40 times the legal limit. With mind-boggling gall, Volkswagen had even used the software update it was forced to carry out to improve cars’ ability to detect when they were being tested.
And, as it turned out, Volkswagen wasn’t the only one evading the law. Less flagrantly, but to similar effect, the vast majority of diesel cars were making a mockery of emissions rules. In the wake of the revelations in the US, European governments road-tested other big brands too. In Germany, testers found all but three of 53 models exceeded NOx limits, the worst by a factor of 18. In London, the testing firm Emissions Analytics found 97% of more than 250 diesel models were in violation; a quarter produced NOx at six times the limit. “As the data kept coming in, our jaws just kept dropping. Because it is just so systematic, and so widespread,” German says. “VW isn’t even in the worst half of the manufacturers.” With a few honourable exceptions, “everybody’s doing it”.
In the US, where only around 2% of cars are diesel, the rule-breaking had an impact. But the health consequences have been far more severe in Europe, where drivers had been encouraged for years to buy diesel cars – when the scandal broke, they accounted for more than half of all sales. In 2015 alone, one study found that failure to comply with the rules caused 6,800 early deaths. To put it more plainly, tens of thousands of people had died because carmakers felt so free, for so long, to flout the law.
Of course, the painful light cast by the scandal didn’t just expose corporate wrongdoing. It also made visible a failure that is just as distressing. Across Europe, including in Britain, governments responsible for enforcing the law and protecting their people’s health had utterly neglected to do so. The fact of the matter, German explained to me, is that European air quality regulators don’t have the muscle or the resources their US counterparts have long possessed. European countries have never built the enforcement capability needed to give teeth to pollution rules. Governments, he says, “don’t seem to be able to do anything about it, in most cases don’t even seem to want to do anything”.
Air pollution hanging over London.
Air pollution hanging over London. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA
While the US is, in so many ways, an environmental laggard compared to Europe, air quality is a glaring exception. The EPA has, over the years, built up tremendous legal and technical expertise. At least until its evisceration in the Trump years, the EPA was known for its diligence in supplementing regulations with circulars and advisories that precisely defined every term, clarifying ambiguities and laying out what was allowed and what was not. The result was a system that, if not watertight, was a lot less leaky than elsewhere. In Europe, while the rules might look similar, no one goes to the trouble of making clear exactly what they mean, so polluters provide their own interpretations. Its atrocious air offers a cautionary tale that those undermining US regulation would do well to heed.
I have lived in London for 18 years, breathing the diesel fumes that foul the city’s air. I can smell the emissions when I’m out running errands. After a few minutes on a busy road, I often have a mild headache. German has given me a full understanding of the pollution that has obsessed and infuriated and terrified me all this time. I see now that blame does not lie just with the misguided, turn-of-the-century decision to nudge drivers toward diesel. Nor only with car companies’ rule-breaking. The failure of so many governments to enforce the law is the missing third piece of this puzzle. What I understand now is that the people we entrusted with the power to protect us essentially decided not to bother. Instead, they have allowed carmakers to spew whatever they want into our air.
That, at bottom, is the explanation for the filth that leaves grit on my teeth and a sour taste in my mouth, and puts me and my family and my neighbours at risk of heart trouble, dementia and early death in many forms. Together, the mistake and the cheating and the negligence are why the streets we walk every day in London are fouled by noxious fumes.
How could this have happened in countries that are among the wealthiest in the world, on a continent whose name is a byword, elsewhere, for environmental progressivism? Not long after meeting John German, I was in Berlin at the European office of the ICCT – the US arm of which German works for – to see his colleague Peter Mock.
As Mock spoke, I began to absorb the particulars of Europe’s stunning failure. It starts with an enforcement structure that almost seems designed to let violators through. The European commission sets the rules on how much pollution a car is allowed to produce. But the job of enforcing them falls not to Brussels, but to national governments. And a car company preparing to release a new model can choose which country certifies it; every EU nation must then honour the approval. A savvy carmaker opts for a place where it provides lots of jobs, where officials are likely to be pliant.
The national enforcement agencies, for their part, are generally understaffed, poorly funded and lacking in technical expertise. Britain is an exception, but in most nations these weak agencies don’t even test cars themselves. About a dozen individual vehicles must be checked before a new model is approved, and the tests are often run by outside contractors. When they are done, the manufacturers hand the paperwork to regulators, and the results, says Mock, are usually accepted with little question.
What’s more, the specifics of the tests – speed, acceleration and so on – are publicly available. So a manufacturer can build its cars to produce little pollution under those particular conditions and a lot more the rest of the time. This is the key to a question that has been nagging at me. I know that many diesel brands, not just Volkswagens, shatter emissions limits. Yet most companies don’t have VW’s legal troubles.
There is another route those companies take: programming pollution controls to turn off when the weather is too hot or too cold, when a car is just being started or is speeding up or slowing down or climbing a hill – conditions they frame as extraordinary, but account for a big chunk of driving time. If challenged, the companies can cite a legal loophole, claiming the switching off is necessary to protect engines.
An air pollution warning in London last year.
An air pollution warning in London last year. Photograph: Guy Bell/Alamy
Now, at last, European regulators have begun requiring cars to be tested on the road, not just in the lab. But the real problem, to my mind, is even bigger: it seems clear that the flaws in European nations’ enforcement are more fundamental than the particulars of one testing method. The problem is the system itself, which is riddled with weakness and ripe for abuse. Politicians have begun, post-Dieselgate, to tighten it, but it remains a system designed under the gaze – and the lobbying pressure – of a powerful industry.
I learned to my astonishment that some in power knew about the consequences all along. I spoke by phone to Martin Schmied, an official at Germany’s federal environment agency. His department, he told me, had been taking cars on the road for 25 years to measure emissions – and publishing the results. Year after year, they found diesels producing NOx above the legal maximum; six times, in one recent test. I asked him to clarify: Germany’s government, and anyone who read its public reports, has known for decades that automakers were flouting the rules? Schmied responded that as long as emissions went down when limits were tightened, his department didn’t mind they were many times higher than allowed. “We publish this data,” he said. “In principle, this is nothing new.”
So Germany knew. Perhaps other governments did, too. Many of its people, though, did not. I certainly didn’t. Nor did the buyers of millions of diesel cars. Nor the hundreds of millions of people who breathe the air they taint, trusting for so long that companies were following the law – and that governments would catch them if they didn’t. David King, Tony Blair’s scientific adviser, told me he gave his support to the tax changes that would put so many diesel cars on to British roads because he believed they would meet emissions limits.
The diesel cheating scandal is in some sense a failure of innovation – yet another symptom of carmakers’ desire to stick with what they know, with the cars that reliably deliver profits. That caution is surely at the root of why European manufacturers pushed governments looking to shrink carbon footprints to turn to diesel, rather than, for example, hybrids such as those that Honda and Toyota had already put on roads by the late 1990s. With their vast resources and the marketing muscle to bring consumers along, who knows what Volkswagen and the others could have come up with. We have all paid the price for their decision not to try.
Today, glimmers of a different future are in sight, as electric cars begin moving from niche to mainstream. There are challenges, to be sure: the need for better batteries, more charging points and enough power to keep cars supplied. But those are obstacles that can be overcome and the technology is advancing quickly.
The stakes are higher than ever. Today’s cars – petrol, if not diesel – are, by some measures, 99% cleaner than the barely regulated ones of 1970. But while governments have taken aim at the pollutants that harm our bodies, they have hardly begun to target the one that is warming our planet: until recently, no auto regulation sought to reduce carbon dioxide. So it has climbed along with the number of cars on the road, the miles they drive and the gallons of fuel they burn.
Today, electric vehicles look like the best way to slash both sorts of pollution, another place where the goals of a healthy climate and healthy bodies converge. Electricity by itself is no guarantee of climate friendliness. But it is a necessary prerequisite to powering cars from clean sources such as wind and solar.
Electric cars are not a cure-all. While they don’t create exhaust emissions, their brakes and tyres give off tiny, toxic particles as they wear. The energy needed to manufacture them, and the raw materials used in their bodies and batteries, will be unsustainable if car ownership keeps increasing.
For now, that relentless rise frames everything. The number of vehicles in the US has more than tripled since 1960; in the UK, there is one car for every two people. And the biggest growth is now in developing nations such as India and China. If they follow the path we have taken, the world could go from about 1bn cars today to more than 3bn by 2050. What is really needed is not just a slowing of that growth, but fewer cars altogether, of any sort. It is a goal that is reachable if we reorganise the places we live to be denser, more pedestrian- and bike-friendly, with public transportation – and newer options such as car-sharing – that are convenient and affordable.
Still, cleaning up the vehicles we do drive is crucial. As in the past, the best hope comes from companies willing to put in the money and brainpower needed to do it. And, as ever, a lot of powerful players are deeply invested in the old ways of doing things, so progress has sometimes been grudging.
But this time, there are some important new forces at work. One of the biggest is China. The country’s leaders have recognised the urgency of confronting their pollution problem, and they are eager to dominate the industries needed to do so, electric cars very much included.
China’s hunger for clean cars – along with its willingness to put big money into its top priorities – is transforming the sector in ways likely to affect us all. It is by far the world’s largest market for cars, and its demand for electric ones is ramping up fast, so it is now the biggest buyer of those, too. The government is aiming to get millions more on to roads, offering rebates to drivers who buy electric and telling big multinational carmakers that if they want to do business in China, they have to hit ambitious targets for low- and zero-emission models. That aggressive push is sure to accelerate trends that are already underway globally: falling prices and advancing technology, particularly better batteries that increase range and charging speed.
In the US, California is out in front, pushing to get millions of zero-emissions cars on to roads. Norway is another leader, and Europe more broadly is also taking to electric cars – because of drivers’ anger over the diesel scandal, a wider understanding of air pollution’s threats, and the need to confront climate change.
It feels fitting that, to get a glimpse of a cleaner future, I must barrel down a highway crowded, at the tail end of a northern California rush hour, with the gas-guzzling SUVs and big diesel trucks of the present. I was headed to Tesla’s factory in Fremont, on the edge of Silicon Valley. Indeed, it feels inside as much like a tech operation as a traditional manufacturing one, not post-industrial, but post-fossil fuel, post-dirty. The vast building, a mile-and-a-quarter long, is surrounded by acres of parking. I’ve been warned to allow at least 15 minutes to find a spot – which proves a wise suggestion – and except for a few plug-ins at the front, nearly all the cars here are the traditional kind.
Inside, a clutch of Tesla enthusiasts had gathered for this morning’s tour. As our guide, Kim, in black slacks and T-shirt, her grey hair long and loose, led us toward the factory floor, she began a well-practised patter, mixing facts and figures with jokes and shout-outs to fellow Tesla owners. Her enthusiasm seemed genuine. “Each and every day you drive your Tesla, each and every mile, you are helping to save the world,” she told us.
In a small demonstration area, Kim passed around some of the materials used to make these vehicles. First came a small cylindrical battery, the size of two or three AAs; about 7,000 of them, she explained, are packed together into the pale green, flat-bottomed case that formed the undercarriage of a nearby display car. Next came a metal ingot, then a tub of black plastic beads that reminded me of the more colourful ones my artsy daughter arranges into heart and star shapes for me to melt together with an iron. When we climbed into a long trolley, Kim put on a headset and got behind the wheel.
As Kim drove and talked, I gazed at a sea of metal parts, stacked on shelves in rows hundreds of feet long. Some were recognisable as wings or doors; others had shapes whose meaning I couldn’t discern.
A Tesla Model S being assembled by robots in Fremont, California.
A Tesla Model S being assembled by robots in Fremont, California. Photograph: The Washington Post/Getty Images
A press as big as a small building turned giant rolls of aluminium into body panels; Kim said its foundation extends three stories down. Several workers were inspecting pieces as they emerged on a conveyor belt. At many stations, no one was present – just red robotic arms, quietly sliding back and forth, up and down, spinning and turning and lifting, riveting and welding. But while the employees were scattered, there were quite a lot of them, all told. Many sat or stood at computers in office-like clusters of desks and tables that opened on to the larger work floor. We passed a cafeteria with a salad bar and coffee counter; it was open to the factory floor, and it was filled with workers chatting and eating.
As we drove on, I began to see the shells of cars, scores of them lined up in rows. In the “hang-on area”, doors were being installed and seats were stacked nearby. Tyres, too, then more car bodies, freshly painted ones. As Kim bade us farewell (“Hopefully I showed a lot of the magic and the mystery around your car,” she said), I finally realised what was missing – the part I hadn’t seen, one so familiar it has taken me until now to clock its absence. There are no exhaust pipes on these cars.
Tesla – with its sleek style and big ambitions, its well-publicised troubles, and a CEO, Elon Musk, who one columnist called “the id of tech” – has taken on outsized symbolism as the representative of an industry hoping to jump from its infancy straight into adolescence and beyond. Its cars drive smoothly, require little maintenance and are replete with clever touches such as door handles that pop out when a driver approaches and large touchscreens in place of old-fashioned dashboard controls. Teslas’ desirability and the hype around its cars spring from buyers’ belief that they offer not just a replacement for traditional cars, but something far superior. The company has struggled to manufacture fast enough to fulfill promises to customers, and financial problems at times have made its future look cloudy. But it has clearly succeeded in providing a proof of concept, settling once and for all the question of whether electric cars can be both reliable and elegant, or able to give drivers what they need and what they want. In doing so, it has prodded others to follow. And in the big picture, that matters far more than the fortunes of this one company.
Musk is a brash South African immigrant who, in many ways, epitomises what the US has always imagined itself to be: daring and hard-driving, ready to dream big and take risks. He is sometimes compared with Apple’s Steve Jobs, but, with typical tech-world self-belief, Musk sees his mission as loftier than making beautiful gadgets – he wants to put technology to work solving humanity’s most pressing problems. He has made more progress than many expected. SolarCity is his bid to expand clean power use, Powerwall his push for the batteries that make renewables reliable. With Tesla, he wants to remake transportation, and he bet – correctly – that he could beat a vast but moribund industry to it.
Walking out of the factory, I saw an oversized US flag billowing in the distance. Right beside it, another banner bore the oil giant Chevron’s familiar red-and-blue logo. You don’t have to look far from Tesla’s bubble to see the fossil-fuel economy is still going strong. And in case I needed another reminder that electric cars are still a tiny speck in a huge gas- and diesel-powered sea, a truck carrying half a dozen shiny Teslas pulled up behind me as I headed toward the highway. Despite its cargo, the truck was the traditional sort, dirty and lumbering, almost certainly diesel.
So there is a long way to go before technology fulfills its promise on a scale big enough to matter. But Tesla, and others taking up the gauntlet it has thrown down, offer a peek at what is possible. Less important than whether that future is delivered by Silicon Valley or Detroit, Beijing or Wolfsburg is that it dawns quickly. Innovation today offers the hope of a revolution that finally takes us where we need to go.
This an edited extract from Choked: The Age of Air Pollution and the Fight for a Cleaner Future by Beth Gardiner, published by Granta on 4 April and available at guardianbookshop.com
• Follow the Long Read on Twitter at @gdnlongread, or sign up to the long read weekly email here.
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Kehrräder am Fördergerüst / Winding wheel on the winding tower
an der ehemaligen Schachtanlage Zeche Friedrich-Heinrich Schacht 3 in Kamp-Lintfort, März 2012
Fördergerüst und Förderturm / Winding towers an der ehemaligen Zeche Friedrich-Heinrich in Kamp-Lintfort
#Förderturm #Industrie #Zechen #Architektur #Fördertürme #KreisWesel #Niederrhein #KampLintfort #foto #photo #fotografie #photography
#architecture #buildings #towers #windingtowers #industry #coalmines
In an article titled "Sugar Industry and Coronary Heart Disease Research: A Historical Analysis of Internal Industry Documents,"authors Stanton Glantz, Laura Schmidt, and Cristin Kearns expose how sugar industry execs buried the truth about the risks of sugar consumption in an effort to push their product on an unsuspecting public.
#Sugar Papers #Industry #Plot #Fat #Heart #Disease #health #hazard #Coronary #CONSPIRACY #MANIPULATION
Schaltkasten mit heraushängenden Drähten an einem Kranmotor / Switch box with hanging out wires from a crane motor
im Landschaftspark Nord in Meiderich (Duisburg), März 2013
Sonne hinter Kranbrücke / Sun behind overhead crane
Rostige Stahloberfläche / Rusty steel surface
#Industrie #Meiderich #Architektur #Industrieanlagen #Ruhrgebiet #LandschaftsparkNord #Duisburg #foto #photo #fotografie #photography
#architecture #industry #industrialfacilities
#triton #security #software #malware #computer #industry #science technology
#Wireless #Industry #5G #health #safety #science #technology #medicine congress #USA
Charles Dahan was a leading supplier of frames to LensCrafters, before the company was purchased by Luxottica. Glasses that cost him $20 to make would be sold for five times that amount.
Article word count: 1157
HN Discussion: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19312499
Posted by ilamont (karma: 25065)
Post stats: Points: 180 - Comments: 165 - 2019-03-05T17:56:23Z
#HackerNews #all #are #badly #being #execs #eyewear #former #how #industry #off #ripped #tell
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Charles Dahan knows from first-hand experience how badly people get ripped off when buying eyeglasses.
He was once one of the leading suppliers of frames to LensCrafters, before the company was purchased by optical behemoth Luxottica. He also built machines that improved the lens-manufacturing process.
In other words, Dahan, 70, knows the eyewear business from start to finish. And he doesn’t like what’s happened.
“There is no competition in the industry, not any more,” he told me. “Luxottica bought everyone. They set whatever prices they please.”
Dahan, who lives in Potomac, Md., was responding to a column I recently wrote about why consumer prices for frames and lenses are so astronomically high, with markups often approaching 1,000%.
I noted that if you wear designer glasses, there’s a very good chance you’re wearing Luxottica frames.
The company’s owned and licensed brands include Armani, Brooks Brothers, Burberry, Chanel, Coach, DKNY, Dolce & Gabbana, Michael Kors, Oakley, Oliver Peoples, Persol, Polo Ralph Lauren, Ray-Ban, Tiffany, Valentino, Vogue and Versace.
Along with LensCrafters, Luxottica also runs Pearle Vision, Sears Optical, Sunglass Hut and Target Optical, as well as the insurer EyeMed Vision Care.
And Italy’s Luxottica now casts an even longer shadow over the eyewear industry after merging last fall with France’s Essilor, the world’s leading maker of prescription eyeglass lenses and contact lenses. The combined entity is called EssilorLuxottica.
Just so you know up front, I reached out to both Luxottica and its parent company with what Dahan told me. I asked if they’d like to respond to his specific points or to speak generally about optical pricing.
Neither company responded, which was the same response I received the last time I contacted them.
Apparently EssilorLuxottica feels no need to defend its business practices. Or it understands that no reasonable defense is possible.
Dahan, a chemical engineer by training, established a company called Custom Optical in 1977 after designing a machine capable of making prescription lenses appear thinner.
In short order he also was designing plastic and metal frames, and proposed to LensCrafters in 1985 that he supply the then-independent company.
“They bought my lens machines, and soon I was selling them a few models of frames,” Dahan said. “Those were successful, so they kept buying more.”
Eventually, he said, his company was supplying LensCrafters with about 20% of its frames. “They called me their crown jewel,” Dahan said.
E. Dean Butler, the founder of LensCrafters, remembers Dahan as “a real go-getter.”
“He was a key supplier — good product at reasonable prices,” Butler, 74, said in a phone interview from Berlin, where he was meeting with optical-industry contacts.
He’s no longer affiliated with LensCrafters. These days he’s based in England, but serves as a consultant to optical businesses worldwide.
Both Butler and Dahan acknowledged what most consumers have long suspected: that the prices we pay for eyewear in no way reflect the actual cost of making frames and lenses.
When he was in the business, in the 1980s and ’90s, Dahan said it cost him between $10 and $16 to manufacture a pair of quality plastic or metal frames.
Lenses, he said, might cost about $5 a pair to produce. With fancy coatings, that could boost the price all the way to $15.
He said LensCrafters would turn around and charge $99 for completed glasses that cost $20 or $30 to make — and this was well below what many independent opticians charged. Nowadays, he said, those same glasses at LensCrafters might cost hundreds of dollars.
Butler said he recently visited factories in China where many glasses for the U.S. market are manufactured. Improved technology has made prices even lower than what Dahan recalled.
“You can get amazingly good frames, with a Warby Parker level of quality, for $4 to $8,” Butler said. “For $15, you can get designer-quality frames, like what you’d get from Prada.”
And lenses? “You can buy absolutely first-quality lenses for $1.25 apiece,” Butler said.
Yet those same frames and lenses might sell in the United States for $800.
Butler laughed. “I know,” he said. “It’s ridiculous. It’s a complete rip-off.”
In 1995, Luxottica purchased LensCrafters’ parent company, U.S. Shoe Corp., for $1.4 billion. The goal wasn’t to get into the shoe business. It was to take control of LensCrafters’ hundreds of stores nationwide.
Dahan said things went downhill for him after that. Luxottica increasingly emphasized its own frames over those of outside suppliers, he said, and Custom Optical’s sales plunged. Dahan was forced to close his business in 2001.
“It wasn’t just me,” he said. “It happened to a lot of companies. Look at Oakley.”
Indeed, the California maker of premium sunglasses was embraced by skiers and other outdoorsy types after it released its first sunglasses in 1984.
It raised $230 million with an initial public offering of stock in 1995. It’s biggest customer by far was Sunglass Hut, which, like LensCrafters, had stores in malls across the country.
Luxottica purchased Sunglass Hut in early 2001. It promptly told Oakley it wanted to pay significantly lower wholesale prices or it would reduce its orders and push its own brands instead.
Within months, Oakley acknowledged to shareholders that the talks hadn’t gone well and that Luxottica was slashing its orders.
“We have made every reasonable effort to establish a mutually beneficial business partnership with Luxottica, but it is clear from this weekʼs surprising actions that our efforts have been ignored,” Oakley’s management said in a statement at the time.
The company’s stock immediately lost more than a third of its value.
Luxottica acquired Oakley a few years later, adding it to Ray-Ban, which Luxottica obtained in 1999.
“That’s how they gained control of so many brands,” Dahan said. “If you don’t do what they want, they cut you off.”
Again, no one at Luxottica responded to my request for comment.
As I’ve previously observed, online glasses sales hold potential for pushing retail eyewear prices lower, but the e-glasses industry still has a ways to go before posing a threat to the likes of EssilorLuxottica.
It can be a challenge buying something so central to one’s appearance without first trying it on or receiving hands-on help with fitting.
In the meantime, Dahan and Butler told me, federal authorities should step up and prevent price gouging for eyewear — just as they’ve done with other healthcare products, such as EpiPens.
“Federal officials fell asleep at the wheel,” Dahan said. “They should never have allowed all these companies to roll into one. It destroyed competition.”
Butler said it should be clear from EssilorLuxottica’s practices that the company has too much market power. “If that’s not a monopoly,” he said, “I don’t know what is.”
I couldn’t agree more. Regulators are currently wringing their hands over further consolidation in the wireless industry, with a proposed merger between Sprint and T-Mobile raising the prospect of just three major carriers.
The eyewear market is in considerably worse shape.
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American tariffs, a Chinese slowdown and a hard Brexit could hammer an industry vital to the country's economy just as tens of billions are needed for electric and self-driving cars.
Article word count: 1216
HN Discussion: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19287151
Posted by lawrenceyan (karma: 1421)
Post stats: Points: 85 - Comments: 86 - 2019-03-02T02:42:28Z
#HackerNews #car #faces #germanys #industry #perfect #storm
Send water wings.
If you believe the story it tells about itself, the German car industry is marching confidently into the future, developing exciting new all-electric vehicles, leaving the dirty days of diesel behind.
In reality, the industry is facing its biggest crisis in decades. A Chinese slowdown, a hard Brexit, possible US tariffs, and massive technological challenges could become a perfect storm engulfing Volkswagen, BMW and Daimler, the maker of Mercedes-Benz luxury cars. Since car manufacturing is crucial to the economy, this could be very bad news for the country as a whole.
The car industry was thumped hard by Dieselgate, which first came to light in September 2015. The scandal, which centered on Volkswagen, revealed wholesale falsification of emissions data. Ultimately, it would lead to billions of euros in fines and compensation, criminal trials for senior executives, and massive reputational damage, but act as little more than a hiccup. The story continued to be one of record sales, record margins and record profits, driven above all by robust Chinese demand.
And Volkswagen, BMW and Daimler have been turning a blind eye to the changing realities of the industry, not least the impending demise of diesel.
Things changed rapidly in mid-2018. The German industry was hit by slump in sales in the third and fourth quarters of last year.
Worse, these clouds are gathering just when the industry must find huge sums to invest in new technology, if it is not to be overrun by competition from Silicon Valley and upstart Chinese manufacturers.
Daimler has already cut dividends, BMW has issued profit warnings for the first time in many years, while Audi is cutting production and firing 10 percent of managerial staff. The shares of all three big German carmakers now trade below book value, meaning markets expect them to burn through capital in the coming years.
The most immediate threat comes in the form of growing protectionism. In the last decades, Germany’s car industry has gone global, in terms of production as well as sales. BMW now has some three dozen factories on four continents. The company doubled its revenues in the last 10 years, but at the price of increased vulnerability.
Donald Trump’s arrival in the White House turned the tide of free trade: He cancelled negotiations on new trade agreements and threatened to launch trade wars with both China and Europe. For a firm like BMW, which makes SUVs in the US to sell in China and in Europe, this could disrupt their entire business model. China’s 40 percent retaliatory tariffs on US car imports has already cost the Bavarian company €300 million ($340 million).
The US president now has 90 days to decide whether to impose 25 percent tariffs – up from 2.5 percent – on automotive imports to the United States. No one knows if Trump’s threats are just a ploy to force trade concessions from the European Union. But they have the potential to cost carmakers billions of dollars.
Add to this the increasing possibility of Britain crashing out of the EU without a trade deal. Overnight, a hard Brexit could impose trade barriers with Germany’s fourth-largest market for cars. Automakers also have important investments in Britain: BMW owns both Mini and Rolls Royce.
Just as worrying is the slowdown in the Chinese market: new car sales shrank there by 2.8 percent last year. Volkswagen predicted 4 percent growth in Chinese sales in 2018; it ultimately managed 0.5 percent. With overall Chinese economic growth lower than it has been in decades, 2019 is unlikely to see much recovery.
This is very serious for an industry – and the entire German economy – which has grown fat on exports to China. Herbert Diess, VW CEO, was not exaggerating when he said recently that “the fate of the Volkswagen Group depends on China.” With this in mind, VW is doubling down on its involvement in China, investing heavily in R&D and in local technology partnerships.
Technology may prove another stumbling block in China. Last year, the country imposed quotas on carmakers, requiring them to sell a percentage of hybrid and all-electric vehicles, or face heavy fines. Domestic manufacturers may be in a better position to fulfil the huge Chinese demand for all-electric cars.
This is perhaps the most daunting challenge of all for the industry. Germany’s car giants bet so heavily on diesel – helped in part by falsified emissions data – that they failed to grasp the changes on the horizon. Now manufacturers are rushing to convert their fleets to hybrid and all-electric models.
But the promised all-new electric models – among them the Audi E-Tron and Daimlerʼs EQ series – will not reach showrooms for months, if not years. Even then, most new offerings will be hybrid models, combining electric and combustion engines. There will no newly-designed, all-electric Mercedes on sale until late 2021. BMW is pinning its hopes on the all-electric i4 sedan, but this too will not enter production until 2021.
For the moment, Germany has been soundly beaten in technology. Experts say Tesla is two or three years ahead of its German rivals in engineering innovation. Sales reflect this difference: in the United States, the California firm is outselling all its rivals combined in electric cars. In the luxury class, Tesla even outsells combustion-engine series like the BMW 7-series, the Mercedes S-class and the Porsche Cayenne.
Raise at least €100 billion
Tesla is not the only threat to come out of California. Tech giants like Uber, Apple and Google are investing massively in the development of self-driving cars. Google subsidiary Waymo alone may have as much as $40 billion to invest in autonomous vehicle technology.
Now realizing the danger, Germany’s automotive giants are gearing up to invest huge sums in developing electric and self-driving cars, probably around €40 billion in the next three years. Volkswagen’s four-year budget for electric vehicles amounts to around €30 billion. VW CEO Diess says the transformation of the industry could cost German firms around €100 billion.
The sums involved are so enormous that carmakers – even diehard rivals – have been forced into new forms of cooperation. Volkswagen sources say the company has even contemplated a partnership with its great Japanese rival Toyota. The company already has a wide-ranging alliance with Ford to develop electric and self-driving technologies, which could ultimately see Ford e-cars using a Volkswagen platform.
The urgency of the situation has even led BMW and Daimler into close collaboration. On Friday, the two firms are expected to announce a new joint venture in mobility services. They already have already merged their car-sharing subsidiaries.
The German giants are also changing their corporate structures, trying to become leaner, less hierarchical and more flexible. Volkswagen will soon float its bus and truck division, possibly raising as much as €20 billion. Daimler will convert to a holding company structure, with the possibility of demergers in the years to come.
Germany’s car industry has at last awoken to the urgency of the situation, placing its bets on new products, new structures and enormous technological investment. But with economic and geopolitical risks increasing, this may not be enough to save it from a perfect storm.
Markus Fasse covers the automotive and aviation industryʼs from Handelsblattʼs Munich office. Other Handelsblatt staff contributed to this article, which was adapted by Brían Hanrahan into English for Handelsblatt Today. To contact the authors: [email protected]
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Microstructural and Thermo-Physical Characterization of a Water Hyacinth Petiole for Thermal Insulation Particle Board Manufacture.
#Thermo #Physical #Microstructural #Water Hyacinth #Petiole #Thermal #Insulation #Particle Board
#INDUSTRY #TECHNOLOGY #NATURAL #LOW TECH #SCIENCE #BIOLOGY #MATERIALS #ARCHITECTURE
Some thoughts on entry points to web development today, and my fears about the loss of something that has enabled so many people without a traditional computer science background to be here.
HN Discussion: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19106922
Posted by antibland (karma: 96)
Post stats: Points: 150 - Comments: 77 - 2019-02-07T17:57:04Z
\#HackerNews #and #css #entry #html #industry #our #points #vanishing
Published on the 30 January 2019 in css, web and tagged .
These arguments about tools, frameworks and technologies happen throughout the stack. I have watched them go round and round during the 20 years I’ve been working on the front and backend of the web. The de facto standard technology has limitations, we hit up against problems, we want to solve the problems. So often, we decide to solve the problems by throwing everything away. The old stuff is terrible, invented when we knew no better! We can do a far better job now, with all of our knowledge. Let’s reinvent that wheel!
We see it in the world of data storage, people will do anything to avoid a relational database, despite the fact that a relational database is very often what you actually need.
We see it with a drive to static sites, conflating speed with the lack of a database, and ending up recreating the database in the filesystem or relying on a raft of third party services to plug the holes that would have been filled by a more traditional CMS.
In both of the above scenarios, there are situations where the RDBMS alternative is the right choice, the static site perfect for the type of content being published. These are good solutions for particular problems. However I’ve seen many situations where the desire to adopt the latest technology or technique leaves the project in a mess, and ultimately an expensive rebuild or refactor has to be made.
This constant wheel reinvention is something we seem to be wired to do. We can be optimistic and hope that good things fall out of it, but so often what is left is a mess. Teams find themselves with projects that no-one has the skills to fix, due to them being based on a toolchain that only a few people understand how to use. Businesses are handed websites by external agencies, using a technology that quickly falls out of favour, and when they want an update the next contractor looks at it, and suggests a rebuild.
However, when it comes to frameworks and approaches which build complexity around writing HTML and CSS, there is something deeper and more worrying than a company having to throw away a couple of years of work and rebuild because they can’t support a poorly chosen framework.
When we talk about HTML and CSS these discussions impact the entry point into this profession. Whether front or backend, many of us without a computer science background are here because of the ease of starting to write HTML and CSS. The magic of seeing our code do stuff on a real live webpage! We have already lost many of the entry points that we had. We don’t have the forums of parents teaching each other HTML and CSS, in order to make a family album. Those people now use Facebook, or perhaps run a blog on wordpress.com or SquareSpace with a standard template. We don’t have people customising their MySpace profile, or learning HTML via Neopets. We don’t have the people, usually women, entering the industry because they needed to learn HTML during that period when an organisation’s website was deemed part of the duties of the administrator.
As this amazing thread highlights, the entry point more recently for non-traditionally educated people has been the bootcamps. They are typically teaching a framework-heavy style of development which gets students as quickly as possible up to speed with the technologies most likely to get them a job. However, I see from the questions I get from those who have been through that type of training, the basics are often glossed over at best. If those new recruits then head into an environment where those gaps are never filled, or worse one where HTML and CSS is devalued and rubbished, we do them a huge disservice. I can feel comfortable about the way we build the web changing because of my HTML and CSS skills; I know from past experience they allow me to hold the tools built on top of them lightly, to learn quickly and switch easily.
There is something remarkable about the fact that, with everything we have created in the past 20 years or so, I can still take a complete beginner and teach them to build a simple webpage with HTML and CSS, in a day. We don’t need to talk about tools or frameworks, learn how to make a pull request or drag vast amounts of code onto our computer via npm to make that start. We just need a text editor and a few hours. This is how we make things show up on a webpage.
That’s the real entry point here and yes, in 2019 they are going to have to move on quickly to the tools and techniques that will make them employable, if that is their aim. However those tools output HTML and CSS in the end. It is the bedrock of everything that we do, which makes the devaluing of those with real deep skills in those areas so much more baffling.
Picking up a tremendous vibe of "well how else are we supposed to build complex apps?" when *no one is talking about this*. The argument is about raising the baseline of making *anything* for the web so high that it excludes people. — Charlie Owen (@sonniesedge) January 28, 2019
I might be the “old guard” but if you think I’m incapable of learning React, or another framework, and am defending my way of working because of this, please get over yourself. However, 22 year old me would have looked at those things and run away. If we make it so that you have to understand programming to even start, then we take something open and enabling, and place it back in the hands of those who are already privileged. I have plenty of fight left in me to stand up against that.
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#against #all #bernie sanders #care #department of housing and urban development #digital #facebook #health #industry #julian castro #launches #medicare #medicare for all #oan newsroom #obama-era #pahcf #partnership for america's health care future #republican party #twitter #youtube
Eyewear is a near-monopolistic, $100-billion industry dominated by a single company. That's why 1,000% markups for frames and lenses are commonplace.
Article word count: 1067
HN Discussion: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18980191
Posted by prostoalex (karma: 71281)
Post stats: Points: 471 - Comments: 341 - 2019-01-23T17:16:46Z
\#HackerNews #are #blurry #expensive #eyewear #glasses #industry #keep #prefers #that #the #why
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It’s a question I get asked frequently, most recently by a colleague who was shocked to find that his new pair of prescription eyeglasses cost about $800.
Why are these things so damn expensive?
The answer: Because no one is doing anything to prevent a near-monopolistic, $100-billion industry from shamelessly abusing its market power.
Prescription eyewear represents perhaps the single biggest mass-market consumer ripoff to be found.
The stats tell the whole story.
\* The Vision Council, an optical industry trade group, estimates that about three-quarters of U.S. adults use some sort of vision correction. About two-thirds of that number wear eyeglasses. \* That’s roughly 126 million people, which represents some pretty significant economies of scale. \* The average cost of a pair of frames is $231, according to VSP, the leading provider of employer eye care benefits. \* The average cost of a pair of single-vision lenses is $112. Progressive, no-line lenses can run twice that amount. \* The true cost of a pair of acetate frames — three pieces of plastic and some bits of metal — is as low as $10, according to some estimates. Check out the prices of Chinese designer knockoffs available online. \* Lenses require precision work, but they are almost entirely made of plastic and almost all production is automated.
The bottom line: You’re paying a markup on glasses that would make a luxury car dealer blush, with retail costs from start to finish bearing no relation to reality.
Carmen Balber, executive director of Consumer Watchdog, a Santa Monica advocacy group, has worn glasses her entire life. She figures she’s spent thousands of dollars over the years on new frames and lenses.
“Anyone who wears glasses would agree that cost is out of control,” Balber told me.
She said soaring eyeglass costs should be a part of the country’s overall healthcare debate in light of the fact that many people simply couldn’t function without corrective lenses.
“At the very least,” Balber said, “there needs to be some transparency about how much things really cost.”
I reached out to the Vision Council for an industry perspective on pricing. The group describes itself as “a nonprofit organization serving as a global voice for eyewear and eyecare.”
But after receiving my email asking why glasses cost so much, Kelly Barry, a spokeswoman for the Vision Council, said the group “is unable to participate in this story at this time.”
I asked why. She said the Vision Council, a global voice for eyewear and eyecare, prefers to focus on “health and fashion trend messaging.”
And because it represents so many different manufacturers and brands, she said, it’s difficult for the association “to make any comments on pricing.”
Which is to say, don’t worry your pretty head.
What the Vision Council probably didn’t want to get into is the fact that for years a single company, Luxottica, has controlled much of the eyewear market. If you wear designer glasses, there’s a very good chance you’re wearing Luxottica frames.
Its owned and licensed brands include Armani, Brooks Brothers, Burberry, Chanel, Coach, DKNY, Dolce & Gabbana, Michael Kors, Oakley, Oliver Peoples, Persol, Polo Ralph Lauren, Ray-Ban, Tiffany, Valentino, Vogue and Versace.
Italy’s Luxottica also runs EyeMed Vision Care, LensCrafters, Pearle Vision, Sears Optical, Sunglass Hut and Target Optical.
Just pause to appreciate the lengthy shadow this one company casts over the vision care market. You go into a LensCrafters retail outlet, where the salesperson shows you Luxottica frames under various names, and then the company pays itself when you use your EyeMed insurance.
And Luxottica is even bigger after merging last fall with France’s Essilor, the world’s leading maker of prescription eyeglass lenses and contact lenses. Do you have Transitions lenses in your frames? You’re an Essilor customer.
The combined entity is called EssilorLuxottica.
I reached out to the parent company as well as the Luxottica and Essilor subsidiaries asking about how frames and lenses are priced. None of them got back to me.
It’s almost as if the last thing they want is to have to explain why consumers are paying 10 to 20 times what frames and lenses actually cost.
I wasn’t able to make any headway even with Warby Parker, the New York-based eyewear company whose whole raison d’etre is to offer fashionable specs at a fraction of the price of other retailers.
Dr. Ranjeet Bajwa, president of the California Optometric Assn., suggested that consumers actually are getting good value for their money.
“We often see low-ball retailers promise price savings but fail to deliver the quality patients expect in terms of fit, comfort, durability and, of critical importance, precision in vision, over one or two years of daily wear,” he said.
“Eyeglass sales are becoming a very competitive market, with frames and lenses available in a range of prices and quality levels,” Bajwa said. “Today’s glasses aren’t the glasses of 20 years ago, and the price can reflect these technological advances.”
Fair enough. But with about 126 million American adults wearing prescription glasses, and many replacing those glasses every few years, you have to assume it doesn’t take long for frame and lens makers to recover any R&D costs.
It’s a dynamic that routinely plays itself out elsewhere in the healthcare field, with new prescription drugs costing patients a fortune as drugmakers insist that they had to spend millions bringing the med to market.
Yet prices of branded drugs seldom go down even years after their R&D costs have been amortized. To cite just one example, insulin costs have tripled in recent years, even as the number of people with diabetes continues to rise, allowing manufacturers to recoup expenses in a relatively short time.
The high cost of frames reflects a market that is woefully lacking in meaningful competition. Warby Parker recognized this as a business opportunity. I’m surprised others haven’t jumped in as well with reasonably priced eyewear.
Lenses are a whole other matter. This is the “healthcare” component of vision correction and as such should be affordable to all. However, as with prescription drugs, government officials are content to pretend that “the market” will protect patients.
It won’t. And the more than 1,000% markup for most vision products proves that.
Why do glasses cost so damn much?
Because this industry has been getting away with fleecing people for decades.
And you don’t have to look hard to see this won’t change any time soon.
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Documents show that in the '60s, the sugar industry funded Harvard researchers who, examining risk factors of heart disease, dismissed concerns about sugar and doubled down on the dangers of fat.
Article word count: 1107
HN Discussion: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18944011
Posted by deegles (karma: 6416)
Post stats: Points: 214 - Comments: 57 - 2019-01-18T23:10:15Z
\#HackerNews #2016 #ago #blame #fat #industry #paid #quietly #scientists #sugar #years
A newly discovered cache of internal documents reveals that the sugar industry downplayed the risks of sugar in the 1960s.
Luis Ascui/Getty Images
In the 1960s, the sugar industry funded research that downplayed the risks of sugar and highlighted the hazards of fat, according to a newly published article in JAMA Internal Medicine.
The article draws on internal documents to show that an industry group called the Sugar Research Foundation wanted to "refute" concerns about sugarʼs possible role in heart disease. The SRF then sponsored research by Harvard scientists that did just that. The result was published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1967, with no disclosure of the sugar industry funding.
The sugar-funded project in question was a literature review, examining a variety of studies and experiments. It suggested there were major problems with all the studies that implicated sugar, and concluded that cutting fat out of American diets was the best way to address coronary heart disease.
The authors of the new article say that for the past five decades, the sugar industry has been attempting to influence the scientific debate over the relative risks of sugar and fat.
"It was a very smart thing the sugar industry did, because review papers, especially if you get them published in a very prominent journal, tend to shape the overall scientific discussion," co-author Stanton Glantz told The New York Times.
Money on the line
In the article, published Monday, authors Glantz, Cristin Kearns and Laura Schmidt arenʼt trying make the case for a link between sugar and coronary heart disease. Their interest is in the process. They say the documents reveal the sugar industry attempting to influence scientific inquiry and debate.
The researchers note that they worked under some limitations — "We could not interview key actors involved in this historical episode because they have died," they write. Other organizations were also advocating concerns about fat, they note.
Thereʼs no evidence that the SRF directly edited the manuscript published by the Harvard scientists in 1967, but there is "circumstantial" evidence that the interests of the sugar lobby shaped the conclusions of the review, the researchers say.
For one thing, thereʼs motivation and intent. In 1954, the researchers note, the president of the SRF gave a speech describing a great business opportunity.
If Americans could be persuaded to eat a lower-fat diet — for the sake of their health — they would need to replace that fat with something else. Americaʼs per capita sugar consumption could go up by a third.
But in the ʼ60s, the SRF became aware of "flowing reports that sugar is a less desirable dietary source of calories than other carbohydrates," as John Hickson, SRF vice president and director of research, put it in one document.
He recommended that the industry fund its own studies — "Then we can publish the data and refute our detractors."
The next year, after several scientific articles were published suggesting a link between sucrose and coronary heart disease, the SRF approved the literature-review project. It wound up paying approximately $50,000 in todayʼs dollars for the research.
One of the researchers was the chairman of Harvardʼs Public Health Nutrition Department — and an ad hoc member of SRFʼs board.
"A different standard" for different studies
Glantz, Kearns and Schmidt say many of the articles examined in the review were hand-selected by SRF, and it was implied that the sugar industry would expect them to be critiqued.
In a letter, SRFʼs Hickson said that the organizationʼs "particular interest" was in evaluating studies focused on "carbohydrates in the form of sucrose."
"We are well aware," one of the scientists replied, "and will cover this as well as we can."
The project wound up taking longer than expected, because more and more studies were being released that suggested sugar might be linked to coronary heart disease. But it was finally published in 1967.
Hickson was certainly happy with the result: "Let me assure you this is quite what we had in mind and we look forward to its appearance in print," he told one of the scientists.
The review minimized the significance of research that suggested sugar could play a role in coronary heart disease. In some cases the scientists alleged investigator incompetence or flawed methodology.
"It is always appropriate to question the validity of individual studies," Kearns told Bloomberg via email. But, she says, "the authors applied a different standard" to different studies — looking very critically at research that implicated sugar, and ignoring problems with studies that found dangers in fat.
Epidemiological studies of sugar consumption — which look at patterns of health and disease in the real world — were dismissed for having too many possible factors getting in the way. Experimental studies were dismissed for being too dissimilar to real life.
One study that found a health benefit when people ate less sugar and more vegetables was dismissed because that dietary change was not feasible.
Another study, in which rats were given a diet low in fat and high in sugar, was rejected because "such diets are rarely consumed by man."
The Harvard researchers then turned to studies that examined risks of fat — which included the same kind of epidemiological studies they had dismissed when it came to sugar.
Citing "few study characteristics and no quantitative results," as Kearns, Glantz and Schmidt put it, they concluded that cutting out fat was "no doubt" the best dietary intervention to prevent coronary heart disease.
Sugar lobby: "Transparency standards were not the norm"
In a statement, the Sugar Association — which evolved out of the SRF — said it is challenging to comment on events from so long ago.
"We acknowledge that the Sugar Research Foundation should have exercised greater transparency in all of its research activities, however, when the studies in question were published funding disclosures and transparency standards were not the norm they are today," the association said.
"Generally speaking, it is not only unfortunate but a disservice that industry-funded research is branded as tainted," the statement continues. "What is often missing from the dialogue is that industry-funded research has been informative in addressing key issues."
The documents in question are five decades old, but the larger issue is of the moment, as Marion Nestle notes in a commentary in the same issue of JAMA Internal Medicine:
As for the article authors who dug into the documents around this funding, they offer two suggestions for the future.
"Policymaking committees should consider giving less weight to food industry-funded studies," they write.
They also call for new research into any ties between added sugars and coronary heart disease.
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HN Discussion: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18844258
Posted by tomcam (karma: 5621)
Post stats: Points: 104 - Comments: 40 - 2019-01-07T10:54:54Z
\#HackerNews #bamboo #bigger #industry #isnt #why #wood
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The sugar industry has driven decades of biased research that shirk sugar's responsibility for chronic disease. UCSF researchers are uncovering thousands of industry documents to combat this…
Article word count: 2951
HN Discussion: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18765529
Posted by laurex (karma: 4221)
Post stats: Points: 116 - Comments: 84 - 2018-12-26T22:40:56Z
\#HackerNews #hazards #health #industry #obfuscating #products #pushes #sugary #the #while
Walk into any grocery store, grab a few packaged products, and flip to the ingredients. You’ll likely spot added sugars – lots of them – provided you can discern their dizzying array of names: sucrose, dextrose, barley malt, agave nectar, high-fructose corn syrup, treacle, to list just a few.
Why is our food saturated with all these sweeteners? When did they make their way into our yogurt, cereal, and oatmeal? How did they sneak into our salad dressing, soup, bread, lunch meat, pasta sauce, and pretzels?
And, most crucially, what forces are responsible for this deluge, which is making some of us very sick?
UCSF scientists are uncovering the answers to those questions. What they’re finding is that the food and beverage industry pushes sugary products, while obfuscating the significant health hazards of added sugars. UCSF researchers are scrutinizing this influence, scouring the research to better understand sugars’ link to disease, and fighting biased science by exposing industry tactics and educating the public.
The More We Eat, the Sicker We Get
When Dean Schillinger, MD, was a resident at San Francisco General Hospital in the early 1990s, almost half his patients had HIV or AIDS. Today, he’s chief of general internal medicine at the hospital, and a new crisis occupies him: Nearly half his patients have type 2 diabetes. Many grapple with its horrific toll, including blindness, kidney failure, amputations, heart attacks, and strokes.
Startling statistics bear out Schillinger’s experience: Since 1970, the incidence of diabetes has more than tripled (type 2 diabetes accounts for about 95 percent of that increase). In California alone, 11 percent of adults have diabetes and 46 percent are prediabetic. That adds up to over half the state’s population. Another troubling fact: People of color and those at lower income levels are at higher risk of having type 2 diabetes and are getting it at younger and younger ages.
Nearly one in four teens has prediabetes, placing them at very high risk of acquiring full-blown diabetes within 10 years, in the prime of their lives. About one in two children of color born today will be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes during their lifetimes.
It’s not the only disease that’s reared its ugly head in recent decades. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease – a buildup of extra fat in liver cells, which can lead to cirrhosis, or scarring of liver tissue – wasn’t even a known diagnostic entity 30 years ago. Now almost one-third of U.S. adults have it. The disease is on track to become the leading cause of liver transplantation within five years. And doctors are treating the first generation of kids with fatty livers.
Portrait of Dean Schillinger“We need the general public to become aware of what’s going on” with industry influence, says Dean Schillinger (above). Photo by Marc Olivier Le Blanc
The dramatic spike in these diseases isn’t caused by genetic changes, a common misbelief, says Schillinger. “Something in the environment has changed.”
That “something” includes many societal shifts – such as sedentary lifestyles and larger portion sizes – as well as greatly increased consumption of added sugars, say Schillinger and others.
Americans eat far more packaged foods and consume more sugary beverages than we did 50 years ago. And sweeteners are almost impossible to escape: They’re in three-fourths of packaged products. Liquid sugar, in the form of sodas, energy drinks, and sports drinks, represents 36 percent of the added sugar we consume. On average, Americans eat about 17 teaspoons of added sugars every day — substantially more than the U.S. Dietary Guidelines’ recommended maximum of 12 teaspoons on a 2,000-calorie diet. That adds up to a whopping 57 pounds a year.
“Our food system is completely out of whack,” says Laura Schmidt, PhD, MSW, MPH, a professor of health policy and the lead investigator of UCSF’s SugarScience initiative.
A growing body of scientific evidence now links long-term overconsumption of added sugars to diabetes, cavities, liver disease, and heart disease. Much of this evidence focuses on a cluster of metabolic issues, known collectively as metabolic syndrome (MetS), that raises people’s risk of developing chronic diseases. These issues include insulin resistance, elevated blood sugar, high blood fats (triglycerides), high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and a condition known as “sugar belly.”
Our AIDS ward has become a diabetes ward. It happened in front of my eyes in basically one generation.
Dean Schillinger, MD
One of the main culprits in MetS is fructose. Fructose is found naturally in fruits and honey, but in processed foods and sodas it’s been extracted from corn, beets, or sugarcane, stripped of fiber and nutrients, and concentrated. Nearly all added sugars, even healthy-sounding ones like organic cane sugar, contain significant fructose. Table sugar, for example, is 50 percent fructose. The most common type of high-fructose corn syrup, a concentrated, liquid form of added sugar, is about 55 percent fructose.
The problem with fructose is that the body can turn only so much of it into energy; the liver transforms the rest into fat globules called triglycerides, which in excess can wreak havoc. The liver releases some of these into the bloodstream, causing “sugar belly” (an especially dangerous form of body fat) and raising cholesterol levels (which are linked to heart disease).
Even worse, the triglycerides that stay in the liver affect insulin’s ability to regulate blood sugar, a condition known as insulin resistance. This causes more fructose to be turned into fat and accelerates the amount of fat the liver releases into the blood. It’s a vicious cycle — one too many Americans are trapped in.
With almost half of Californians and millions of others nationwide at risk of developing full-blown diabetes, “we are sitting on a ticking time bomb,” says Schmidt.
Laura Schmidt and Cristin Kearns work together on a laptopHealth policy expert Laura Schmidt (right), who collaborates with sugar industry investigator Cristin Kearns (left). Photo by Saroyan Humphrey
Documents Reveal Scientific Shenanigans
In 2007, Cristin Kearns, DDS, MBA, began an unlikely journey that would shed light on some of the forces that helped push us to this brink. Her foray began years before she became an assistant professor at UCSF, at a dental conference on the connection between gum disease and diabetes. One of the keynote speakers gave his seal of approval to Lipton Brisk, a sugar-laden tea. Aghast, Kearns chased him down and asked how he could possibly call sweetened tea healthy. “There is no evidence linking sugar to chronic disease,” he calmly replied.
“I was speechless,” Kearns recalls. “I literally had no words.”
After all, she had seen how sugary drinks damaged her patients’ oral health. Some had cavities in every tooth, and she knew tooth decay was the leading chronic disease afflicting kids.
Another speaker at the conference, this one from the federal government’s National Diabetes Education Program, shared a dietary advice pamphlet that said nothing about sugar intake. “I found that strange,” says Kearns. She had worked in an inner city clinic where many patients had diabetes, and it was clear to her that excess sugar played a role in their disease.
What was going on? Kearns couldn’t let go of that question, so she went home and started researching sugar. Driven by a nagging hunch, she focused on the players behind the disconnect between her experience and what she heard from “experts.” Up popped the website of the Sugar Association, a trade group that dates back to 1943; its members include Domino Sugar, Imperial Sugar, and other sugar producers.
The more Kearns unearthed about the Sugar Association, the more convinced she became that they were influencing science and federal policies. She quit her job to dig into archives all across the country. One day, she hit the mother lode: 1,500 internal Sugar Association documents related to a public relations campaign the industry had launched in 1976. The documents clearly showed the industry’s plan to influence the Food and Drug Administration’s regulatory review of the safety of sugar. “I couldn’t believe I’d found it,” she says.
Kearns came to UCSF as a postdoctoral fellow in 2013 to learn how to analyze industry tactics, drawn by the faculty’s expertise combating the tobacco industry. In the 1990s, UCSF’s analysis of thousands of tobacco industry documents showed that tobacco companies had known about the grave dangers of smoking for decades, but they withheld that information from the public to protect their profits.
The fruits of her labor revealed the sugar industry’s decades-long strategy to downplay sweeteners’ potentially harmful health effects. She found strong evidence that the industry had manipulated science to protect its commercial interests, influence regulations, and shape public opinion. (The industry has disputed this assessment through public statements by the Sugar Association.)
One of her studies, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, showed that the Sugar Research Foundation, which later become the Sugar Association, recognized as early as 1954 that if Americans adopted low-fat diets, then per-capita consumption of sucrose would increase by more than one-third.
By the mid-1960s, however, researchers had begun wondering whether sugar might be related to heart disease. The Sugar Research Foundation paid three Harvard scientists today’s equivalent of $50,000 to review the existing research on sugar, fat, and heart disease. Their analysis, published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), minimized the link between sugar and heart health and promoted fat as the culprit instead.
“It was clearly a biased evaluation,” says Kearns, who spent a year analyzing the communications between the industry and the researchers, as well as the studies included in the review. “The literature review helped shape not only public opinion on what causes heart problems but also the scientific community’s view of how to evaluate dietary risk factors for heart disease,” she says.
These tactics contributed to the low-fat craze, which began in the early 1970s and paralleled a rise in obesity, according to Kearns and Schmidt. Many health experts encouraged Americans to reduce their fat intake, which led people to eat foods low in fat but loaded with sugar (think SnackWell’s cookies). The trend is an example of “how industry has deeply penetrated science in order to distort the facts about what’s good for our health,” says Schmidt, a co-author of the JAMA paper.
Another of Kearns’s studies, published in PLOS Biology, showed that the industry also withheld critical scientific evidence. In 1968, the Sugar Research Foundation funded a research project on animals to illuminate the connection between sugar and heart health. Early results uncovered a potential link between sucrose and bladder cancer. Within weeks of obtaining conclusive evidence that sucrose elevates blood triglycerides by interacting with gut bacteria, the foundation ended the study. The results were never published. At the time, the FDA was deciding whether to take a hard stance on high-sugar foods. Kearns says if the results had been made public, sugar might have been more heavily scrutinized.
With thousands of documents still to analyze, and more archives being identified, she believes she has just scratched the surface of the industry’s influence. “It’s vast,” she says. “I could be doing this for years.”
Diabetes expert Schillinger has also been probing biases in sugar science. In a report in the Annals of Internal Medicine, co-authored with Kearns, he reviewed the 60 studies between 2001 and 2016 that looked at whether sugary drinks contribute to obesity or diabetes. Of the 26 studies that found no link, all were funded by the sugar-sweetened-beverage industry or conducted by people with financial ties to the industry. Of the 34 studies that found a link, just one was funded by the beverage industry; the rest were independently funded.
“It was by far the strongest relationship … I’ve observed between conflicts of interest and science,” Schillinger says.
Stop Blaming Yourself
Since sugar-related chronic diseases are largely preventable with changes in diet and physical activity, there’s a tendency to point fingers at people for making bad choices and being lazy. Soda companies add to the cacophony by claiming their products can be enjoyed as part of a healthy lifestyle.
Such ideas are bunk, say sugar scientists.
“We need to stop blaming individuals for getting sick and start changing our crazy food environment,” says Schmidt. “It puts an incredible burden on individuals. People’s choices are very limited when 74 percent of our food has added sugar.” And that burden falls most heavily on those without the time and money to purchase and prepare healthy foods.
Scientists and policymakers can change the environment by pursuing the same public health prevention strategies used to combat Big Tobacco, Schmidt says.
“It’s easy to forget that back in the ’50s and ’60s, smoking was the norm,” she explains. People smoked on airplanes, at work, in restaurants, even in hospitals. “You could buy cigarettes in our medical center vending machines,” she says. “Public health officials changed the environment. They made it unpopular to smoke.” They did so by amassing evidence of tobacco’s dangers, warning people of its harms, advocating for taxation, pushing to get cigarettes moved behind counters, and calling for smoking to be banned from bars and public buildings, among other approaches. Eventually, the death rate for lung cancer plummeted.
“We’re in the beginning stages of that kind of public health battle around sugar,” Schmidt says. UCSF has already started implementing many strategies, including these:
1. Provide evidence-based information to lawmakers and the public.
UCSF’s SugarScience.ucsf.edu website highlights the evidence about sugar and its impact on health. The site reflects an exhaustive review of more than 8,000 scientific papers published to date. Studies are rigorously reviewed, including for author bias and conflicts of interest.
In addition, the UCSF Industry Documents Library – which houses tobacco industry documents – and the UCSF Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies launched the first-ever food industry document archive in November 2018. It includes thousands of previously secret documents by food industry executives, including Kearns’ stash, illuminating how the industry manipulates public health. It’s open to journalists, academics, and the public.
2. Tax products that make us sick.
Schmidt is working on soda tax initiatives with policymakers in the Bay Area and around the world, from India to Africa to Mexico. “Taxes trigger what I call a virtuous cycle of policymaking,” she says. Taxes gently discourage consumers from buying harmful products, while also generating funds that governments can pour into prevention – such as better screening for diabetes, construction of water refilling stations in low-income communities, and promulgation of public health messages.
The beverage industry, however, argues that such taxes make it harder for low-income individuals to buy groceries and unfairly single out soda. But this isn’t the case if the tax proceeds are returned to low-income communities through programs promoting healthy food and clean water access, Schmidt counters. The industry has spent millions of dollars around the country over the past decade to defeat soda tax initiatives. In June 2018, the California legislature passed a bill championed by the soda industry banning California cities and counties from passing new taxes on sugary beverages for 12 years. UCSF’s researchers say this significantly undermines the cities and counties from preventing diet-related chronic diseases through such taxation.
“That was a really bad week,” says Schmidt. “These companies have us totally outgunned. It’s like David versus Goliath.” Such struggles are why it’s essential for scientists to get evidence into the hands of policymakers and the public, she says.
3. Warn people of the harm.
Schmidt, Schillinger, and others at UCSF are trying to issue warnings, but the soda industry is thwarting these efforts, too. The researchers worked with local legislators to help pass, in 2015, the world’s first ordinance requiring billboards advertising sugar-sweetened beverages to include a warning notice. “This was huge,” says Schillinger. “A brilliant landmark for public health.”
But the beverage industry challenged the ordinance, and an appeals court blocked it, saying it unfairly targeted one group of products. In January 2018, the appeals court said it would rehear the case.
Wake Up to the Influence
“We need the general public to become aware of what’s going on,” says Schillinger, who was a paid expert for the City of San Francisco’s defense against the industry’s lawsuit to block the billboard ordinance. That experience, along with his research and boots-on-the-ground care of patients, has convinced him the sugar struggle is a societal problem that needs many more stakeholders. “If this is just a medical issue versus industry, we will lose,” he says.
To that end, Schillinger co-created a social media campaign encouraging youths of color to voice their outrage in first-person, spoken-word pieces that reframe diabetes as a social and environmental problem, not just a medical one. Called “The Bigger Picture,” the campaign has garnered nearly 2 million views and won numerous public health and film/media awards. Many health departments have adopted it for their own public messaging.
Schmidt points to other encouraging trends – soda taxes have been implemented in 33 countries, for example – but says we still have a long way to go to prevent the looming tsunami of sugar-fueled diseases.
“These industries know sugar sells, they know it tastes good, they know people want it. They’re not going to stop doing what they do,” she says.
But with science on their side, neither will UCSF’s researchers. They’ll continue to seek a sweet ending to the reign of added sugar.
Sugar pouring from a soda can
Wean yourself slowly if going cold turkey is too much to bear.
2. Keep Temptations Out of Reach
Clean up your pantry and fridge and skip the supermarket’s junk aisles entirely.
3. Limit Your Kids’ Exposure
But don’t go overboard, or the “forbidden fruit” will be even more enticing.
And remember: Organic, “natural,” and other healthy-sounding products often still pack hidden sugars.
5. Tap Your Community
Could your workplace, your gym, or your kid’s school take a stand for healthier choices?
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Bitmain, Huobi, ConsenSys and Steemit are among the cryptocurrency startups to complete layoffs in the last month.
Article word count: 764
HN Discussion: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18763531
Posted by toufiqbarhamov (karma: 502)
Post stats: Points: 96 - Comments: 117 - 2018-12-26T18:06:48Z
\#HackerNews #are #back #bitcoin #cut #forced #industry #sinks #startups
Around this time last year, the price of Bitcoin hit an all-time high of nearly $20,000. Cryptocurrency enthusiasts everywhere boasted about the wealth 2018 would bring, initial coin offerings exploded and startups continued to pull in record amounts of venture capital. Fast-forward one year: Bitcoin is down 75 percent to a meager $3,700, sinking as quickly as its meteoric rise, and industry startups are paying the price.
The latest victim is Bitmain, a provider of bitcoin mining hardware that very recently submitted its IPO prospectus to the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong. The company confirmed to CoinDesk this week that cutbacks would begin imminently: “There has been some adjustment to our staff this year as we continue to build a long-term, sustainable and scalable business,” a spokesperson for Bitmain told CoinDesk . “A part of that is having to really focus on things that are core to that mission and not things that are auxiliary.”
Beijing-based Bitmain hasn’t clarified just how many of its employees will be impacted, though rumors — which Bitmain has since denied — on Maimai, a Chinese LinkedIn-like platform, suggest as many as 50 percent of the company’s headcount could be laid off. This news comes after the crypto mining giant confirmed it had shuttered its Israeli development center, Bitmaintech Israel, laying off 23 employees in the process.
Bitmain employs at least 2,000 people, up from 250 in 2016, according to PitchBook, as the company’s growth has skyrocketed.
The decreasing value of Bitcoin.
“The crypto market has undergone a shake-up in the past few months, which has forced Bitmain to examine its various activities around the globe and to refocus its business in accordance with the current situation,” Bitmaintech Israel head Gadi Glikberg reportedly told his employees at the time of the layoffs.
Bitmain has raised more than $800 million in venture capital funding from Sequoia, Coatue Management, SoftBank and more. At a valuation of $12 billion, it quickly soared to become the most valuable crypto startup in the world, surpassing Coinbase, which itself garnered an $8 billion valuation this fall.
In its IPO filing, Bitmain reported more than $2.5 billion in revenue last year, up nearly 10x on the $278 million it claimed for 2016. As for the first half of 2018, Bitmain said it surpassed $2.8 billion in revenue. These are astonishing numbers, yes, but whether Bitmain can sustain this kind of momentum has been called into question, especially as it gears up to go public in what would be the largest crypto-related IPO to date. The crypto market, by nature, is unpredictable — a characteristic that’s less than favorable to public market investors.
Startups sacrifice staff
Meanwhile, Huobi Group, a crypto trading platform also headquartered in Beijing, is laying off a portion of its 1,000 employees, too, according to a report from the South China Morning Post.
Huobi, which is backed by Sequoia and ZhenFund, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Moreover, Brooklyn-based ConsenSys earlier this month confirmed it was laying off 13 percent of its 1,200-person staff. The company, active in the crypto ecosystem, incubates and invests in decentralized applications built on the Ethereum blockchain.
“Excited as we are about ConsenSys 2.0, our first step in this direction has been a difficult one: we are streamlining several parts of the business including ConsenSys Solutions, spokes, and hub services, leading to a 13% reduction of mesh members,” ConsenSys founder and crypto billionaire Joseph Lubin wrote in a letter to employees regarding the layoffs.
Finally, Steemit, a distributed app designed to reward content creators, laid off 70 percent of its staff just days earlier, citing poor market conditions.
“We still believe that Steem can be by far the best, and lowest cost, blockchain protocol for applications and that the improvements that will result from this new direction will make it far better for application sustainability,” founder and chief executive officer Ned Scott wrote in a statement. “However, in order to ensure that we can continue to improve Steem, we need to first get costs under control to remain economically sustainable. There’s nothing that I want more now than to survive, to keep steemit.com operating, and keep the mission alive, to make great communities.”
Downsizing following periods of rapid growth — which many crypto startups experienced during the Bitcoin boom — is only natural, but can these businesses continue to endure periods of extreme volatility without crashing completely? One thing is certain: If the price of Bitcoin sinks further and further, “staff adjustments” at crypto startups large and small will be unavoidable.
WTF is happening to crypto?
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On the heels of an employee-led protest against Google, a group of 35 Google employees is banding together to take it a step further and end the practice of forced arbitration across the entire tech…
Article word count: 339
HN Discussion: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18651540
Posted by rmason (karma: 19961)
Post stats: Points: 128 - Comments: 68 - 2018-12-10T22:05:04Z
\#HackerNews #across #arbitration #demand #employees #end #forced #google #industry #tech #the
On the heels of an employee-led protest against Google, a group of 35 Google employees is banding together to take it a step further and end the practice of forced arbitration across the entire tech industry.
Forced arbitration ensures workplace disputes are settled behind closed doors and without any right to an appeal. These types of agreements effectively prevent employees from suing companies. Following the walkout last month, Google got rid of forced arbitration for sexual harassment and sexual assault claims, offering more transparency around those investigations and more. Airbnb, eBay and Facebook quickly followed suit.
However, optional arbitration at Google is only granted for full-time employees, which does not include the thousands of contract workers at the company. Now, a group of Google employees is demanding an end to forced arbitration, as it relates to any case of discrimination, across the entire industry.
As the employees note on Medium, arbitration is still forced for discrimination cases pertaining to race, sexual orientation, sex, gender identity, age and ability. Additionally, employee contracts in the U.S. still have an arbitration waiver, the employees wrote.
“We have not heard of any plan to render these waivers null and void,” employees wrote on Medium. “Google operates in 52 countries where arbitration laws vary, and leadership has not addressed these variances. What should we expect?”
Moving forward, they’re asking other tech workers to join them in their fight to end forced arbitration for all forms of harassment and discrimination. They’re also calling on elected officials to support the Arbitration Fairness Act, as well as Restoring Justice for Workers Act.
“We are already engaging with multiple organizations and can help connect the dots through educational materials and organizing resources,” they wrote. “2019 must be the year to end a system of privatized justice that impacts over 60 million workers in the US alone.”
Google declined to comment, saying, “nothing more to share at this time” and linking to Google CEO Sundar Pichai’s note to employees last month.
Google contract workers demand better pay and benefits
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On SpaceX: "We are very much confident to compete against them.”
Article word count: 3803
HN Discussion: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18467680
Posted by rbanffy (karma: 74598)
Post stats: Points: 82 - Comments: 37 - 2018-11-16T09:49:39Z
\#HackerNews #aerospace #established #has #industry #itself #japan #power #quietly #the
An H-2B rocket is moved from the Vehicle Assembly Building to Launch Pad 2 at the Tanegashima facility in southern Japan.
Enlarge / An H-2B rocket is moved from the Vehicle Assembly Building to Launch Pad 2 at the Tanegashima facility in southern Japan.
TOKYO—In early September, the island nation of Japan was doing Japan things. One day, Typhoon Jebi roared ashore near Osaka and Kobe, breaking historical wind records. Early the next morning in Tokyo, as thick clouds from Jebi’s outer bands raced overhead, an offshore earthquake rattled softly but perceptibly through the city.
The capital city’s skies remained a bleak gray a few hours later as we entered the headquarters of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in the city’s bustling Shinagawa area. Men in suits gestured us forward, bowing as we passed, down a corridor to an elevator. After riding up 27 floors to the top of the building, more men in suits ushered our group into a long, formal meeting room. Along one wall, a bank of windows looked to the southwest. From here, on a clear day, the iconic Mount Fuji dominates the distant horizon. But not this day.
A handful of reporters had been invited here to meet with MHIʼs chief executive, Shunichi Miyanaga, or Miyanaga-san as he is known throughout this building and beyond. The firm had paid our not-inconsiderable travel expenses so that we might learn more about the industrial conglomerate’s various businesses and its long-range plans to remain globally competitive.
I had come specifically to better understand Japan’s future in rocketry and how this nation and its aerospace enterprise seeks to remain relevant in a rapidly changing environment that no longer defers to established, respected firms. To understand this, one must know MHI, because for the better part of three decades, the company has served as Japan’s chief rocket builder.
A unique history
Quietly, Japan has established itself as a power in the aerospace industry, with a long history and considerable ambition. Only three countries reached orbit before Japan did nearly half a century ago. Today, with questions about the reliability of relations with the United States (which some here view as a fading force) and worries about North Korea, the country is taking steps to bolster its presence in space with key military assets. Within a few years, Japan intends to have its own GPS system and a network of military satellites.
Seated around a wooden, oval-shaped table, we awaited the man responsible for getting those Japanese assets safely into space. Miyanaga-san lacks the star power of Elon Musk, fortune of Jeff Bezos, or public bluster of Russia’s Dmitry Rogozin. He gives few keynotes at major aerospace conferences. Instead, he is largely an unknown in the space community. But his rockets are no less reliable than any other nation. In fact, they are highly capable, with an admirable record for launching on time.
MHI Chief Executive Shunichi Miyanaga.
Enlarge / MHI Chief Executive Shunichi Miyanaga.
MHI is totally different from almost every other rocket company in the world. Aerospace is a small part of MHI, representing only about 1 percent of its business. The heavy industries unit is but one of several core companies in the giant Mitsubishi conglomerate that makes everything from televisions to cars to Kirin beer.
Even so, Japan has set significant goals for MHI’s aerospace business. The country wants Japan to go from launching about four rockets a year, most of which presently fly government payloads, to about eight. This will require MHI to sell its rockets abroad to commercial interests. That initiative comes at a time when SpaceX and other emerging rocket companies are offering low-cost, reusable rockets for satellite launches. Japan’s dependable rocket industry must innovate if it is to have any chance.
When Miyanaga-san ultimately entered the extended conference room, he wore a fitted charcoal suit that complemented his dark, finely combed hair that betrayed only a few flecks of gray. The room was silent and respectful as he began to speak. In broken but passable English, Miyanaga-san worked his way through a series of complicated and at-times confusing charts about the large company he leads. Finally, when he paused for questions after 30 minutes, I touched the red button beside my microphone.
He had talked about his long-range vision in aerospace, I noted. He had said the company’s cost-competitive H3 rocket, under development, was critical to Japanʼs success. But would that be enough? SpaceX, Blue Origin, and others are investing in reusable rockets to bring the cost of spaceflight down. Looking ahead over the next decade, would an expendable rocket like the H3 be enough?
Initially he seemed to dodge the question. Miyanaga-san said Mitsubishi has broad interests in the aerospace sector, from commercial jets to satellite components to technology for mitigating orbital debris. Eventually, however, he did acknowledge that, “SpaceX is, of course, the competition. We are very much confident to compete against them.”
Was the H3 enough for such a competition? “No,” he replied. “The H3 and the successor. H3 has already reached some maturity.”
Whether such a successor really exists was not immediately clear in that boardroom. And after taking a few more questions, Miyanaga-san departed for points unknown. Details about Japan’s plans to compete with SpaceX and its future aspirations in space would have to be found elsewhere in the Land of the Rising Sun.
Around the time NASA flight controllers were scrambling to land humans on the Moon, Japan was just trying to get its first rocket into space. Beginning in 1966, Nissan and a Japanese research institute began attempting to launch a four-stage, all-solid propellant rocket into orbit. It was a skinny booster, at 16.5 meters tall and with a diameter of less than a meter. It could lift a mere 26kg into orbit.
The first four launches of this Lambda-4S rocket failed until finally, on February 1, 1970, the booster placed a small science satellite named Ohsumi into orbit. Small though it was, this represented no small achievement. Before then, only the Soviet Union, United States, and France had reached orbit. China and Great Britain would follow in the next two years.
For the next two decades, Japan mostly licensed rocket technology from the United States. That changed in 1994, when the nation’s space agency, then named the National Space Development Agency, worked with MHI to develop the H-2 rocket. This considerably advanced booster could lift more than 10 tons to low-Earth orbit and relied on two liquid-fueled stages. Unfortunately, the rocket was expensive, costing nearly $200 million per launch.
Moreover, confidence in the vehicle flagged when the sixth and seventh launches of the H-2 rocket both failed. This experience soured the minds of some in Japan even today, where officials say the Japanese population tends to think that the country’s launch industry blows up a lot of rockets.
\* During our visit to Japan, we were scheduled to see a launch of the countryʼs largest rocket, the H-2B, shown here. \* This launch of a Japanese cargo ship to the International Space Station was originally scheduled for September 11. \* But high winds from another typhoon took a tracking station in Guam offline. So the launch was postponed. \* Finally, after yet more delays, the rocket finally launched on September 22. The mission was entirely successful. \* Although we would note that this will lower the on-time percentage of MHI launches from its stellar mark of 84 percent. \* Still, itʼs a pretty good on-time record.
This turns out not to be true. After its teething problems with the H-2 rocket, Japanese engineers redesigned the vehicle’s main engine, the LE-7, to make it easier to manufacture, lower its cost, and improve its reliability. Similar modifications were made to other systems, and in 2001—less than two years after the final failure of the H-2 rocket—its successor took flight.
The not-so-creatively named H-2A rocket proved a winner for MHI and Japan’s aerospace industry. It has launched 40 times with 39 successes. It offers similar performance to the H-2 rocket but at half the price; and it led directly to the creation of the larger H-2B rocket in 2009. Japan’s space agency, now known as JAXA, currently uses the H-2B to deliver large cargo supply ships to the International Space Station. This rocket has launched seven times, all successfully.
Beyond their excellent reliability record, MHI also likes to say that it launches rockets on time. And this is generally true: about 80 percent of the time when the company sets a launch date for the customer, thatʼs when the rocket flies.
“We boast that we stick to the launch time,” Ko Ogasawara, the vice president of MHI’s space system division, said. “We never delay. Many launch operators delay their schedule. They say we will launch September 1. But, somehow, something happens. Three months, four months, it is delayed. But we do not.”
If Japan has an internationally known rocket personality, it is Ogasawara. After taking a bullet train 350km from Tokyo to Nagoya, our party met with Ogasawara at the Tobishima Plant that builds the H-2A and H-2B rockets as well as the spacecraft used to supply the space station. In conversation, Ogasawara comfortably spoke English, and his communication was made all the more effective by a bright smile, sparkling eyes, and a bit of wit.
“All of my international friends call me Ko, because my first name is so easy to pronounce,” he said. And so, we all called him Ko. He was eager to talk about the H3 rocket, through which Japan hopes to make another leap in cost reduction like it did from the H-2 to H-2A booster.
Japan has invested heavily in the H3 rocket during its development over the last five years to simplify its design but maintain reliability and performance. If MHI is successful in this, Ko will have an impressive rocket to sell. MHI intends to launch the first H3 rocket, in a configuration without solid rocket boosters, in fiscal year 2020 (which ends March 2021). It will have a performance not quite on par with a Falcon 9 rocket that carries enough reserve fuel to land. The goal is to price the H3 at $51 million per launch in its base configuration.
This would give Japan a rocket that is, roughly at least, cost-competitive with SpaceX’s commercially dominant Falcon 9 rocket. But is the $51 million price point attainable? “Yes,” Ko responded. “I will stick to that. And that is a requirement from our government for the development of H3. So if we cannot do that, if we cannot attain that, our development program is completely stopped.”Ko Ogasawara, vice president & general manager of Space Systems at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, poses with a model of an H-2A rocket.
Enlarge / Ko Ogasawara, vice president & general manager of Space Systems at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, poses with a model of an H-2A rocket.
So far MHI has not announced any commercial customers for the H3 rocket. But in its efforts to commercialize Japan’s launch industry, MHI has booked a few customers previously for the H-2A rocket. In 2015, it launched a satellite for the Canadian communications company Telstar. MHI also plans to launch a satellite for operator Inmarsat in 2020 on the H-2A vehicle. Ko said potential customers ask him a lot about the readiness of the H3 booster. “Of course we have underground negotiations with many satellite companies, but as of now we have nothing to release,” he said.
MHI’s efforts to attract more commercial business for its new rocket come at a challenging time. Orders for new communications satellites, especially those bound for geostationary orbit, have slumped. Although he acknowledges that the global satellite industry is having a difficult time right now, Ko believes that market will rebound. He also said the H3 rocket is positioned to grab a slice of the growing small satellite market, as MHI is working to develop a dispenser for multiple satellites during a single launch.
Unfortunately for Ko, as the big satellite market shrinks, the pool of launchers is expanding. When trying to sell the H3 to customers, Ko must compete not only with the Falcon 9, but Blue Origin’s New Glenn (first flight in 2021) and Europe’s Ariane 6 (first flight in 2020) in addition to Russian and Chinese vendors. When it comes to mission success, it is difficult for Japan to differentiate itself. The Falcon 9 has flown 35 successful missions in a row, and Europe also has a credible record of mission success.
Beyond business realities, there may be another reason why Japan wants to modernize its launcher fleet.
From the outset of its space activities more than half a century ago, in the wake of World War II, Japan decreed that it would conduct activities in space “for peaceful purposes only.” The country’s leadership maintained this view for decades, even as the United States, Russia, and China took steps toward the militarization of space.
Japan formally changed this stance a decade ago, however, when the country’s legislature enacted a Basic Space Law that stated the country should ensure the national security of Japan. In effect, this change made Japanese law consistent with the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which allows countries to develop defensive capabilities in space.
Analysts say Japan made the change for several reasons, including North Korea’s emerging missile program and a recognition that, to be a major player in the 21st century, a country needed strategic assets in space.
"Autonomous access to space has been a consistent space policy goal for postwar Japan," said Saadia Pekkanen, an expert on Japanese space policy at the University of Washington. "This next rocket, or whatever comes along, is part of that story. And with the legal and policy changes in Japan after the 2008 Basic Space Law, Japan has moved steadily and ever more autonomously down the unmanned national security path. This will not change and is likely to be reinforced in the present Japanese uncertainties about the directions of the United States."
Since passage of its basic space law, Japan has proceeded to beef up its space-based capabilities. In 2010, the country launched the first of four Quasi-Zenith Satellite System spacecraft, which “augment” the US-operated Global Positioning System over Japan and its regional neighbors. The last of these four launched in October 2017, and the system is now operational. Although the funding has not yet been secured, Japan intends to launch three more of these satellites by 2023, which could give it operational independence from the GPS network if needed.
In 2017, Japan also launched its first X-band communications satellite, known as Kirameki-2. This satellite—as well as another launched in May of 2018 and a third one planned for 2020—will give the country’s defense forces enhanced communications abilities.
It is not clear what plans Japan has for future space-based assets with defense applications, but investing in a reliable, modern, low-cost rocket is one way to ensure the country can continue to get its satellites into orbit.
During the brief meeting with MHI’s leader at his Tokyo headquarters, Shunichi Miyanaga mentioned a successor to the H3 rocket. This was an allusion to the country’s on- and off-again efforts to develop a reusable rocket.
In July, the Japanese national newspaper Asahi Shimbun interviewed Koichi Okita, who heads the research division at JAXA, about the space agency’s work on reusable launch vehicle technology. Asked about the need to catch up to some of its international rivals including SpaceX and Blue Origin, Okita said, “We feel a strong sense of crisis.”
This is a fairly provocative quote. For weeks, Ars attempted to reach Okita for an interview, but JAXA’s news division rebuffed our requests. Finally, we were invited to submit a few written questions, to which the office returned generic answers. For example, asked whether the lack of reusable technology in Japan truly did reflect a crisis, the proffered response was, “We are considering increasing the maturity of the basic technology of a single stage reuse rocket and expanding the range of choices in the future.”
In reality, Japan has experimented with reusable rockets since 1999, tinkering with the design and operation of systems for takeoff and landing, as well as safe, repeated flights. So Japan has actually been working on reusable technology since before SpaceX even existed. However, MHI and JAXA never received the resources needed to scale up from basic tests.
“Historically, we have a longer experience with this technology than SpaceX,” Ko said, when asked about reusable launchers. “But the big problem for us is budget.”
That appears to now be changing, at least a little. JAXA and MHI have developed a reusable liquid oxygen-liquid hydrogen engine, and the organizations plan to test it in a 7-meter-tall rocket with a mass of 2 tons. They plan to conduct many tests, with a flight test up to 100 meters next year. The program’s goal is to understand the process and determine how best to lower operational costs from launch to launch. MHI and JAXA are also working with the French Space Agency on a reusable launch demonstrator called Callisto, which could make a test flight as early as 2021.
Ko said he believes reducing refurbishment costs is more important than demonstrating a reusable launch system. And this is not wrong. Most of the space shuttle components were reusable, but its refurbishment costs were so high that each flight of the vehicle still cost hundreds of millions of dollars. Ko asserted that SpaceX either has not mastered low-cost refurbishment or has decided not to pass those savings along to customers.
“Two years ago SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell was asked at a meeting how the price would go with reusable vehicles,” Ko recalled. “She said 30 percent less. One year later, she says only 10 percent less.”
Even so, Ko recognizes that time is against him and Japan and that reusability represents the future of launch. From its tests over the next 12 to 18 months, JAXA hopes to better understand the problem of refurbishment costs and determine the best technology path to reach a fully reusable, vertically launched rocket. With this information, MHI and JAXA will make the case for government funding to actually develop such a rocket.
Optimistically, Ko said he believes MHI could deliver such a reusable rocket in 2025. But realistically, well, this probably won’t happen.
“This date would be very, very tough from the standpoint of budget restrictions,” he said. However, Japan must realize that if it wants a future in aerospace, it should probably invest in reusability sooner rather than later. “From the market point of view, I think 2030 would be too late, so I should push JAXA to do that program in a hurry.”
That may be a problem. For all of its quiet competency, efficiency, and technical proficiency, one area in which the Japanese government, industry, and culture seems to be struggling is the capacity for rapid change.
The rigidity of Japanese society manifested itself several times during a visit to the country, perhaps most strikingly through the country’s persistent patriarchy.
\* A statue of Iwasaki Yatarō towers over the Nagasaki Shipyard Museum, where one can find some history about Mitsubishi. \* This is the oldest machine tool in Japan, brought to the country in 1857. It was in service for about a century. \* This is Japanʼs first land steam turbine. \* In the 1890s, investment in the Nagasaki works allowed for the production of large, modern ships, such as the 6,172-ton Hitachi Maru, a passenger ship later used during the Russo-Japanese War. \* This is a hull plate from the Sado Maru ship, nearly sunk during the Russo-Japanese War. \* Few pictures exist of the Musashi battleship, a flagship during World War II, because it was constructed in secret. US forces sank it during the Battle of Leyte Gulf in 1944. \* If you could swing this sledgehammer powerfully, apparently you were hired. \* Manufactured in 1933, this turbine generated up to 53,000 kW. It was a major milestone for Japanese industry and served for 41 years. \* This is a burst steam turbine rotor. Its story is in the next image. \* \* This is the Casio AL-1000 calculator. Dating to 1967, it is an early programmable calculator. All the cool kids had them back in the day. \* A motor-driven facit calculator that dates to 1957.
Mitsubishi was founded in 1870 by a Japanese financier named Iwasaki Yatarō. It began as a ship-building business (which it continues today, through MHI) and expanded rapidly during the first half of the 20th century. It served as a major contractor during World War II, building the infamous Mitsubishi Zero, which was later used for kamikaze operations. The company was broken up after the war, but it began to coalesce again in the 1950s. Today, MHI is one of its four main units, and it retains significant works in Nagasaki where Mitsubishi was founded.
During a three-day tour of MHI facilities from Nagasaki to Tokyo, which included five formal presentations and six factory tours, a woman addressed our group just once. This came during a tour of a factory where the company is building a new regional jet to compete with the likes of Embraer.
Regional jets are the planes with one or two seats on either side of the aisle, typically used for routes such as Wichita to Denver. They’re the planes that, when you look at a seat map or out the airport window at your gate, you groan while contemplating narrow seats and checking your bag plane-side.
MHI, which has long provided components for large airplane manufacturers like Boeing, seeks to enter the civil aircraft market with the “MRJ,” its name for the Mitsubishi Regional Jet. It has developed a more roomy version of a regional jet. So as part of its factory tour in Nagoya, the company has young, attractive, smiling hostesses take visitors through a mock-up of the airplane and more. It was a “cute” experience, in an artificial Hello Kitty sort of way. All the same, this reinforced the fact that women appeared to play virtually no serious role in the leadership of Japan’s aerospace industry.
The Mitsubishi Regional Jet is an attractive airplane.
Enlarge / The Mitsubishi Regional Jet is an attractive airplane.
When it comes to reusable spaceflight, Western companies such as SpaceX have lapped the rest of the world. What also seems clear is that such companies also have a head start when it comes to tapping the potential of the entire workforce, starting with SpaceXʼs president, Gwynne Shotwell. Other major US aerospace companies are similarly led by women, including Lockheed Martin and rocket engine maker Aerojet Rocketdyne.
Throughout our entire time with MHI, the company did not hide the fact that the Japanese aerospace industry has ambitions of being a serious competitor with the likes of SpaceX and other private American space companies. But for rocket companies in the US, it clearly helps that women can build rockets, too.
(Editorʼs note: Mitsubishi Heavy Industries paid for the author of this story to travel to Japan and spend several days visiting company facilities there.)
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Among other rate hikes, Spectrum customers will see the monthly fee for set-top boxes rise in November to $7.50 from $6.99.
Article word count: 1003
HN Discussion: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18339530
Posted by ilamont (karma: 22851)
Post stats: Points: 93 - Comments: 124 - 2018-10-30T17:59:57Z
\#HackerNews #ask #box #cable #cost #does #dont #how #industry #much #prefer #really #the #would #you
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Spectrum TV and internet customers will see their rates go up again in November.
Among other increases, the broadcast TV surcharge will rise to $9.95 from $8.85 a month, and the monthly fee for a set-top box will jump to $7.50 from $6.99.
It was that last charge that got my attention — and got me thinking about the economics involved.
How much do cable boxes actually cost? Why do their monthly fees keep going up when the cost of similar technology, such as TVs and computers, goes down over time?
Not surprisingly, my attempts to answer these questions were met with stonewalling from industry players.
Spectrum, owned by Charter Communications, the dominant pay-TV company in Southern California, clammed up real fast when I asked how much they pay for the boxes they lease to subscribers.
Nor would it comment on how much cash flow the boxes generate, or why fees keep rising even as the number of residential TV subscribers dwindles (down 66,000 more in the third quarter).
Dennis Johnson, a company spokesman, said only that the 7.3% higher box charge in November — more than three times the inflation rate — represents a “modest increase” that is “comparable or even lower than our major competitors.”
(Full disclosure: The Los Angeles Times is collaborating with Spectrum on a new L.A.-focused cable channel.)
I also went knocking at the door of Arris International, the world’s largest supplier of set-top boxes to pay-TV companies. I asked how much it costs the company on average to make a box.
My inquiries were met at first with a thunderous “no comment.”
“Arris will not participate in this story,” a company spokeswoman said.
A couple of days later, I received an email from Jeanne Russo, Arris’ senior director of global communications, who more pleasantly explained that “we don’t share specifics on margins, manufacturing origins or average/median prices paid by our customers publicly, so we won’t be able to help you with those questions.”
She also wanted me to understand that “set-tops are premium devices” and are becoming “the digital nerve center of the ultra-connected home.”
Alexa and Siri might have something to say about that. And the cost of smart speakers keeps falling.
I find it intriguing that something as ubiquitous as set-top boxes, found in nearly all American homes, is shrouded in such mystery. The implication is that consumers shouldn’t worry their pretty heads about how much the boxes really cost.
That’s usually a sign someone in the executive suite is having a good laugh at our expense.
I also wondered what happened to that push from the Federal Communications Commission to standardize set-top boxes and introduce much-needed competition into the marketplace.
That was easier to find out.
In case you’ve forgotten, former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler noted in 2016 that the average pay-TV subscriber shelled out $231 a year to lease a set-top box from their service provider. The collective tab for that racket was $20 billion a year.
And you had to keep paying, even after the pay-TV company recouped its bulk-rate investment in the gear.
Wheeler’s solution was to establish uniform technical standards so any electronics manufacturer could make one-size-fits-all cable boxes. Pay-TV companies in turn would make free apps available to subscribers so they could access programming on any device.
“If you want to watch Comcastʼs content through your Apple TV or Roku, you can,” Wheeler wrote in an op-ed in these pages. “If you want to watch DirectTVʼs offerings through your Xbox, you can. If you want to pipe Verizonʼs service directly to your smart TV, you can.”
He added: “These rules will open the door for innovation, spurring new apps and devices, giving consumers even more choice and user control.”
Once President Trump installed his own guy as FCC chairman, however, a more industry-oriented mind-set took hold. Wheeler’s plan was promptly tossed in the trash.
Ajit Pai, the agency’s new boss, said Wheeler’s proposal “is no longer pending before the commission, and I do not intend to resurrect it.”
He never really explained why, except to say he didn’t think standardized boxes promoted “a clear, consumer-focused, fair and competitive regulatory path for video programming delivery,” which is, of course, nonsense.
Several years ago, Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) asked all the leading pay-TV service providers to shed a little light on set-top boxes. Like me, they were keen to find out how much a box really costs.
Like me, they got nowhere.
Charter said the average amount customers spend in monthly box fees “is confidential.” Likewise, revenue generated for the company by such fees “is confidential information.”
DirecTV said that “much of the information you have requested is proprietary, business sensitive and highly confidential.”
Cox Communications said it “does not disclose the confidential, proprietary and competitively sensitive information requested.”
I phoned around to Wall Street analysts who cover Arris. They couldn’t say how much it costs the company to manufacture set-top boxes in low-cost factories abroad.
But the general consensus was that Arris sells basic boxes to pay-TV companies for about $150 apiece and more advanced boxes for closer to $250.
If the FCC was right about the average customer paying $231 a year (as of 2016), that suggests the typical pay-TV company is recouping its investment per box in about a year or less, and all fees paid beyond that point are pure gravy, even allowing for any maintenance expenses.
Each analyst I spoke with said box fees aren’t a huge source of revenue for pay-TV companies, but they obviously add up.
Charter, for example, still has more than 16-million residential customers with set-top boxes, many with multiple boxes.
After the Spectrum fee rises within days to $7.50 a month, that will translate to at least $120 million. Monthly. Or at least $1.4 billion a year.
Rival Comcast charges $9.95 monthly for a high-definition box. It has about 22-million TV subscribers. It’s thus looking at potential revenue of $2.6 billion annually.
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Ex-energy trader John Arnold has put $100 million behind efforts to curb prices. Drugmakers say his view is flawed and oversimplified, and will restrict patients’ access to important medicines.
Article word count: 91
HN Discussion: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18269554
Posted by jseliger (karma: 44540)
Post stats: Points: 115 - Comments: 118 - 2018-10-21T19:05:44Z
\#HackerNews #and #billionaire #drug #fight #high #industry #pledges #prices #rattled #the
HOUSTON—Billionaire John D. Arnold is spending a chunk of his fortune to campaign against America’s high drug prices. The drug industry is spending a chunk of its fortune to counter him.
Mr. Arnold is the biggest single spender on his side of the battle. He made his money placing bets on price swings in the natural-gas market, first as an energy trader at Enron, then at his own hedge fund after Enron’s collapse. Now retired, the 44-year-old Texan with an estimated $3.3 billion in assets is dedicating himself to the topic...
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