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Black eye? 丑事

中国日报网 2018-10-19 12:50


Reader question:

Please explain “collective black eye”, as in this: “all banks sustained a collective black eye after the 2008 collapse of Wall Street…”

My comments:

Collective means that all of the banks are bundled together as a collection, a group. All of these banks suffering a black eye means that, if they were humans, it would be like all of them took a big blow on the face, which would leave each and every one with black and blue bruises around the eye socket.

Yes, that’s the idea. A black eye, you see, literally refers to swollen skin or flesh surrounding an eye after being hit – for example, by someone with a fist. If you trip up in the street and fall flat on your face and hit your cheek on the curb, you may also get a black eye in consequence.

As a result of the injury, the skin and flesh round your eye turns in color, from a healthy rotund red to black and blue.

Hence the idea of a black eye.

As metaphor, a black eye refers to any such similar setback that may be a cause for dishonor, embarrassment, humiliation, shame or what have you.

In our example, the financial crisis of 2008 gave all banks a black eye because it made them all look bad. The collapse of Wall Street in general and the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers in particular showed how greedy and corrupt all banks were.

Well, maybe not all banks are corrupt, not equally and intolerably so, I mean but as a group, their collective reputation certainly took a hit, a big hit, a major blow.

All right, no more ado and let’s read a few media examples to bring the point home:

1. More than 210 million Americans hit stores and malls late Thursday night and Friday and spent billions of dollars on bargain deals.

Black Friday is an obvious shot in the arm for the U.S. economy, but the day -- and the night before -- has also become a black mark for America, too.

Finding bargains is one thing, but the lengths shoppers go to in getting them is beyond belief. With all due respect to our brave troops fighting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Black Friday is becoming a battlefield.

According to New York Mag.com, these are just a few incidents that occurred at stores across the U.S. on Black Friday 2011.

* An unidentified Wal-Mart shopper used pepper spray on several shoppers as they waited for a crate of Xbox 360 consoles to be unwrapped late Thursday night. Twenty people were treated at the scene for eye irritation or bruising

* A police officer reportedly used pepper spray to disperse an unruly crowd at a Wal-Mart in North Carolina.

* Police had to use a stun gun on a man at Wal-Mart in Florence, Ala., because, allegedly, the man was drunk.

* A fight broke out in the electronics department at a Wal-Mart in Rome, N.Y., less than five minutes after the store opened on Friday morning. A man was arrested and two women were taken to the hospital.

* Police tasered a man who allegedly punched another shopper in a Wal-Mart in Milford, Conn., after a third man's child was pushed to the floor near the video games.

* Police responded to three separate reports of fighting at a Wal-Mart outside Toledo, Ohio, on Thursday night. The fight allegedly was over paper towels that were selling for $1.88.

* In Buckeye, Ariz., police reportedly slammed a man face down on Wal-Mart's concrete floor when they suspected he was shoplifting.

* Apparently disappointed that it wasn't open, looters broke into Hollister's flagship store in New York City about 1:15 a.m.

* A fistfight was reported in the electronics section of an Escondido, Calif., Wal-Mart store.

* Another fight involved several of the 1,000 shoppers outside a Best Buy store in Culver City, Calif.

* Two men fought at a Wal-Mart jewelry counter in Kissimmee, Fla. One man was arrested.

Occupy protesters got mixed up in the mayhem, too. In Harrisburg, an Occupy protester dressed as a zombie -- to mock the consumerism of Black Friday -- was arrested for refusing mall security's request to remove the facial makeup.

But these were minor incidents compared to the armed robberies and carjackings that took place in store/mall parking lots throughout the country.

Obviously, Black Friday provides a tremendous shot in the arm to the U.S. economy, but the way many shoppers acted this past week gives America a black eye.

- EDITORIAL: Some shoppers’ behavior black eye for America, RegisterCitizen.com, November 29, 2011.

2. Bill Gates, who as the richest American has become one of the foremost advocates of philanthropy, has reduced the pace of his own giving to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation over the last decade.

After starting the foundation with gifts of $356 million from 1994 to 1997, the Microsoft co-founder vastly expanded it into the nation’s largest with gifts totaling $24.6 billion over the next four years.

Since then, he has dialed back. From 2002 to 2012, he gave $3.7 billion, according to foundation disclosures and data from a Gates spokesman. In that same period, he sold an estimated $22 billion in Microsoft stock.

The pullback reflects the foundation’s rapid growth — to a size that has tested its ability to give away money at the pace required both by law and by the fast-rising contributions of another donor, Warren Buffett.

John Pinette, a spokesman for Gates, declined to address specific reasons for the change of pace in giving, but he did point to the challenges of distributing large amounts of money where it can be most effective.

Giving away $3.9 billion, as the foundation did in 2012, “is a massive task and a big responsibility,” Pinette said.

At $40.2 billion, the Gates foundation is more than triple the size of the No. 2 Ford Foundation, according to a tally by the Foundation Center, which tracks philanthropy. Such foundations generally must spend 5 percent of their assets in grants and expenses each year to maintain their tax-exempt status.

Gates has recently taken a back seat to his friend Buffett in financing the foundation.

Since 2006, Buffett — the chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway and the second-richest American — has given $13 billion in annual increments, after a pledge that year to give stock worth $31 billion at the time.

Buffett’s gifts require that the full dollar amounts be spent each year. The price of Berkshire stock has doubled since mid-2006, increasing the value of his annual contribution to $2 billion.

One concern for Gates is that the death of Buffett, who is 83, could accelerate the pace at which the remainder of the stock he pledged, now worth $42.1 billion, would come into the foundation, further increasing its required annual spending.

Gates and Buffett have also championed philanthropic giving by their fellow billionaires. In 2010, they unveiled plans to try to persuade other wealthy Americans to pledge giving more than half their net worth to charity during their lifetimes or at their deaths.

In a public appearance in March, Bill and Melinda Gates said they talked about giving back his wealth to society as far back as 1993, on a trip to Africa together before their marriage, when they witnessed what Melinda Gates described as “extreme poverty.”

In the same appearance, Gates, who stepped aside this year as chairman of Microsoft but remains a director, repeated a past vow to eventually donate 95 percent of his wealth to the foundation, where he has devoted most of his time since 2008.

For Gates, the slower pace of contributions, along with recent gains in Microsoft’s stock price, have helped him regain the No. 1 ranking among the world’s billionaires, with a net worth estimated by Forbes at $76 billion.

Pinette said there was “absolutely no connection” between the contribution tempo and the ranking.

As Gates has reduced his stake to a recent 4 percent from 22 percent in 1997, Microsoft stock has generally traded at about half the peak reached in 1999 during the tech stock bubble.

The Seattle-based Gates Foundation has focused on fighting poverty and disease in developing nations; financing and seeking vaccines for polio, tuberculosis and malaria; and improving education in the United States.

Gates has been lionized for the efforts. A “60 Minutes” segment last year showed him giving a polio vaccine to a child in Ghana. Last November, he received media coverage for a visit to Nigeria, spotlighting a recent drop in polio there.

That has not always been the case.

Twenty years ago, people associated the name Gates with “ruthless, predatory” monopolistic conduct that gave him “the reputation of a modern-day robber baron,” said Charles Lowenhaupt, a wealth adviser in St. Louis. Today, he added, Gates — after stepping back from Microsoft and throwing himself into charity work — is considered “a worldwide force for good.”

His philanthropy has helped “rebrand” his name, Lowenhaupt added.

The source of the ill will was an antitrust case filed by the United States against Microsoft in May 1998 and tried between October 1998 and April 2000. It was ultimately settled in November 2001. The government contended, and an appeals court later partly agreed, that Microsoft abused its market power to maintain a monopoly in desktop computer operating systems.

During the course of that case, Gates began reducing his stake in Microsoft more aggressively and, after taking a public-relations beating during the trial’s early going in late 1998, the company started what was described at the time as a “charm offensive” to improve its image.

Early in the trial, the government portrayed Gates as combative, evasive or less than candid in a videotaped deposition, showing numerous excerpts from his testimony that appeared to be at odds with emails he wrote about the same events.

The trial was a terrible black eye for Bill Gates,” said Ken Auletta, author of a 2001 book, “World War 3.0: Microsoft and Its Enemies.” At the time, Auletta said, the public-relations team at Microsoft was “desperate to counter the growing impression that it was a heartless beast.”

While Auletta believes Gates’ charitable gifts were too large to be dismissed as a public relations ploy, he said that during the trial, the gifts “became part of Microsoft’s PR effort to humanize Gates.”

- Bill Gates cuts back on gifts to his foundation, SeattleTimes, May 26, 2014.

3. Media reports recently revealed that Alphabet’s Google Plus social media platform had a security bug that allowed some third-party developers to access users’ profile data over the past three years. Google found out about the bug back in March, but never informed its users.

The time it took Google to find the bug and the fact that it wasn’t keen on informing users is a black eye for Google at a time when users are becoming increasingly concerned about companies selling their data, let alone having it potentially siphoned off by third-party developers without their consent. Google has since shut down most of Google Plus, though businesses can still use the platform.

Facebook, for its part, experienced a significant data breach just weeks ago that allowed hackers to gain access to about 50 million of its users’ accounts, sometimes enabling the hackers to lock legitimate users out of their own accounts. Facebook’s reputation had already taken a hit earlier this year, following the news that data analysis firm Cambridge Analytica had gained access to 87 million Facebook users’ data without their consent.

No tech company is immune from breaches or from third parties trying to gain access to user data, but there are differences in how companies respond to this issue. One such difference came into focus just last week, when both Facebook and Google released new smart-home devices for consumers. Google erred on the side of more privacy for its users, while Facebook is seemingly stripping more of it away.

- Google Is Starting to Learn That Users Want Privacy. Facebook Still Doesn't Get It, Finance.Yahoo.com, October 13, 2018.


About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.

(作者:张欣 编辑:丹妮)


Off the bat? 立刻


Hot take? 脱口而出的意见


Rattled someone's cage 让人恼火


Falling into place 水到渠成


Carry the day? 获胜

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