Economist 6/21/14

  1. Between now and 2050 the number of people living in cities will grow from 3.9 billion to 6.3 billion. The proportion of urban dwellers will swell from 54% to 67% of the world’s population, according to the UN. Restrictive policies are doomed, says Shlomo Angel of NYU, whose research is the basis for the initiative.Both urban populations and land cover grew on average at the same rate in cities of all sizes (by 1.6% and 3.7% per year respectively) regardless of planning policies. Ethiopia also benefits from having straightforward land laws. The government owns the land; it is only leased to those who use it. If a city wants to expand into a rural area, farmers must be compensated for lost income. So far, this has gone smoothly: rules are clear and payments generous.
  2. MOST coverage of the decision by the United States Patent and Trademark Office to cancel five patent registrations for the Washington Redskins football team has focused on the impact of the ruling.The patent office asked whether five trademarks granted to the Washington Redskins between 1967 and 1990 violated the Lanham Act, a 1946 law prohibiting trademarks that “may disparage or falsely suggest a connection with persons, living or dead, institutions, beliefs.Given the original meaning of “redskin”—the bloody scalp of a Native American whose skin has been ripped off his head—it is hard to argue the term is anything but offensive.
  3. Winterlife generates $1m a month delivering dope in Washington state, and employs 50 people.Although it is legal to buy marijuana in Washington state, the person who delivers it could be guilty of a felony. Mr Cox has registered as a business with the city and state, but he cannot open a bank account, thanks to federal rules. In April, he paid $167,000 in sales tax to the Washington State Department of Revenue—in cash.In New York, dealing is banned but possession has been decriminalised.The messengers sell only marijuana and carry less than 25g, which makes them liable for a fine if stopped, not a misdemeanour, an industry directory, lists dozens of delivery-only services in California, Oregon and Colorado.
  4. The IRS has admitted that some of its staff targeted groups with “Tea Party” or “patriot” in their names—plus a few liberal groups—for extra scrutiny. On Tuesday it emerged that the e-mail records of six other IRS officials whose role is under scrutiny had also been lost. And the House oversight committee has found that before the 2010 election the IRS handed 1.1m pages of tax information on non-profit groups to the FBI—a big no-no.
  5. Amazon now carries 230m items for sale in America—some 30 times the number sold by Walmart, the world’s biggest retailer, which has its own fast-growing online business—and there is no sign of let-up. Amazon’s total revenues were $74.5 billion last year, but when one takes into account the merchandise that other companies sell through its “marketplace” service the sales volume is nearly double that. Though by far the biggest online retailer in America, it is still growing faster than the 17% pace of e-commerce as a whole.Its core retail business is thought to do little better than break-even; most of its profits come from the independent vendors who sell through Amazon’s marketplace. Another huge Amazon advantage is a global network of 96 “fulfilment centres”, warehouses both vast and clever that shuffle shipments from thousands of suppliers to millions of customers.“Fulfilment by Amazon” (FBA) allows independent merchants not just to sell their wares on Amazon’s website but also to ship them through Amazon’s supply chain. Then there is Alibaba, a Chinese e-commerce giant soon to receive an infusion of cash through a share offering. It is planning a marketplace in America called 11 Main and is part-owner of ShopRunner, which promises two-day delivery from 100 retailers. A new wave of online-only shops like Wanelo (“Want, need, love.”) could pose a challenge. Shares are the main way Amazon pays top employees; the highest salary—Mr Piacentini’s—is $175,000. 

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