Plastics are an inseparable aspect of modern society. From packaging of household items to industry appliances, plastics are always depended on. Because of its versatility and cheap production cost, we have over-relied on it. Plastic production has grown over 20-fold in the past 50 years. It is expected to grow even more in the years to come. The problem isn't the production, but how plastics are handled after usage. Landfills are rapidly being filled up and oceans are becoming polluted as well. On average, only 9% of all plastic wastes are recycled. However, countries and companies around the world are trying to come up with new solutions.
globalEDGE Blog Archive December 2018
Qatar, a small, wealthy country in the Middle East, announced its resignation from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) on December 3rd. OPEC is the most powerful oil cartel in the world, holding a near monopoly over the oil industry that allows the group--which now consists of 14 countries, most notably of which are Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Iraq, and Iran—to exercise nearly complete control of oil prices and production. Russia also holds an alliance with OPEC, more specifically with Saudi Arabia, and shares an influence on the oil market.
Over the past year, OPEC has been faced with declining global oil prices due in part to increased American shale generation and an overall global supply glut. As a way to counteract the decline in prices, OPEC announced restrictions on oil productions amongst its members as a way to support prices. Because of the falling oil prices and Qatar’s lack of impact of oil output—they produce 600,000 barrels per day, only about two percent of total output in the cartel—the country seeks to capitalize on its liquefied natural gas business. Sharing the world’s largest gas field with Iran, the production of natural gas does not fall under OPEC control, prompting Qatar to seek independence from a group that was generating few gains for the country because of its economic make-up. Consequently, the move is predicted to have a minimal impact on the actual oil market but could be a sign of the impact of the falling oil prices on OPEC’s power going forward.
Apple and smartphones will always seem to be connected, almost as Apple is a monopoly for the market. While Apple only holds 17.9% of the smartphone market industry, it is no question that they are the top tier in smartphone manufacturing and production. However, Apple is currently being trialed in a case that claims Apple violated anti-trust laws in affiliation with their app store. Apple controls their app store, the only way to get apps on an iPhone is through Apple’s Appstore. The case, Apple v. Pepper, turns on what happens when iPhone users buy something at the Apple App Store. In allowing the suit, a federal appeals court said the transaction is a simple one in which consumers buy directly from Apple. According to anti-trust laws, there are statutes developed by the U.S. Government to protect consumers from predatory business practices by ensuring that fair competition exists in an open-market economy. When looking at the definition, we must keep in mind that for Apple to be found liable, there must be clear evidence showing that consumers were harmed in some way. This is where it gets tricky because Apple is such a dominant price chooser for the application industry, that there is no clear idea if they are suppressing consumers or not. Also, it is important to note that Apple has incentives to raising the price of applications, as producers must agree to give 30% of profits in exchange for having permission to sell apps on Apple’s Appstore. While this court case is being decided, it is important to note the impact that this ruling could have on any other competitive monopolistic tech giants such as Facebook, Google, or Amazon.
If Apple is found liable, it is only a matter of time before these tech giants get trailed for antitrust law violations as well. When Verizon was asked about what this meant for other tech companies, they replied, “That is really the beginning — not the end — of the analysis,” Verizon wrote. Some examples of companies under fire for potentially violating anti-trust laws include Google and Mastercard. Some of the experts have argued that Google caused the death of local search engines that connected users to local businesses, and Yelp claims that Google's lowering the rank of Yelp results (in favor of competing Google info) has harmed that company as well. Last year, the court took one of its first major stabs at the issue in the digital age. It issued a significant decision involving American Express that gave the company the benefit of the doubt, despite claims that American Express was anti-competitively barring retailers from steering customers toward Visa or Mastercard, which are cheaper to use.
If Apple v. Pepper is decided against Apple, monopolistic companies such as Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Amazon are next in line to be investigated. This case has the potential to open the floodgates and give us a closer and better understanding of anti-trust laws in the business world.
In a report released by The National Retail Federation, U.S. holiday retail sales in November and December are expected to grow between 4.3 and 4.8 percent over 2017 sales. This will create an approximate spending of around $720 billion. In the United States, record-low unemployment numbers combined with strong consumer confidence has led to these bullish estimates regarding holiday shopping. Deloitte is predicting that U.S. e-commerce sales could reach $134 billion this holiday season.
Imagine a video where a Fortune 500 company's CEO confesses to fraud, and his company’s stock falls by 50%. Only to find out that the video was fake. With the advance of deepfake technology, things like this could occur. Scenarios like this could have huge ramifications and they are not far from our reality, artificial intelligence and deep learning technology is making it easier to make fake videos that look realistic.