Skazi Brand Bucks Brazil’s Political, Economic Turmoil

Brazilian fashion brand Skazi intends to double growth to over 20 million reals, or $ 5.1 million, this year amid strong demand for its women’s wear that targets “powerful, sexy women” in their thirties to fifties, said marketing director Diego Lemos.
“We are going to grow 100 percent this year and may grow 50 percent to 100 percent in the next three years,” Lemos told WWD from the company’s flagship store in Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais. “Last year we grew 40 percent while other brands were declining.”
Lemos claimed the company is vertically integrated, manufacturing most of its yarns and fabrics locally, including in an 86,000-square-foot factory next to its store. That, coupled with clever celebrity and influencer-driven marketing, helped it top a recent survey naming it Brazil’s top women’s wear brand, he added.
“We only have wholesale, not retail, and we make everything ourselves, from the yarn to the finished garment. This has been the secret of our success,” he said.
Skazi, which is also about to launch its first men’s collection, plans to open 100 new points of sale this year to boost its count to 1,100, according to Lemos. While international markets account for 2 percent of sales, the brand plans to

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John Lennon dropped big bucks at House of Oldies record store

Any store would be thrilled to have a member of The Beatles browse their shelves. But when John Lennon would walk in to the West Village record store House of Oldies during the early 1970s, owner Bob Abramson had an extra reason to be glad. “He used to buy 45s by people like Carl Perkins…
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Big Soda Pours Big Bucks Into California’s Capitol

Dinners at an expensive restaurant in Maui — with ocean views. Tickets to professional sports games. A free screening of “Black Panther” at a Sacramento IMAX theater. And a $ 250,000 donation to a group that funds the governor’s travel.

That’s just a sampling of the $ 11.8 million that soft drink companies and their lobbyists spent at the state and local levels in the past two years in California to block proposals such as taxing sugary beverages and slapping health warnings on their drinks, a California Healthline analysis found.

“They exercise extraordinary influence in this building,” state Sen. Bill Monning (D-Carmel) said of the industry. “We don’t underestimate the power of the opposition.”

Monning doesn’t accept soda industry money — and has tried repeatedly to tax sugary beverages in California and place warning labels on packaging. He was one of the most vocal critics last year when the industry blocked cities and counties from levying soda taxes — a maneuver some lawmakers described as “extortion.”

Angered by the industry’s tactics, Monning and other lawmakers now are pushing a package of bills to clamp down on drinks they say contribute to rising rates of obesity and diabetes. Several of the measures are scheduled for a committee hearing Tuesday, including one that would tax distributors of sugary drinks at 2 cents an ounce.

Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont also are considering statewide taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages. At least four states, including Arkansas and West Virginia, already impose taxes on sodas, either by the fluid ounce or on gross receipts, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

California Sen. Bill Monning (D-Carmel) displays the amount of sugar in a 20-ounce bottle of Coca-Cola. Monning is pushing legislation that would put health warning labels on sugary drinks. He describes the soda industry as a big influencer in California politics. (Samantha Young/KHN)

Although it’s anybody’s guess how much the industry will spend to sway California lawmakers this year, its previous largesse indicates money will flow to nearly every Capitol officeholder.

A California Healthline analysis found that 9 in 10 state senators and members of the Assembly, or a member of their staff, accepted a campaign contribution, gift or charitable donation in 2017 and 2018 from the American Beverage Association (or its political action committee), the Coca-Cola Co. or PepsiCo — the three largest givers in the industry.

The beverage industry, like other interest groups, spends money to influence lawmakers in several ways: It makes financial contributions to their campaigns and lobbies them and their staffs, sometimes plying them with meals, events and travel. It also donates to charities in lawmakers’ names.

“They follow the playbook of the tobacco industry in protecting their products from criticism, casting doubt on the science, lobbying, working behind the scenes, funding front groups, doing all the things that industries that make potential harmful products do,” said Marion Nestle, author of “Soda Politics” and a professor emerita of food nutrition at New York University.

The beverage association and Coca-Coca did not respond to specific questions about their political giving, and PepsiCo didn’t respond at all. William Dermody Jr., an ABA vice president, argued “excessive” taxes on drinks would harm the economy.

“It’s important to inform lawmakers about the contributions that our products make to the local economy, not only the millions in tax revenues we generate for the state but the wages we bolster for hundreds of thousands of California workers,” Dermody said in an email.

Big Soda is not alone in trying to influence lawmakers on the issue of sugary drinks.

The California Medical Association and the California Dental Association, which represent doctors and dentists, are planning a ballot initiative to tax sugary drinks. Together they spent about $ 10.6 million in lobbying and campaign contributions to influence a broad range of health-related legislation over the past two years.

For the soda industry, 2017-18 was particularly expensive.

Why? As more California cities passed and proposed local taxes on sugary beverages, soda companies last year poured $ 8.9 million into a statewide ballot measure that would have made it more difficult for cities to levy any new tax, not just those on beverages. The money came from the American Beverage Association PAC, primarily funded by Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Dr Pepper Snapple Group.

Concerned that California voters would approve a higher voting threshold for all local taxes, lawmakers reluctantly banned local soda taxes until Jan. 1, 2031, if the industry dropped its ballot proposal.

“I don’t think they won any friends in the legislature,” said Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego). She received $ 11,000 in campaign contributions from the industry in the past two years, and has voted on its side against bills to label and tax sugary drinks, citing concerns that a soda tax is regressive and would harm poor, minority communities.

Entertaining Lawmakers And Their Staffs

In 2017 and 2018, the American Beverage Association spent just over $ 1 million lobbying California policymakers, while PepsiCo spent $ 371,482 and Coca-Cola spent $ 352,469, according to forms filed with the California Secretary of State’s office. That’s nearly 70 percent more than they spent in the previous two years.

The bulk of the money went to lobbying firms staffed by former government employees — people with connections at the Capitol who know how to influence legislation.

The ABA spent $ 379 on food for eight lawmakers in November 2017 as part of an $ 813 dinner tab at the upscale Humble Market Kitchin Restaurant in Maui — where a steak might go for $ 65 and a whole fried fish for $ 57. The legislators were attending a legislative retreat.

The association gave 11 legislative staffers tickets to Sacramento Kings basketball games and paid for their food and drinks, at a cost ranging from $ 163 to $ 326 per staffer. It also shelled out at least $ 3,747 for at least 92 lawmakers, staff members and their guests to attend a showing of “Black Panther” in March 2018.

Asked why Assemblywoman Sabrina Cervantes (D-Riverside) attended the movie, her spokeswoman said she is “supportive of the arts and celebrates diversity in cinema.”

The ABA’s biggest lobbying expense was a $ 250,000 payment to the California State Protocol Foundation, which funded Jerry Brown’s travel while he was governor.

In The Name Of Charity

While there are limits on how much lawmakers can accept in gifts, companies also seek to gain influence by making unlimited charitable donations on a lawmaker’s behalf. These donations are known as “behested payments,” and the industry made nearly $ 100,000 of them in 2017 and 2018.

State Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) is skeptical of soda taxes and their impact on low-income and minority communities. But she says the soda industry didn’t win any friends last year when it maneuvered a vote to ban local soda taxes. (Samantha Young/KHN)

Last year, a Coca-Cola distributor in Gonzalez’s district donated $ 10,000 to the San Diego Food Bank in her name — a contribution she said she was unaware of until contacted for this article.

Sometimes, lawmakers seek out contributions. When state Assemblyman Adam Gray (D-Merced) asked the beverage association to sponsor the annual meeting of the National Conference of State Legislatures, the association gave $ 25,000 in his name. Gray, who served as California’s representative to the meeting, said it was his responsibility to secure sponsors, and that he asked several corporations to contribute.

Those contributions, he said, don’t influence his vote. For example, he said Google gave $ 100,000 but he voted for privacy legislation the company opposed.

“If you want to support my agenda, my voting record and the things I stand for, I’m happy to take that support,” Gray said. “But it has zero role in how I represent my district or how I make decisions on public policy.”

Funding Lawmakers’ Campaigns

The most direct method that interest groups use to influence the political process is by giving money to campaigns, political parties and legislative caucuses.

Along with spending $ 8.9 million on the statewide ballot measure, the American Beverage Association PAC, PepsiCo and Coca-Cola gave about $ 1.1 million to other statewide and local political efforts in the past two years.

The majority of legislators received campaign cash from the beverage association, Coke or Pepsi — if not all three.

A spokesman for Coca-Cola said the company selects recipients based on committee assignments, caucus memberships, leadership positions and whether they represent regions with Coca-Cola facilities.

“There is no one-size-fits-all approach,” said company spokesman Max Davis. “At times, the individual views of candidates we support may vary from our own.”

Monning said the soft drink industry is a formidable adversary. Many colleagues tell him they can’t vote for legislation that would cut sales because they have a distributor in their district.

In addition to a statewide soda tax, the bills under consideration this year would require warning labels about sugar and prevent soda companies from offering retailers incentives to sell their drinks. They also would ban retailers from selling supersize sodas and prohibit sales in checkout lanes.

As lawmakers consider these bills, Monning said, his question to his colleagues will be simple:

“Do you represent the soda industry?” he said. “Or do you represent those children in your district showing a steady increase in poor health?”

California Healthline digital reporter Harriet Blair Rowan contributed to this report.

How California Healthline compiled data about soda companies’ political spending

Among the ways soda companies try to exert influence on the political process is by contributing money to campaigns; hiring lobbyists and plying elected officials with drinks, meals and event tickets and making charitable contributions on the behalf of lawmakers.

Using the California secretary of state’s website, California Healthline downloaded the campaign contributions made by the American Beverage Association PAC, Coca-Cola Co., PepsiCo and Dr Pepper Snapple Group in 2017-18. This includes some non-monetary contributions.

To track lobbying, we created a spreadsheet of expenses reported on lobbying disclosure forms, also available on the secretary of state’s website, by the American Beverage Association, Coca-Cola and Pepsi. We found details about how much the industry paid lobbying firms and which lawmakers, or members of their staff, accepted gifts.

To find how much these entities gave in charitable contributions, California Healthline pulled data described as “behested payments” from the California Fair Political Practices Commission website. These are payments special interests can make to a charity or organization on behalf of a lawmaker. Sometimes, a few of these payments also show up on lobbying forms. We compared the behested payments with the lobbying reports to ensure we did not double-count money.


This KHN story first published on California Healthline, a service of the California Health Care Foundation.

Kaiser Health News

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Man Who Died in Democratic Donor Ed Buck’s Home Called Him ‘The Devil’

Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast

LOS ANGELES— Powerful Democratic donor Ed Buck solicited Timothy Dean for months prior to Dean’s suspicious death in Buck’s home, according to close friends, speaking out for the first time.

Dean was found dead on January 7, the second black gay man to die at Buck’s West Hollywood Home in less than two years. Charges have not been filed against Buck in either death. The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office declined to press charges in the 2017 death of 26-year-old Gemmel Moore from a methamphetamine overdose at Buck’s apartment. They reopened an investigation into Moore’s death since Dean died.  

Five friends told The Daily Beast that Dean characterized Buck as predatory.

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From Blocks To Bucks: How An 18-year-old Gamer Built a Business Inside Minecraft

Working in video games is a dream for many players, a way to turn their passions into a viable career and feed back into a community and industry that has delivered them years of entertainment.

At a glance, Jamie Freeburn might appear to be another such aspiring young developer. However, rather than setting out to make a game from scratch and battling through an already crowded indie scene, the 18-year-old creator has found success in another area: the Minecraft Marketplace.

Freeburn is the central figure behind PixelSquared, a studio making content packs for Mojang‘s endlessly popular sandbox title. The team, with members based in countries including Northern Ireland, Chile, America, England, and Denmark, creates and sells add-ons for the main game on the curated storefront, with content ranging from cosmetic skins for characters, to custom maps delivering intricate and beautiful new worlds for players to explore, and even unique gameplay modes.

STARTING SANDBOX


Lookouts Point, one of the settings PixelSquared created in Minecraft
Lookouts Point, one of the settings PixelSquared created in Minecraft

So how did Freeburn start making money through Minecraft? “I got into the game about 7 years ago, so I think I was 11, in high school. Back then I was really into creative-style games, games where I could create my own things, and me and few of my friends were chatting about that and one of them thought of Minecraft,” Freeburn says. “I bought the game a week after that and sunk in so many hours, just building and building things.”

Freeburn realised early on there was a market for original Minecraft content, creating aesthetic overhauls for the game on an ad hoc basis. Then came the announcement, in October 2017, that Mojang was launching the Marketplace as a dedicated hub for user creators.

“I was instantly into the idea,” says Freeburn. “Before that, I had created skins on commission on Fiverr, and I was pretty active in that community, so I thought ‘Hey, I may as well send my portfolio in, see how it goes’.”

Microsoft responded positively to the work Freeburn submitted and was keen to sign him up for the new content platform. There were only two problems – the first being that Jamie was only 17 at the time, too young to legally be responsible for what needed to be a registered business. The second was that his parents had no idea what he was up to.


The 'good vs evil' Demon Hunters pack was a Halloween creation, tapping into Minecraft's hellish Nether
The ‘good vs evil’ Demon Hunters pack was a Halloween creation, tapping into Minecraft’s hellish Nether

“They were extremely surprised, as they had no prior knowledge that I did any of this before I told them. They didn’t even know what the whole Fiverr thing was,” he recalls. “I called up my dad and said ‘Hey, Microsoft wants to sign me on this contract to create content with them.’ and he was like ‘Oh! That’s nice.’ Then he took a look at the contract and realised it was serious.”

After a father-son meeting with Microsoft, explaining what the Minecraft Marketplace was and what Jamie would be doing on it, his dad signed on, allowing Jamie himself to get started on the fun stuff – making the actual content, and leaving his mark on the game. For his first pack, Freeburn revamped an early space-themed skin set, upgrading helmet and torso designs to a much higher standard. Since then, PixelSquared has released over 30 original packs, and picked up over a dozen staff members.

BUILDING A BUSINESS

“It sounds like a big deal but we treated it very organically – we didn’t just get 14 people all of a sudden,” Freeburn says. “Around December 2017, we had six other people who were mostly artists, and after that we took on a build team. We hired a structure artist a few months ago and an organic artist just recently. We only really hire people when we need people, we don’t bring people on for the sake of it.”

When it comes to developing new content for Minecraft, the studio operates more like a group of friends discussing what they think would be cool to have in the game. “We’re a really relaxed studio when it comes to our ideas, so when one of us gets an idea we’ll come together and discuss it, and then draw up an idea for the skin pack,” Freeburn says.

As the team has grown, its begun to undertake some light market research for content plans, although it’s more in the form of seeing what the player community might be interested in, rather than some kind  of hyper-precise targeting of current trends.

“Occasionally we will do surveys to see what skins people want to see,” Freeburn explains. “Around Christmas last year, I put out a survey with a couple of different themes I had in mind just to see which one got the most interest. Our three main things are surveys, seeing what’s [already] on the store, and checking what players are actually using.”

“For example the Teens! skin pack was made mostly on market research, and we did a lot of research into fashion and such,” he continues, “but if you look at Frontiers, by me, that’s more of a passion project. We have a pretty fun mix of things we like to create and stuff based on what the market will like.”


One of PixelSquared's more sedate offerings - a lush autumnal theme pack
One of PixelSquared’s more sedate offerings – a lush autumnal theme pack

Having turned 18 and assumed ownership of the company from his father, Freeburn has built the business to the point where it’s doing well enough to put him through university and even pay off another member’s student debt, too.

“I’m doing a game design course at college level right now, but next year I’ll be doing university,” he says. “PixelSquared has afforded me [the opportunity] to do that, [and] that’s actually why I decided to go to uni in the first place. A few other people in the studio used PixelSquared to fund their own university education. One, Olivia, recently finished her degree and she’s now able to help pay off her student loan.”

While creating for Minecraft Marketplace, running the company, and preparing for university can be a tough balancing act, Freeburn says “both my college and my parents are very supportive. If I’m struggling with the workload from my college I’ll let my teacher know and they’ll give me some extra time or help me stay on track, and my parents are also pretty okay with me staying up late making sure everything is running fine in the studio.”

CRAFTING A FUTURE

While the company is still growing at a solid pace, Freeburn is also preparing for potential upheaval due to Brexit. With the UK currently scheduled to leave the European Union on 29th March 2019, the company’s international, digital business model could be affected.

“My town is actually directly on the border of Northern Ireland and Ireland [so] we’ll have to see what happens there,” he says, “but I think we’re all concerned. It’s hard to tell how it’s going to affect us all directly – I’m fairly new to the industry so I don’t know what it was like years ago. I joined during the Brexit scandal so I can’t really tell what it was like before [but] we’re a pretty global studio. It’ll be a bit of a nightmare I think. I can’t say too much for sure but I feel like it could impact us.”


The apocalypse is here, in custom Minecraft form
The apocalypse is here, in custom Minecraft form

While waiting to see how the political issue unfolds, PixelSquared is focusing on what it does best – building on its core offerings, but aiming for an even larger scale.

“Maps are our current big target,” Freeburn says. “We have three pretty major maps underway right now, that we’re very excited about, and texture packs too. Our main goal is to expand. Dedicated servers are pretty far away, but we have looked into it – it won’t be for a long time because they’re a big undertaking, but we’d love to do it.”

While creating for Minecraft has proven a highly successful way into the games industry for Freeburn and company, in the longer term plans are afoot to leave a deeper mark on the industry. The ambition is to grow PixelSquared into a studio capable of producing its own original games, but bring with it the recognition of players from the Marketplace community. As for what type of games players might see from a wholly independent PixelSquared?

“In the future, we’d like to branch off and make our own little indie game,” Freeburn says. “We’re all pretty big into games like Binding of Isaac and Rogue Legacy, so essentially we’d like to break away from Minecraft and create our own fully-fledged version of those games.”

‘Street Fighter Saved My Life’ — One Man’s Journey From Prison to eSport Pro

The post From Blocks To Bucks: How An 18-year-old Gamer Built a Business Inside Minecraft appeared first on FANDOM.

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Spice Girls Getting Back Together For Mega Bucks Global Tour

JOHNNY EGGIT

British pop group the Spice Girls are to reform for a comeback tour which is expected to gross them millions, it will be officially announced today.

However, it will be a case of five become four as Victoria Beckham, now a fashion designer, will not be reprising her role as Posh Spice in the ‘girl power’ supergroup that ruled the airwaves on both sides of the Atlantic in the 1990s with hits like Wannabe (which hit number one in 37 countries) and Spice Up Your Life.

Beckham does stand to make millions from the new tour, however, as a major shareholder in the Spice Girls brand and intellectual property.

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