DINNER PARTY INTEL: Google’s tongue-lashing | fidget spinners | India’s luxury tax plan
The topics you have to be able to discuss this week
1. Counting costs
Google received a tongue-lashing last week after it argued in court that compiling salary records for its employees was too much of a logistical challenge and too costly an exercise. The rebuke came from the US labour department, which has accused it of underpaying women.
Noting Google’s nearly US$28bn annual income, attorney Ian Eliasoph said: "Google would be able to absorb the cost as [easily] as a dry kitchen sponge could absorb a single drop of water."
2. New obsession
Is it a fad, or is the demand for fidget spinners here to stay? By the middle of May, every one of the top-10 bestselling toys on Amazon was a type of handheld spinning toy. Writing for academic website The Conversation, Katherine Isbister, computational media professor at the University of California, said fidgeting doesn’t start with spinners: those who click ballpoint pens are fidgeting to help them stay focused. It’s not just a fad, says Isbister, who researches how people use fidget items. Still, the evidence that fidget toys help children with attention or anxiety issues is anecdotal.
3. The price of ‘luxury’
The price of chess, Scrabble and Monopoly is about to shoot up in India after the government classified them as a "luxury items" in a new tax plan. Traditional toys will be taxed at 12%, electronic toys 18% and board games 28%. Manufacturers say the changes will push toy costs up by 5%-20%. Goods such as detergents and even paint will also be added to the luxury tax band, while solar panels will attract 18% tax. Critics say this flies in the face of India’s ambitious solar power targets.