The plight of the Jackass


May 9, 2019

Today, the business of death is killing it, and reports show that Coca-Cola ain’t spillin’ it, but first…
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Kentucky’s dreams for fast internet ride on the back of a misled mule

Several years ago, a mule named Old Bub set off through the mountains of rural Kentucky carrying a curious cargo: The internet.

Old Bub was hired to bring fiber-optic cable to the most remote counties of the state as part of a project called KentuckyWired.

But, nearly a decade later, the project has failed in its mission to plug Kentucky into the high-speed internet economy — and it will cost more than 50x as much as forecast, ProPublica reports.

Kentucky’s way was supposed to be the I-way

Kentucky, which has the fifth-worst internet speeds in the nation, announced plans in 2014 to build an information superhighway (an “I-way”) across the state. 

It was supposed to work like this: Kentucky would pay the Australian investment bank Macquarie Capital to build and run the I-way at a state taxpayer cost of $30m, roughly 10% of the $324m project’s total cost (with private and federal partners paying the rest). 

But thanks to a mulishly stubborn battle between politicians and private partners, the project is now expected to cost taxpayers $1.5B.   

What went wrong?

The fine print of the state’s contract with Macquarie resulted in Kentucky paying millions of dollars in penalties for delays and pushing back the project 2+ years. 

According to state officials, the project’s timeline was unrealistic from the beginning — and when the timeline took a turn for the tumultuous, Kentucky ended up paying for it instead of Macquarie.

Now Kentucky’s new governor, Matt Bevin, who was elected after the contract for KentuckyWired was drafted, is stuck with a conundrum.

A tangled cable

If The Bluegrass State sticks with the project, it will cost taxpayers billions more than expected; if it backs out, it will still owe billions to private partners — and still won’t have good internet.

If it’s ever built, KentuckyWired promises internet speeds 50x faster than current bandwidth allows. 

Gov. Bevin’s office claims to be committed to completing the project across the remote corners of the state — even in the areas that require teams of mules to run cable. 

But not everyone is convinced it will happen — and it won’t be done until 2020 at the earliest.

Mule me twice, shame on you
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The rise of the death wellness movement

You know what they say: You only die once (YODO) — so you might as well do it right. Or so the thinking goes in the “death wellness movement.” 

A growing number of services in the dollars-for-death business are shifting the focus from funerals and services to designer death experiences.

The death business is killing it 

It sounds creepy, but there’s a thriving cottage industry around dying. Death doulas — who, like birth doulas, support patients — operate in at least 6 states. 

Death Cafes across the country let people gather over tea and cake to talk candidly about dying. A number of companies help elderly people produce “legacy videos” before they pass.  

There’s even a death festival of sorts in San Francisco, Reimagine End of Life, that offers spiritual and scientific programming to end taboos related to death. 

But can everyone afford a designer death? 

Dying isn’t always cheap. The average American funeral costs about $9k, and although death doulas’ fees vary, some packages could set families back a few thousand dollars a week. 

Other death services like legacy videos can cost as much as $7k, pushing premium postmortems out of reach for many.

But even if not everyone can afford the white-glove dying experience, the death wellness movement wants to shift culture to provide support and positivity to all people in their final days.

» YODO

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Academic research funding contracts allow Coca-Cola to ‘can’ damaging health studies

Cambridge researchers have discovered several eyebrow-raising clauses in the contracts behind Coke’s recent university health study funding. 

Namely, the soda giant reserved the right to review results early, threaten researchers with termination, “quash studies” it found unfavorable, and walk away with the findings. 

Very restrictive for an “unrestricted” grant 

The study authors are concerned these rights could allow Coke to bury or skew “critical health information,” if they haven’t already. They also named Big Food as the latest public health enemy to join ranks with Big Pharma and Big Tobacco (sodapressing). 

It’s not a good look for Coke, which upholds integrity as a core value, and has landed in hot soda in the past over its questionable tactics. Some health experts are calling for stricter policies and predicting that more of this type of behavior will come as soda sales continue to slip.

Responding to the Cambridge report, Coke pointed out the lack of evidence that it acted on any of the sketchy rights in question, and emphasized its recently updated research guidelines and renewed commitment to transparency.

» Happy National ‘Have a Coke’ Day…?

Following the crowd, big sponsors are finally fans of women’s pro sports

Big brands such as AT&T, Budweiser, and Barclay’s, which have historically bankrolled only men’s professional sports leagues, are finally hopping on the bandwagon to support women’s leagues, Axios reports.

More people are watching women’s sports

Sponsors follow broadcasters. From 2011 to 2013, 0.4% of sponsor dollars went to women’s sports, and only 3.2% of broadcast time was dedicated to women’s sports in 2014.

But that’s starting to change. The WNBA recently signed a multi-year deal with CBS that will double its TV exposure, and sponsors are following. 

AT&T recently became the first non-apparel company to sign a league-wide contract with the WNBA, and Budweiser recently stamped its first women’s soccer deal. 

The dream stream

Women’s sports are moving into the mainstream (emphasis on the stream). Streaming services have helped athletes like Serena Williams become mega-stars.

In 2018, the women’s US Open final between Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka drew 50% more viewers than the men’s final. 

But it’s not all rainbows out there: The US women’s national soccer team is suing the US Soccer Federation over pay disparities, and women’s hockey players who make as little as $2k per year are currently on strike.

» Fair weather fans…

Lora DiCarlo gets its CES Innovation Award back

The Consumer Technology Association returned the innovation award it rescinded from robotic sex toy company, Lora DiCarlo, earlier this year at this year’s Consumer Electronic Show.

Back in March, we interviewed Lora DiCarlo’s founder Lora Haddock (read it here) about the CTA’s decision to wrongfully strip the award it originally handed Lora DiCarlo’s flagship sex toy, the Osé — a hands-free vibrator that specializes in giving women blended orgasms.

But, after public outcry from Haddock and others, the CTA seems to have realized the error of its ways, saying it “did not handle this award properly,” according to The Verge.

On top of that, Lora DiCarlo announced yesterday an additional $2m in financing from new and existing investors.

Wow. Maybe there is justice in the world…

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