A company’s value is often tied to the message it portrays to customers. But what happens when other companies try to take advantage of your brand?
Take the Philadelphia Eagles, for instance. The American football team wants to exclusively own the phrase: “Philly Special.” That was the trick play that helped them win the Super Bowl, and the Philly Special is, by far, the most talked-about play of the Super Bowl.
Watch the play here:
It is a gutsy move. In football-speak, it is a direct-snap reverse pass to quarterback Nick Foles, who usually throws the ball. But the coach gives the OK, and Foles tells his teammates the plan in the huddle.
The team lines up, Foles runs up the field. Tight end Trey Burton throws the football, and Foles catches it in the end zone for a touchdown.
“Play of the century”
Now, the phrase, ‘Philly Special,’ has turned into a city-wide phenomena. Bakeries are making Philly Special pastries. Some people are getting the words or even a sketch of the play tattooed on themselves.
And stores, like Ashley Peel’s Philadelphia Independents, cannot keep enough Philly Special T-shirts in stock.
“It’s the ‘Nick Foles play of the century,’ as I’m dubbing it from the Super Bowl,” Peel said. “It has a layout of the [specifics] from the play. We just got it in and we’re almost already sold out of it. It’s definitely moving well.”
It’s moving well, even as several entrepreneurs are competing to be awarded a trademark — in other words, exclusive rights — to the phrase. Many of the businesses filed their own trademark applications ahead of the Eagles.
“I do have a client that’s applied for the mark, ‘Philly Special,’” said Philadelphia-based lawyer Nancy Rubner Frandsen.
She filed a trademark application on behalf of a company called Whalehead Associates. She can’t comment too much about the application without violating attorney-client privilege, but admits the phrase goes beyond a football play.
“Obviously it brings everyone together, it was our Super Bowl championship that brought it all about,” she said. “It’s got the term ‘Philly’ in it — from the trademark standpoint, it would be deemed to be descriptive. But then you combine it with the term, ‘Special,’ and it could make a very unique trademark.”
Some of the other businesses that want to trademark the term include a sandwich maker, a gift shop manufacturer … and the Philadelphia Eagles. The team was actually the last to file a trademark application. Even so, experts say, it’s likely the rights will be awarded to the Eagles.
“This particular term, ideally, should belong to the Eagles,” said Dr. Jay Sinha, an associate marketing professor at Temple University in Philadelphia.
He added the phenomenon around ‘Philly Special’ is not the first time there’s been a rush to trademark a term after a big event, like the Super Bowl. And it’s even got a name: ‘newsjacking.’
“The term, newsjacking, means where a company rides or takes advantage of some event happening in current affairs and uses it for their own commercial purposes, especially for marketing in branding,” Sinha said.
For example, think of famous movie lines, like: ‘May the force be with you,’ from “Stars Wars.” When sequels are released, other companies often try to take advantage of the film’s popularity for marketing purposes, like an ice cream shop that posts a sign reading, ‘May the swirl be with you.’
“If there’s anything which is relevant in popular culture as well as the news, companies like to ride on it,” Sinah said.
In this case, it likely will be several months before the U.S. Patent Office announces who will be awarded the rights to the now famous phrase. By then, though, another Super Bowl will be approaching and the excitement of the Philly Special could be fading.
Dick’s Sporting Goods, one of the largest sports retailers in the U.S., will immediately end the sale of assault-style rifles in its stores and stop selling guns of any type to anyone under age 21.
The company made the announcement Wednesday, precisely two weeks after a school shooting in Parkland, Florida.
“We deeply believe that this country’s most precious gift is our children. They are our future. We must keep them safe. Beginning today, DICK’S Sporting Goods is committed to the following: http://d.sg/RTC,” the company said in a post on Twitter.
“We need to make a statement,” chairman and CEO Edward Stack said in an interview Wednesday on CNN. “We don’t want to be part of this story any longer.”
Stack said the Florida shooting suspect, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, legally purchased an AR-15 assault rifle from Dick’s in November, but it was not the one used to kill 14 students and 3 staff members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Stack, who said he remains a strong advocate of the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment, asserted the nation’s gun laws do not prevent dangerous people from buying guns and that lawmakers must act to strengthen those laws.
The executive called on elected officials to ban assault-style firearms, high-capacity magazines and “bump stocks,” which are devices that enable semi-automatic rifles to fire hundreds of rounds per minute. Stack also proposed raising the minimum age to buy guns to 21.
He said Dick’s, which also stopped selling high-capacity magazines, is prepared for any backlash but will not change its policies on gun sales. “We’re comfortable with our decision,” he said, adding that Dick’s will continue to sell an array of hunting and sport firearms.
The announcement is one of the strongest positions taken by a major U.S. corporation since the massacre, which has reignited the national gun debate and sparked a wave of gun-control rallies across the country.
More than a dozen U.S. corporations have ended partnerships with the National Rifle Association since the mass shooting, including Delta Airlines and United Continental Holdings, Inc., which owns United Airlines.
Other companies that have cut ties with the NRA include Avis, Best Western International, Enterprise Rent-a-Car, Metlife, the Hertz Corporation, and Wyndham Worldwide Corporation.
The NRA is one of the country’s most powerful lobbying groups for gun rights and claims 5 million members. In the 2016 elections, the NRA gave $54 million in political donations, much of that during the presidential race.
It is not unusual for some members of Congress to have individually received hundreds of thousands of dollars — even millions — from the NRA. While some Democrats are also recipients of NRA financial support, the top benefactors are currently members of the Republican Party.
Last week, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre told the Conservative Political Action Conference outside Washington that those advocating for stricter gun control were exploiting the Florida shooting.
Gun control advocates have noted that many teenagers in America can legally purchase assault rifles before they’re eligible to vote or drink alcohol. Twenty-eight of the 50 states have no minimum age requirement for owning a rifle.
Another giant U.S. retail seller of guns, Walmart, Inc., stopped selling AR-15 rifles and other semi-automatic weapons in 2015.
When refugees arrive in a new country, they bring little to no material possessions. But many bring something more valuable: their talent and skills. Twenty refugee women and asylum seekers from different parts of the world recently came together at a pop-up store in Phoenix, Arizona, to display their homemade products and tell their compelling stories. VOA’s June Soh spoke with some of the women in this report narrated by Carol Pearson.
Growth in China’s manufacturing sector in February cooled to the weakest in more than 11/2 years, raising concerns of a sharper-than-expected slowdown in the world’s second biggest economy this year as regulators tighten the screws on financial risks.
The weakness was driven by disruption to business activity by the Lunar New Year holidays and curbs to factory output from tougher pollution rules, but there are worries of a bigger loss in momentum.
“Although a recovery looks possible in the short-run as the anti-pollution campaign winds down, the risk is still that the economy fares worse this year than is generally expected,” said Julian Evans-Pritchard, senior China Economist at Capital Economics.
Index raises concern
The official Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) released Wednesday fell to 50.3 in February, from 51.3 in January. But it remained above the 50-point mark that separates growth from contraction on a monthly basis, the 19th straight month of expansion.
The drop may raise some concerns for China’s leaders as they prepare for the start of the National People’s Congress (NPC) next week where Beijing will unveil its economic targets for this year.
Globally, solid demand has kept many export-reliant economies humming over the past year or so, though a move toward tighter policy in advanced nations could cut into growth this year.
The latest PMI’s subindex of new export orders fell to 49.0, the lowest in at least a year, as the yuan currency appreciated against the dollar.
Chen Zhongtao, an official with China Logistics Information Center (CLIC), said that “13.6 percent of firms reported concerns over the appreciating Chinese currency and greater currency fluctuations,” the highest number of companies to do so since March 2017.
CLIC said in a statement that export sluggishness is expected to continue this year as steel firms are more reluctant to ship goods in the face of rising global protectionism.
Lunar New Year effect
The index for output stood at 50.7, down from 53.5 in January as the Lunar New Year holidays disrupted factory activities, the statistics bureau said. Total new orders also expanded much slower in February.
Raw material input prices fell for the second consecutive month to the lowest since July 2017, indicating cost pressure from price rises on manufacturing firms is easing.
“I think besides the Lunar New Year factor, the stricter pollution measures in the north before the National People’s Congress might have weighed on activities as well,” said Betty Wang, Senior China Economist at ANZ.
Wang expects momentum to pick up in the months ahead as the pollution crackdown tapers off.
Still, there are signs that China may continue with the pollution crackdown, with top steelmaking city of Tangshan proposing new restrictions on production once the current curbs expire in March.
The weeklong Lunar New Year holidays, which fell in February this year but January in 2017, tend to distort data early in the year.
Many factories and offices start to scale back operations ahead of time before shutting for the entire holiday or longer, while some manufacturers front-load shipments or replenish inventories ahead of the break.
Moderating growth in 2018
Boosted by government infrastructure spending, a resilient property market and unexpected strength in exports, China’s manufacturing and industrial firms helped the economy post better-than-expected growth of 6.9 percent in 2017.
A sister survey showed activity in China’s service sector slowed to lowest since October last year in February. The official non-manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) fell to 54.4 from 55.3 in January.
The services sector accounts for more than half of China’s economy, with rising wages giving Chinese consumers more spending clout.
Chinese policymakers are counting on growth in services and consumption to rebalance their economic growth model from its heavy reliance on investment and exports.
Economists polled by Reuters expected China’s economic growth will moderate to around 6.5 percent this year as the property market cools and as authorities press ahead with a clamp down on riskier financial activity that is driving up borrowing costs.
Analysts and financial markets are widely expecting the government to announce a 2018 growth target of around 6.5 percent at the NPC, the same as last year.
A composite PMI covering both the manufacturing and services activity stood at 52.9 in February, down from January’s reading of 54.6.
“Looking ahead, we think growth is likely to fall short of expectations this year, with many underestimating the headwinds from slower credit growth and a cooling property sector,” Capital Economics’ Evans-Pritchard said.
The U.S. Commerce Department on Tuesday recommended raising import duties on Chinese-made aluminum foil it said is being sold at unfairly low prices due to improper subsidies to producers.
The ruling was praised by the Aluminum Association, a trade group that pressed the case and said cheap imports were threatening thousands of jobs.
Beijing faces complaints from the United States, European Union and other trading partners that a flood of Chinese aluminum, steel and other exports are being sold at unfairly low prices, threatening jobs abroad.
The Commerce Department said it concluded Chinese exporters were selling aluminum foil at 49 to 106 percent below fair value and were receiving unfair subsidies of 17 to 81 percent of the goods’ value.
Importers will have to post cash bonds to pay potentially higher duties while the recommendation goes to the U.S. International Trade Commission for a final decision, said a Commerce statement.
China’s Ministry of Commerce complained Washington was harming Chinese exporters and said Beijing was ready to take unspecified “necessary measures” to defend its interests.
Beijing has accused Trump’s government of disrupting global trade regulation by taking action under U.S. law instead of through the World Trade Organization.
“China will take necessary measures to defend its interests in response to the wrong practice of the United States,” said a Commerce Ministry official, Wang Hejun, in a statement.
The Trump administration earlier raised duties on Chinese-made washing machines, solar modules and some aluminum and steel products to offset what it said were improper subsidies.
The American Chamber of Commerce in China says Chinese officials have warned of possible unspecified retaliation if Washington took excessive steps in trade disputes.
Three of President Donald Trump’s senior economic aides are expected to meet this week with a top Chinese economic official to discuss trade disputes between the United States and China.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told Reuters that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Trump’s economic adviser, Gary Cohn, are expected to meet Chinese economic adviser Liu He in Washington.
The talks are likely to cover a range of differences including intellectual property and steel.
Trump has long called for a more balanced trade relationship with China and threatened to impose a big “fine” against China to protect American intellectual property. U.S. officials said Trump has been discussing imposing a global tariff on imports of steel from China, the world’s largest steel producer, and other countries.
The talks with Liu may help determine the trajectory of the U.S.-Chinese trade relationship, which Trump believes is heavily tilted in favor of China.
A senior U.S. official said there was skepticism on the U.S. side that a trade breakthrough could be achieved any time soon.
“We’re trying to treat this with an open mind. But the Chinese don’t really want to make a deal. They like the status quo,” the official said.
There was no plan for Trump himself to meet Liu, but officials did not rule it out if progress was being made.
Liu, a Harvard-trained economist and trusted confidant of Chinese President Xi Jinping, has emerged as the front-runner to be the next governor of China’s central bank, according to sources with knowledge of the situation. Liu is the top adviser to Xi on economic policy and is also expected to become vice premier overseeing the Chinese economy.
A source close to the White House said Trump had expressed interest in imposing a tariff on steel imports of at least 24 percent. The White House said no final decision had been made.
The Commerce Department on Feb. 16 recommended that Trump impose stiff curbs on steel imports from China and other countries and offered the president several options ranging from global and country-specific tariffs to broad import quotas.
A blanket tariff on steel would cover every steel and aluminum product entering the American market from China.
China has expressed concerns over excessive protectionism in the U.S. steel sector and urged restraint. It has also said it will oppose any “unfair and unreasonable” trade measures by countries such as the United States.
The head of the World Trade Organization diplomatically took issue with U.S. President Donald Trump’s description of the WTO as a catastrophe on Tuesday, pointing out that the United States actually had a better deal than other countries in the club.
“World Trade Organization — a catastrophe,” Trump said on Monday at a meeting with U.S. governors, according to a White House transcript.
“The World Trade Organization makes it almost impossible for us to do good business. We lose the cases, we don’t have the judges. We have a minority of judges. It’s almost as bad as the 9th Circuit,” Trump said.
Asked about Trump’s remarks, WTO Director General Roberto Azevedo, a former Brazilian trade negotiator, told reporters in Sofia that it was not news that the United States had concerns about the work of the WTO.
“Just one clarification,” he said.
“No member has more than one judge at the WTO. The members of the Appellate Body, they are seven, and they come from different regions, so no country has a majority there. The United States, in fact, has always had one of the Appellate Body members with U.S. nationality, which is very unusual, but it is the situation.”
Since last year, the United States has been vetoing the appointment of new judges to the WTO’s Appellate Body, in effect the supreme court of world trade.
The lack of judges has slowed down the handling of trade disputes and could halt the appeals process altogether after the next judge retires in September.
Trump has said he thinks the United States does not get a fair deal, but trade negotiators from other countries say he has not yet set any conditions for resuming judicial appointments, making it impossible to meet U.S. demands.
“This is a very serious situation that we are trying to discuss with members, to see how we can overcome this,” Azevedo said.
Former WTO chief Pascal Lamy said last week that Trump’s view of trade was “medieval,” and the U.S. win/lose rate in WTO disputes was similar to that of other countries.
“The question is whether the U.S. problem is trying to fix a number of issues or whether the U.S. strategy is trying to wreck the system,” Lamy said.
Venezuela’s foreign minister said Tuesday that U.S. sanctions against the ailing oil nation were making foreign debt renegotiation more difficult and causing “panic” at global banks.
Venezuela is undergoing a major economic crisis, with millions dealing with food and medicine shortages, and President Nicolas Maduro’s socialist government is late in paying interest of $1.9 billion on its debt.
The U.S. government imposed financial sanctions on Venezuela in August, prohibiting dealing in new debt from the Venezuelan government or state oil company PDVSA, in an effort to halt financing that Washington said fuels a “dictatorship.”
Venezuela has repeatedly said Washington is trying to force a default.
“The renegotiation of external debt is underway, but it has been made more difficult by U.S. sanctions,” Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza told reporters in Geneva. “It’s incredible how global banks have reacted with panic. If a bank somewhere in the world works with Venezuela, they feel they are going to be sanctioned.”
According to Arreaza, global banks have opted to close accounts belonging to the government, business people and embassies. He added that some U.S. companies were unable to pay for Venezuelan oil.
Earlier this month, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson raised the specter of sanctions on Venezuela’s oil industry. The OPEC nation obtains 95 percent of its export revenue from oil, though production is down significantly in recent months.
“If the international financial system blocks Venezuela, we are working with Russia, China and Turkey to find new mechanisms,” said Arreaza.
Ford Motor Co. is making Miami-Dade County its new test bed for self-driving vehicles.
The automaker and its partners — Domino’s Pizza, ride-hailing company Lyft and delivery company Postmates — are starting pilot programs to see how consumers react to autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles. Self-driving startup and Ford partner Argo AI already has a fleet of cars in the area making the highly detailed maps that are necessary for self-driving. Ford also will establish its first-ever autonomous vehicle terminal in Miami, where it will learn how to service and deploy its test fleet.
More services will likely be introduced as the partnership goes on, including Chariot, an app-based shuttle service owned by Ford. It’s all part of Ford’s effort to find viable business models for fully autonomous vehicles and get them on the road by 2021.
“This is, I think, the future of any automotive company or mobility company. If a majority of the world’s population is going to be living in cities, we need to understand how to move those people around,” said John Kwant, Ford’s vice president of city solutions, who inked the deal with Miami-Dade.
Ford isn’t the first automaker to run test fleets of autonomous vehicles. General Motors Co. will start testing autonomous vehicles in New York City this year, while Nissan Motor Co. is launching an autonomous taxi service in Yokohama, Japan, next week. Technology companies like Waymo — a division of Google — are also testing self-driving vehicles on public roads in Phoenix, San Francisco and Singapore, among other cities.
But the partnership with a specific metropolitan is less common. Both sides envision a deep relationship where Ford can help Miami-Dade solve specific issues, like how to most efficiently move people from its suburbs to its downtown monorail, and Miami-Dade can offer solutions like dedicated lanes for automated vehicles or infrastructure projects like advanced traffic lights that can send signals to connected cars.
“We want to be on the forefront of this because we want to give our people choices,” said Carlos Gimenez, the mayor of Miami-Dade County, which is home to 34 cities and 2.7 million people.
Traffic congestion a concern
Sherif Marakby, Ford’s vice president of autonomous vehicles and electrification, says the company also intends to work closely with local businesses. The company wants to learn, for example, how a florist might use an autonomous delivery vehicle.
“Autonomous vehicle technology is interesting, but it’s a whole lot more interesting with a viable business model,” he said.
The city of Miami is the fifth-most congested in the U.S., according to a recent traffic study by the consulting firm Inrix. After more than a century of selling people vehicles, Kwant says Ford now wants to figure out ways to move people more efficiently in order to cut down on that time in traffic.
Sam Abuelsamid, a senior research analyst with the consulting firm Navigant Research, says Ford and others must figure out how to make money on self-driving cars.
“If this does take off, if people do adopt automated vehicles and use them for ride-hailing, that’s going to result in a decline in retail vehicle sales,” Abuelsamid said. “They need to figure out, if we’re going to have a decline in the number of vehicles we sell to consumers, how do we keep our business stable?”
Kwant says the testing will also help Ford determine what its future self-driving vehicles need to look like and how they must perform.
“If you don’t have steering wheels, how do you begin to use that package space? How do you begin to look different in terms of carrying more people?” he said.
Ford won’t say how many vehicles it will have on the road in Miami-Dade, but says it will be Ford’s largest test bed for autonomous vehicles by the end of this year.
Backup safety drivers
All of the vehicles will have backup safety drivers. Domino’s experimental vehicles aren’t even technically autonomous; they’re equipped to be, but for now they have actual drivers. The windows are blacked out so customers can experience how to get pizza from the car without dealing with a person.
Miami will give Ford new challenges. Previously, it tested Domino’s cars in suburban Michigan, where parking wasn’t an issue. But in busy Miami Beach, the cars will have to figure out where they can go to allow apartment-dwellers to safely retrieve their pizzas. An autonomous delivery vehicle from Postmates might have to switch between Spanish and English commands when it picks up a meal and delivers it to a customer. Self-driving Lyft vehicles will be tasked with mapping out the best places to wait for customers without causing more traffic headaches.
Kwant says Ford will announce more city partnerships as this year progresses. But Miami-Dade was a natural, since it has good weather, lots of different urban and suburban terrain and support from Gimenez and other government leaders.
Cheaper and safer
Gimenez, who began talking to Ford in 2017 at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, says he’s not worried about consumer acceptance of self-driving cars. He thinks his community will embrace them as companies prove that shared autonomous vehicles can be cheaper and safer than regular ones.
Gimenez says self-driving vehicles also can potentially improve traffic flow without significant new investments in roadways. They can travel more closely together, for example, because they’re always watching the car in front of them and can brake automatically.
“That’s why I’m really high on this technology,” he said.
your ad here
Another company, FedEx, has become embroiled in an intensifying discussion about guns in the United States after the school massacre in Parkland, Florida.
While more than a dozen major U.S. companies have ended business partnerships with the National Rifle Association, FedEx says it’s sticking with the group and has not asked to be removed from the NRA website where members are offered corporate discounts.
The Memphis, Tennessee, delivery company said it differs with the NRA and believes weapons like the AR-15 assault-style rifle that was used to kill 17 people in Florida shouldn’t be owned by civilians.
But it says that it’s a common carrier, and will not deny service based on political views or policy positions.
The decision drew instant reaction across social media from both sides of the issue and potential backlash from some customers.
One company vowed to take its 100,000 annual shipments elsewhere if FedEx does not end its partnership with the NRA.
“The NRA is supporting stuff that we don’t get behind,” said Jeni Britton Bauer, founder of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams.
“UPS is out there,” she said.
But dropping partnerships with the red-hot NRA is also not a safe bet.
Georgia’s Republican Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, president of the state Senate and a leading candidate to succeed Gov. Nathan Deal, threatened on Monday to derail a $50 million sales tax exemption on jet fuel for Delta after it ended its NRA partnership.
Delta Air Lines Inc. is based in Atlanta.
United Continental Holdings, Inc., based in Chicago, also cut ties to the NRA, but has not seen a similar political backlash.
Other companies that have severed relationships with the NRA include Metlife, Hertz, Avis, Enterprise, Best Western, and Wyndham.your ad here
A surge in sales of Cuba’s legendary cigars in China helped manufacturer Habanos S.A.’s global revenue rise 12 percent to hit a record of around $500 million last year, the company said on Monday at the start of Cuba’s annual cigar festival.
Habanos S.A., a 50-50 joint venture between the Cuban state and Britain’s Imperial Brands Plc, said sales in China, its third export market after Spain and France, jumped 33 percent in value in 2017.
“Without doubt, there is potential for China to become the biggest market at a global level,” Habanos Vice President of Development Jose María Lopez told Reuters after the company’s annual news conference, while puffing on a smoke.
The Cuban monopoly cigar company’s hand-rolled cigars, which include brands such as Cohiba, Montecristo and Partagas, are considered by many as the best in the world, and the festival attracts wealthy tobacco aficionados and retailers from all over for a week of extravagant parties and tours of plantations and factories.
Lopez said that growth in global sales of Cuban cigars last year outpaced the luxury goods market, which expanded 5 percent, according to consultancy Bain & Co. He put sales growth down to several good tobacco harvests and new products.
The Habanos executive said the outlook was also positive, given solid demand and “excellent” climatic conditions.
Hurricane Irma, which wrought havoc throughout much of Cuba last year, left the western, prime tobacco-growing state of Pinar del Rio mostly unscathed.
Cigars are one of the top exports for the Cuban economy, which is otherwise struggling with decreasing aid from key ally Venezuela, a cash crunch and a push back against market reforms.
However, the Caribbean island cannot sell its signature export to the biggest market worldwide for cigars, the United States, due to the decades-old U.S. trade embargo.
Improved U.S.-Cuba relations under former U.S. President Barack Obama stoked a boom in international travel to Cuba and boosted cigar sales on the island, with American visitors able to take home as many cigars as they wanted.
Lopez said U.S. President Donald Trump’s more hostile policy toward Cuba, including tighter restrictions on U.S. travel, did not appear to have impacted sales so far. Domestic revenue rose around 15 percent last year.
“We trust that despite Trump’s measures the Cuban market will continue to grow in 2018,” he said.
Cigars have been Cuba’s signature product ever since Christopher Columbus saw natives smoking rolled up tobacco leaves when he first sailed to the Caribbean island in 1492.
Late revolutionary leader Fidel Castro was often seen puffing on his favored kind, the long and thin ‘lancero’ until he quit in 1985.
It promised ample snow and sunny weather on a normally bare, rocky peak easily accessible by “super highway,” thousands more hotel rooms than existed, and a cross-country ski course that looked good on paper but would have cut through some people’s backyards.
The airbrushed pitch worked, but after Denver won a bid to host the 1976 Winter Olympics, its plan unraveled amid questions about the environmental impact, ballooning costs and logistics of hosting such a big event in a quickly growing state.
Now, over four decades after Denver became the only city to withdraw as an Olympic host after winning a bid, it is exploring whether to try again after many cities have decided it’s just not worth it.
The city is again growing, with low unemployment and a booming economy, and this time has a bigger airport, light rail, more hotels, seven professional sports teams and multiple stadiums. But the highway touted in ’76 — Interstate 70, which connects Denver to the Rockies — has essentially remained the same. As the population of outdoor-loving Colorado has grown, the largely four-lane route is often gridlocked on weekends.
Meanwhile, the city also is trying to lure Amazon to open its second headquarters in the metro area, which already has many worried about growth, tax breaks and the rising cost of living.
The Olympic exploratory committee convened by Mayor Michael Hancock — which includes leaders of companies like Vail Resorts and Liberty Global, along with former Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning and ex-Denver Nugget Chauncey Billups — is mulling a privately funded games, estimated to cost $2 billion, without any mega projects. Organizers say the strategy could even leave the state with a surplus to fund I-70 improvements or other work.
Denver already faces stiff competition from Salt Lake City, which became the first U.S. city to announce its plans to bid for the 2030 Winter Olympics this month. Salt Lake said it could host without losing money thanks to existing venues and its expertise in putting on the 2002 Olympics. Reno, Nevada, is also considering a bid.
While some worry the Olympics will distract Denver from urgent problems like affordable housing and transportation, committee members stress that the games won’t take money from those priorities and could potentially net $100 million to $200 million thanks to proceeds from ticket sales, sponsorships and merchandise.
The panel had been in a rush to decide in March whether to pursue the 2026 or 2030 games but is now focused on 2030. The U.S. Olympic Committee announced in Pyeongchang that it will not pursue a 2026 bid unless the International Olympic Committee decides to award bids for both years at once. Denver’s group now plans to make a recommendation to the mayor and governor by late April or early May, although chairman Rob Cohen said the exploratory committee would readjust its timeline if a dual bid becomes a possibility.
The International Olympic Committee is encouraging fewer billion-dollar projects and more facilities already in place after the lavish 2014 Olympics in Sochi. The three venues that would need to be built for a Denver-based Olympics — for Nordic skiing, ski jumping, bobsledding, luge and skeleton — would be temporary structures, said Cohen, CEO of insurance and wealth management company IMA Financial Group. The events could be spread around the state or concentrated along the Front Range.
The exploratory committee has been criticized for its lack of grass-roots representation for meeting behind closed doors, but it recently invited community activists to serve on advisory groups and held online meetings with the public.
Architect Michael Wenham pondered the prospect of a Denver Olympics recently while at a park near downtown, noting it could be interesting to come up with environmentally friendly ways to host the Olympics. But he reconsidered when he thought about I-70 traffic. He can’t remember the last time he headed to the mountains to snowboard on a weekend because of its traffic jams.
“High-speed buses with their own lane. That is the only way they’re going to be able to do it,” Wenham said.
Cohen said buses would be one possibility for moving people to the mountains quickly during the Olympics, as would giving truckers incentives to bypass I-70. He said some of the surplus could be used to improve the interstate or on another project that would benefit the state long-term, and noted the federal government helped pay to fix highways for Salt Lake City’s 2002 Games.
Glamour vs. mundane
In the years since Denver said no thanks, more cities have become wary of pursuing the Olympics in the face of public opposition and financial concerns.
Innsbruck, Austria, which hosted the 1976 Games after Denver backed out, decided against pursuing a 2026 bid when its promise to organize low-cost and sustainable games failed to convince residents. Other cities that have considered but dropped Olympic aspirations in recent years include St. Moritz and Davos, Switzerland, Krakow, Poland and Oslo, Norway.
Former Colorado Gov. Dick Lamm, whose political career took off after he helped fight the 1976 Olympics, is trying to keep an open mind about Denver’s latest go-around. The committee studying the issue includes savvy people with a track record of successful economic development projects, he said.
But even if Denver could pull it off, he’s not sure what’s in it for the city.
Lamm thinks officials tend to get seduced by the Olympics’ glamour when they could spend their attention on the mundane things that support the economy, such as finding money for education and roads. That takes more campaigning and alliance-making in Colorado because of its strict tax and spending limits, which require voters to approve any tax hikes.
“There’s many opportunities to make this a better state, and I don’t see how the Olympics fit into that,” he said.
The governor of Sao Paulo and likely centrist presidential candidate Geraldo Alckmin said on Monday that he would privatize Brazil’s state-run oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA if he wins the elections in October.
Alckmin, who has single digit support in opinion polls, said during a television interview with Band TV that he favored private ownership of Petrobras, as Brazil’s biggest company is known, as long as the sale was conducted within a strict regulatory framework.
Once a taboo issue in Brazilian politics because of national sovereignty concerns, the privatization of Petrobras is set to become a campaign issue this year as Brazil struggles to bring an unsustainable budget deficit under control.
Brazil’s left fiercely rejects the sale of Petrobras, but the leftist leader leading early opinion polls, former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, will likely be barred from running because of a corruption conviction and there are no obvious politicians who can fill his shoes.
It is not clear where the far right candidate Jair Bolsonaro, who is currently second in opinion polls, stands on relinquishing state control of Petrobras.
But his economic policy advisor Paulo Guedes told Valor newspaper in an interview published on Monday that he favored selling all state companies to raise 700 billion reais that would help pay off one fifth of Brazil’s public debt.
The Trump Organization said Monday it has made good on the president’s promise to donate profits from foreign government spending at its hotels to the U.S. Treasury, but neither the company nor the government disclosed the amount or how it was calculated.
Watchdog groups seized on the lack of detail as another example of the secrecy surrounding President Donald Trump’s pledges to separate his administration from his business empire.
“There is no independent oversight or accountability. We’re being asked to take their word for it,” said Noah Bookbinder, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. “Most importantly, even if they had given every dime they made from foreign governments to the Treasury, the taking of those payments would still be a problem under the Constitution.”
Trump Organization Executive Vice President and Chief Compliance Counsel George Sorial said in a statement to The Associated Press that the donation was made on Feb. 22 and includes profits from Jan. 20 through Dec. 31, 2017. The company declined to provide a sum or breakdown of the amounts by country.
Sorial said the profits were calculated using “our policy and the Uniform System of Accounts for the Lodging Industry” but did not elaborate. The U.S. Treasury did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
Watchdog group Public Citizen questioned the spirit of the pledge in a letter to the Trump Organization earlier this month since the methodology used for donations would seemingly not require any donation from unprofitable properties receiving foreign government revenue.
Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen, said that the lack of disclosure was unsurprising given that the Trump’s family businesses have “a penchant for secrecy and a readiness to violate their promises.”
“Did they pay with Monopoly money? If the Trump Organization won’t say how much they paid, let alone how they calculated it at each property, why in the world should we believe they actually have delivered on their promise?” Weissman said.
Ethics experts had already found problems with the pledge Trump made at a news conference held days before his inauguration because it didn’t include all his properties, such as his resorts, and left it up to Trump to define “profit.” The pledge was supposedly made to ameliorate the worry that Trump was violating the Constitution’s emoluments clause, which bans the president’s acceptance of foreign gifts and money without Congress’ permission.
Several lawsuits have challenged Trump’s ties to his business ventures and his refusal to divest from them. The suits allege that foreign governments’ use of Trump’s hotels and other properties violates the emoluments clause.
Trump’s attorneys have challenged the premise that a hotel room is an “emolument” but announced the pledge to “do more than what the Constitution requires” by donating foreign profits at the news conference. Later, questions emerged about exactly what this would entail.
An eight-page pamphlet provided by the Trump Organization to the House Oversight Committee in May said that the company planned to send the Treasury only profits obviously tied to foreign governments, and not ask guests questions about the source of their money because that would “impede upon personal privacy and diminish the guest experience of our brand.”
“It’s bad that Trump won’t divest himself and establish a truly blind trust, and it’s worse that he won’t be transparent,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland, ranking member on the House Oversight Committee. He called the Republicans refusal to do oversight, such as subpoena documents, that would shed light on Trump’s conflicts of interest “unconscionable.”
The United States has issued a new round of sanctions targeting oil smugglers in Libya aimed at blocking exploitation of natural resources that is driving instability, the U.S. Treasury Department said Monday.
In a statement, Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) said it was sanctioning six people, 24 companies and seven vessels in a move that prohibits Americans from engaging with those targeted and freezes any related property under U.S. jurisdictions.
The sanctions target people from Libya, Malta and Egypt, according to the statement. Issued under the authority of a 2016 executive order by then U.S. President Barack Obama, companies based in Italy, Libya and Malta are also targets, the statement said.
The United Nations Security Council has condemned illicit exploitation of oil from Libya, which has been mired in conflict since an uprising in 2011 that overthrew Moammar Gadhafi, who led the country for more than 40 years.
“Oil smuggling undermines Libya’s sovereignty, fuels the black market and contributes to further instability in the region while robbing the population of resources that are rightly theirs,” OFAC’s statement said.
Libya’s oil production has steadied but is still well below the 1.6 million barrels per day it was pumping before the insurgency seven years ago and is suffering from theft, abduction and other security threats.
Production from at least one Libyan oil field has also been disrupted by a dispute over security guards’ pay.