Mega Death: Meet the Company That’s Taking Over the Funeral Industry

SCI has 1,800 funeral homes and cemeteries in the U.S. and Canada, 20,000 employees and a market capitalization of $4 billion. Should a company this large have this much control over how we care for the dead?

“‘We are going to be poised to benefit from the aging of America, the baby boomers,’ Foley said. Deaths in the U.S. are forecast to increase at an average annual rate of 1.1 percent over the next five years. At SCI, earnings per share rose 26 percent in the first half of 2013. ‘This growth,’ Foley said, ’was driven in large part due to the strong flu season’—i.e., a lot of old people got sick and died last winter.”

Source: Businessweek
Published: Oct 25, 2013
Length: 14 minutes (3,673 words)

The New Republic of Porn

One man’s quest to reshape the online porn industry through the “.xxx” top-level domain:

“The resistance to Lawley, whatever its merits, has the ring of desperation. ICM arrived at a moment of crisis for commercial porn. After enabling several boom years, the Internet has brought many smut marketers to their knees. Rampant freebies on “tube” sites have reduced global porn revenue by 50 percent since 2007, to less than $10 billion, including about $5 billion generated in the U.S. Those are rough guesses by Diane Duke, executive director of the industry’s trade group, the coyly named Free Speech Coalition. Speaking privately, some porn executives say the coalition’s revenue estimates are optimistic. In a field dominated by privately held companies, no provable statistics exist.

“Setting aside moral judgments and potential social harms—we’ll get to those—it’s remarkable that Lawley is making any money at all. Especially since he had to fight for seven years, spending millions of his own dollars, to get permission for .xxx from the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a nonprofit regulatory body. His persistence in the face of hostile lobbying by competitors, religious conservatives, and the U.S. government suggests that if the stubborn British entrepreneur claims to have a money-spinning solution for the Great Porn Depression, he should not be underestimated.”

Source: Businessweek
Published: Jun 21, 2012
Length: 18 minutes (4,702 words)

Apple’s War on Android

Steve Jobs pledged to go “thermonuclear” in Apple’s battle against Google’s Android and device manufacturers like Samsung who he claimed ripped off the iPhone and iPad designs. But bringing a patent fight to court comes with significant risks:

“Several Asian manufacturers were noodling around with similar-looking rectangular smartphones before the iPhone came to market. Tipping its hat to a fellow Korean manufacturer, Samsung notes that in 2006, nearly a year before the iPhone appeared, LG Electronics (066570) announced the round-cornered LG Chocolate, with ‘virtually all of the [design] features Apple claims’ to have patented. In December 2006, before Apple released images of the iPhone, Samsung itself filed a design patent in Korea for a similar rectangular phone called the F700. Smartphone and tablet-computer design was ‘naturally evolving’ in the direction Apple claims it has exclusive rights to use, according to Samsung. If true, that matters because basic patent law states that if an idea is ‘obvious’ to an ‘ordinary observer’ at the time of its invention, it doesn’t deserve patent protection. By attacking Samsung, Apple has inadvertently put its own patents into play.”

Source: Businessweek
Published: Mar 29, 2012
Length: 18 minutes (4,578 words)

Transocean: No Apologies

Fourteen months after the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded 50 miles southeast of Venice, La., killing 11 men and setting off the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history, Transocean, the company that owned and ran the ill-fated 32,600-ton vessel, finally issued its official account of what happened and why. It produced a report on June 22 of no fewer than 854 pages, divided into two volumes, and spared no detail. The bottom line, though, isn’t complicated:It was BP’s fault.

Source: Businessweek
Published: Jun 30, 2011
Length: 21 minutes (5,448 words)

Amazon Crusader. Chevron Pest. Fraud?

Attorney Steven Donziger won an $18 billion pollution verdict against Chevron. But is he clean enough to collect? “Court papers seek to transform Donziger from a humanitarian firebrand into the mastermind of a conspiracy ‘to extort, defraud, and otherwise tortiously injure’ a corporation with a market capitalization of $208 billion, more than three times the size of Ecuador’s annual economic output.”

Source: Businessweek
Published: Mar 11, 2011
Length: 24 minutes (6,034 words)

Glock: America’s Gun

For all the anguish and outcry in the days after a community college dropout named Jared Loughner allegedly sprayed a Tucson crowd with 33 bullets from a semiautomatic pistol, one response was notably absent: any sense that America’s latest shooting spree, which killed six people and wounded 14, including Representative Gabrielle Giffords, would bring new restrictions on the right to own or carry large-capacity, rapid-fire weapons.

Source: Businessweek
Published: Jan 14, 2011
Length: 14 minutes (3,507 words)