Apple-Man, Biden’s ‘dead’ plan and the very best of Brexit

Planet Business: Wordle-buying New York Times mops up subscribers

Image of the week: Joe v Joe

"Joe Manchin is burning our future for profit" is the full message on the sign carried by activists during a morning rush-hour rally in Washington DC on Monday. The protestors were urging the passing of President Joe Biden's Build Back Better legislation, a near-$2 trillion (€1.77tn) package that would reform childcare, education, healthcare and climate change policies, but has been put in doubt by another Joe, West Virginia senator Joe Manchin.

The Democrat, whose support Biden needs, announced in December that he couldn’t vote for the House-passed version of the bill and this week his verdict was that it is “dead” in its current form. Manchin says his main worry is inflation, but he also cites Ukraine and the economic impact of Covid-19 as reasons for Biden to hold back on his spending plans.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was among those left unimpressed, with the New York representative wondering where she should direct freezing New Yorkers who are waiting for Build Back Better funds to fix their heating. "Manchin's yacht?"

In numbers: Subscriber magnet

15 million

The New York Times is now targeting this number of subscribers by the end of 2027. It said this week it had already reached its previous target of 10 million by 2025 thanks to the completion of its deal to buy The Athletic.

$55 million

Losses recorded in 2021 by the sports site, which has about 1.2 million subscribers. The NYT is forecasting a “slight improvement” in The Athletic’s operating losses for 2022.

375,000

Subscribers added by the news group in the fourth quarter of 2021. Some 171,000 of these were for its main news offering, with the rest drawn to products such as NYT Cooking and its soon to be Wordle-enhanced Games app.

Getting to know: Apple-Man

Despite his superpower sounding distinctly more like the party trick of a remorseless villain, Apple-Man is a superhero who can levitate apples, and the lead protagonist of a forthcoming independent Ukrainian film. Yes, it's a satire. Sadly, the largest company in the world (by market capitalisation) is unable to see the funny side, with Apple seeking to block director Vasyl Moskalenko's trademark application for his low-budget, crowdfunded project.

Viewers, Apple contends, will erroneously assume Apple-Man is associated with Apple, diluting the value of “the famous Apple brand”. The tech behemoth says the film’s trademark is “highly similar” to its own and “overall creates a similar commercial impression”, while a lawyer representing the director says “apple” isn’t a proprietary word and the whole thing is “ridiculous”. Indeed, it’s hard to see any winners here, except perhaps those of us who wish to preserve the legacy of the original fruit-themed superhero parody: Bananaman.

The list: The ‘benefits’ of Brexit

On the same day that Boris Johnson was dismissing multiple calls on him to resign after Sue Gray's "Partygate" synopsis, the UK's cabinet office quietly slipped out a document called The Benefits of Brexit. It was almost as if it didn't want anyone to read how exactly Britain was "capitalising" on its exit from the EU. So which dividends was it trumpeting?

1 Blue passports. Westminster has doubled down on counting the return of "iconic blue passports" as one of the upsides of Brexit, despite there not being any EU law dictating passport colour.

2 Crown symbol. Brexit allegedly means being able to put the crown symbol on pint glasses "in a fitting tribute to Her Majesty's Platinum Jubilee". Again, this could have happened while the UK was still in the EU.

3 Tampon tax. VAT on menstrual products has now been abolished in the UK, which is great, to be fair. Of course, it could also have avoided the "tampon tax" the way the Republic did: by having a pre-existing zero rating.

4 Wine time. The moment has arrived to "supercharge" the production of English and Welsh wine, the sales trajectory of which is now unhampered by "burdensome EU regulations".

5 Being the best. The UK will become the "Best Regulated Economy in the World", while a "Best of Britain" campaign will "make the case around the world for British values" and the UK border will also, apparently, become "the best in the world".