TIME Tesla

Tesla’s War With the States Shifts Into Overdrive

Christie Appointees Ban N.J. Direct Sales for Musk's Tesla Cars
A Model S is displayed at the Tesla store in the Short Hills Mall in Short Hills, N.J., on March 12, 2014 Emile Wamsteker—Bloomberg/Getty Images

The electric car maker run by PayPal billionaire Elon Musk is fighting powerful auto interests in states across the U.S. for the right to sell its cars directly to consumers, upending the traditional dealership model

Tesla’s campaign to sell its electric cars directly to consumers shifted into high gear this week as state lawmakers debated Tesla-related bills while powerful auto lobbyists braced for a fight. In New York, a measure designed to ban Tesla from opening new stores passed a key hurdle, while in Arizona, lawmakers pushed a bill to make it easier for Tesla to sell its cars without establishing a dealer network.

The escalating conflict underscores Tesla’s role as a disruptive force in the U.S. auto industry, not only because the company’s cars don’t use gasoline engines, but also because Tesla is trying to upend the dealership-franchise model that has underpinned the automobile industry for decades. That model — and laws protecting it — emerged in the 1930s as a way for automakers to build a national sales and service force and help foster local economic growth.

Tesla sells cars directly to customers through its own retail locations — much like Apple does with its high-tech products — whereas other car companies rely on independently owned dealerships for sales and service. Auto-industry lobbyists say this model protects the public by ensuring consumer choice. They also warn that if Tesla is allowed to skirt the franchise model, consumers could be left in the lurch without a local service location if the electric-car maker goes bankrupt.

Tesla is currently barred or restricted from selling its cars directly to consumers in several states, including Texas, Arizona and, as of last week, New Jersey. In those states, the company operates “galleries” where consumers can inspect Tesla cars, but employees are prevented from discussing pricing or offering test-drives. After inspecting a Tesla, consumers in those states can purchase a vehicle online.

(MORE: Tesla CEO Rips New Jersey Over ‘Backroom Deal’ Auto-Sales Ban)

New York state assemblyman David Buchwald will hold a press conference on Friday joined by Tesla officials and environmental advocates to oppose the New York bill, which Tesla says would end the direct sale of its cars in New York. The bill, which passed a key New York state Assembly committee on Wednesday, and is backed by several dealership associations, would stifle innovation and limit consumer choice, according to Buchwald.

Meanwhile, in Arizona, lawmakers are set to consider a bill that would allow Tesla to sell cars in the state without establishing a dealer network, reversing a ban that dates back to 2000. “This is a great opportunity for us to send a message that we welcome business and we welcome Tesla here to Arizona,” state representative Warren Petersen, the bill’s sponsor, said in comments cited by the Associated Press. “We shouldn’t deny our consumers from being able to purchase a product if they want.”

The Arizona bill highlights an awkward situation facing lawmakers there. Arizona is one of four states that Tesla is considering for its planned 10 million-sq-ft (900,000 sq m) lithium-ion-battery factory, which would supply the company’s California electric-car-assembly plant. Tesla plans to invest $2 billion in the new battery facility, dubbed the Gigafactory, and says it could employ as many as 6,500 workers at the plant. Earlier this week, Arizona’s entire U.S. congressional delegation sent Tesla a letter touting the state as an “ideal choice for this revolutionary factory.”

But even as Arizona officials woo Tesla over the Gigafactory, the company is prohibited from selling its cars directly to consumers in the state. (Texas, another candidate for the Gigafactory, also bars Tesla from selling its cars directly to consumers.) According to Arizona state senator Bob Worsley, the bill allowing Tesla to sell directly to consumers is “not a quid pro quo,” he told the AP. “I want the message from our state to be that we welcome the opportunity to work with large successful companies with this size market cap.”

Tesla is battling powerful state auto-dealership interests across the country. In Ohio, the state Automobile Dealers Association waged an unsuccessful legal fight to shut down Tesla’s two existing locations in Cincinnati and Columbus. Now the group is urging state lawmakers to pass a bill that would prevent the company from expanding to new retail locations by blocking auto manufacturers from obtaining dealer licenses.

Back in New York, the anti-Tesla bill is headed for a full vote just days after the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, which is composed of political appointees selected by Governor Chris Christie, blocked Tesla’s ability to sell electric cars through its own retailers in that state. In response, Tesla CEO Elon Musk charged that auto-dealer lobbyists “cut a backroom deal” with Christie “to circumvent the legislative process.” Jim Appleton, head of the N.J. Coalition of Automotive Retailers, shot back by claiming that Musk was having a “hissy fit.”

Musk mocked the “consumer protection” rationale that was presented. “If you believe this, Governor Christie has a bridge closure he wants to sell you!” Musk wrote in a company blog post. “Unless they are referring to the mafia version of ‘protection,’ this is obviously untrue.'”

As a result of the new rule, New Jersey residents will soon have to go out-of-state or use the Internet if they want to purchase a Tesla vehicle. Musk urged would-be Tesla buyers to visit the company’s New York City store or its King of Prussia, Pa., location near Philadelphia.

For his part, Christie blamed the New Jersey state legislature for effectively banning Tesla from selling cars to consumers directly in the state. “I’m not pushing Tesla out; the state Legislature did,” Christie said at a town-hall meeting, according to the Newark Star-Ledger. “I have no problem with Tesla selling directly to customers, except that it’s against the law in New Jersey.”

TIME Food and Beverage

Everything You Need to Know About Jack Daniel’s and the Fight Over Tennessee Whiskey

A guide to the local booze battle with international ramifications

Jack Daniel’s and George Dickel, the two best known makers of Tennessee Whiskey, are locked in a heated clash over the definition of a seemingly settled matter: What, exactly, constitutes the Volunteer State’s signature hooch? As the Tennessee legislature debates the terms, TIME offers this guide to the booze battle that will have consequences for whiskey drinkers around the world.

So, what’s the fight all about?

Last year, Tennessee lawmakers passed a bill that for the first time codified the process of making Tennessee Whiskey. Among other mandates, it required that anything labeled as such be filtered through maple charcoal and aged in new charred oak barrels. Not coincidentally, that’s the way Jack Daniel’s — by far the biggest producer of Tennessee Whiskey — has been making its spirit since the 1870s.

Unsurprisingly, Brown-Forman, the Louisville-based company that produces Jack Daniel’s, was a fan of the law. Phil Lynch, a Brown-Forman spokesman, says the company pushed the legislature to define the whiskey-making process after seeing a number of new distilleries open across the state in the last few years.

U.K.-based Diageo, which owns George Dickel— the distant second best-selling Tennessee Whiskey — didn’t share Brown-Forman’s enthusiasm and it lobbied the legislature to repeal the state requirements. According to the Associated Press, State Rep. Bill Sanderson introduced the measure to change the law after prodding from Diageo.

But that doesn’t make sense. Isn’t Dickel produced similarly to Jack?

Yes, Dickel is every bit a Tennessee Whiskey as state law currently defines it.

Then why do they want the law overturned?

Depends whom you ask. Diageo says the regulations are unreasonable because they force distillers to conform to a single style, limiting creativity and protecting Jack Daniel’s hold on the market.

“We think that’s unfair to George Dickel and unfair to the distilling industry,” says Barry Becton, Diageo’s senior director of state government relations. “People have made Tennessee Whiskey a certain way but without strict standards for years. Jack Daniel’s just wanted to change the rules to prevent competition.”

Becton argues that the government shouldn’t be in the business of telling distillers how to make their whiskey and says his company, an international liquor behemoth, is waging the fight on behalf of smaller Tennessee distilleries.

That’s mighty generous of them. Is that the only reason?

Not quite. Brown-Forman has been doing very well in the last few years. Its third-quarter profits increased 12% year-over-year, largely due to Jack’s brand recognition and new offerings capitalizing on it like Tennessee Honey and Winter Jack. The Jack Daniel’s brand has seen 10% net sales growth over the last fiscal year as American whiskies have exploded globally and cut into other segments of the spirits market, including Scotch. Diageo, which owns Johnnie Walker Scotch but does not have a large portfolio of American whiskey, is keen to limit Jack’s growth.

“Diminishing Jack Daniel’s overseas strengthens Diageo’s position over there,” says Jeremy Edwards, the lead analyst for IBIS World and an expert in the spirit industry.

What does Jack Daniel’s think of Diageo’s move?

About what you’d expect. “They’re full of crap when they say they’re doing this for the craft distillers,” says Brown-Forman’s Lynch. “Either they have plans with George Dickel to use used barrels or they’re concerned about the explosive growth of American whiskey infringing upon their scotch whiskey around the world, which is making serious inroads.”

What about Tennessee’s growing number of micro-distillers?

They’re divided on the law. Some support the regulations on the grounds that they help maintain a uniform style and identifiable profile for Tennessee Whiskey.

“I want Tennessee to be synonymous with quality, like champagne with France,” says Billy Kaufman, president and CEO of Short Mountain Distillery, which makes moonshine and bourbon. “But that happens only if we all agree to certain ways of making whiskey. We should be building on that tradition.”

Kaufman argues that with so many new distilleries entering the marketplace, there’s the potential for quality to diminish and tarnish the state’s brand in the eyes of whiskey drinkers. The board of the Tennessee Distillers Guild, a group of 11 small distilleries headed by Kaufman, voted on Tuesday to support the current regulations.

But not every booze maker agrees. “It’s a matter of rights,” says Prichard’s Distillery owner Phil Prichard. “Anytime somebody creates a regulation, that takes away a certain amount of freedom.”

Unlike the big Tennessee producers, Prichard doesn’t use charcoal mellowing, and when the regulations were put in place last year, state legislators exempted Prichard’s from the new mandates and allowed him to continue making Tennessee Whiskey the way he’d been distilling it since 1997.

“I should be able to make it the way I believe it should be made,” Prichard says. “Controlling the quality of Tennessee Whiskey by legislation is a fool’s folly. The state legislature isn’t the final arbiter of quality whiskey. The marketplace is.”

What does this all mean for the regulations?

On Tuesday, the Tennessee House State Government Committee heard from distillers on both sides of the issue. Republican State Rep. Bill Sanderson introduced an amendment that would repeal those mandates. The committee adopted the changes with a voice vote but pushed a final vote to next week. The Senate committee is expected to take up the issue next week.

So is this really a fight about big government?

It’s less about politics and more about what people like to drink. The American whiskey market has exploded because it’s been able to experiment with different barrel combinations and various flavors like cinnamon, honey and maple. Stricter regulations about what constitutes Tennessee Whiskey could hamper that innovation.

If passed, the new law would likely define Tennessee Whiskey as any whiskey manufactured, distilled and stored in Tennessee and do away with regulations requiring new charred oak barrels and charcoal mellowing. That could make it easier for new distilleries to get their product to market, branded as Tennessee Whiskey, while allowing for greater experimentation. And those new micro-distilleries could eventually be smart acquisitions for a company like Diageo.

“Bourbon’s adaptability when compared with Scotch [which has its own rigid production laws] is what’s provided the edge in terms of innovation in the last few years and put it in the place to spearhead the growth of the category,” says Spiros Malandrakis, senior alcoholic drinks analyst for Euromonitor. “I think Diageo is very worried. They want a piece of the pie, and innovation plays a role in this. Diageo is probably interested in buying some local distilleries because Scotch has been sitting on its laurels.”

TIME Technologizer

Haunted Empire: A Bad Book About Apple After Steve Jobs

Haunted Empire

If there's a compelling case to be made that Apple is in deep trouble, you won't find it here.

Haunted Empire: Apple After Steve Jobs, former Wall Street Journal Yukari Iwatani Kane’s new work, may be a business book — but as its name suggests, it’s also a ghost story. The empire in question is the fabulously successful company Jobs left behind when he died in 2011. And it’s Jobs doing the haunting, by being a still-iconic, impossible-to-replace role model for his successor as CEO, Tim Cook, who Kane portrays as a fumbling, uninspiring number-cruncher.

Kane seems to be in love with the metaphor: The spectral Jobs keeps making return appearances, looming over Cupertino as the Ghost of Apple Past. Back in the real world, Cook is so nonplussed with the book and its portrayal of Apple that he was moved to give CNBC a statement dismissing it as “nonsense.”

(Apple bristling at an unflattering book, incidentally, isn’t new or un-Jobslike. In 2005, it reacted to John Wiley & Sons’ plans to publish a stinging biography of Steve Jobs by pulling all of the publisher’s tomes from its stores, thereby giving the bio a priceless jolt of free publicity. This time around, it doesn’t seem to be conducting a similar boycott: You can buy Haunted Empire from Apple’s own iBooks store.)

Of course, there’s no scenario in which Apple would shower praise on an even mildly critical book about itself. But when Cook says that Haunted Empire “fails to capture Apple, Steve, or anyone else in the company,” he happens to be right.

In an author’s note, Kane says that Haunted Empire is based on five years’ worth of reporting on Apple (including her time at the WSJ) and more than 200 interviews. To be sure, there are moments when the breadth and depth of her research pay off nicely. Some tidbits are new — at least to me — such as the details of Steve Jobs and New York Times columnist Joe Nocera wrangling over the latter’s commentary on Jobs’ health. The best, most vividly-reported extended sections are the chapters on Apple’s Taiwanese contract manufacturer, Foxconn; if Kane wrote a book entirely on that topic, I’d look forward to reading it.

But the closer she gets to the book’s conceptual nub — that Tim Cook’s Apple has created one disaster after another for itself — the shallower the story gets. That’s not entirely Kane’s fault: Any writer trying to go behind the scenes at Apple is automatically hobbled by the fact that the company grants few on-the-record interviews, and usually not in situations which require it to deal with unhappy subjects head-on. Still, there are plenty of instances in which I was hoping for more insight on an Apple mishap — such as the iOS 6 Maps meltdown or the company’s brief, inexplicable decision to entrust the Apple Stores to John Browett, the CEO of a famously cheesy chain of British electronics stores — and didn’t get much that hadn’t already been widely covered elsewhere.

In some respects, Haunted Empire would have been a better, more convincing book if there were less of it. Kane’s bashing of the original version of Siri — which, though imperfect, doesn’t strike me as having been a fiasco for Apple — is particularly long and overwrought. And when she wants to show that Cook’s hometown was really small, she provides 10 examples of small-town stories covered by its newspaper, when one or two would have made the point. There are also some odd small errors I’m surprised weren’t caught by editors, such as a reference to Queen Elizabeth II’s only female offspring, Princess Anne, as the monarch’s “eldest daughter.”

Kane doesn’t dismiss all evidence of Apple’s post-Jobs successes: There’s mention of popular products and profitable quarters. But she doesn’t find space to acknowledge the biggest financial triumphs. When Apple’s market capitalization passes Exxon’s in August 2011, she gives it a paragraph but doesn’t explain that this victory made Apple not just more valuable than Exxon, but the most valuable company in the world, period. Nor did I find any nods to the fact that Apple has continued to collect the vast majority of the smartphone industry’s profits even as its market share has shrunk — a data point that would tend to suggest Apple has outfoxed the competition rather than being trounced by it.

Again and again, Kane paints a picture in which there’s no such thing as news that doesn’t indicate Apple is in trouble. In Haunted Empire, as Macworld’s Jason Snell points out, it’s alarming when the cheap iPhone 4s holds its own in sales against the pricier iPhone 5 — and when consumers opt to buy the top-of-the-line iPhone 5s rather than the lower-cost iPhone 5c.

As for Cook, when he shows little emotion in meetings and puts the screws to his employees and suppliers, it’s not a good sign. When team members have enough time to take vacations and Cook thoughtfully avoids intruding upon them…well, that, too, is a bad sign.

Kane also says that the the theories of Clayton Christensen, author of The Innovator’s Dilemma, cogently explain Apple’s alleged downfall in progress. Which is giving the distinguished Harvard Business School professor a huge pass given that — as Kane notes earlier in the book — his original, wildly inaccurate take on the iPhone back in 2007 was that it wouldn’t compete successfully with phones from then-dominant companies such as Nokia.

It’s not just the analysis of Apple’s current state that opts for melodrama over coherence. During an account of Jobs’ 2010 WWDC keynote, when his demo of the iPhone 4 went awry and he asked attendees to get off the Wi-Fi network, Kane asserts that “(m)ost of the audience thought he was joking, even though Jobs’ tone was serious.” An attentive editor might have questioned Kane’s ability to divine the majority opinion of the several thousand people in the room. (I was in the crowd that day, and didn’t think for a nanosecond that Jobs was just kidding around.)

That Kane devotes considerable space to a Steve Jobs demo running off the rails points to a basic flaw in her thesis. In the Jobs era, things went wrong constantly. Products didn’t always live up to expectations. People made fun of Apple’s tendency to over-hype its own accomplishments. Customers were unhappy with one policy or another. Apple keynotes were declared to be disappointments, and the stock market responded to them by selling Apple stock.

In other words, all the stuff that happens today to Cook’s Apple happened to Jobs’s Apple. And while Jobs’ communications skills and personal charisma often helped to paper over problems, anyone who thinks that the company wasn’t subject to constant second-guessing in those days is haunted by a romantic ideal of an Apple that never actually existed. (To pick just one example, Kane trashes the Cook-led WWDC 2013 keynote, but she’s kinder to it than Wired’s Leander Kahney was to Jobs’ presentation at WWDC 2006.)

Jobs didn’t change the world nearly as frequently as Kane suggests, either. True, his Apple unleashed landmark products every few years, in a way that no other technology company has done. In between, though, it released ones that improved incrementally on the landmarks, in exactly the same way that the Cook-era iPhone 5s and iPad Air, both of which Kane describes as disappointments, improve on their predecessors. I’ve argued before that we won’t really know how well Apple will fare in the post-Jobs era until the company enters a whole new category, which makes Haunted Empire feel premature as well as superficial.

At the very end of the book, in an epilogue, Kane compares Apple to Google by contrasting a TIME cover story on Google’s anti-aging initiative and other “moonshot” efforts with a Businessweek cover on Apple. By now, you already know that she doesn’t mean it as a compliment to Apple.

I happen to be the guy who co-wrote that TIME piece, and for the record, I don’t find the juxtaposition between the covers to be a knock on Cook’s Apple in the least. The world is a better place because Google is pursuing far-flung, absurdly ambitious dreams. But that isn’t Apple’s style, and never was. Producing polished pieces of consumer electronics that aspire to greater things than the average gadget — and that often set the agenda for the rest of the industry — is what the company does best. And irreplaceable though Jobs is, it’s continuing — so far — to do a much better job of retaining its mojo than Haunted Empire gives it credit for.


Markets Need Janet Yellen to Kick Them in the Pants

Janet Yellen testifies before the Senate Banking Committee during a hearing on her nomination to become Chair of the Federal Reserve on Nov. 14, 2013 in Washington, D.C.
Kris Tripplaar—SIPA USA

Poor Janet Yellen. She does a good job communicating a complicated (and appropriate) mix of policy decisions at her first FOMC meeting today, including a slightly larger and quicker than expected interest rate hike, as well as a movement away from a set unemployment threshold for keeping rates low and toward a more nuanced view of labor market health. So what happens? She gets hammered by pundits and bankers alike for supposedly ending Bernanke style clarity, adding “mystique” to Fed communications and “shaking up” the US central bank’s mandate of keeping unemployment and inflation low.

Let’s all take a deep breath, please. For starters, Bernanke’s “clarity” over the last few years was largely Yellen’s doing, in the sense that she’s the one that came up with the 2 % inflation target rate and pushed for more and better Fed communication. Then, there’s the supposedly “hawkish” rate increase (the median interest rate forecast increased 0.25 % to 1 %) which investors now believe could happen by mid 2015 based on a statement by the chair, during her press conference, that rate hikes could start six months after the end of asset purchases (which may well be done by the end of this year).

Again, let’s all practice mindfulness, and focus on what we know will happen if rates stay low forever. Bubbles will form—and they will pop. The Fed’s $4 trillion money dump has already created what Yellen and other Fed leaders know are price distortions in everything from emerging market equities to commodities to certain real estate markets. Many people, including me, have been saying for some time now that while we might wish that the Fed’s easy money and low-interest rate policy could do more for the economy, it probably can’t.

There are complicated structural reasons why we are in the longest and weakest recovery of the post WW II period. When I interviewed Yellen earlier this year, she made it quite clear that she knew that the Fed’s firepower was running low—although she still believed that clear and thoughtful forward guidance could help calm markets. (Today’s reaction shows that will be a tricky act to pull off.) Still, by proving hawks that had predicted a Yellen-led Fed would remain too dovish for too long wrong, she’s showing a careful regard for the market impact of long-term loose monetary policy. She may be concerned about the “human impact” of unemployment, but she clearly doesn’t want markets to crash, either.

All in all, I’m rather surprised that the markets took the rate hike news as so hawkish and definitive, given that she stressed again and again that the Fed would be watching a broad range of economic indicators to make sure that they were getting the timing of internet rate tightening right. (Which, by the way, is appropriate given that the recent drop in the US unemployment rate is indicative of many things beyond labor market health, like boomers dropping out of the workforce by choice or by force.) She told reporters that even when rate hikes began, there would be a “shallower glide path” than normal, and that we shouldn’t just “look to the dot plot”—meaning the Fed’s own projections—but that markets should know Fed governors would be keeping their fingers to the wind at all times, ready to change direction on policy if needed.

To me, that’s reassuring. It’s interesting that to markets it was worrisome. That shows just how dependent investors have become on Fed news going in one direction only and how removed some asset prices have become from fundamentals. When I close my eyes, breathe deeply and visualize the future, I see…more volatility.

TIME Antitrust

Comcast-Time Warner Cable Deal Faces Scrutiny From States

Cable Giant Comcast To Acquire Time Warner Cable
Brian Hunt, Director Engineering, South Florida, stands among the cables and routers at a Comcast distribution center where the Comcast regional video, high speed data and voice are piped out to customers on February 13, 2014 in Miramar, Fla. Joe Raedle—Getty Images

More than two dozen state governments are working with the Justice Department to make sure Comcast's $45 billion offer to snatch up Time Warner Cable doesn't violate antitrust laws, as critics warn of increasing media consolidation

More than two dozen states including California, Florida and Connecticut are working with the Justice Department to determine if Comcast’s $45 billion offer to buy Time Warner Cable runs afoul of antitrust laws, sources confirmed to TIME on Wednesday.

The proposed merger of the two largest cable companies in the United States has attracted criticism from public interest groups who say that the deal would concentrate too much market power in the hands of one company.

Along with the Justice Department, which will address antitrust concerns, the merger faces scrutiny from the Federal Communications Commission, which is charged with ensuring that the deal serves the public interest. Comcast maintains that the deal isn’t anticompetitive because the two companies don’t compete in the same markets, and says the merger will result in improved service for consumers.

Some 25 states are currently participating in the multistate group reviewing the proposed transaction, according to a person familiar with the probe.

Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen’s office is part of the group, a spokesperson for Jepsen confirmed to TIME. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office is also participating. “We are part of a multistate group reviewing the proposed transaction along with the U.S. DOJ Antitrust Division,” a spokesperson for Bondi said in an emailed statement.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris’s office is also part of the multistate review group, according to a person familiar with the matter. Harris’s office declined to comment. New York is not part of the multistate review group at this time, a spokesperson told TIME. A spokesperson for Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said he “cannot confirm nor deny the existence or non-existence of an investigation.”

Indiana officials are also examining the deal to determine “the potential impact in Indiana,” a spokesperson told Reuters, which first reported the states probes. Pennsylvania, where Comcast is headquartered, is “reviewing the case independently,” a spokesman for the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office told Reuters. A spokesperson for the Justice Department confirmed the federal antitrust probe, but declined to comment on the multistate review group.

Combining Comcast and Time Warner Cable would create a corporate giant with approximately 33 million pay-TV customers and about one-third of the U.S. broadband Internet market. Comcast already owns NBCUniversal, after buying the media company from industrial conglomerate General Electric. As part of the proposed Time Warner Cable deal, Comcast will extend the commitment it made during the NBCUniversal review to abide by open-Internet principles until 2018.

Major entertainment and content companies that sell programming to cable and satellite companies have expressed concern that the merger could create a powerful gatekeeper with unprecedented buying power in the market. This could give the combined company what economists call “monopsony” power, which is one buyer with many sellers, as opposed to “monopoly” power, which is one seller with many buyers.

Such monopsony power could have benefits for consumers, because the combined company would have increased leverage in contentious negotiations with the TV broadcasters over “retransmission consent fees,” which cable and satellite companies pay for the right to carry popular programming like prime-time shows and sports. That could mean downward pressure on prices for consumers, but only if the combined company chose to pass those savings on to them, which is by no means certain.

Retransmission consent fees were at the heart of last year’s dispute between CBS and Time Warner Cable, which led to an unprecedented, monthlong CBS blackout for more than 3 million Time Warner Cable subscribers in New York City, Los Angeles and Dallas.

Time Warner Cable, which was spun off from TIME parent Time Warner in 2009, is an attractive takeover target because of its major presence in several important markets, including New York City, Los Angeles and Dallas, as well as large portions of Ohio, North Carolina and Maine. In order to help assuage regulators, Comcast has said it’s willing to jettison as many as 3 million subscribers in order to make sure the new company does not exceed 30% of the cable market.

Comcast declined to comment on the state probes, but it’s worth noting that these state attorneys general reviews are typical for a proposed merger of this size, because the deal has the potential to affect millions of consumers across the country. During the review process for Comcast’s acquisition of NBCUniversal, some 14 states participated.

TIME coca-cola

LeBron James Gets His Own Soda

Miami Heat forward LeBron James smiles after a 100-96 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena
Miami Heat forward LeBron James smiles after a 100-96 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena, Mar 18, 2014. David Richard—USA Today Sports/Reuters

Miami Heat star LeBron James is partnering with Sprite to introduce 'Sprite 6 Mix,' a specially branded cherry- and orange-flavored version of the popular lemon-and-lime soft drink. The new beverage hits store shelves nationwide for a limited time this month

LeBron James already has a best-selling sneaker line and a cartoon series on YouTube. Soon, he’ll have his own beverage, too.

The NBA All-Star is partnering with Sprite to release Sprite 6 Mix, a cherry and orange-flavored version of the lemon-lime soda. The drink will be available for a limited time nationally starting this month. Sprite 6 Mix will feature a crown on its label — a reference to the basketball player’s nickname, “King James” — and will be the company’s first soda developed in tandem with a celebrity.

James earned $42 million in endorsement deals in 2013, leading all NBA players, according to Forbes. He’s been a pitchman for the Coca-Cola Company, which owns Sprite, since he first entered the NBA in 2003. James has helped the company advertise several of its brands in that time—making improbable full-court three-pointers for Powerade, trying a court case for Vitaminwater and challenging Yao Ming to a battle of cultural stereotypes for Coca-Cola itself.

Sprite 6 Mix will get a 15-second TV spot all its own this spring. Whether James’ new soda will reach the cultural ubiquity of rap star Nelly’s energy drink Pimp Juice remains to be seen.


Carl Icahn Has a New Plan to Spin Off PayPal

Icahn Enterprises L.P. To Ring The NASDAQ Stock Market Closing Bell
Scott Eells—Bloomberg/Getty Images

Activist investor Carl Icahn has hatched a new plot in his ongoing quest to get eBay to spinoff its online payment service PayPal. In a letter to eBay shareholders released Wednesday, Icahn advocates for a partial IPO of PayPal, in which eBay would sell off 20 percent of the company in a public offering. “PayPal is a tremendous company, but it is on the verge of going to war against strong adversaries, and only with the benefits of being an independent company…will PayPal be capable of winning that war.,” Icahn writes in the letter.

The missive rattles off several reasons that a PayPal IPO makes sense from Icahn’s view. An independent PayPal would create greater value for shareholders, he argues, and money raised from the offering could be used to recruit more talent and make strategic acquisitions. An independent management team and board of directors would also benefit PayPal, Icahn says, because the company would be able to more easily pursue partnerships with companies that could potentially threaten eBay’s business. Icahn also imagines that other tech companies that are hungry to enter the online payments space, like Facebook, might buy a stake in PayPal if given the opportunity.

The proposal is a step back from Icahn’s original hope of getting PayPal to go entirely independent. But eBay still has no interest in parting with even a portion of the payments service. “We continue to believe PayPal and eBay together is the best path to creating sustainable, long-term shareholder value in the future,” the company said in an emailed statement, noting that eBay’s share price has risen by more than 400 percent in the past five years. “Together, PayPal and eBay have strong, real synergies that benefit both businesses. These synergies cannot be easily addressed in arm’s length commercial agreements.”

The issue is expected to be presented for a vote at eBay’s annual shareholders meeting this spring.

TIME viral

This Man Is Using Selfies as A Weapon To Fight Off The IRS

Instagram / @Internalrevenueselfies

Welcome to the best Instagram of this week

When Andrew Jarvis’ architecture firm opened up shop in New York in 2012 and the man began splitting his time between the city and his home in Philadelphia 49:51, respectively, he became haunted by a nightmare scenario. Since he rented an apartment in NYC, could the big bad New York Department of Revenue come after him to pay additional, steep taxes even though he lived in Pennsylvania? (Not an entirely implausible scenario.)

So Jarvis told TIME that he decided to fight off a hypothetical offensive by IRS auditors with “blizzards of receipts, Easy Pass records, train tickets” … and selfies. The old fashioned kind. At random intervals, Jarvis would program his camera —not camera phone — on an auto-timer, perch it on top of the post at the end of his driveway, put on a business-time face, and take a timestamped picture of himself standing in front of his home with the day’s Philadelphia Inquirer.

But when his social media savvy daughter Anne, 26, came across his camera Friday, the instantly viral InternalRevenueSelfies Instagram was born.

“I came across these photos and I literally had tears running down my cheeks, and I was on the floor laughing” she said. (Andrew had no idea what Instagram was prior to his celebrity.) Anne continued, “What’s so funny is how deadpan he is. He has such an earnest nature. I know where all of this is coming from is he’s just through and thorugh an honest stand-up guy and this is a manifestation of that.”

Andrew had no problem with Anne making the account — he thinks its popularity is proof that she has a good eye —although he doesn’t quite get the humor: “I just created a record as any citizen would do who is trying to be prudent… It’s kind of embarrassing.”

Some photos include props, like snow shovels for winter:

Umbrellas for the rainy season:

Suits when he’s feeling fancy:

And phones when he simply doesn’t have time for all of this:

“I hate to admit this but I sometimes take pictures of myself pumping gas [to prove I'm the one using the credit card at that location],” Jarvis said. “I would have liked to have smiled in a few of the pictures had I known people were going to be looking at them.”

But that might be why the photos have caught on. “No one was ever meant to see these, these were for his future imaginary conversation he might have hypothetically with the IRS,” Anne, who has an eye for design and currently creates window displays at Anthropologie, said. “And seeing that no one was supposed to see them made me want to show the world.”

Jarvis has yet to be flagged by the IRS, but he worries that he might now be tempting his fate: “It’s almost taunting them.” Still, an audit does have a certain ring of appeal. “I kind of wouldn’t mind because I’ve gone through an awful lot of trouble to document it, it would be nice to share it with someone to prove I’ve done my work and have paid my taxes correctly.”

TIME Taxes

Uncle Sam Has $760 Million in Tax Refunds Just Waiting To Be Claimed

If Americans don't claim the money they're owed by April 15, it becomes the property of the U.S. government. The money comes from people who didn’t file tax returns in 2010, but were eligible for tax refunds

Nearly one million taxpayers have left $760 million in unclaimed tax refunds with the IRS, which, if left unclaimed, will soon become government property.

The money comes from people who didn’t file tax returns in 2010 but were eligible for tax refunds, CNN Money reports. Much of the unclaimed money belongs to people who earn so little they aren’t required to file tax returns, but are eligible for refunds through tax credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit. The IRS estimates that more than half of the unclaimed refunds total over $571 each.

The final deadline for filing a 2010 tax return and claiming the money is April 15.

“The window is quickly closing,” an IRS commissioner said in a statement. “We encourage students, part-time workers and others who haven’t filed for 2010 to look into this before time runs out on April 15.”

[CNN Money]

TIME Monetary Policy

Fed Looks to Keep Interest Rates Low For Now

The Federal Reserve said it would keep interest rates low until at least early next year in order to encourage more borrowing and spur economic growth amid persistent unemployment and low inflation plaguing the economy

The Federal Reserve signaled Wednesday that it would look to keep interest rates low until at least early next year, as it abandoned its traditional target of a 6.5 percent unemployment rate as a trigger for higher rates.

Citing persistent unemployment and low inflation, the central bank said that the federal funds rate—the short term interest rates set by the Fed—should remain at a “highly accommodative” lower rate in order to encourage borrowing and spur economic growth. The Fed is currently holding that rate at below 0.25 percent. The Fed also said it is continuing to reduce its monthly long-term bond purchases by another $10 billion to $55 billion, in a widely expected continuation of its so-called “taper,” as it scales back its most aggressive economic stimulus.

Wednesday’s announcement was the first action taken by the Federal Reserve under the leadership of its new chairwoman, Janet Yellen. Markets were down after the news, signaling surprise at the possibility that rates could go up in the spring of 2015, earlier than many expected. The Dow Jones closed down 108 points, or about two-thirds of a percent. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq saw similar falls. But Yellen left the Fed plenty of wiggle room for when and how to raise rates.

Previously, the Fed had said if unemployment fell below 6.5 percent, it would consider raising interest rates, but Wednesday’s announcement scraps that benchmark. The current unemployment rate is 6.7 percent.

The central bank also adjusted its growth estimate for the U.S. economy in 2014, to between 2.8 percent and 3.0 percent, down from its December prediction of between 2.8 percent and 3.2 percent.

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