Secrets of a New York City Banana

❝ On a hot day in June, the Hermann Hesse slipped into New York Harbor and headed for the Red Hook Container Terminal in Brooklyn. The 550-foot container ship, flying the Liberian flag, had come some 3,000 miles from Ecuador. It had gone through the Panama Canal, picked up cargo in the Caribbean and weathered a few squalls.

Its arrival in Brooklyn was only the beginning for the bananas on board.

❝ Every week, a ship like this one brings 40 container loads of bananas — or about four million — to the Red Hook terminal, a fifth of the 20 million bananas distributed around New York City each week.

❝ When bananas arrive in New York, they begin a second journey, traveling in a large loop around the city. They may be handled by customs officials in Brooklyn, blasted with a ripening gas in New Jersey, haggled over at an enormous produce market in the Bronx and finally taken in an unmarked truck, at night, to a fruit stand near you…

❝ In most of the country, the unseen, nocturnal business of ripening and distributing bananas is performed by grocery chains like Safeway. In New York, though things may be headed in that direction, much of the work still falls to local banana purveyors. They can trace their roots back to Antonio Cuneo, an Italian immigrant who cornered the market in the late 19th century and became known as the Banana King.

Fascinating article for all the reasons good journalism can be, should be. Not that there isn’t a place for imaginary tales. Even outside political lies, self-agrandizement. But, a straightforward piece of reporting like this – one that wanders off here and there to explain the nooks and crannies that adhere to all the economic and cultural processes of a topic essential to daily life – is a boon. A credit to the historical roots of journalism.

A worthwhile read.

Thanks, Justin

Future economics: This is how Big Oil will die

❝ It’s 2025, and 800,000 tons of used high strength steel is coming up for auction.

❝ The steel made up the Keystone XL pipeline, finally completed in 2019, two years after the project launched with great fanfare after approval by the Trump administration. The pipeline was built at a cost of about $7 billion, bringing oil from the Canadian tar sands to the US, with a pit stop in the town of Baker, Montana, to pick up US crude from the Bakken formation. At its peak, it carried over 500,000 barrels a day for processing at refineries in Texas and Louisiana.

But in 2025, no one wants the oil.

Thanks, @Smartalix

Americans Die Younger — Spend the Most on Health Care

❝ Typically, the more a developed country spends on health care, the longer its people live. The U.S., which spends the most on health care, bucks that trend. Compared to the 35 countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which promotes policies to improve social and economic well-being, the U.S. life expectancy of 78.8 years ranks 27th. It has the fourth highest infant mortality rate in the OECD, the sixth highest maternal mortality rate and the ninth highest likelihood of dying at a younger age from a host of ailments, including cardiovascular disease and cancer.

❝ The U.S. is the most obese country in the OECD, leads in drug-related deaths and ranks 33rd in prevalence of diabetes. Yet 88 percent of Americans say they are in good or very good health, according to OECD statistics. Only 35 percent of Japanese, who have the highest life expectancy in the OECD, regard themselves as healthy or very healthy.

❝ Unlike other countries in the OECD, the U.S. mostly relies on voluntary health insurance to fund health-care costs. Public health insurance, such as Medicare and Medicaid, accounts for 27 percent of coverage. By contrast, the 10 countries with the highest life expectancy depend on voluntary insurance for an average of less than 6 percent of their costs, and government spending for nearly half.

❝ One big reason U.S. health care costs are so high: pharmaceutical spending. The U.S. spends more per capita on prescription medicines and over-the-counter products than any other country in the OECD.

RTFA for beaucoup stats, details. I would add emphasis on the insurance profiteers who rip off Americans without the slightest peep from either Establishment party. Our governments manages SSA, Medicare and Medicaid with admin costs <3%. Corporate-run insurance says they need 14-24% to do the same job.

Amazon’s Job Fairs Roll Out — Hiring Thousands


Romeoville, IllinoisLyndon French/NYTimes

❝ Brandon Williams arrived at an Amazon fulfillment center here, about an hour outside of Chicago, around 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday, one of thousands across the country who turned up for the company’s first Jobs Day. While he appeared to wilt slightly during the five hours he waited before an M.C. summoned him for a tour, his enthusiasm did not wane.

“What’s not great about a company that keeps building?” he said, seated in a huge tent the company erected in the parking lot as a kind of makeshift waiting room.

❝ The event was a vivid illustration of the ascendance of Amazon, the online retail company that, to a far greater extent than others in the tech industry, has a seemingly insatiable need for human labor to fuel its explosive growth.

Like other tech giants, Amazon is recruiting thousands of people with engineering and business degrees for high-paying jobs. But the vast majority of Amazon’s hiring is for what the company calls its “fulfillment network” — the armies of people who pick and pack orders in warehouses and unload and drive delivery trucks, and who take home considerably smaller incomes.

❝ The event on Wednesday, held at a dozen locations including Romeoville, Ill., was intended to help fill 50,000 of those lower-paying positions, 40,000 of them full-time jobs.

Those high-low distinctions did not seem to bother the attendees of the jobs fair, many of them united in the conviction that Amazon represented untapped opportunity — that a foot in the door could lead to a career of better-compensated, more satisfying work, whether in fulfillment, I.T., marketing or even fashion.

RTFA for extended analysis and detail. I admit I find this interesting for two reasons: the first is history – now that I’m a retired geezer even though my brain still thinks I’m 26. Over the years, I could always find a job in logistics. Let me pick up and move anywhere in the country – or abroad – and get a job that had at least decent pay and opportunity to move up.

The second is still operative. Though retired and enjoying the superlative benefits of SSA and Medicare as governed by thoughtful and caring politicians in Washington, DC – there’s always the risk of catastrophic illness screwing up the plan. In the US, that means finding some sort of part-time gig to supplement what I’ve already paid for in dollar$ and sweat equity from a life of mostly full employment.

Remember, I’m white and reasonably well-educated.

Given that disaster I hope to avoid, I’d probably seek work as a CSR, customer service representative, utilizing our home-based computing capacity to plug into a system like Amazon or any one of a number of other endeavors that utilize service employees to implement problem-solving. If need be.

I’d rather be outdoors, walking, enjoying everything that is lifestyle in northern New Mexico.

Oh yeah – anyone expect the Hypocrite-in-Chief to claim credit for Amazon’s growth? Don’t know why Trump hates Jeff Bezos; but, I imagine he’d rather not acknowledge Amazon’s continued success.

Milestone: – Companies abandoning Alberta oilsands exploration leases

❝ In another sign the bloom is off the boom for the oilsands, the industry has returned almost one million hectares of northern Alberta exploration leases to the province over the past two years — abandoning an area far bigger than P.E.I.

The total area covered by oilsands leases remained constant at about nine million hectares between 2011 and 2014. But it fell to 8.5 million hectares in 2015 and 8.1 million in 2016, following the crash in world oil prices from over US$100 to under $60 per barrel in 2014.

Most of the returned acreage either represents expired or surrendered leases, according to Alberta Energy, which provided the statistics at the request of The Canadian Press.

❝ Observers were surprised by the size of the lease returns which they attributed to industry cost-cutting and disinterest in spending to develop new prospects when there’s no money to build projects already on the books.

“It costs money to maintain these lands,” said Brad Hayes, president of Petrel Robertson Consulting in Calgary. “You can’t convince shareholders to continue to put that money out if there’s no prospect for success.”

Maybe he should follow the ExxonMobil model and go to work for the Canadian government as Foreign Minister.

Is your vacuum cleaner spying on you? + RESPONSE from iRobot…

The following is from an open letter to iRobot CEO Colin Angle. His company makes the very popular Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner. On Monday, ZDNet’s Jake Smith wrote about iRobot’s intention to sell mapping data from customers’ homes to other companies.

❝ Dear Colin,

One of the ways Webster defines “dear” is “highly valued” or “precious.” So, when I start a letter with “Dear Colin,”…I’m just using a commonly accepted way of starting a letter.

This is relevant to our discussion because you’ve recently talked about taking from your customers information that is dear to them, even though you’ve never met most of the people who enjoy the benefits of your products. When your customers buy your products, there are some common expectations.

❝ It looks like you may be thinking about or trying to violate those expectations. By extension, it’s looking like you might be violating the trust given to you by your customers. Even worse, you could be opening the door to security risks that are far worse than they would be worth, just so you can make a few extra bucks on the side.

In a recent Reuters interview, you talked about the value of mapping data, both for doing the job of cleaning a room, and for understanding the environment where internet-connected things need to interoperate. So far, I’m with you…

That data could be used to help maximize lighting, tune sound, optimize microphones, determine when people or pets are in a space, and help conserve energy. All that is good…

❝ But here’s the thing that has the whole internet a-flutter. Apparently, you’re trying to sell that mapping data. I understand that…but once you get into the mode of selling data, the potential for abuse rears its oh-so-ugly head.

You’re no longer mapping our homes to make sure you don’t tear out a power cord or fall down a flight of stairs. You’re moving into the realm of spying on your customers. In your case, though, it’s far worse than those stories of possible always-on webcams or TV sets…

See, none of those other devices can move around the house on their own power. If my TV is in the living room, I know it’s there. If I’m concerned about my privacy, I’m probably not going to parade my naked butt in front of it. But a Roomba can decide to wake itself up. It can wander around the house. It can measure, map, and with your onboard camera, even take pictures.

What could go wrong?

The CEO of iRobot has been further interviewed by ZDNet. He denies that the firm will sell customer data. Pls read it. Judge for yourself.

Trump’s Lies and the Foxconn Dream


Doug Mills/The New York Times

❝ Wisconsin is about to shell out as much as $3 billion for the privilege of luring Foxconn Technology Group. At $519 per citizen, it would have been cheaper to buy an iPhone for every man, woman and child in the midwestern state.

Let’s be clear: The big winner isn’t the taxpayer. It’s Foxconn and its billionaire chairman Terry Gou. As I predicted several times, Foxconn would only come to the U.S. if and when his demands were met.

❝ Meet them is exactly what Wisconsin did, with an offering of tax credits, training grants and infrastructure improvements. In return, Foxconn said it will invest $10 billion and create 3,000 jobs.

Let’s take a look at those figures: Wisconsin is paying as much as $1 million per job, which will carry an average salary of $54,000. The state’s economic development corporation is selling the project to taxpayers with a claim that it will create 10,000 construction jobs for building the facility and another 6,000 indirect positions. It’s expecting $3.3 million of investment per employee from the Taiwanese company.

❝ Politicians, lobbyists and Foxconn can make the figures work by being generous with the facts. For example, if every one of those jobs came to fruition, they can claim 29,000 positions for $3 billion, or $103,000 per job. But that’s not going to happen.

Foxconn has factories in China and another dozen countries globally, yet that stated $10 billion investment is more than the group’s publicly traded flagship — Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. — has devoted to capital expenditure over the past five years combined.

RTFA for more details about the lies that will justify this transaction. The process of saving/creating jobs by taxpayers forking over dollar$ up front ain’t new. Especially in a state with a Republican governor. Scott Walker tells lies with the best of ’em – and Trump is better at it than he is.

Terry Gou is laughing all the way to the bank.

The Electric Vehicle Takeover


Click to enlarge

❝ Do you want the big thing or the new thing?…More importantly: Do you want to invest in the big thing or the new thing?

It’s a question that haunts any industry vulnerable to disruption, which is pretty much all of them these days.

❝ Take the automotive business. Bloomberg New Energy Finance just released its latest long-term outlook for electric vehicles. It posits, startlingly, that sales of all-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles will overtake those using internal combustion engines within roughly two decades…

The late 2030s may sound like a long way away. But they aren’t when put in the context of an automotive industry that’s only been around for a century or so.

❝ Looked at differently, BNEF’s projection suggests electric vehicles account for all the growth in global vehicle sales within a decade from now…

Based on BNEF’s projections, global sales of vehicles will rise by 1.67 million in the year 2026. But sales of electric vehicles are forecast to rise by 2.06 million, while the number of vehicles using internal combustion engines will fall slightly, by around 400,000. To be clear, absolute sales of electric vehicles in that year are expected to be just over 10 million, versus almost 87 million for their traditional counterparts…

❝ And while it is tough for incumbents to pivot to a new business, it is not impossible…it was critical for Facebook that, even as it was launching its IPO in 2012, it was also overhauling its business to focus on smartphones rather than its desktop PC product — despite the latter accounting for 89 percent of the company’s advertising revenue that year…

Facebook’s desktop product dominated its advertising revenue in 2012 — but all the growth potential was in smartphones.

More examples dot the financial map. VW planning on investing $10 billion into electric vehicle manufacture – mostly in the United States for global distribution. The Brits announced, today, legislation to end registration of diesel or gasoline-powered motor vehicles in the UK by 2040.

Those drops of water appearing under your front door look like the beginning of a flood to me.

Why I get most of my news coverage from Bloomberg TV

Yes, I enjoy “magazine pieces and panels on MSNBC. Also watch Sky News and the Canadian Broadcasting Company via apps on our Apple TV. And I wish Al Jazeera America was still around. But, the sidebar and crawl on Bloomberg – and onscreen staff segments – keep me up-to-date with our world better than any of the “all-American” networks.

True, also, of a number of online sites – from The Big Picture to VOX.