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Best Business Longreads

Mark Lennihan/AP

From the man driving the art world madness to J. Crew’s attempt to conquer the United Kingdom, The Daily Beast brings you the best in business journalism from the week of November 30, 2013.

The Man Who Sold the Art World Nick Paumgarten – New YorkerThe recent sale of a Francis Bacon triptych for $140.2 million had a lot of tongues wagging, but even more heads shaking. How is art, and 20th century art in particular, being valued at such astronomical values? The answer may be the work of one man--David Zwirner.America’s Least-Favorite City Has Become Television’s Favorite Subject T.A. Frank – The New RepublicDenigrating Washington, DC in a political speech is as ubiquitous nowadays as “God Bless America.

They Want Out

Silicon Valley Secession

Shutterstock

The master nerds who rule the Valley are talking about ditching the rest of us and heading for the hills. But they’ll only be the first—‘Real America’ faces a brain drain.

Day in and day out, the message from the media is the same. Your country is becoming a nightmare. However you can, get out—and do it now, before you’re trapped.From Saul Alinsky to Sarah Palin, the view of the problem is also the same. Society has been divided into Elites and Real People. But the situation now seems so dire that instead of achieving transformative change, many of us are simply opting to flee into dreams—of a post-revolutionary paradise, or of traditional times restored.

Downward Spiral

Walmart’s Black Thanksgiving Woes

Lucy Nicholson/Reuters via Landov

Employees forced to work on ‘Black Thursday’ for low wages aren’t the only ones having a grim holiday—Walmart’s miserly ways are part of the downward spiral of its business model.

“We don’t call it Black Friday, we call it Black Thanksgiving,” said Michael Ahlef, 22, a Walmart cashier who said he was willing to risk arrest at a protest in Minneapolis because he was so desperate for the company to introduce a living wage. “They’re going to have to start listening to us soon,” he told The Daily Beast.The action was one of many protests and events that organizers were planning in more than a dozen cities, including Los Angeles, Chicago, the Bay Area, Seattle, Dallas, Sacramento, Miami, Minneapolis, and Washington, D.

Regifting the Globe

Gift Cards Go Green

sustainablecards.com

The majority of gift cards go to waste, unused by consumers and left to rot in landfills. But there’s a green alternative—cards made of wood—that allow you to gift without the guilt.

For holiday shoppers, gift cards are the easy way out. They’re light. They’re quick, and bound to delight. They’re also problematic on a few levels, as I noted several years ago. When you buy gift cards, you’re lending money to retailers for free. And when gift cards go unused, the money spent purchasing them goes to waste.Gift cards are also wasteful in another way. They’re made of environmentally unfriendly plastic and consume a lot of resources.

Unplugged

Heads Roll in TV Land

The Daily Beast

On the same day Alec Baldwin gets canned from MSNBC for anti-gay slurs, Lara Logan is placed on forced leave for ‘60 Minutes’s discredited story on Benghazi. Who’s next?

It was a bad day for television scofflaws as CBS News placed 60 Minutes star Lara Logan and her producer on a forced leave of absence and MSNBC fired the host of the six-week-old Friday night show Up Late with Alec Baldwin.Can MSNBC’s Martin Bashir be far behind?Logan and her longtime producer, Max McClellan, were disciplined after CBS conducted an internal review of their Oct. 27 segment concerning last year’s deadly terrorist attack on U.S.

Papalnomics

Pope Francis Vs. Capitalism

Franco Origlia/Getty

In a new declaration, the pope warns that the ‘culture of prosperity deadens us,’ taking aim at free market capitalists and consumers alike.

“How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?”I guess Pope Francis doesn’t watch Bloomberg TV.This quote is one of the many zingers Pope Francis aims at global capitalism in his just-issued Apostolic Exhortation (here’s the PDF version)The economic sections were a small component—items 54-60 of a 106-item, 86-page document. But they were noteworthy for injecting the Vatican into the raging global debate about inequality.

Thank You, Gap

How Gap Responded to Racism

A Gap ad featuring a Sikh model went viral after being vandalized with racist comments. The company reacted admirably, but the incident proves our society is still divided.

You would expect New York City—one of the nation’s most diverse cities, in which more than a third of its 8 million residents are born in a foreign country—to be a haven for tolerance. But, a recent incident of subway graffiti would indicate otherwise.On Sunday, as I was monitoring my social media feeds, I noticed a striking photograph of a Gap Inc. subway clothing advertisement taken by a friend and NYC photographer, Robert Gerhardt, which he took on the “downtown platform on the 6 train at the Buhre Avenue stop in the Pelham Bay section of the Bronx” in New York City just a few days prior.

Stay Home

The War on Thanksgiving

Richard W. Rodriguez/AP

The right always whines about its contrived war on Christmas. But this year, the real assault is on Thanksgiving, when retail stores will be open—depriving thousands of their holiday.

Forget the war on Christmas. It’s time to talk about a more dangerous assault—the one being waged against Thanksgiving. And this war has real casualties: American families.On Thursday, while most of us will be stuffing ourselves in the company of our loved ones—or at least our family—thousands of others will be compelled to leave their Thanksgiving celebrations to go to work. Why? Many retail chains have decided to open up their stores on Thanksgiving Day, including Walmart, Macy’s, Target, and Sears.

ANTI-POPULISTS

Swiss Reject Executive Pay Limits

Jean Christophe Bott/EPA, via Landov

Despite public anger.

This proved a bridge too far for the business-friendly Swiss. A measure known as the 12:1 initiative, because it would have limited executive pay to no more than twelve times the lowest paid employee at a company, was voted down by over 65 percent of voters in Switzerland. The rejection comes despite public outrage over executive behavior, most notably UBS, which paid out large bonuses after receiving a government bailout, and after Daniel Vasella of pharmaceutical company Novartis demanded a $78 million severance package so as not to work with competitors (after the outcry he withdrew his demands). 

Read it at the New York Times

TOP DOG

Walmart Names Next CEO

April L. Brown/AP

Doug McMillon will replace Mike Duke.

Walmart, the largest private employer in the U.S. with nearly 2.2 million employees, has announced its next CEO. Doug McMillon, 47, and president and CEO of Walmart International, will replace current CEO Mike Duke on February 1. McMillon first joined Walmart in 1984 as a summer associate in a distribution center, and most of his 22 years at the company have been focused on merchandising. Duke has served as CEO since 2009, and his retirement comes as the company and the industry as a whole face serious challenges.

Read it at the Wall Street Journal

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Shame on You, Walmart!

With an Ohio Walmart hosting a holiday food drive for its own workers, The Daily Beast's Michael Tomasky criticizes the notoriously stingy company for not paying them more.

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