201. John Oliver On The Dangers Of Not Challenging Junk Science

06 takeaways from this video: Continue reading “201. John Oliver On The Dangers Of Not Challenging Junk Science”

181. The Awkward Relationship Between Doctors & Pharmaceutical Companies

10 takeaways from this video: Continue reading “181. The Awkward Relationship Between Doctors & Pharmaceutical Companies”

164. How To Ru(i)n A Business: When Content Meets Native Advertising

04 takeaways from this video:

00:00:43 Most media outlets rely on corporate advertising to stay afloat, and are therefore locked in a constant battle for editorial independence. This is especially problematic where, when it comes to media in “free and independent societies,” the editoral and business functions should not overlap.

But with print journalism following its readers online, it has struggled to maintain a viable business model because, online, consumers neither like paying for content nor being subjected to banner advertising.

00:03:07 Native advertising, as explained by Ken Auletta, a contributor to The New Yorker, is “advertising camouflage.” Typical native advertising includes small disclaimers such as ‘Sponsored Content,” logos in and alongside the content, and body copy that reads like an advertisement.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Native advertising is considered different from the use of “off the record” statements in public relations. Recall in my interview with Executive Director Daphné Claude that you can usually identify ‘off the record’ statements in articles because they’re sourced by “according to a source familiar with the subject.”

‘Off the record’ can also be one way of negotiating with a journalist: “Look, my clients worked on a particular transaction you’re writing an article about. If you mention my client in the article, I’ll give you accurate information about the deal.” For example ‘Company X did action Y and was advised by MY CLIENT.’]

So while the free press should keep its editoral and business functions separate, native advertising is so lucrative, and consumers so adament about not paying for it, that it can be hard for media outlets to not at least incorporate it in their business model.

“100% of Buzzfeed’s revenue comes through branded content. We work with 76 of the top 100 brands.” – Jonah Peretti, CEO of Buzzfeed


00:05:30 Native advertising is lucrative to the point where other, more reputable outlets such as Time Inc. and The Atlantic have created entire teams dedicated to native advertising. “As long as its clearly marked and the consumer knows the difference,” defends Joseph A Ripp, CEO of Time Inc., “I don’t see any problem with it at all.”

[EDITOR’S NOTE: In The Wall Street Journal’s article Clock Is Ticking for Time Inc.’s CEO on July 27, 2015, reporter Jeffrey Trachtenberg explains that Time Inc.’s 2014 revenue fell by 11% from 2010, and unless the company finds new sources of revenue and content distribution, Time Inc. can expect a slow and steady death.

Also, in 2013 The Atlantic published an article sponsored by the Church of Scientology. This content was removed, however not before a screen capture was made and posted on Gawker.com]

Less than half (41%) of the general news audience are able to distinguish native advertising and sponsored content from editorial content.

(Source: Interactive Advertising Bureau. July 22, 2014. Paragraph 5, last sentence.)

00:07:41 Some native advertising is relatively harmless and isn’t necessarily in conflict with the content it sponsors, such as a legitimately researched New York Times piece on Women Inmates: Why the Male Model Doesn’t Work which was paid for by Netflix’s series Orange is the new Black.

But corporate sponsored content won’t always be as objective, such as the article in the New York Times on How Our Energy Needs Are Changing, sponsored by Chevron.

The dilemma is that there cannot be a ‘free and independent press’ unless consumers are willing to pay for it to be.

131. How To Ru(i)n An Economy: The Untapped Potential of Defeating Food Waste

07 important lessons from this video:

00:00:12 Americans love food to the point where celebrating America often goes hand-in-hand with celebrating its food:

  • All you can eat pancakes, chicken wings, riblets… 
  • Endless shrimp…
  • What’s more American than a cheeseburger…?

00:01:39 But there subsequently is a surprising amount of food that goes uneaten. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) finds that:

“Up to 40 percent of all the food produced in the United States never gets eaten… 

…Americans throw away $165 billion worth of food every year.” 

Source: http://www.nrdc.org/food/files/wasted-food-ip.pdf

Further, this food wastage has increased by about 50% since 1974.

00:03:21 This waste is unacceptable for many reasons, notably:

  • The 49.1 million people living in food-insecure households who, at some point in the year, struggle to put enough food on the table.” 

    (According to a 2013 report by the USDA – 1st sentence page 10)

  • The total amount of labor and natural resources required to make the 40% of food which ends in the trash.
  • When all of that (food) waste is aggregated and decomposes without air in a landfill creates methane – a greenhouse gas which is +20 times as potent as CO² at trapping heat.” 

    (Source: “Just Eat It” (2015))

  • Thrown away directly from our household refrigerator, we’re wasting between 15-25% of the food we purchase. (Source: interview with Dana Gunders, Staff Scientist for NRDC, interviewed for 

    “Just Eat It” (2015))

00:06:35 Stores often routinely overstock so that their customers can see and have immediate access to tons of food because humans are not only impulse shoppers, they also have a tendancy to avoid taking the last product on the shelf for fear there may be something wrong with it.

00:07:51 During the harvesting season, much of the fruits are thrown away even before they’ve made their way to the sales floor because the fruit grown with some deformity makes it aesthetically unattractive, and therefore, unsellable. Once a fruit has been deemed unsellable, it is more cost effective  for the farmer to simply throw the fruit on the ground to rot than to pay

the overhead production, manual labor, storage, logistics and transportation costs

necessary to bring the fruit to the market only to be rejected.

00:09:34 According to the NRDC report The Dating Game: How Confusing Food Date Labels Lead to Food Waste in America:

91% of consumers occasionally throw away food from their refrigerator because it has passed its arbitrary ‘use by,’ ‘sell by,’ and ‘expiration date.’

00:10:27 According to Emily Broad Leib, Director of Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic, the expiration date is simply a manufacturer’s ‘best guess’ of when the product in question is at it’s best, most freshest quality.

As a manufacturer, wouldn’t it be in your best interest to make the expiration dates as tight as possible in order to sell more food as quickly as possible?

[EDITOR’S NOTE: In her mini-documentary The Story of Stuff: How Our Modern Markets Economy is Destroying our Planet, Annie Leonard points out that even with non-food items, most consumer goods fall under two life cycles:

  • Planned obsolescence involves creating products specifically designed for the dump; created with the intention of being useless as quickly as possible whilst leaving the consumer with the belief that they are getting a good deal. Products ranging from plastic bags to take-away coffee cups, DVDs, cameras, computers and smartphones…
  • Perceived obsolescence involves convincing consumers to discard products which are still perfectly usable. Products ranging from the newest fashion trend to the latest iphone model…

Advertising, branding, and media communications play a huge role in consumer spending and perceived obsolescence. What’s the point of an advertising except to make us unhappy with what we currently have? Media communications also aid in hiding the extraction, production, and distrution parts of the markets economy.]

00:11:10 In reality (as of July 19, 2015), with the exception of baby formula, the federal government as well as 9 states don’t require food to carry expiration dates.

Nevertheless, grocery stores continue to throw away ‘ugly’ and expired food because consumers will not buy it.

00:11:35 Common misconceptions justifying the throwing away of food rather than donating it to the above mentioned food-insecure households is because:

  • It’s a food health and safety issue, and 
  • There’s a threat of legal action should a person fall ill from eating the expired food.

In reality, food donors are covered by the Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act of 1996 which says you cannot be sued for making food donations in good faith.

00:13:00 But the largest preventer of food being purchased or donated and consumed is because, once again, the overhead production, manual labor, storage, logistics and transportation costs of getting the ‘imperfect’ food into food-insecure households costs money, and to date the government provides no economic incentive, tax breaks or assistance for smaller businesses to do so.

To date, it’s cheaper and easier to throw away perfectly good food than it is to donate it.

00:14:23 In February, 2015, the H.R. 644 Fighting Hunger Incentive Act of 2015 was proposed to make such a tax break a permanent incentive for would-be food donors. However by the time the bill passed it had been renamed H.R. 644 America Gives More Act, and upon reaching the Senate, the act was gutted of all it’s original intentions, renamed it H.R. 644 – Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015  and turned it into an act about border control and Israeli-US relations.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: An excellent advertising campaign was launched to rebrand ugly fruit:

Lastly, in France as of Thursday, May 21, 2015, “French MPs on Thursday voted unanimously in favour of a new law that will outlaw the destruction of unsold food products, forcing large supermarkets instead to donate them to charities or for use on farms.”]

124. How To Ru(i)n A Business: Patent Troll Exploits In The Patenting Process

07 important lessons from this Episode:

00:00:07 Patents are a form of intellectual property and exclusive rights granting an inventor or assignee a limited period of time in exchange for detailed public disclosure of an invention. In the United States, patent grants go through the US Dept of Commerce Patent And Trademark Office.

00:01:35 While patents are an essential element of competitive business, the patent system has been increasingly prone to abuse. 

Austin Meyer created X-Plane:

The world’s most advanced flight simulator. For Mac, Windows, and Linux. Mr Meyer was then sued for patent infringement by Uniloc, a company ‘best known for its controversial patent lawsuits’ for infringing upon their patent of a computer program which ‘checks servers for essential server for authorization;’ a technology upon which 99.99% of Android apps are based. 

[EDITOR’S NOTE: You can read Meyer’s open letter to Congress on this lawsuit. The gist of the lawsuit is:

  • Uniloc sues Meyer for “using an e-commerce distribution system provided to me by Google to sell X-Plane.”
  • Three year later after investing significant time and money, one of Uniloc’s infringement claims were overturned. Uniloc retaliated by changing the claim X-Plane had infringed, and added 113 additional claims.
  • Meyers is offered to settle out of court for $50K and sign a non-disclosure agreement or close his business, neither of which he refuses to do. “97% of the people who are sued for Patent Infringement, unable to afford to defend themselves, are forced to settle, paying the Patent Troll that frivolously sued them an average of $300,000.”]

The SouthEastern Employment Services was sued by FolNer, LLC for using a company-owned photocopying machine, demanding $1,000 per employee using the photocopier. The FolNer, LCC claimed it owned the patents for the scan-to-email function on the photocopying machine. Watch/read the full NBC story.


00:02:41 Patent trolls are people or companies who attempt to enforce patent rights against other people or companies (businesses large and small) for infringement. Many times, these patent trolls don’t actually manufacture products or supply services based upon the patent they hold; their revenue model is essentially buying patents and then suing companies for ‘violating the patent.’

Of the 4,700 patent lawsuits filed in 2012, 3,000 were from ‘patent trolls,’ and the number of lawsuits filed by ‘patent trolls’ has nearly tripled, costing investors over $500,000,000,000 since 1990.

How can ‘patent trolling’ be possible?

00:04:45 According to the US Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO), patents are supposed to be granted to ideas and inventions which are “new, useful and non-obvious.” However during technological revolutions, for example with railroad revolution and more recently with software development, the US Dept of Commerce Patent And Trademark Office can inevitably become overwhelmed and grant patents which shouldn’t be granted.

Because software design and functionality is so broad and vague, their uses overlapping and built on top of each other, that patent owners can ‘justifiably’ claim ownership of future inventions and implementation.

00:06:02 Nearly 90% of patent infringement claims are settled out of court because the price of settling is always much, much less expensive than the cost of fighting the infringement claim; a sort of legalized extortion. Further, non-disclosure agreements in the out of court settlement ensures that this patent ‘extortion’ is never uncovered and dealt with.

00:07:33 A quarter of all patent infringement cases are filed through Marshall Texas because, “for ‘whatever reason,’ East Texas judges are sympathetic to plaintifs.” Samsung, who has been sued through Marshall Texas multiple times, has responded by injecting millions of dollars in Public Relations campaigns into the city of Marshall.

00:08:59 The H.R. 3309 Innovation Act which passed in the House in December 2013 and aimed to require restitution from patent trolls who lose in the court of law as well as more transparency in their business dealings was shot down in the Senate because, according to David Martin, M-Cam Founder & Chairman in a Bloomberg interview, “trial lawyers’ influence in Washington is alive and well.”

[EDITOR’S NOTE: For more information on how copyright patents and patent trolls affect music and videos, watch the informative talk Copy, Cut, Paste by Andy Baio.]