Now Laura Ashley is brilliantly marketed…

Rosie on Fire, business attire
Rosie on Fire, business attire

Laura Ashley is brilliantly marketed.  It reminds Baby Boomer ladies of the days, back when they were young, confident and beautiful, during the late 1980s.  It meets their current wish to tend to their wonderful gardens with stylish garden clothing, hats, and garden tools.  Lovely.

In 1925 baby Laura Ashley was born in Dowley, Wales.  She was an enterprising woman and started designing home furnishings. Later on in life, in the 1960s she also expanded her business into clothing.

Laura Ashley RIP September 17, 1985
Laura Ashley RIP September 17, 1985

She was inspired by the Roman Holiday.  Audrey Hepburn looked so pretty and her clothes were feminine and romantic, unlike the psychedelic fashion that took over the UK at that time. Think the Mike Myers movie “Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery.”

The fashion brand was a huge success and in the 1980s it expanded into the US.  After Laura Ashley’s death in September 1985 the company had been taken public.

Today the company is owned by Malayan United Industries Berhad (MUI) which is listed on the Main Market of Bursa Malaysia Securities Berhad. The corporate philosophy of the Group  for over 50 years is guided by three key attributes – strength, efficiency and trustworthiness.   In their advertisements here in the US, in which older ladies are sold gardening tools and chic outfits by one of the top retailers in the US, Orchard Hardware Supplies, this sentiment certainly comes across.  But few people realize that the company merely sells to the US consumer, than transports the earnings to Malaysia, where undoubted lot of very young people are employed.

One of their important non-executive directors has been educated in the US. Tan Sri Dato’ Paduka Dr. bin Ahmad attended Advanced Management Programme at Harvard Business School, Executive Development Program at Philippines Executive Academy and holds Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in History from University of Malaya, Master of Public Administration from University of Pittsburgh and PhD in Public Administration from University of Southern California, Los Angeles, USA.

The trading company, one of the most successful company’s in Malaysia, is managed by Khoo Kay Peng.  In his personal life Mr. Khoo Kay Peng does not espouse the values he sells to the women in the US.  He is divorced from the former Ms. Malaysia Pauline Chai who now lives in the UK.  Their daughter Angeline Francis Khoo revealed in  2014  that domestic violence was the cause of their parents divorce.  Bravo to Ms. Pauline Chai for no longer putting up with maltreatment.  The UK courts awarded her $112 Million in their divorce settlement, clearly a very tiny fraction of the overall personal value their 40 years marriage has produced.  However, the price for freedom of maltreatment is worth it. It is always a very brave step to leave your abuser.

Khoo Kay Peng’s daughter, also a Ms. Malaysia, met a young Caribbean Scientist at Oxford and in order to be permitted to marry him, she chose to be disowned by her imperialistic father. She was slated to run the Laura Ashley empire and had spent every University Holiday learning about the business. After the split with her father, she decided that she could not be stopped by his controlling behavior and she started “Rosie on Fire.” Lovely fashion indeed.

Malaysia has joined the United Nations, which is disconcerting since their influence on the world seems to be quite horrible.  Here are some details of recent human rights offenses within Malaysia.

Now back to Orchard Hardware Supplies.   Orchard Hardware Supplies initially benefitted greatly from the real estate boom in Northern California.  Despite the fact that their loyal customers left the individual retail outlets with solid sales, the debt piled on by Sears turned out to be unbearable. Sears spun out the company as an empty shell and unloaded it to Lowe’s after it had filed for Chapter 11 for $205 Million dollars.  More

Now Laura Ashley is brilliantly marketed.  It reminds Baby Boomer ladies of the days, back when they were young, confident and beautiful.  It meets their current wish to tend to their wonderful gardens with stylish garden clothing, hats, and garden tools.  Lovely.

It is marketed truly in line with the corporate manifesto of their Malaysian owners.  It is undoubtedly very profitable, which will please the owners of Lowe’s primarily illustrious institutional investors.  76% of all shares are held by Vanguard Group, BlackRock, State Street, Wellington Management Group, and Price T. Rowe Associates, according to the Nasdaq.

Personally I genuinely believe that we influence the way the world works each and every day.  You can spend your hard earned money on lovely phantasies created by brilliant marketers.  Enjoyable and practical.  Or, you can buy from small business owners, thereby actually changing and improving women’s lives.   www.fikuros.com is now available on Etsy.   Amazing Bespoke Accessories created one at a time by Niina Karlsson in Finland. Or the many fabulous designers well-known and brand new, available on www.dreslyn.com a company recently started by three millennials, a couple and the lady founder’s brother and her husband’s best friend.  They are genuinely lovely and very smart.  Or, you can check out up and coming designers on Nineteenth Amendment

Fortunately, since we live in a genuine democracy the choice is genuinely yours.  We each get to choose everyday where and with whom we will spend our money.

PS:  If you feel that you or someone you know may be abused, know that there are a lot of people who care.  You can get legal assistance.  You can get physical protection. There is a lot of help. Accepting help from good people is the first step out of domestic violence misery. Elderly who are abused by “care takers” also can get help through the same links.

 

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Is Facebook and Twitter becoming a bit more conscious and aware? Maybe!

Facebook in their media relations page claimed this:

“Over the past few months, we have taken action against fake accounts in France, Germany, and other countries, and we recently stated that we will no longer allow Pages that repeatedly share false news to advertise on Facebook.”

I rejoice since I think at last the manipulations of nefarious activities manipulating the public, whether it is Russians getting conservatives hyped up into a mob mentality against the LGBT community, or having an unqualified real estate maven,  who seemed surprised  that he was chosen to be president, or providing a platform for hate speech for German Nazi’s, which happened to be against the law.

I followed the development of the extreme right groups who are often sponsored and supported by Russia – take hold in Western Europe and I was surprised since it used to be against the law to even whisper the word “Nazi”  in Germany.   The punishment in the 1980s was severe – over $1000 in fines or 2 weeks in prison.

How the world has changed since the Reagan era when we become “one world.”  Germans seem to have forgotten their history and now Neo Nazis are running around demonstrating and promoting their hate freely in public, protected by the free speech laws.  Erdogan’s dictator supporting Turkish soldiers are running around Germany turning in ex-soldiers, if they practice German free speech, and Erdogan tried to shut up a, perhaps a bit tasteless, German comedian.  He launched lawsuits in Germany, the Netherlands, and Switzerlands.  Only in Germany he received an audience by politicians who pushed for silencing their own citizens in support of the dictator.

Facebook and Twitter helped these trends, there is no doubt about it.  No matter how much they wanted to deny it or ignore it initially.  They forbade pictures of classic Greek statues and paintings from the Renaissance if they offended some religious desire – but hate speech,  even illegal hate speech was entirely ok to them.  We now know that it was because they made good money with it.  The bot factories paid precious advertising dollars.  Art lovers who shared a beautiful Botticelli painting could not compete with the foreign dictators’ budgets. People who portrayed rape scenes were okay, women’s nipples were not.  When questioned in Germany, they arrogantly proclaimed that the Facebook police were run out of India, thus not subject to German law. Only when Merkel got so frustrated by the public furor that she promised to shut the site down altogether,  was she able to get Zuckerberg’s attention.

Now in Germany they are working on a “Facebook-Gesetz” – a law that is targeting social media companies. the law is meant to stop social media companies from spreading illegal hate speech.  The German press is concerned that while there is an attempt to create such a law, it is far from certain that there will be such a law. Political infighting points that in Germany freedom of speech and the fight against hate speech vs. mob rule attitudes are literally at odds.

While politicians are discussing the pros and cons of the formulation it is up to Facebook to keep order “voluntarily.”  In German fashion, they don’t seem to care if they tacitly allow hate speech free reign while they fight about the way the law is worded.

Thankfully, there definitely have been some improvements as the top management of Facebook finally is starting to become aware that they may be destroying Western Civilization by allowing “free speech” to extremists, while being responsive to complaints by extremists whose goal is quite literally to abolish the Freedoms of  Western Culture as we know it.

Facebook informs us:  “We are also experimenting with changes to help us more efficiently detect and stop inauthentic accounts at the time they are being created.”  

Hopefully this is a priority and completed before the next elections.  Trump fans are right that Western Civilization is under attack, mostly by ourselves.  Business leaders will ultimately decide whether democracy will survive. Business leaders are pro democracy and those who are against democracy will decide our future as they deploy artificial intelligence who write programs which determine how we will be able perceive our world now and in the future.

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Trump Country – An Update Report

President Trump
President Trump, courtesy Politico

During the past five months of Trump being in charge 863,000 jobs were created. During the same period last year 955,000 jobs were added while Obama was still in office.  On July 5th this year, Gallup reported: “Last week, Americans’ confidence in the economy averaged a score of 0, the first time in the 33 full weeks since the presidential election that the index’s weekly average was not positive. ” Full Report

In a recent NYT article of Today, half of American jobs pay about $37,000 or less each year, a quarter pay about $23,000 or less, and a family of four qualifies for SNAP at $32,000 or less. No wonder just over half of all SNAP families work, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. In America, “real” poverty is not about a lack of work, but a lack of compensation.

Trump has run on a platform of addressing this issue by “Making America Great Again” by creating jobs.  So far this has not come to pass and slowly the public are losing faith in his “Art of the Deal.”

The US is in trouble it is no longer the land of the free and it is not the land of opportunity.  Our research shows that in many respects it never had been.  

National Conference of State Legislatures shares that in Oklahoma the minimum wage in 2017 is $2.00 per hour.

Oklahoma Employers of ten or more full time employees at any one location and employers with annual gross sales over $100,000 irrespective of number of full time employees are subject to federal minimum wage; all others are subject to state minimum wage of $2.00 (OK ST T. 40 § 197.5).  National Conference of State Legislatures.

How can people survive and pursue their happiness on wages like that? Meanwhile the cost of living index in Tulsa Oklahoma is only 24.42% lower than in New York City.

  • Four-person family monthly costs: 2,790.93$ without rent (using our estimator).
  • A single person monthly costs: 807.71$ without rent.
  • Cost of living index in Tulsa is 27.42% lower than in New York.
  • Cost of living rank 215th out of 507 cities in the world.

Realtor.com suggests that a 1 to 2 bedroom, 1 bath apartment in Tulsa costs between $526 to $2,280 dollars per month which is of course much lower than the monthly rents in NYC $2,815 for 340 sq ft up to $22,000 for 2400 sq ft, or the San Francisco monthly rents of $2,815 for 340 sq ft to $13,500 for 2240 sq ft. The minimum wage is $9.20 to $11.00 depending on employer size in NYC and $14.00 per hour in San Francisco as of the time of this article. It is impossible to find a decent place to live on a minimum wage and it is little wonder that people who were raised believing in the American Dream are turning to suicide as a solution to their life issues at record numbers.

Housing Crisis and Fraud at all time high

Countries with a strong middle class are economically strong.  Only after owners and investor of large companies, and political policies support a strong middle class will the country stop the trend toward becoming a third world nation.

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Whether you have a plan or not, you will get there.

Company who got funded
Company who got funded
Communication & culture determines business success

Whether I worked with a tiny start up like the one above, or Microsoft when they grew from 24 people to thousands, or major Fortune 1000 companies like for instance HP,  or a brand new entertainment company, it is usually easy to spot who will more likely succeed.

Ironically, it is not how breakthrough the company’s concept or the management team is on paper. It is also not the access the team has to VCs, Customers, and Vendors due to their Alma Mater, Or, even how chic their equipment and office furniture may be and how huge their marketing budget is initially.  Of course, all these factors help tremendously,  and of course without a functioning product or services success stays elusive.

What is so striking to me still, after providing strategic advice to companies during their rapid growth phase for so many years, is how much internal communications affects a company’s overall success.

I found in my many years of assisting people succeed, often from the two guys or ladies’ with an idea on a napkin at an affordable coffee shop phase to literally becoming billionaires. Quite a few of them anyhow and millionaires still count, right?  The success often hinges on the way the teams communicate with each other inside the company.  This is often an underrated success factor.

Are the founders/managers listening and hearing what their teams have to say?  Are they staying informed about what the teams are actually working on? Or, is everyone creating their own little business model without letting the rest of the team know?  Are people and their contributions valued?  Are they encouraged to contribute? Do they feel that they can grow their own career within the company by helping the company grow. Or, do they feel that their ideas are disrespected or worse stolen, are they treated like minions, do they feel used and abused.  Very often when the first or second venture money arrives, it quickly becomes apparent who can handle success without loosing composure.  Attitudes matter.

Companies, no matter how large or how small,  improve their success rate tremendously if they insisted that people communicate with each other in an empowering and honest way. The corporate culture is always linked with top management. Today the HR teams have a lot of influence, not always for the better. Whoever is in charge of hiring has a great influence over a companies’ success or failure.  Every new individual brings their own culture into the enterprise and adds or subtracts from the overall success of the company.  The culture determines if the company stays informed, nimble and quick – yet steady, reliable, and solid. Successful companies typically somehow manage both by nurturing a culture of open and mutually respectful internal dialogue.

A quote that I often share with C-level managers:  “Whether you have a plan or not, you will get there.”

If the company has a plan everyone has a chance to move forward toward the common goal.  If there is no plan, everyone may very well move in different directions, messing up the chances for success.  If there is a plan that only the top managers know, the company functions as though there really is no plan. Only if everyone on the various teams understands the overall plan, likes and buys into the plan, sticks with the plan or improves and carries out their own part of the plan, has the company a solid chance for success. This is true at every phase of a company’s growth. Lack of mutual respect ruins companies. Sometimes when larger sums of investor money arrive some people get grandiose or create cliques. It is no fun to watch people lose money through foolishness and arrogance.

A small company maintains a solid sense of direction and cohesion by having regular meetings in which people in the various departments share how they move toward meeting their miles stones. An open communication style rooted in polite behavior and mutual respect allows everyone to help improve the companies’ cohesiveness and allows the prompt removal of obstacles to success.  As the company grows it is still needed that hundreds of people share their own progress and concerns on how to improve their abilities for mutual progress.  At that point, having a clear communication flow vertically, horizontally, and across different departments is ever more important. By the time communication flow needs to filter through team managers the corporate communication culture becomes vital to the company’s health.  For many years I heard financial manager say “stay out of the weeds.”  Yet, if you don’t know about an overgrowth of weeds, the growth of the crop may be strangled before top managers or the board finds out about needed fixes. Think Uber CEO!

Strategic governance allows departments to stay focused on future goals while dealing with issues in the here and now.  It helps a company stay realistic and in tune with their vision, mission, the company’s values, and manage available or missing resources.  Team members, whether male or female, will not get defensive if they stay regularly informed about market changes, delivery issues, needs or opportunities in the various departments. In healthy companies there are no problems only solutions! It’s a matter of the corporate culture’s attitude toward issues.

A cohesive team will freely identify and manage challenges, and turn them into opportunities.  They will avoid unnecessary risks and make sure the entire company is legally compliant, while allowing the company’s individual divisions adapt to remain relevant to the overall success of the company.  Company’s who have constructive policies about sharing, evaluating, and acting on new information without getting distracted from their overall plan have a greater chance for success.

 

 

 

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Travel industry will suffer, consumer prices will go up, cyber crime will go through the roof.

No more laptops on planes with the US as destiny

Making America great and relaxed again. Cut off from the world and with diminished numbers of enthusiastic  international business people bringing money and customers to the US the economy will suffer. Perhaps Americans should embrace the Amish life style?  Plant a garden and live life without any connection to the crazy media world?

But since when there is a will there is a way, government sponsored terrorists will simply use private Jet Planes. They are terrorists and they are funded, ironically by countries who have often held long and close relationships with the US government.  Europeans are not on the top lists of global terrorists.  They are too busy working, drinking beer at local festivals and going to the opera.

As international business people are forced to use public cloud systems, cyber crime will rise to an all time high. Which is a risk that many companies will not wish to deal with.

When computer illiterate people are in charge this may seem like a good idea, since they are completely unaware of the unintended consequences.

As imports are strangled and business customers can’t shop in the US anymore in a convenient way, both B2B and consumer prices will skyrocket. It may create local jobs for some of the basics.  There is always perfect balance in the world. Gardening equipment will go up as people have to grow their own food, due to loss of income.

Business internationally will be forced to reorient and Jean-Claude Juncker who recently got in trouble for stating that the “English language” is loosing its importance – just may become right with the help of some computer illiterate leaderships around the world.

It probably would be less costly and much more effective to just have a public relations campaign that promotes: “Buy Made in the USA” or “Assembled in the USA” products.

The fall out of such a decision will negatively affect the travel industry, tech industry, most exports, and it will practically force nations around the world to deal with each other and forgo business with the US, until this country’s business leadership comes to their senses.  While corporations are people and they can clearly sponsor anyone into power, they have chosen some real doozies lately.  They have eroded the middle class to an all time low since World War II.

The people in charge seem not to realize that trade is a two-way street. You cut off one way and you automatically cut off the other way as well. There are a lot of nations who will love to step in to fill the void.  US lifestyles will suffer but international business people from around the world will always find a place to their investment dollars.

Out of 7,347,000,000 there are only about 321,000,000 Americans and only about 58 Million Brits. That means that over 7 Billion people and their business élites are not controlled by the US government. The reason why the US and England were so successful in the past, is that they were fairminded business people who wanted to create mutually beneficial financial relationships.  Clearly that is no longer celebrated or even supported by the US government, except in genuinely international businesses like Space Travel and the development of life in space.  NASA is entering into more and more genuinely international relationships as the support in the US is diminishing since several administrations in a row.

International business execs are not controlled by anyone, since the can simply move to another country that is more supportive of their business ventures. I imagine this will be great news for Canada, Scandinavia, Brasil, and of course China, Vietnam, Japan, and India, and even Russia and the ex-Soviet States as the Silk Road gains importance.  Enterprising Europeans will look elsewhere for business that is enjoyable and profitable.  Theresa May was annoyed when Jean-Claude Juncker snubbed her about the English language loosing importance.  And he is often quite arrogant!  But unfortunately lately his arrogance is not entirely unreasonable and occasionally even understandable.

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Access your mobile phone with your performance eyewear

Liberty Sports partners with Avaya
Liberty Sports partners with Avaya

Liberty Sport Shoots for the Moon with Avaya Midmarket Solutions

SANTA CLARA, CA–(Marketwired – May 02, 2017) – As Liberty Sport grew into a dominant force in the performance eyewear industry and a choice for NASA missions, the company needed a new approach to communications and customer service to mirror the high quality of its products. Called to join the mission, Avaya Midmarket Solutions provided the functionality, mobility and remote accessibility that enables Liberty Sport to execute powerful launches with sustained contact at a level the company had not experienced before.

Significant growth brought Liberty Sport to a crossroads. It had to decide whether to support increasing demand by upgrading its existing solution from an Avaya competitor, or to consider solutions from other vendors. The company elected to change course once Avaya Midmarket Solutions came into the picture with unified communications and contact center support. Avaya offered functionality and efficiency that made an upgrade of their existing solution pale in comparison. Ultimately, the new Avaya solutions enabled Liberty Sport to:

  • Integrate with existing systems so agents are better informed when working with customers.
  • Increase scalability to handle more customers with better service quality.
  • Enhance mobility for traveling executives and managers, allowing them to use their smartphones to seamlessly access calls and messages sent to their company extension.
  • Provide better remote access for and oversight of work-at-home agents. When a major snowstorm caused some to lose power at their homes, agents were able to continue working from any location where they could get Internet access through a wifi connection.
  • Generate real-time and historic reports that enable better staffing strategies and performance improvements among the agent workforce. Management can view peak call times and adjust staffing as needed, which has already resulted in different shift hours. This will also lead to more revenue as agents are placed in roles where they can generate sales.
  • Significantly improved voice quality throughout the organization.

Liberty Sport Vice President Robin Young said:

“When I saw how much reporting functionality Avaya would give us, that’s what made me go this route. What Avaya offered was still more than what the upgraded system would give us. Avaya is always staying above the cusp, always striving to improve their products.”

Learn more about Liberty Sport and the company’s implementation of Avaya Midmarket Solutions in the case study.

About Liberty Sport

For nearly a century, Liberty Sport has been producing superior frames and lenses to handle the rigors of sport. Built to perform under demanding conditions, our products set the global standard for sports eyewear and Rx. From leading ASTM F803 impact sports protective to innovative sun technology, our commitment to research and innovation is unrivaled. And you’ll see that commitment in every product we make.

About Avaya

Avaya enables the mission critical, real-time communication applications of the world’s most important operations. As the global leader in delivering superior communications experiences, Avaya provides the most complete portfolio of software and services for contact center and unified communications with integrated, secure networking- offered on premises, in the cloud, or a hybrid. Today’s digital world requires some form of communications enablement, and no other company is better positioned to do this than Avaya. For more information, please visit www.avaya.com.

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Tillerson is a sidelined Fake “Secretary of State” – who runs the country?

Tillerson sidelined and replaced by two financial oligarchs who are working for their personal and family’s fortunes and Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster who is meant to be a National Security Advisor. If he is an advisor why is the Secretary of State sidelined? What is their agenda?

So the US is now run by Real Estate Mogul Jared Kushner – who has is still involved in major real estate deals – contrary to the earlier press releases.

Gary Cohn, ex Goldman Sachs president, who still managers nearly 1 Million shares of Goldman Sachs, essentially still working for Goldman Sachs.

In a NYT article Kate Kelly on JAN. 25, 2017:
“Goldman Sachs has rewarded its departing president, Gary D. Cohn, with expedited access to cash and stock payments valued at nearly $300 million, and in doing so has tacitly encouraged another of its executives to accept an influential role in Washington. Late on Tuesday, Mr. Cohn, director of the National Economic Council advising President Trump, disclosed in a securities filing that he and his family members had received ownership that day of 940,908 shares of Goldman stock — a position valued at nearly $220 million. That award came in addition to a cash payout, announced the same day, amounting to about $65 million, leaving him with a total windfall of about $285 million.”

Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, National Security Advisor, replaced Michael Flynn who apparently turned out to be a foreign agent and working for Putin, together with Carter Page, Giuliani, Sessions, Kushner and many others.

What is the agenda?  Is there an agenda other than setting up more Trump and Kushner properties, under threat of a Military invasion or Financial Blackmail.  With Trump wanting to get rid of all the “bad hombres”  clearly the meeting was not meant to be friendly. Or, is the “bad hombres” fake news, merely meant to distract us of the biggest Oligarch take over of our country.

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Amid questions about ethics Andy Pudzer withdraws himself from nomination for Secretary of Labor

Pudzer who is responsible for such misogynist ads, withdraws over conflicts
Pudzer who is responsible for such misogynist ads, withdraws over conflicts

Puzder who fought for lower minimum wages or automation in the fast food industry finally realized that even some Republicans are more pro-worker than he planned to be.  He has been sued numerous time for underpaying workers, which is illegal.  The Labor Department claimed that in 2,561,000 earned $7.25 or less per hour.  Please note that all minimum wage workers who live in states with a higher minimum wage than the Federal Minimum wage rate are not even included in the statistics. Chart

Puzder fights against raising the minimum wage for his workers while paying himself more very well.  Meanwhile, according to CKE’s final public disclosure after going private—Puzder made more than $4 million in salary and bonuses.

Mother Jones reported in December:  “Back in 2004, the company agreed to pay $9 million to settle claims that it had not paid overtime to store managers. In 2013, CKE was hit with a class-action suit for “allegedly failing to pay its general managers overtime, even while requiring them to be on call 24 hours a day,” reports Law 360.”

In response to the proposal to raise minimum wage, Puzder vowed to replace workers with machines. This is what he sarcastically said about machines: “They’re always polite, they always up sell, they never take a vacation, they never show up late, there’s never a slip-and-fall, or an age, sex, or race discrimination case.”

Donald J. Trump strongly defends Andrew F. Puzder, his chosen secretary of labor who is an outspoken critic of the worker protections enacted by the Obama administration.  Trump, accused under oath of raping his first wife, defends Puzder and claims that he is treated “unfairly.”  Really?

Puzder’s ex-wife Lisa Henning was terribly abused by him. She said that Puzder  in a widely reported interview that “attacked me, choked me, threw me to the floor, hit me in the head, pushed his knees into my chest, twisted my arm and dragged me on the floor, threw me against a wall, tried to stop my call to 911 and kicked me in the lower back,” according to a 1989 Riverfront Times article.

At last Puzder withdrew his name from the nomination.

Now that Trump, Bannon and Puzder had been accused of spousal abuse, we really need to start wondering.  We know that the best predictor for terrorist is a history of family violence.  Hmmm.  Maybe we need to look at our government through the lens of Domestic Violence.  Article

 

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Good Guy Billionaire: Who is Priscilla Chan Zuckerberg?

Priscilla Chan Zuckerberg
Priscilla Chan Zuckerberg

Ms. Priscilla Chan is a former grade school teacher and a recent medical school graduate training to become a pediatrician.  She has a strong commitment to health and put’s her wealth toward the common good. Her parents came as refugees to seek a better life.  Now she is one of the top Billionaires who is committed to make life better for everyone.

In an interview with Today, Priscilla Chan recalled: “If you’re the first generation to go to college, sometimes you don’t realize your potential until others point it out.”  For her, those individuals were her public school teachers, whom she credits for “getting me excited about learning.”   Priscilla spoke Cantonese growing up, learned English in school and life, and studied Spanish to server her patients better.

Her commitment to health is genuine and unsurpassed.  She met her husband Mark Zuckerberg at Harvard where they were first class mates and later they dated.  They dated for 10 years before deciding to get married to form their family.

She and her husband donated $600 Million dollars through her charity organization CZI to create a Biohub together with University of California at San Francisco, Stanford University and University of California at Berkeley, which will be headquartered next to UCSF’s Mission Bay
campus in San Francisco.

She is an amazing woman who is one of the best examples of what America genuinely stands for.  Immigrants who seek a better life and in turn make life for the rest of Americans a better place.  Thank you Ms. Chan Zuckerberg for sharing your big heart, brilliant mind, and wealth for the greater good.

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Charter School Fraud is rampant and proven and now we have dubious DeVos

Estimated Enrollment Trends in Full-Time Virtual Schools. (National Education Policy Center)
Estimated Enrollment Trends in Full-Time Virtual Schools. (National Education Policy Center)
The National Education Association expresses deep concerns

A recent study provided that only 41% of Cyber Schools were deemed “academically acceptable.”  The graduation rate on private Cyber Schools was less than half of that of brick & mortar public schools.  So why is the new head of education so interested in providing an easy platform of proven tax dollar theft?

This is not “liberal hysteria”  this is a genuine concern based on real facts.

California

Jessica Calefati of the San Jose Mercury News provided in-depth research about the for profit company K12 Inc. which lead to a $168.5 Million settlement with California. There are proven claims that the Virginia-based Charter School manipulated attendance records and overstated its students’ success.  The SJMN stated in its article: “Harris’ office found that K12 and the 14 California Virtual Academies used deceptive advertising to mislead families about students’ academic progress, parents’ satisfaction with the program and their graduates’ eligibility for University of California and California State University admission.”  Over a twelve year period the fraudster charged the State of California $310 Million dollars.

Despite these findings the Atlantic Monthly reports:

“DeVos invested in the online charter-school operator K12, which targeted the growing home school market. But K12’s overly expansive business model made it both significantly less profitable and more prone to regulatory and operating deficiencies than smaller, less ideologically driven competitors. K12 still trades below its IPO price from 2007. K12 was one of dozens of companies originally backed by Michael Milken’s ambitiously named Knowledge Universe, as part of an expansive effort to revolutionize education.”

Pennsylvania

Account Neal Prence, 61, admitted guilt in defrauding the government by helping with illegal accounting practices.  AP reported that Nicholas Trombetta, 61, acknowledged using the school’s money to fund a lavish lifestyle, including buying a Florida condominium, homes for his girlfriend and mother and a jet airplane, while socking most of the money away for retirement.  Trombetta used Avanti Management Group, the National Network of Digital Schools and other companies Trombetta also created to perpetrate the scheme.   The fraud was uncovered thanks to the tireless work of the FBI.

What seems surprising is that despite the fact that they absconded admittedly with $8 Million dollars the maximum sentence the law allows is:  “The law provides for a maximum total sentence of 100 years in prison, a fine of $3,250,000, or both for Trombetta and five years’ imprisonment, $250,000, or both for Prence. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed would be based upon the seriousness of the offenses and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendant. Assistant United States Attorneys James R. Wilson, Robert S. Cessar and Stephen R. Kaufman are prosecuting this case on behalf of the government.”    More

Ohio

Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow lost appeal to allow the state to audit the attendance of their online charter school.  The Columbia Dispatch reported on November 13, 2016:  “ECOT could not substantiate nearly 60 percent of full-time students were getting the minimum 920 hours of “learning opportunities” required by the state, meaning the state could ask the school to repay more than $60 million of the $106 million it received in state funding last year. Eight other smaller e-schools also were unable to justify their reported enrollment totals.”   It seems House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger, R-Clarksville, was not worried about ECOT or Ohio’s other online schools potentially defrauding Ohio.  He simply excused their behavior by saying:  “There are always two sides to the story.”  His comment implies that there may be many more sides than that. Why would a House Speaker support Ohio citizens being defrauded?

These are only very few examples.  Now with DeVos and her side kick Jerry Fallwell Jr. in charge of “education” we can be sure there will be many more major thefts.  We are now in the era that US founders wanted to avoid:

It is 49 words in Article I of the Constitution.

“No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.

And the Congress is working feverishly on abolishing the oversight office of ethics to aid the business interests of their now fellow leaders. Here is a great link to a speech Walter M. Shaub, Director, U.S. Office of Government Ethics, gave at the Brookings Institute in January 2017.  Link

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The Power of Noticing: What the Best Leaders See

Max Bazerman, Author
Max Bazerman, Author

Bazerman helps you how to recognize your own blind spots and how to avoid the habits that lead to poor decisions and ineffective leadership in the first place.

Every one had a negotiation fall apart or had it provide a less positive outcome than hoped for.  Often this is because a critical piece of information and detail was missed or overlooked.  How can you avoid that from happening again?  Should you have noticed?

Max Bazerman, an expert in the field of applied behavioral psychology, draws on three decades of research and his experience instructing Harvard Business School MBAs and corporate executives to teach you how to notice and act on information that may not be immediately obvious. Bazerman suggests you explore your cognitive blind spots, identify any salient details you are programmed to miss, and then take steps to ensure it won’t happen again.

In psychology a blind spot is defined as aspects of our personalities that are hidden from our view.  These might be annoying habits like interrupting or bragging, or they might be deeper fears or desires that are too threatening to acknowledge. One place that blind spots can be found is in strong reactions. An unusually strong negative or positive reaction or stance may suggest an engagement in a process Freud called reaction formation. Reaction formation involves unconsciously transforming an unacceptable or undesirable impulse into its opposite. This tendency is not confined to sexuality. Harsh judgments of others’ behavior may show a personal insecurity – such as, that highly ambitious co-worker may especially irritate you because of your own unexpressed ambitions. Blind spots in these cases need not be objectively negative traits, just traits that are experienced as personally shameful or unacceptable.  Full Article

Simine Vaziere stated in an abstract of her research: “According to the self-other knowledge asymmetry (SOKA) model, the self should be more accurate than others for traits low in observability (e.g., neuroticism), whereas others should be more accurate than the self for traits high in evaluativeness (e.g., intellect). In the present study, 165 participants provided self-ratings and were rated by 4 friends and up to 4 strangers in a round-robin design. Participants then completed a battery of behavioral tests from which criterion measures were derived. Consistent with SOKA model predictions, the self was the best judge of neuroticism-related traits, friends were the best judges of intellect-related traits, and people of all perspectives were equally good at judging extraversion-related traits.”

The great part about the Max Bazerman’s book is that he provides a step-by-step guide to breaking bad habits and spotting the hidden details that will change your decision-making and leadership skills for the better. The key is to learn what a blind spot is and why you are programmed not to notice it.  What is the perceived value to your subconscious?

Additionally, you will learn how to pay attention better not only to what is going on but also to what is “NOT” going on.  Often what is not going on is more illuminating than what is going on. By realizing and acknowledging that both you and the person you are negotiating with come from a place of self-interest — you will be able to identify possible compromises that take both your and the other parties’ interests into consideration.  This helps to close the best possible deal and it will expand your life’s enjoyment as well.

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Celebrate life in a healthy way! Show this to endangered adults and endangered teens

National Overdose Deaths—Number of Deaths from Prescription Drugs. The figure above is a bar chart showing the total number of U.S. overdose deaths involving prescription drugs from 2001 to 2014. The chart is overlayed by a line graph showing the number of deaths by females and males. From 2001 to 2014 there was a 2.8-fold increase in the total number of deaths.

National Overdose Deaths—Number of Deaths from Prescription Opioid Pain Relievers. The figure above is a bar chart showing the total number of U.S. overdose deaths involving opioid pain relievers from 2001 to 2014. The chart is overlayed by a line graph showing the number of deaths by females and males. From 2001 to 2014 there was a 3.4-fold increase in the total number of deaths.

Doctors need to become aware that maybe they are vulnerable to strong man sales techniques.

ProPublica found that doctors nationally who accepted payments from manufacturers were two to three times as likely to prescribe high rates of brand-name drugs. The higher the payments on average, the higher the rate of brand-name prescribing.

The NYT in an article by Dr. Arias, who is preparing a larger study of mortality trends over the past 15 years, said drug overdoses, liver disease and suicide were the main drivers of the gloomy trends among whites in recent years, a pattern also found by other researchers. Life expectancy for whites had been rising for decades, but it has stagnated in recent years. It inched up in 2010 and 2011, and was flat in 2012 and 2013. But new federal data, drawn from all deaths recorded in the country in 2014, showed that life expectancy for whites dropped to 78.8 years in 2014

Particularly Oxycontin has caused addiction which often leads to abuse of Heroin. It is a deadly drug.

Unless you are already dying from an incurable cancer, there is really no reason to take a drug that can cause you to become a drug addict.  As a dying person it is okay only because you are going to die anyway.   Before even considering taking an opioid make sure you internalize the consequences for short-term relief.

Side Effects and Warning for Oxycontin

Never take this medicine in larger amounts, or for longer than prescribed. Do not crush or break an extended-release Oxycontin tablet. Swallow it whole to avoid exposure to a potentially fatal dose.

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OxyContin is be habit-forming, even at regular doses. Take this medicine exactly as prescribed by your doctor. Never share the medicine with another person. MISUSE OF NARCOTIC PAIN MEDICATION CAN CAUSE ADDICTION, OVERDOSE, OR DEATH, especially in a child or other person using the medicine without a prescription.

Tell your doctor if you are pregnant. Oxycodone may cause life-threatening withdrawal symptoms in a newborn if the mother has taken this medicine during pregnancy.

Do not drink alcohol. Dangerous side effects or death could occur.

Enjoy the holidays and stay safe!

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GOP who stopped Obama from releasing Russian cyber attacks. How they will respond to the Trump and Putin alliance will determine the future or demise of the free world.

World Peace in the hands of Tillerson?
World Peace in the hands of Tillerson?

“The sanctions are targeted, not sectoral, and will have a very limited impact,” said Thomas Wright, a fellow and director of the Project on International Order and Strategy at the Brookings Institute. “This will not deter Putin from interfering in French or German elections in 2017.”

Thomas Wright also suggests that:  “Trump is opposed to America’s alliance arrangements, he is opposed to the open global economy, and he is pro-authoritarian and pro-Russian.  That it is pretty clear this is the most important election anywhere in the world since the two German elections of 1932,” he wrote, in reference to the parliamentary elections that ultimately resulted in Adolf Hitler coming to power. “No other election has had the capacity to completely overturn the international order—the global economy, geopolitics, etc.”

In the Atlantic Monthly article Thomas Wright further explains: “Trump’s isolationist ideology has three components, according to Wright: 1) opposition to U.S. alliances; 2) opposition to free trade; and 3) support for authoritarianism. In Wright’s view, these three beliefs, if translated into policy in a Trump administration, could do away with the liberal international order that the United States helped design after World War II and has led ever since.  Full Article

Thomas Wright explains in a report for the Lowy Institute for International Policy:  “To understand Donald Trump’s foreign policy, we must distinguish between his three core beliefs that he has held for many decades and rarely if ever wavered from, the central themes of his campaign, and other issues. His core beliefs are opposition to America’s alliance arrangements, opposition to free trade, and support for authoritarianism, particularly in Russia. If he is elected president and governs in a manner consistent with these beliefs, the United States will be transformed from the leader of a liberal international order into a rogue superpower that withdraws from its international commitments, undermines the open global economy, and partners with Putin’s Russia.” Full Report

How the GOP responds to the Trump and Putin alliance forged to transform the US into a rogue country that works solely for a few chosen corporation – just like Russia is now – will determine our future and the future of the free world.

Source: Thomas Wright quotes from a variety of sources. For more information feel free to contact him directly at The Brookings Institute

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Cyber Warfare attacks by Russians are happening all over the US

Down the Rabbit Hole we go.
Down the Rabbit Hole we go.
The US Government released a report and recommends that all citizens and companies take pre-cautions.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recommends that network administrators review the IP addresses, file hashes, and Yara signature provided and add the IPs to their watchlist to determine whether malicious activity has been observed within their organizations. The review of network perimeter net flow or firewall logs will assist in determining whether your network has experienced suspicious activity. When reviewing network perimeter logs for the IP addresses, organizations may find numerous instances of these IPs attempting to connect to their systems. Upon reviewing the traffic from these IPs, some traffic may correspond to malicious activity, and some may correspond to legitimate activity. Some traffic that may appear legitimate is actually malicious, such as vulnerability scanning or browsing of legitimate public facing services (e.g., HTTP, HTTPS, FTP). Connections from these IPs may be performing vulnerability scans attempting to identify websites that are vulnerable to cross-site scripting (XSS) or Structured Query Language (SQL) injection attacks. If scanning identified vulnerable sites, attempts to exploit the vulnerabilities may be experienced.

Commit to Cybersecurity Best Practices

A commitment to good cybersecurity and best practices is critical to protecting networks and systems.

Here are some questions you may want to ask your organization to help prevent and mitigate against attacks.

1. Backups: Do we backup all critical information? Are the backups stored offline? Have we tested our ability to revert to backups during an incident?

2. Risk Analysis: Have we conducted a cybersecurity risk analysis of the organization?

3. Staff Training: Have we trained staff on cybersecurity best practices? 4. Vulnerability Scanning & Patching: Have we implemented regular scans of our network and systems and appropriate patching of known system vulnerabilities?

5. Application Whitelisting: Do we allow only approved programs to run on our networks? 6. Incident Response: Do we have an incident response plan and have we practiced it?

7. Business Continuity: Are we able to sustain business operations without access to certain systems? For how long? Have we tested this?

8. Penetration Testing: Have we attempted to hack into our own systems to test the security of our systems and our ability to defend against attacks?

For the full document with more valuable advice:  Click

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Trump’s drains the swamp of lobbyist for corporations and replaces them with the corporate officers and bankers

Trump and Icahn get an "A" for honesty
Trump and Icahn get an “A” for honesty
Icahn and Trump are well known for expressing their feelings and opinions without filters.

Bravo?   They are not politically correct and that is what their voters wanted, right?

It is obvious for people in the know to see what attracts them to each other. They are both single-mindedly focused on their own profit. They are both honest about it and have a devil make care attitude.  They are completely unapologetic about any trails of victims they may leave in their wake.  They are bullies and they are honest about it.  If they can get away with something they not only will try the practically must try.  They love the “Game of Business.”   Trump promised to get rid of lobbyists and by golly he sure seems to keep his promise.  Instead of having lobbyists who want who appeal to Congress to create lenient laws that allow for more profit for the 1%.  They indeed get rid of the lobbyists and replace them with the 1%.  What a practical idea.  The Trump voters must be so very pleased.  Trump is keeping his promise to drain the swamp of middle men.  The swamp of government is now honestly run by and for the corporations and venture capital firms and banks, and the 1% who have paid for everything anyway.  The honesty that Trump brings to government is laudable indeed.  No more pretense.  Just making sure that the hyper-wealthy get what they need and want more efficiently and faster than ever.

Just one thought. We know that these old men don’t care about the future because in the future they are most likely dead.  They are old and they will die and this is one last fling before they go.  But what about the 40, 30, 20, 10 year olds in the world?

A world that run by people who lack humanity typically erodes healthy middle class.  The old men may not care, but without a middle class you have no stability.  If we look at countries who lost their middle class we are always looking at war.  Trump wants to spend a $1 Trillion dollars on improving the nuclear arsenal – without even getting intelligence briefings.   We wonder what Mnuchin, Gingrich, Tillerson, and Icahn think about that?  We hope to find out soon what vision these creators of the new gilded age have in mind for the US and the world. Hopefully they have a vision that goes beyond their own bank accounts.

Hillary Clinton is gone and many agree that her loss was due to due to a confluence of factors and successful efforts to sabotage her campaign. People just didn’t like her very much.  The FBI didn’t like her, Putin didn’t like her, the Public didn’t like her, even Democrats didn’t like her, her campaign staff fought about her, and the media certainly didn’t like her. She was a hard worker, but people didn’t warm up to her.  The warmed up to Trump.  They were amused by Trump.  No one was amused by Hillary, not even SNL. Her portrayal was often nasty and a bit weird. Trump’s portrayal was that of an all familiar American Uncle, reminiscent of Rob Reiner’s politically incorrect TV dad in the show “All in the Family.”

Not many people really know Hillary as she keeps very private and opens up to very few people, many of whom are also intensely private. The acclaimed and award-winning Investigative Reporter for the New York Times and The Washington Post, Ronald Kessler, sheds light on how she how Hillary Clinton was perceived by the service details who spent much time with her. It could explain why the Secret Service seemed so adamant that she ought not be president unless it was unavoidable:   Why the West was Lost – First Family Detail

Whatever we may think about Trump at least he is honest about being corrupt. Maybe that is a step forward?  Or, perhaps we will have Trump, the politically incorrect man and his politically incorrect friends run the country into the ground – honestly.

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Another Media Company bites the dust… another one down, another one down.

Huffington Post now committed to attracts News audiences.
Huffington Post now committed to attracts Fox News audiences.
Huffington Post under Verizon Board’s management now targets media toward Fox News Audiences

Today the Huffington Post had a live Facebook interview with Linda McMahon of Worldwide Wrestling Fame.  It seems confusing to people who used to think that the Huffington Post was a “liberal” media that reported on culture and politics.  It greatly delighted the new audiences of “Winners who are making America Great Again” through their vote for the Trump administration. This pivot toward the middle class and investors and the Democratic Party mistakenly calls the working class is understandable when you read AOL’s mission.  Code the company is all about code – measuring audiences, gaining audiences, redirecting audiences and undoubtedly listening in to audiences every move.  The CEO of Verizon was in charge of NSA’s largest listening program. Naturally, the number of people must expand, and the editorial has to be low brow indeed.

But why is that confusing?  If you keep up with the news, AOL purchased the Huffington Post years ago for $350,000,000 dollars.  Currently AOL serves 500,000,000 people globally.  AOL’s  mission, according to their website, is:

"We live in a time when culture defines code and code defines culture. Code is about the evolution of technology, the natural force of human ingenuity that moves culture forward. Culture is about the content experiences that make technology meaningful, enhancing our lives both online and off.  Culture + Code is our North Star — the philosophy that guides the way we organize, run and grow our business."

AOL has always been part of the world in which ethics don’t necessarily mean as much as earnings.  AOL started as a services provider that overcharged people. They still owe me close to $700 that were deducted from my Bank Account automatically.  I only could stop the monthly theft them by closing the Bank Account, back in 1996.

Then later they fancied themselves a “Unicorn” and “bought Time Inc.” during a time when every other media company paid millions for small tech companies, like AOL.  AOL purchased Time Inc. for $162 Billion, but allowed them to keep their name and their board of directors, and most of their managers. Only one of my very good techie media friends and I thought it was funny when they fell for that brilliant Time Inc. move. Most people were very impressed.  Needless to say, my funny friend and I, thought it was equally funny when AOL was spun out again from the company they had “bought.”

Their first success was more a matter of being at the right place at the right time and squeezing money out of their customers with vastly overpriced product offerings and illegally taking money that was not theirs. I still want my close to $700 dollars back, that AOL deducted from my bank account for several months after I cancelled their overpriced service.

After they were spun out from Time Inc. they went through a lot of reiterations and finally were led by a very good CEO, Tim Armstrong. Before joining the “Cable Business and Telecom” Industry he used to be a formidable media / new media guy.  Tim spent almost a decade at Google, where he served as President of Google’s Americas Operations and Senior Vice President of Google Inc. as well as serving on the company’s global operating committee. Tim started in his career by co-founding a newspaper in Boston, MA before moving into the Internet industry, where he has worked as a team member, investor or co-founder at many companies, including Starwave (sold to Disney / ESPN / ABC Internet Ventures), Snowball (IPO), Associated Content (sold to Yahoo), and Patch (sold to AOL). Tim has also been an active investor in the start-up community, both on and offline.

Tim Armstrong is smart, hard-working and has vision.  Living in the world where he is undoubtedly in a bit of a creative straight jacket, reporting to military, telecom and “healthcare” executives must be hard sometimes. He is channeling his “good man” energies by supporting an amazing amount of causes. He works with a Charter school, the United States Olympic & Paralympic Foundation, IAB Education Foundation, and more. Tim was honored by the Ad Council with their 60th Annual Public Service Award in 2013. The past few years must have challenged him, despite the amazing financial success he brought to his investors.  Buy-outs are always challenging.

He reported to a board that consisted a few old media execs and large corporate advertisers (Knight Ridder and PepsiCo, etc.) and of Eve Burton, a lawyer who grew her chops at Hearst Corporations and perhaps more importantly at a legal firm called Weil, which has extensive experience working with international media and entertainment companies and investors in transactions as diverse as mergers and acquisitions and related financings, cross-border transactions, spin-offs, IPOs, intellectual property licensing and counseling, royalty, debt and equity offerings, and restructurings. Their experience encompasses all areas of global media, publishing and telecommunications in matters of industry-wide significance. Their media and entertainment transactional practice involves particularly close collaboration among our M&A and Private Equity, Capital Markets and Technology & IP Transactions practices.

Essentially Weil attorneys are a team of globally connected mercenaries who wrote the book on Restructuring, Chapter 11, Buy Outs, with an army 1100 lawyers strong and an alumni group that stretches into 150 government agencies, financial sector, etc.  Weil is an amazingly knowledgeable firm that helps private equity investors make the most of their money and assists families keep their money while dancing knowledgeably around the laws, often having their Alumni’s create the laws.  Ms. Burton surely had a lot to do with the sale to Verizon since Weil advised Verizon on the $4.4 billion dollar buy-out.  What ana amazing return of investment.  Under Tim Armstrong’s leadership AOL grew quite a bit. Weil also has a prominent white-collar defense unit.

In 2012 the rest of the board of AOL consisted of actual media executives and officers in large corporations who were typically very large advertisers. Now he reports to a telecom based intelligence firm.

Down the Rabbit Hole we go.
Down the Rabbit Hole we go.

Verizon is run by an ex Naval Officer, Lowell C. McAdam, who most likely oversaw the creation of one of the most in-depth surveillance program for the NSA, initially at Pacific Telesis under the Bush Administration, and eventually via AirTouch, under the Obama Administration.   Other members of the board include:

Karl-Ludwig Kley, a German Industrialist, who held leading positions at Merck, E-On, Deutsche Bank, Bertelsmann, and now Lufthansa.  Martha Francis Keeth, an attorney who was previously employed as Independent Director by Peabody Energy Corp., Executive Vice President-Chemicals by Royal Dutch Shell Plc, President & Chief Executive Officer by Shell Chemicals Ltd., President & Chief Executive Officer by Shell Chemicals LP, and Chief Accounting Officer & Controller by Mobil Corp.

Shelley Archambeau is Chief Executive Officer of MetricStream, Inc., a leading provider of governance, risk, compliance and quality management solutions to corporations across diverse industries.  Prior to joining MetricStream in 2002, Ms. Archambeau served as Chief Marketing Officer and Executive Vice President of Sales for Loudcloud, Inc., Blockbuster, and IBM. Interestingly Loudcloud is told to have been the server provider for the initial NSA surveillance program.

Mr. Mark Bertolini is Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Aetna Inc., a Fortune 100 diversified healthcare benefits company.  Prior to assuming the role of Aetna’s CEO in 2010 and Chairman in 2011, Mr. Bertolini served as President from 2007, responsible for all of Aetna’s businesses and operations across the company’s range of healthcare products and related services, and as Executive Vice President and head of Aetna’s regional businesses before that.  He joined Aetna in 2003 as head of Aetna’s Specialty Products after holding executive positions at Cigna, NYLCare Health Plans and SelectCare, Inc.

Mr. Carrión has served for over 20 years as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Popular, Inc., a diversified bank holding company. He also served as a director of NYNEX Corporation, one of Verizon’s predecessor companies, from 1995 to 1997.  Mr. Carrión provides our Board with financial, operational and strategic expertise developed during his long tenure as Chairman and CEO of Popular, Inc. This experience, combined with his board service at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York from 2008 to 2016, also provides our Board with deep risk management expertise.

Verizon’s Executives are teaming with members of GSMA an organization that specializes in “intelligence” gathered about Mobile Customers around the globe.  Data Driven content will play a relatively minor part of the new Bot, AI, and machine learning world. From now on AOL will be all about the Code that holds, influences and tracks a global audience – legally.

So good-bye Huffington Post,and hello “Brave New World” Aldous Huxley Style.

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One day before Russia, Iran and Turkey summit meeting, Ambassador Karlov is murdered.

President Vladimir V. Putin and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said they would proceed with a natural-gas pipeline under the Black Sea. Credit Emrah Gurel/Associated Press
President Vladimir V. Putin and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said they would proceed with a natural-gas pipeline under the Black Sea.  Credit Emrah Gurel/Associated Press

Both Mr. Putin and Mr. Erdogan have had recent troubles with Washington.  Putin has been accused of war crimes in Syria for killing hundreds of civilians.  Erdogan is killing Kurds and escalating the conflict, whereas the US is relying on Syrian Kurds to stem the Isis tide.

On December 19, 2016 the Russian Ambassador, Andrei Karlov, was shot and killed as he gave a speech at an embassy-sponsored exhibit in Ankara. Eye-witnesses were reported to have heard eight shots.  The gunman shouted out: ‘‘Don’t forget Aleppo, don’t forget Syria!’’ referring to the Syrian city where Russian bombardments have helped drive rebels from areas they had occupied for years during the war.  He also shouted ‘‘Allahu akbar,’’ the Arabic phrase for ‘‘God is great’’ and continued in Arabic: ‘‘We are the descendants of those who supported the Prophet Muhammad, for jihad.’’  The attacker also smashed several of the framed photos hung for the exhibition and an additional three people were injured during the attack.

‘We consider this to have been a terrorist attack,’’ Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said. ‘‘Terrorism will not pass. We will fight it decisively.’’

The attack comes a day before a meeting of Russian, Turkish and Iranian foreign and defense ministers in Moscow to discuss Syria. Russia and Iran have backed Syrian President Bashar Assad throughout the nearly six-year conflict, while Turkey has supported Assad’s foes. The Kremlin suggested Turkey, Russia and Iran should come together for a solution, initially over Aleppo, but which could also be enlarged to include other parts of Syria, Reuters quoted a Turkish official as saying.

Melih Gokcek, the mayor for Ankara, told reporters outside the exhibition center that the ‘‘heinous’’ attack aimed to disrupt newly-re-established relations between Turkey and Russia.

Presidents Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan have co-sponsored the evacuation of civilians and rebels from Aleppo and also discussed the prospect of organizing a new round of peace talks in Kazakhstan’s capital, Astana. Now this incident threatens to derail the evacuations of civilians from Aleppo.

The last time a diplomat was killed in Turkey was in an attack in 1971. Israel’s consul-general to Istanbul, Efraim Elrom. Until recently Turkey has been considered a relatively safe place for diplomats. This streak has been broken after the assassination of Ambassador Karlov, however, in view of the fact that the Erdogan administration is entirely dependent on Russian energy, relations will continue among the governments.  Recent instability in Turkey and the fact that it is dangerous to be there has severely curtailed the tourist trade. Revenue from tourism fell by 32.7 percent to $8.28 billion in the third quarter of the year.

Despite the death of the Russian’ Diplomate we expect Putin to continue to guide Erdogan’s foreign policy.

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been characterized as increasingly undemocratic marked by attacks on freedom of expression. Despite outlawing competitive political parties, and a declining economy, he seems popular among the rural undereducated Turks. Turkey will stay in close collaboration with Russia for many years to come, despite their “hot-headed” relationship. Erdoğan is completely dependent on Russia for natural gas. Over the past 30 years the imports of natural gas from Russia into Turkey have nearly doubled. After Germany, Turkey is Russia’s second-largest natural gas client in Europe.

Gas Consumption in Turkey, Natural Gas World
Gas imports into Turkey, Natural Gas World

According to Natural Gas World: “After the European Union’s stance about competition on Russia and the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, Russia declared its intention to diversify its demand route by creating a new direct pipeline that runs through Turkish territory. The construction of the Turkish Stream pipeline was first discussed between Gazprom and BOTAS in December 2014. With an annual capacity of 63 billion m3, this pipeline will replace the South Stream, since the construction was suspended over the European Union’s stance about competition. According to initial plans, the Turkish Stream will extend from Russia, through Turkey and stop at the Greek border, giving Russia access to the southern European market. 14 billion m3 natural gas was planned to be consumed in Turkey.” (full article)

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Birth of a new historic era for Russia and Japan

Putin and Abe meet about Japan / Russia Relationships
Putin and Abe meet about Japan / Russia Relationships
Japan and Russia’s world leader meeting promises to foster close European-Asian economic and cultural ties.

Putin announces in a press release through his TASS new agency that the meeting Abe was a great success:

“Russia and Japan signed more than 60 various deals in which Japan will invest over $2.5 billion during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to the country, Japan’s Kyodo news agency reported citing a senior Japanese government official.  Abe said he and Putin had agreed the two countries have “unlimited opportunities for development of relations in all areas in case of common effort.”

The talks between the officials reiterated their commitment to continue discussions about economic cooperation on the four Kuril islands that both countries claim.  However Russia will still call the shots.  According to Peter Shelakhaev, the head of the Russian Far East Investment and Export Agency, Japan is expected to pay taxes and fees for any money earned on the four islands that are in dispute since the end of the war.

After World War II in 1945 Russia seized four Japanese islands as they call it the “spoils of war.”  Japan has tried to have these islands returned ever since then. Now Abe and several of his Russia-Japan Relations experts have decided that after 60 years of occupation it is time to accept reality with a new perspective.

Nobuo Shimotomai, Russia-Japan expert at Hosei University in Tokyo, recommended: “Getting the four islands back was a Cold War slogan for the Japanese, but after 60 years, we need a new approach towards Moscow. It could be some kind of shared sovereignty.”
Trans-Siberian Railroad courtesy Daily Mail
Trans-Siberian Railroad courtesy Daily Mail (full article)
Economic, Scientific and Cultural ties will be supported by the Trans-Siberian Railroad

The Japan Times informs that the areas of cooperation between Russia and Japan will include the fields of the countries’ health ministries in the fields of medicine and health care; expanded cooperation on development and production in the energy sector, including oil and gas; cooperation on the peaceful use of nuclear power; cooperation in promoting diversity and raising productivity in Russian industry; cooperation in promoting industry in the Russian Far East and turning it into a base for exports to the Asia-Pacific; Cooperation in the fields of information and communications and postal services; Enhanced cooperation in agriculture and fisheries; Cooperation between the countries’ patent offices on industrial property rights; and hygiene standards for Russian livestock farms exporting products to Japan. (full article)

This is one of the most expansive cooperation between Russia and Japan since the 19th Century.  One of the most life changing and culturally interesting developments is that Russia agreed to expand the Trans-Siberian Railroad to Japan. If both countries follow through, these new agreements will usher a new historic era that will impact the world economy and political landscape for many decades to come.

 

 

 

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Several right-wing investment bankers who hope to take over America will find it doesn’t work

Car Manufacturing Plan in 1939
Car Manufacturing Plan in 1939

The Investment Bankers, Energy Industry Execs and Politicians have always marched in lock step.  These days the “old guard” is fighting the “new guard” and while it is obvious to many that the “new guard” is winning, the old guard is going through a “fight to the death” thingy.  In a recent interview between Ezra Klein the CEO of Stripes, Patrick Collison, stated that the US Election was kind of a Primal Scream for the old guard.

It is unfortunate the older infrastructure companies are fighting innovation so much, despite the fact that it and always has been the best way to strengthen a society.  It doesn’t have to be that way.  But old men, especially old men who grew up wealthy and thought they would always be in charge, be the captain of their ship, their city, their country and yes, the world, they just have a hard time understanding that the Industrial Era is over.  Kaputt. Finished.  So to say. The factories and the financiers that brought their grandfathers such amazing wealth, so much wealth that they are still spending that money today, have been moved to countries that have a more affordable life style to allow people to “live off” menial labor.

Car Manufacturing Plant in 2016
Car Manufacturing Plant in 2016
Neither Change nor Letting Go is easy

All the posturing will not change the fact that this change from manual labor to robots guided by computers with fabulous microchips and brilliant software has happened.  Anger about it will not roll back time.  The old men who used their daddy’s and granddaddy’s money, which sometimes was earned by bankrolling energy deals to fund the enemy during wars, like the Scaife Mellon Money, or building Factories for Hitler like the Koch Brothers are not willing to bend their will to meet the needs of the middle classes nor the environment. Full Article

Despite dubious histories, some people adapted and learned, like young Ford.  His granddad helped Hitler set up car manufacturing in Germany, but he decided to work with the American people and for the people.  Ford was the only America Automaker firm that didn’t really need to be bailed out by the Obama administration.  Full Article

Corporate Social Responsibility is in and it is good for business

Apple, Google and Microsoft are part of the top 10 global firms and they are in the top 15 of Corporate Social Responsibility ranking as per Forbes.  Why is it that companies that have a higher level of Corporate Social Responsibility grow faster and better than companies in older industries where they lost the entrepreneurial spirit decline?

Psychological Mindset of the Wealthy

Why are the children of these very wealthy people so intent on damaging society by pushing their personal philosophies on them? The Scaife, DeVos, Koch Brothers?  Is it because they have low self-esteem?  Do they not feel loved by their fathers or mothers?   Most likely that is indeed the cause according to a detailed article written by Suniya Luthar, of Columbia University, published in the PMC :

Children of affluence are generally presumed to be at low risk. However, recent studies have suggested problems in several domains—notably, substance use, anxiety, and depression—and 2 sets of potential causes: pressures to achieve and isolation from parents. Recognizing the limited awareness of these issues, the objectives in this paper are to collate evidence on the nature of problems among the wealthy and their likely causes. The first half of the paper is focused on disturbances among affluent children and the second half is focused on characteristics of their families and neighborhoods. Widespread negative sentiments toward the rich are then discussed, and the paper concludes with suggestions for future work with families at the upper end of the socioeconomic spectrum. PMC

Maybe they are trying to make up for their guilt on how their parents obtain their staggering wealth and are trying to make it okay by vehemently agreeing that they are inspired by god, thinking that only they are meant to have access to the tree of knowledge, and only they have a right to decide who lives or dies. Just like their grand parents.

Superpowers need Bankers, Oil Barons and Industrialists

Christopher Higham, a British Author of History book, explained in Trading with the Enemy:

"Here is the extraordinary true story of the American businessmen and government officials who dealt with the Nazis for profit or through conviction throughout the Second World War: Ford. Standard Oil, Chase Bank and members of the State Department were among those who shared in the spoils. Meticulously documented and dispassionately told, this is an alarming story. At its centre is 'The Fraternity', an influential international group associated with the Rockefeller or Morgan banks and linked by the ideology of Business as Usual.

Higham starts with an account of the Bank for International Settlements in Basel, Switzerland - a Nazi-controlled bank presided over by an American, Thomas H. McKittrick, even in 1944. While Americans were dying in the war, McKittrick sat down with his German, Japanese, Italian, British and American executive staff to discuss the gold bars that had been sent to the Bank earlier that year by the Nazi government for use by its leaders after the war. This was gold that had been looted from the banks of Austria, Belgium, and Czechoslovakia or melted down from teeth fillings, eyeglass frames, and wedding rings of millions of murdered Jews.
In the Past Oil-based fuels determined who ruled the sky and who could be a Superpower
As a highly developed industrial state, Germany was dependent even in peacetime on external sources for an adequate supply of oil. Even though Germany’s 1938 oil consumption of little more than 44 million barrels was considerably less than Great Britain’s 76 million barrels, Russia’s 183 million barrels, and the one billion barrels used by the United States, in wartime Germany’s needs for an adequate supply of liquid fuel would be absolutely essential for successful military operations on the ground and, even more so, in the air. For Germany, it was precisely the outbreak of the war in 1939 and the concurrent termination of overseas imports that most endangered its ability to conduct mobile warfare. Full Article
The Koch Empire

In the past old industrialists who ruled with wealth and provided access to large amount of money were in charge.  The onset of the digital age changed that power and clearly infuriated the old guard.

In 2004 the Koch Brothers founded and funded Americans for Prosperity, a right-wing political advocacy group and by 2009 it become a political powerhouse which funded and launched the Tea Party.  The brothers have a very strong and ideological commitment to world domination.  Their father was in construction and built a major oil refinery in Nazi Germany which was approved by directly Adolf Hitler in person.  While the Koch Brothers make a half-hearted attempt to deny this, there is a rather detailed book by Jane Meyer Dark Money.  And Hitler himself wanted to try Mellon Bank for Treason for going back on some of their promises toward the end of the war. Ironically it was one of the Mellons who negotiated a deal with the Allies that American Companies should not loose all their assets in Germany, but instead Germany should be bailed out.  Clearly this banker had a lot of pull with the US, UK and French governments.

Their new effort to “take over the world” perhaps rooted in the principles with which they were raised by their successful and highly disciplined father have prepared them.  According to the Center for Public Integrity, Americans for Prosperity spent a $122 million as it unsuccessfully attempted to defeat President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats in 2012.  $83 million was spent on communications, ads, and media.  Clearly the Koch Brothers commitment to spend money to influence Americans has rapidly increased since their humble beginnings in 2004.

In a Mother Jones article we find that the Koch Brothers’ meddling with the US Government, Education, the Election, Health Care has grown to an over $400 Million dollar endeavor.

While bankers, corporations and politicians are necessarily tied with each other, it will be a good idea for us to watch carefully, regularly and attentively who is meddling in unison.   Trump’s appointment of the CEO of Exxon, Betsy DeVos, the wife of Eric Prince, to the Department of Education, the appointment of an admitted Neo Nazi, Steve Bannon, combined with Michael Flynn’s relationship with Putin is of grave concern.

In the end this effort to overthrow the democracy will not work since the new economy and the American people are going to deal with this challenge successfully. No one will succeed in selling America out to the Russians, Chinese or any other aspiring super power.

 

 

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First Republic Bank Acquires Gradifi to refinance Student Loans

First Republic Bank's Motto is that it is a privilege to serve their customers.
First Republic Bank’s Motto is that it is a privilege to serve their customers.

First Republic Bank (NYSE:FRC), today announced it has acquired Gradifi Inc., a Boston-based student loan repayment technology platform to assist the nation’s 44 million student loan borrowers.

Gradifi pioneered the SLP PlanTM (Student Loan Paydown), a technology and service platform used by employers to make direct contributions to employees’ student loans, reducing their overall repayment time and lowering the total cost of the loan. This employee benefit is becoming increasingly popular among employers to help attract and retain key talent, particularly Millennials who are now the largest generation in the workforce and are uniquely burdened by student debt. Gradifi operates a very user-friendly and secure online platform to handle such benefit programs.

Gradifi serves many employer clients from small businesses to PricewaterhouseCoopers, Natixis Global Asset Management, and Penguin Random House.

“We completely support Gradifi’s mission in assisting with the country’s student loan challenge,” said Jim Herbert, Chairman and CEO of First Republic Bank.  “They have become a market leader with their outstanding team, innovative repayment programs, and state-of-the-art technology.  As education costs and student loan debt continue to rise, offering a student loan repayment benefit for employees is increasingly valuable. Companies are realizing the power of a student loan repayment assistance benefit for both recruiting and retaining employees. As such, Gradifi has a terrific opportunity to assist companies and their employees.”

First Republic is committed to helping individuals and families manage student debt through both innovative refinance and repayment solutions. Earlier this year, First Republic implemented a student loan repayment assistance benefit for its employees, utilizing the Gradifi platform. The response has been overwhelmingly positive from employees, and First Republic has since increased the value of the benefit even further.

“First Republic is the perfect partner to help Gradifi meet the growing demand for our student loan repayment solutions,” said Gradifi Founder and CEO Tim DeMello.  “In addition to its commitment to help manage student debt, First Republic’s focus on extraordinary client service aligns with our approach.  With client satisfaction ratings that are on par with the world’s most respected brands, First Republic has the commitment to service and entrepreneurial culture, plus the financial resources, to power our growth strategy.”

Gradifi, a wholly-owned subsidiary of First Republic Bank, will continue to operate under the Gradifi brand.  Founder Tim DeMello will remain the company’s Chief Executive Officer, with extended employment contracts in place for him and several other senior management members.  As part of this acquisition, Gradifi will remain headquartered in Boston and have employees based in New York, Los Angeles, Palo Alto and San Francisco.

The transaction was funded by First Republic Bank with cash on hand.  Impact to earnings or capital is currently not material, and further terms of the transaction have not been disclosed.  Greenhill & Co. served as financial advisor to First Republic on the transaction.

First Republic Honored for Addressing Income Inequality

“NAAC is pleased to honor First Republic and Rosana Han for thinking outside the box in addressing income and wealth inequality,” said NAAC Executive Director Faith Bautista. “First Republic cares for the underserved community. Working in partnership with the NAAC and National Diversity Coalition, First Republic has helped expand home ownership in areas where no bank will make loans.  First Republic has also been instrumental in supporting micro businesses and nonprofits, such as NAAC.”

First Republic is different than most banks

The business model at First Republic is distinctly different from most other companies. While they certainly want to grow and make a profit, they also realize that the best way to do that is through hard work and exceptional client service. Because of this operating philosophy, they are driven by a core set of values that define what they must do every day to best serve th clients.

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