PHOTO: Weather Channel's SUV Destroyed During Tornado Chase

As tornadoes swept through the Oklahoma City area on Friday evening, storm chasers in cars tracked their movements, relaying updates and video to a number of news outlets.


But getting close to violent storms is inherently risky, and the storm chasers with The Weather Channel Tornado Hunt Team had a very close call. According to The Weather Channel's website:


Meteorologist Mike Bettes was chasing the monster rain-wrapped tornado near El Reno, Okla. when he says the storm picked up the heavy chase SUV and threw it an estimated 200 yards.

The team all had their seat belts on and survived with minor injuries.


Seth Decker, a storm chaser with TVN Weather took a photo that shows how far off the road the Tornado Hunt vehicle was thrown:




Storm chaser Sean Schofer also tweeted a photo of the wrecked SUV:




As HuffPost's Timothy Stenovec and Molly O'Toole reported after the Moore, Okla. tornado, extreme weather can lead both professional and amateur storm chasers to take risks. National Weather Service's Mark Fox told them at the time, "The guys on TV make it look really easy, and in reality, it's not. It takes a lot of training, it takes a lot of experience, and not a whole lot of people really put that time in, and they tend to go after the storms. It gets some people in trouble sometimes."






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It Only Took 11 Days After Acquisition For Tumblr To Lose Its First Big Employee

Just 11 days after officially being bought by Yahoo, Tumblr has lost its first high-level employee, Jacob Bijani.


Tumblr's creative director, hired by the hip blogging platform in 2008, announced his departure on his personal Tumblr (naturally). "I’m so proud of what we’ve all created together, and it’s been a privilege to contribute to something beloved by so many," he wrote. "I can’t wait to see what’s next for the product; I’m sure it will be nothing short of incredible."


Bijani was hired somewhat by accident. Five years ago, he inquired about an out-of-date job posting at Davidville, the company that would become Tumblr. Founder David Karp, aware of the design work Bijani did on his personal Tumblr, respond that though the job post was expired, he was "beyond interested."


All accounts indicate that the departure was amicable. "I’m going to take some time off to digest the last few years," he wrote. However, neither Karp's own Tumblr nor the official staff Tumblr have been updated with a statement on his leaving. Karp controversially cut the editorial staff of Tumblr's journalism project, Storyboard, in April, seemingly to rein in costs so the company can become profitable.


Though Bijani's interest in the company purchased for $1.1 billion isn't disclose, the fact he was only Tumblr's fifth employee suggests that the twentysomething is able to walk away a significant amount of money. Time magazine reported that Tumblr's 178 employees will divvy up $66 million from the Yahoo buy.


[h/t Valleywag]






Business Feed :


Cookening Connects Tourists With Locals Through Home-Cooked Meals

Cookening1

The Launchpad is a series that introduces Mashable readers to compelling startups. If you would like to have your startup considered for inclusion, please see the details here .


Name: Cookening


One-Liner Pitch: Cookening is like an Airbnb for home-cooked meals.


Why It's Taking Off: Cookening offers a unique opportunity for travelers to eat fresh meals in the homes of locals in whatever city they're visiting.


Two years ago, Cédric Giorgi decided to stay at an Airbnb location for the first time while he was traveling in California. Although he loved the idea of Airbnb, he realized it was similar to “Tables d'hôtes” in France, which are shared dinners at French bed and breakfasts that are cooked by the hosting family. Read more...


More about Travel, Startups, Business, Travel Leisure, and The Launchpad









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Building a Better World - Jamais Cascio's World Improving Speech Discusses Strategies for the Future (TrendHunter.com)

(TrendHunter.com) The current problems of the world can be resolved immediately, according to Jamais Cascio in his people world improving speech. There are many difficulties that society faces. Cascio showcases some...

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Print ads: Getty Images Latin America / Orinoquia Photo: Finders, Fisherman


Media: Print

Category: Professional services

Agency: Publicis

Brand: Getty Images

Geo: Americas, Venezuela

Advertising Agency: Publicis, Venezuela

Chief Creative Officer: Fabian Bonelli

Creative Directors: Demian Campos, Eduardo Gomes

Art Directors: Yoryi Cantor, Deivy Marquez

Copywriters: Bernardo Tortolero, Luis Amaya

Photographer: Pedro Primavera

Published: February 2013






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Online: Scan the bites


Media: Online

Category: Food

Agency: MRM

Brand: KFC

Geo: Europe, Romania

A new mobile integrated campaign from MRM/Mccann Romania. The new KFC fillet bites is a real chicken bites, that are produced on the spot and therefore every bite looks a bit different. Because every fillet bites looks different, you can find that the bites are similar to many things - a wheel, a heart, an elephant, Jesus. So now it's time play with your food and find all the shapes!

Step 1: buy fillet bites and download the mobile app

Step 2: put your fillet bite in the designated place on the tray liner

Step 3: SCAN THE BITES using the mobile app. The app scans and finds (using a img recognition technology) if your bite looks like one of our 50 shapes of bites (such as airplane, ball, camel etc...)

Step 4: start collecting the shapes.

Found 10? You win a prize! Found 20? You win bigger prize!

Advertising agency: MRM Worldwide, Bucharest, Romania

Chief Creative Officer: Nir Refuah

Copywriters: Tal Schweiger, Maria Nazdarvan

Art directors: Colo Nel, Laurentiu Stere






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Print ads: Lobster


Media: Outdoor

Category: Non-alcoholic drinks

Agency: Cossette

Brand: Fédération des producteurs de lait du Québec

Geo: Americas, Canada

Butter. To light up our feasts.

The ads will be displayed at certain times on vertical displays, in bus shelters, in street column format and as “lumiquais” (backlit panels in metro stations) in major markets across Quebec. The media strategy is based on the fact that with the exception of the vertical format, the sites will be backlit, maximizing the concept and its visual effect.

Advertising Agency: Cossette, Canada

Creatives: Steve Blanchet, Marjorie Lapointe-Aubert

Account Service team: Véronik Bastien, Martine Delagrave

Media Planning: Catherine Charpentier / touché!

Photography: Mathieu Lévesque / La Cavalerie






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Print ads: Croissant


Media: Outdoor

Category: Non-alcoholic drinks

Agency: Cossette

Brand: Fédération des producteurs de lait du Québec

Geo: Americas, Canada

Butter. To light up our mornings.

The ads will be displayed at certain times on vertical displays, in bus shelters, in street column format and as “lumiquais” (backlit panels in metro stations) in major markets across Quebec. The media strategy is based on the fact that with the exception of the vertical format, the sites will be backlit, maximizing the concept and its visual effect.

Advertising Agency: Cossette, Canada

Creatives: Steve Blanchet, Marjorie Lapointe-Aubert

Account Service team: Véronik Bastien, Martine Delagrave

Media Planning: Catherine Charpentier / touché!

Photography: Mathieu Lévesque / La Cavalerie






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Print ads: Mushrooms


Media: Outdoor

Category: Non-alcoholic drinks

Agency: Cossette

Brand: Fédération des producteurs de lait du Québec

Geo: Americas, Canada

Butter. To light up our taste buds.

The ads will be displayed at certain times on vertical displays, in bus shelters, in street column format and as “lumiquais” (backlit panels in metro stations) in major markets across Quebec. The media strategy is based on the fact that with the exception of the vertical format, the sites will be backlit, maximizing the concept and its visual effect.

Advertising Agency: Cossette, Canada

Creatives: Steve Blanchet, Marjorie Lapointe-Aubert

Account Service team: Véronik Bastien, Martine Delagrave

Media Planning: Catherine Charpentier / touché!

Photography: Mathieu Lévesque / La Cavalerie






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Print ads: Fédération des producteurs de lait du Québec: Carrots


Media: Outdoor

Category: Non-alcoholic drinks

Agency: Cossette

Brand: Fédération des producteurs de lait du Québec

Geo: Americas, Canada

Butter. To light up our summer.



The ads will be displayed at certain times on vertical displays, in bus shelters, in street column format and as “lumiquais” (backlit panels in metro stations) in major markets across Quebec. The media strategy is based on the fact that with the exception of the vertical format, the sites will be backlit, maximizing the concept and its visual effect.



Advertising Agency: Cossette, Canada

Creatives: Steve Blanchet, Marjorie Lapointe-Aubert

Account Service team: Véronik Bastien, Martine Delagrave

Media Planning: Catherine Charpentier / touché!

Photography: Mathieu Lévesque / La Cavalerie






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Ambient: Swisscom, Samsung S4: All eyes on the S4


Media: Ambient

Category: Electronics & Technology

Agency: Heimat

Brand: Swisscom

Geo: Europe, Switzerland

Find out how people in Zurich used their eyes to win a Samsung Galaxy S4 of their own. Its inbuilt Smart Pause function means the S4 knows when someone is looking at it. The longer a participant stares at the screen, the bigger the discount is. But watch out! The game ends the moment eye contact ends. An S4 was handed out for free after 60 minutes.

Advertising Agency: Heimat Berlin / Perfect Fools, Switzerland






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Ambient: Food slot


Media: Ambient

Category: Food

Agency: Ogilvy

Brand: Hellmann's

Geo: Americas, Brazil

To prove that Hellmann's goes with anything, Ogilvy Brazil created the Food Slot. In supermarkets chains, grocery stores and bars around Brazil, consumers are being invited to pull the lever of a slot machine that randomly combines different ingredients in the display. For each one of the random 280 combinations the machine gives the shoppers a collectible recipe and a hot and fresh delicious food sample made with the real mayonnaise. From Lasagna to Beef Ragout, from Wrap Ratattouile to Spicy Burritos, the most unexpected meals made with Hellmann's were included in the game "menu", to guarantee that every time the shoppers play, the experience would be different. Four months of research and development were necessary to guarantee both the perfect system and quality of the food, a mission taken by the Unilever's head chefs and the engineers and tech team of the production company, Hungry Man Projects.

Advertising Agency: Ogilvy, Brazil

Chief Creative Officer: Anselmo Ramos

Executive Creative Directors: Roberto Fernandez, Paco Conde

Creative Director: Fabio Seidl

Copywriter: Marco Pupo

Art Director: Agustín Acosta

Production Company: Hungry Man Projects

Executive Producers: Alex Mehedff, Rodrigo Castello

Director: Gualter Pupo

Sound Production Company: Hilton Raw






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Outdoor: Attack I


Media: Outdoor

Category: Recreation & Leisure

Agency: Black Mamba

Brand: SFF-rated

Geo: Europe, Greece

April 10-17, 2013 / The 8th International Science Fiction & Fantasy Film Festival of Athens Strikes Back

Advertising Agency: Black Mamba, Athens, Greece

Creative Director: Panayiotis G. Fotos

Art Director: Panayiotis G. Fotos

Copywriter: Daphne Kyriakidou

Published: April 2013






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Print ads: Attack II


Media: Outdoor

Category: Recreation & Leisure

Agency: Black Mamba

Brand: SFF-rated

Geo: Europe, Greece

April 10-17, 2013 / The 8th International Science Fiction & Fantasy Film Festival of Athens Strikes Back

Advertising Agency: Black Mamba, Athens, Greece

Creative Director: Panayiotis G. Fotos

Art Director: Panayiotis G. Fotos

Copywriter: Daphne Kyriakidou

Published: April 2013






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Print ads: Attack III


Media: Outdoor

Category: Recreation & Leisure

Agency: Black Mamba

Brand: SFF-rated

Geo: Europe, Greece

April 10-17, 2013 / The 8th International Science Fiction & Fantasy Film Festival of Athens Strikes Back

Advertising Agency: Black Mamba, Athens, Greece

Creative Director: Panayiotis G. Fotos

Art Director: Panayiotis G. Fotos

Copywriter: Daphne Kyriakidou

Published: April 2013






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Print ads: Berlin


Media: Outdoor

Category: Professional services

Agency: Ogilvy

Brand: Montreal Port Authority

Geo: Americas, Canada

Hello to All Our Partners in Berlin

Advertising Agency: Ogilvy Montréal, Montreal, Canada

Creative Director: Martin Gosselin

Art Director: Thembi Lassiter

Copywriter: Gavin Drummond

Published: April 2013






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Print ads: Chicago


Media: Outdoor

Category: Professional services

Agency: Ogilvy

Brand: Montreal Port Authority

Geo: Americas, Canada

Hello to All Our Partners in Chicago

Advertising Agency: Ogilvy Montréal, Montreal, Canada

Creative Director: Martin Gosselin

Art Director: Thembi Lassiter

Copywriter: Gavin Drummond

Published: April 2013






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Print ads: Mumbai


Media: Outdoor

Category: Professional services

Agency: Ogilvy

Brand: Montreal Port Authority

Geo: Americas, Canada

Hello to All Our Partners in Mumbai

Advertising Agency: Ogilvy Montréal, Montreal, Canada

Creative Director: Martin Gosselin

Art Director: Thembi Lassiter

Copywriter: Gavin Drummond

Published: April 2013






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Thomas Cook: Trunks



Advertising Agency: Havas Worldwide, London, UK

Executive Creative Director: Mick Mahoney

Art Director / Copywriter: Russell Schaller

Business Director: Gareth Davies

Account Director: Luke Mitton

Agency Producers: Sophie Horsley, Jodie Sibson

Photographer: Mark Stenning

Director / Production Company:Peter Cattaneo

Producer: Juliette Harris / Academy Films

Editor: Scott Cato / The Quarry

Post Production: Golden Square







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Thomas Cook: Room



Advertising Agency: Havas Worldwide, London, UK

Executive Creative Director: Mick Mahoney

Art Director / Copywriter: Russell Schaller

Business Director: Gareth Davies

Account Director: Luke Mitton

Agency Producers: Sophie Horsley, Jodie Sibson

Photographer: Mark Stenning

Director / Production Company:Peter Cattaneo

Producer: Juliette Harris / Academy Films

Editor: Scott Cato / The Quarry

Post Production: Golden Square







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Thomas Cook: Exchange



Advertising Agency: Havas Worldwide, London, UK

Executive Creative Director: Mick Mahoney

Art Director / Copywriter: Russell Schaller

Business Director: Gareth Davies

Account Director: Luke Mitton

Agency Producers: Sophie Horsley, Jodie Sibson

Photographer: Mark Stenning

Director / Production Company:Peter Cattaneo

Producer: Juliette Harris / Academy Films

Editor: Scott Cato / The Quarry

Post Production: Golden Square







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Print ads: Gift


Media: Print

Category: Retail services

Agency: Galagan

Brand: Shtuki

Geo: Europe, Ukraine

Not every gift makes one happy. Creative gifts shop.

A banal and soulless gift might offend the person to whom it's presented, and make a hint at your attitude towards this person. If you want to make someone a nice creative gift - give stuff from "Shtuki"

Advertising Agency: Galagan, Kiev, Ukraine

Creative Director: Tanya Shalagina

Art Directors: Alexey Divisenko, Jaroslav Jakovenko, Mihail Petrusyak, Ekaterina Hirych

Published: May 2013






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Online: Bully


Media: Online

Category: Public interest

Agency: DDB

Brand: Puerto Rico Youth at Risk

Geo: Americas, Puerto Rico

Advertising Agency: DDB Latina, Puerto Rico

Creative Directors: Enrique Renta, Manuel Bordé, Santiago Cuesta

Art Directors: Luis Figueroa, Juan Carlos López, Gabriel Sánchez

Copywriters: Manuel Bordé, Santiago Cuesta

Digital planners: Jose Ramón González, Janette Robles

Published: April 2012






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Online: Basketball


Media: Online

Category: Public interest

Agency: DDB

Brand: Puerto Rico Youth at Risk

Geo: Americas, Puerto Rico

Advertising Agency: DDB Latina, Puerto Rico

Creative Directors: Enrique Renta, Manuel Bordé, Santiago Cuesta

Art Directors: Luis Figueroa, Juan Carlos López, Gabriel Sánchez

Copywriters: Manuel Bordé, Santiago Cuesta

Digital planners: Jose Ramón González, Janette Robles

Published: April 2012






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10 Speeches on Modern Architecture - These Architecture Presentations Discuss Industry Advancements (TrendHunter.com)

(TrendHunter.com) These architecture presentations discuss the evolution of design over the past century. Many of these speeches highlight the increasing integration of nature and design. The speakers featured here...

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Want the Job? Do a Project

No matter how well you interview, more and more hiring organizations will ask you to participate in a real-world project before they extend an offer. They want to test your ability to do the job, whether you’re redesigning a social media campaign, documenting a tricky bit of software, or editing a keynote presentation. Proceed with caution when offered such an assignment: Sometimes firms use them to pit two or three candidates against each other, and they usually pay below-market rates for the work. But don’t turn down the opportunity. A project gives you the opportunity to shine — and win credibility — in advance: If you get the job, people in the organization will know you’ve already delivered something above and beyond a decent track record. It’s also a good chance for you to learn about what it’s like to work with your future boss and colleagues.



Adapted from the HBR Guide to Getting the Right Job.





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SFR Neufbox: Keep yourself occupied




Unlimited calls for life: Please feel free to use this page to keep yourself occupied during your phone call.



Advertising Agency: Luvi Ogilvy, Réunion Island

Creative Director: Philippe Amsallem

Copywriters: Pascal Naguin, Emily Sheen

Published: April 2013







via Business Feeds

Billionaire's Gift To Library Will Blow You Away

SAN MARINO, Calif. -- The Huntington Library has received a $32 million gift from investor and philanthropist Charles T. Munger to help build a new education and visitor center at the San Marino, Calif., institution.


The library said Thursday that the contribution is the lead gift toward the $60 million project, which will have more than six acres of new gardens and about 43,000 square feet of space for educational facilities and visitor services. Construction is expected to be completed in 2015.


The addition is expected to improve amenities for the 550,000 visitors and 1,500 scholars who come each year to The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.


The Berkshire Hathaway Inc. vice chairman previously funded a 90,000-square-foot research center at the library.






Business Feed :


Amazingly Lucky Man Wins Double Jackpot With Identical Tickets

Sometimes it pays to be consistent.


British Columbia resident Harry Black has been playing the same lottery numbers -- 02, 10, 17, 19, 44, 47 -- for more than 30 years. But his patience was rewarded Tuesday when Black claimed two winning tickets for an incredible $31.7 million payout.


"This is a wonderful surprise to all of us," BCLC Vice President of Lottery Gaming Kevin Gass said, according to a press release. "While it's not known how many people buy identical tickets for a draw, it is the first time in the company's recollection that we've had this unique sort of win."


The jackpot, which was split between four tickets, was one of the largest in Canadian history, according to CTV News. No one has ever won half of the lottery winnings with two identical tickets, according to the station.


Currently an employee of the film industry, Black, 66, said he has no family, and only five friends, according to the Vancouver Sun. Black had been sitting on the windfall for weeks, dealing with the stress of the winnings and planning what to do with the money, the outlet reports.


"You have no idea how much stress there is when you win on the lotto, especially something like this," Black told CBC News. "First thing, you've got to deal with yourself, and then make plans."


Black told CBC News he might spend some of the money on a favorite pastime: drag racing.


Of the two remaining winners of the April drawing, Vancouver resident Chad Seguin has come forward to claim his share; the as-yet-unidentified final winner bought the winning ticket in Alberta, according to The Nelson Daily.






Business Feed :


Occupy-Style Protest Interrupts Commencement Ceremony

Cooper Union's Wednesday commencement ceremony drew perhaps more symbols of Occupy Wall Street-style activism than any other graduation in recent years, even as New York Mayor City Mayor Michael Bloomberg -- one of the richest men in the country -- delivered the school's commencement address.


Students are outraged over the school's decision, announced in April, to break a 150-year-old tradition and charge undergraduate tuition.


Cooper Union President Jamshed Barucha has borne the brunt of much of the protesters' anger because, they say, he's the one who raised the possibility of charging tuition almost immediately after taking office in 2011. Following the official decision on charging tuition, students took over Barucha's office on May 8, where a group of at least a dozen remain.


When Barucha spoke at Wednesday's graduation ceremony, roughly half the graduating class stood and turned their backs to him in protest, according to PIX 11.


Many students also wore small red felt squares on their gowns, The New York Times noted, a symbol of debt popularized by protests against tuition and fee hikes in Canada. Cooper Union students have worn such badges over the past year during demonstrations against the tuition hike, including a week long occupation of the Foundation Building's top floor in December 2012.


The first undergraduate tuition bill won't be handed out until fall 2014, to incoming Cooper Union freshmen. New students with the ability to pay will be charged on a sliding scale up to 50 percent of total tuition costs. With a year's tuition currently set at a little more than $38,000, studentsrefer to the change as a $19,000 tuition hike.


James Sprung, the senior class speaker, addressed the tuition decision changes and the protests directly in his address.


"We embody another group of adults that have written 'Free Education For All' across our chest, some more literally than others," Sprung said, to a round of applause. "We may be one of the final classes to have a mission statement that will never be forgotten."


Sprung then did a call-and-response "mic check," with assembled students joining in: "Hope. Hope is everything. A fresh way to approach a dull or dangerous thing. To do a dull thing with hope, will never be preferable, to doing a dangerous thing with hope. To do a dangerous thing with hope is what I call art. Hope is a way of doing. A way of being done."


When Bloomberg took the podium, he mentioned the still ongoing protests but said he didn't want to take sides.


"As frustrated and as angry as you may be about the school’s present situation, its future really is yours to determine," he said. "When you walk out these doors today, do not leave the passion you have shown for this institution and its past and its future behind. Stay involved. Stay committed. And do what [school founder] Peter Cooper did: Donate what you can."


Watch the entire Cooper Union commencement proceedings in the video below:








Business Feed :


Cities Being Destroyed By Suburban Poverty

The number of poor people in U.S. suburbs rose by 63.6% between 2000 and 2011, from 10 million to well over 16 million people. For the first time, there are now more people living in poverty in the suburbs than in cities.






Business Feed :


Health Care Company Files For Bankruptcy, Blames Gov't Cuts



By Tom Hals



May 30 (Reuters) - Sound Shore Health System Inc of suburban New York City filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, blaming government spending cuts, and plans to sell its business to Montefiore Medical Center for $54 million.



The company provides healthcare services through its Sound Shore Medical Center of Westchester, Mount Vernon Hospital Inc and a nursing home and extended care facility.



Sound Shore said it was struggling due to cuts in government spending.



"As is true with many community hospitals serving a working-class constituency, the Medical Centers have been beset by the financial pressures caused by cuts in Medicare and Medicaid funding," the company said in documents filed in Manhattan's U.S. Bankruptcy Court on Wednesday.



The company said it had assets worth $159.6 million at the end of last year and liabilities of approximately $200 million. The company reported 2012 revenue of $241.8 million.



Bankruptcy lawyers and advisers have said they expect a wave of restructuring among healthcare providers as governments look to rein in their medical spending.



Earlier this month KidsPeace Corp of Pennsylvania, which operates a psychiatric hospital, filed for bankruptcy and also blaming cuts in Medicaid.






Business Feed :


Captcha Fail Leaves Blind People Unable To Sign Petition To Help The Blind

Thanks in part to a dreaded Captcha code on the White House's petitions website, it's nearly impossible for blind web users to sign a "We The People" petition seeking support for an international treaty intended to help ... the blind.


The treaty would make it easier for the blind to access creative works by offering certain exceptions to copyright law and permitting such works to be shared across borders. It had seen decades of inaction before being brought to the World Intellectual Property Organization in 2008 and has since received wavering support from the White House.


Politico reported this week that the National Federation for the Blind is now up in arms over the required use of a Captcha code to register and begin signing any petitions on the White House website, including one in support of the treaty.


An audio code option -- meant to help the blind complete the Captcha -- is incomprehensible, according federation spokesman Chris Danielsen. And that same flawed audio code system is in use for people who wish to write the White House an email with any suggestions or complaints regarding the "We The People" site.


Danielsen became aware of the problem when blind people began emailing his organization claiming they could not sign the blind treaty petition.


"In fairness, the White House does claim that it complies with the federal standard for Web accessibility, known as Section 508," he told The Huffington Post in an email. "We can neither confirm nor deny that this is true, but technical compliance does not always equal full accessibility or usability."


Political stagnancy and uncertainty over the treaty is in part due to lobbying efforts by publishers and the Motion Picture Association of America, which works to protect copyrights. In a joint statement with the NFB however, the MPAA publicly affirmed its support for the treaty. Danielsen says he is now concerned about objections raised by the Intellectual Property Owners Association, which includes corporate giants such as of GE, ExxonMobil, Caterpillar, Adobe and Monsanto.


As for fixing the "We The People" Captcha or the indecipherable audio code for blind users, Danielsen has another idea.


"The White House should implement a better audio captcha," he wrote. "That or a different kind of Captcha, such as one that requires the user to answer a simple mathematical or logic question like '3+6=' or 'If today is Friday, what day was three days ago?'"


At the time of writing the blind treaty petition had 92,731 of the 100,000 signatures required for a White House response.






Business Feed :


Japan Cancels Wheat Order After GMO Outcry



By Naveen Thukral and Risa Maeda



SINGAPORE/TOKYO, May 30 (Reuters) - A strain of genetically modified wheat found in the United States fuelled concerns over food supplies across Asia on Thursday, with major importer Japan cancelling a tender offer to buy U.S. grain.



Other top Asian wheat importers South Korea, China and the Philippines said they were closely monitoring the situation after the U.S. government found genetically engineered wheat sprouting on a farm in the state of Oregon.



The strain was never approved for sale or consumption.



Asian consumers are keenly sensitive to gene-altered food, with few countries allowing imports of such cereals for human consumption. However, most of the corn and soybean shipped from the U.S. and South America for animal feed is genetically modified.



"We will refrain from buying western white and feed wheat effective today," Toru Hisadome, a Japanese farm ministry official in charge of wheat trading, told Reuters.



The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Wednesday said the wheat variety was developed years ago by biotechnology giant Monsanto Co. It was never put into use because of worldwide opposition to genetically engineered wheat.



Wheat, long known as the staff of life, is the world's largest traded food commodity and it is used in making breads, pastries, cookies, breakfast cereal and noodles.



Asia imports more than 40 million tonnes of wheat annually, almost a third of the global trade of 140-150 million tonnes. The bulk of the region's supplies come from the United States, the world's biggest exporter, and Australia, the No. 2 supplier.



The USDA said there was no sign that genetically engineered wheat had entered the commercial market, but grain traders warned the discovery could hurt export prospects for U.S. wheat.



"Asian consumers are jittery about genetically modified food," said Abah Ofon, an analyst at Standard Chartered Bank in Singapore. "This is adding to concerns that already exist on quality and availability of food wheat globally."



In 2006, a large part of the U.S. long-grain rice crop was contaminated by an experimental strain from Bayer CropScience , prompting import bans in Europe and Japan and sharply lowering market prices. The company agreed in court in 2011 to pay $750 million to growers as compensation.





BUYERS CAUTIOUS, SEEK DETAILS



A major flour miller in China, which has been stocking U.S. wheat in recent months, said importers will tread carefully.



China has emerged as a key buyer of U.S. wheat this year, taking around 1.5 million tonnes in the past two months. Chinese purchases in the year to June 2014 are estimated to rise 21 percent to 3.5 million tonnes, according to the USDA, with most shipments coming from the United States, Australia and Canada.



Japan's Hisadome said the government has asked U.S. authorities to provide more details of their investigation and Japan will stop buying the wheat concerned, at least until a test kit is developed to identify genetically modified produce.



There is no U.S.-approved test kit to identify genetically engineered wheat. The USDA has said it is working on a "rapid test" kit.



The Philippines, which buys about 4 million tonnes of wheat a year and relies mainly on U.S. supplies, is waiting for more details from the USDA before acting, an industry official in Manila said.



An agriculture ministry source in South Korea said the government is reviewing the discovery, adding the country thoroughly inspects products from the United States as part of safety checks.



"I won't be surprised if other countries start cancelling or reducing their purchases of U.S. wheat, particularly Asian countries, putting pressure on wheat demand," said Joyce Liu, an investment analyst at Phillip Futures in Singapore.



The benchmark Chicago Board of Trade wheat futures eased half a percent on Thursday after rallying in the previous session.



Genetically modified crops cannot be grown legally in the United States unless the government approves them after a review to ensure they pose no threat to the environment or to people.



Monsanto entered four strains of glyphosate-resistant wheat for U.S. approval in the 1990s but there was no final decision by regulators because the company decided there was no market.



The St. Louis-based firm downplayed the incident in a statement posted on its website. "While USDA's results are unexpected, there is considerable reason to believe that the presence of the Roundup Ready trait in wheat, if determined to be valid, is very limited," it said.



Still, importers are not in a position to shun wheat from the United States, which accounts for about a fifth of the global supplies, analysts and industry officials said. (Additional reporting by Karl Plume in CHICAGO, Niu Shuping in Beijing, Erik dela Cruz in MANILA, Jane Chung in SEOUL and Yayat Supriatna in JAKARTA; Editing by Amran Abocar and Richard Pullin)






Business Feed :


Walmart And Gap Unite On Bangladesh

Walmart and Gap are working on their own independent safety plan to prompt reform in Bangladesh after both retailers declined to sign the Accord on Fire and Building Safety, Women's Wear Daily reported. Forty other retailers, mostly European, have agreed to the latter pact.


Over the next 30 days, the two U.S. companies will work together with a coalition of other firms and industry trade groups to come up with "a single, unified action plan," along with a schedule to implement it across Bangladesh's garment industry.


Worker safety in Bangladesh has garnered international attention since the collapse of the Rana Plaza building killed more than 1,100 workers, prompting retailers and labor groups to mobilize in an effort to prevent additional tragedies.


Former U.S. Sens. George Mitchell (D-Maine) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) will serve as "independent facilitators" as the retailers develop the plan, which they intend to release by early July.


"Retailers approached us and asked us to facilitate an independent forum to discuss how to create an effective, unified safety plan in response to the recent tragedies in Bangladesh," Mitchell said in a draft release obtained by WWD. "The purpose of these meetings will be for the Alliance to agree upon and establish a framework to effectively address the systemic safety issues and improve working conditions within the Bangladeshi garment industry."


It's likely that the agreement that comes out of these discussions will not be a legally binding pact, since Gap cited the binding nature of the previous plan as the primary reason that it refused to participate.


This marks the third safety reform plan being pushed since the Rana Plaza disaster. The Accord on Fire and Building Safety, which actually originated last year, has the greatest amount of support from retailers, and the North American Bangladesh Worker Safety Working Group unveiled its own nonbinding plan earlier this month.






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Major Food Deal Unlikely To Be Challenged By Federal Regulators

The $4.7 billion takeover of the largest pork processor in America, Smithfield Foods, by a Chinese conglomerate will almost certainly gain federal regulatory blessing, experts in cross-border deals told The Huffington Post on Thursday.


Though food-safety advocates have raised alarm, noting that the Chinese purchaser, Shuanghui International Holdings, has a checkered past, an adviser directly involved in the deal expressed confidence that a federal panel that reviews foreign takeovers of American companies will ultimately approve the Smithfield deal.


The adviser, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Shuanghui’s representatives have in recent weeks sought out and mollified the concerns of members of the multi-agency review panel, known as the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS). The U.S. Treasury, which leads the committee, declined to comment.


Several attorneys with experience on mergers involving foreign companies said the review panel was unlikely to nix a merger involving two food processors because the deal does not present any conventional national security concerns, such as potential spying, access to military technologies or control over critical infrastructure.


“As much as we’d like to think that ham is part of the fabric of our country, I don’t see how it could be a national security issue,” said Dale Turza, a Washington partner of the law firm Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft. “I can’t imagine that they will have any problems on this at all.”


Some opposition has already emerged on Capitol Hill. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) on Wednesday urged CFIUS to probe the deal in light of Shuanghui’s food-safety record, including a 2011 admission that the company injected a carcinogenic additive into pig feed at a plant in China.


“There are [...] a number of points that CFIUS must consider as it analyzes this deal,” Grassley said in a statement. “No one can deny the unsafe tactics used by some Chinese food companies. And, to have a Chinese food company controlling a major U.S. meat supplier, without shareholder accountability, is a bit concerning.”


But Grassley’s words are unlikely to yield significant action. Seven years ago, pressure from lawmakers scotched a bid from Emirati Dubai Ports World to buy the leases to operate six major American seaports, prompting Congress to reform the review process: Lawmakers expressly eliminated political considerations as grounds for concern, leaving the panel to focus on a narrow set of security issues.


“Ever since the reform of CFIUS in 2008, the CFIUS process is insulated from the Hill,” said Theodore Moran, a professor at Georgetown University who wrote a 2009 book on the panel. “They’re quite precise in how they’re structured and how they go about threat assessments.”


But other experts suggested that politics could find its way into the process regardless, noting that the deal amounts to the largest-ever takeover of an American firm by a Chinese company.


“The opponents of this will take food safety and some environmental issues and raise them to a national security issue,” said Gary Hufbauer, a fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics who studies foreign investment in the United States. “That argument might wash in Congress.”


Such was the case eight years ago, when congressional pressure prompted the Chinese oil company Cnooc Ltd. to abandon a bid for Unocal, an American energy conglomerate. Though Unocal then controlled less than 1 percent of the American oil supply, congressional opponents of the deal presented Cnooc's bid as a threat to national security.


“What has happened in the past when the politics gets rough, the company simply withdraws,” Hufbauer said. “It doesn’t even get as far as the CFIUS review.”


Turza, the Cadwalader partner, has played no role in the Smithfield deal but said Shuanghui appears to have studied the political history of foreign corporate takeovers and taken action, winning over potential opponents in advance.


“To avoid the political issues, there are some big companies that have gone into Congress proactively to let them know, ‘No, no, no, we plan to keep things the way they are,' and assuage them that way,” Turza said. “You meet with a congressional delegation to tell them it’s going to be OK.”


Lobbyists who have worked on CFIUS reviews say the key to securing approval is to anticipate areas of concern and address them even before a deal is struck.


"The secret sauce of a good CFIUS lawyer is reaching out well in advance and making sure you understand the government’s interests and worries,” said Mark Plotkin, a lawyer at Covington and Burling who specializes in CFIUS issues. “You need to know what the agencies are concerned about."


With politics unlikely to scuttle the Smithfield-Shuanghui deal, the biggest challenge to the takeover may yet come from competitors. As Bloomberg News first reported Thursday, companies in Thailand and Brazil were also eyeing Smithfield as a possible acquisition target.






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New Study On Why Women Make Less Than Men

Men and women who work the same job actually get paid about the same when they are starting out in their careers, according to a study released Thursday. However, the study said, as workers move up the ranks, men's wages start to increasingly outpace those of their female counterparts.


The survey from salary information site Payscale appears to contradict a wide body of research on the gender wage gap. Still, the survey's lead researcher, economist Katie Bardaro, told The Huffington Post it's a "misbegotten myth" that a man working the same job and with the same background as a woman would get paid more.


“The gender wage gap does not exist in the way people believe it does,” Bardaro said. “However, it does persist for director and executive-level positions.”


The PayScale analysis, which relied on career profiles of the site's 40 million users, found that women working various non-managerial jobs earn about 98 percent of what men do on average. But once workers become executives, that share shrinks to about 91 percent, according to the study. The findings add dimension to previous analyses of Bureau of Labor Statistics and Census data, which estimate that women are earning as little as 77 to 80 percent of what men make overall.


PayScale came to its conclusion by controlling for factors like education, jobs and responsibilities between men and women. Still, the analysis contradicts other studies that indicate women who graduate from the same college with the same major and take the same jobs as men make less than they do. The PayScale findings are based on responses to the salary information company's own data, while other measures of the wage gap are often based on data from government agencies.


It's possible that PayScale's findings differ from other conclusions because its study is based on people who choose to report their information to the site, as opposed to the Census and BLS, which have a broader reach.


Heidi Hartmann, president of the Institute For Women's Policy Research, told HuffPost that researchers can estimate the gender wage gap while controlling for variables that appear to make it smaller. But, she said, the reality is that much of the difference between the wages of men and women can't be explained by objective factors like experience and education -- demonstrating that discrimination is still preventing women from earning the same as their male colleagues.


Even models that control for variables like occupation and education aren't necessarily free from subjective discrimination that can affect the difference in pay between male and female workers in the real world, Hartmann said.


"It's clear the problem is still there," she said, noting that if there was no discrimination present in the labor force, women and men would be making the same amount across the board.


Still, the PayScale survey backs one theory that's been floated before: Women could be earning less because they’re less likely to have high-level positions and tend to be clustered in lower-paying sectors. Just 4 percent of CEOs at S&P 500 companies are women. By contrast, women hold nearly two-thirds of low-wage jobs, according to the National Women’s Law Center.


In addition, there are only seven occupations in the U.S. where women typically make more than men, according to a recent analysis from the Center for American Progress.


“The real issue here is not the gender wage gap, but more the jobs gap,” Bardaro said. “People are filling positions according to gender, with higher-paid positions being filled by men and lower-paid positions being filled by women.”


The economic recovery has exacerbated that gap, according to a study from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. As state and local governments with tight budgets eliminated jobs that were often held by women, largely male-dominated sectors like construction experienced a rebound, the study said.


Despite the fact that female-dominated sectors tend to pay less, there may be an incentive for women to take a job in one of those fields, according to the PayScale data. Women working in female-dominated jobs like health care, social assistance, education and real estate are more likely to ask their bosses for a raise or a promotion, PayScale found.


Check out these charts from the PayScale survey:


gender pay gap graph


gender pay gap chart






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Obama, Republicans Spoiling For Fresh Student Loan Showdown

WASHINGTON -- Even before President Barack Obama personally joins the debate over student loan interest rates on Friday, Republican lawmakers and higher-education professionals are lashing out at the White House for what they criticize as a campaign-style initiative unlikely to focus on the biggest student debt issues.


Obama, appearing with college students, is to call on Congress to prevent a doubling of interest rates on some federal loans offered to undergraduate students, White House press secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday. The event likely will be reminiscent of the "Don't Double My Rate" drive Obama successfully promoted during the 2012 election year on college campuses.


The interest rates, set by a Democratic Congress and signed into law by former President George W. Bush in 2007, are set to jump to 6.8 percent from their present 3.4 percent for about a quarter of all new federal student loans, according to the Department of Education. Like last year, when Obama’s initiative only tackled borrowing costs for a small segment of students, three-fourths of new student borrowing this fiscal year -- a projected $79 billion -- won’t be affected.


"It’s Groundhog Day all over again," said Amy Laitinen, a former Obama administration adviser for higher education who now works as higher education deputy director for New America Foundation, a left-leaning think tank. "Why is everyone spending so much political and financial capital on a short-term fix for a small group of borrowers that does nothing to address the real issue of skyrocketing college costs?”


On average, the annual cost of higher education at public four-year schools has risen 85 percent since 2003 to nearly $18,000, according to the College Board. Students at private schools pay nearly $40,000, or 59 percent more than they did 10 years ago.


The so-called cost of attendance gap, or the difference between what a four-year degree will cost incoming freshmen and the amount of government loan money available to them, has risen by 59 percent over the past 10 years to about $152,000 for the typical student who started at a private school in 2011, according to Sallie Mae, the nation’s largest student loan company. For students at public colleges, the gap has increased 90 percent to about $69,000.


For new federal student loans, borrowers have never paid more relative to the government’s cost to borrow, a Huffington Post review revealed last month, fattening the Obama administration’s coffers as record relative rates set by Congress have lead to record profits for the U.S. government.


This year, the Obama administration booked nearly $51 billion in profit off student loans, according to estimates from the Congressional Budget Office. The Education Department disputes using the word “profit.”


Overall student debt levels have alarmed some Obama administration officials and financial regulators, who have warned that education borrowing may depress the economy by limiting consumption and restraining new credit.


Against that backdrop, several members of Congress and the White House have proposed legislation that would tie interest rates on new federal student loans to the government’s cost to borrow. Some lawmakers are pushing legislation that would tie students’ borrowing costs to those enjoyed by banks that occasionally borrow from the Federal Reserve.


Many on Capitol Hill and across Washington are gearing up for the expected reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, likely this fall.


"Members on both sides of the aisle need to get serious about college affordability. We can’t have this be the only higher ed issue that is ever acted upon,” Laitinen said.


Instead, the White House will probably only focus this week on the one-fourth of new loan dollars set to cost more come July 1. On Wednesday, Carney touted White House plans, as well as those from House and Senate Democrats, but criticized a Republican proposal that passed the House on a mostly party-line vote last week.


"While we welcome that House Republicans have paid some attention to this issue this year, their proposal, unfortunately, does not meet the test," Carney said. The GOP proposal, he said, fails to lock in low rates, eliminates a safeguard for those most in need of lower rates, and raises student rates for deficit reduction instead of closing loopholes and tax breaks for the wealthy.


The loan rates were also supposed to double last year, when the issue was marred by election-year politics. A one-year fix resulted in graduate students now paying more to borrow.


Republicans were incensed in 2012, saying Obama's college tour across three swing states promoted his own student loan plan while campaigning for the youth vote for his reelection. The GOP even filed a complaint with the Government Accountability Office and called on the Obama campaign to reimburse the Treasury Department for the trip expenses.


"Last year, Obama was out stumping for a one-year extension, and he slow-jammed for student loans on Jimmy Fallon," said Chris Lindstrom, a higher education advocate at U.S. Public Interest Research Group, a consumer group. "That really helped explain to the public at large what was going on."


The White House defended the president, calling his college tour official businesses, and said congressional critics were trying to distract from their refusal to extend student loan interest rates.


Carney's comments alone were enough to ruffle the House GOP leadership, signalling a showdown in the coming weeks. Congressional Republicans said they're familiar with the image of Obama at a podium, flanked by average Americans and pointing fingers at them in another deadline in crisis governance.


A blog post penned by House Speaker John Boehner's (R-Ohio) office pointed out that Republicans share the goal to prevent student loan interest rates from doubling, and argued that Friday's event at the White House is nothing more than a showcase for "stunning cynicism."


"Scheduling this P.R. stunt reeks of desperation," wrote Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck, "Picking a fight out of thin air where there’s policy agreement isn’t going to get the White House out of trouble, and it certainly doesn’t do anything to help students facing a looming rate hike."


The House Education and the Workforce Committee, chaired by Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), issued a similar preemptive release that accused the president of "petty politics and campaign gimmicks." Kline's bill passed the House last week on a mostly party-line vote.


Some Democrats have argued it would be better to let interest rates double, citing a study by the non-partisan Congressional Research Service. The study assumed the government’s cost to borrow will substantially increase in the coming years, and found that students would pay more under Kline’s plan.


The chances of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) taking up the bill are slim, and the White House issued a veto threat on the day of its passage. Meanwhile, Republicans have no plans to abandon their proposal.


"Given that the House has acted to stop the student loan rate increase and passed a bill that is remarkably similar to the proposal in the president's budget, we would hope that he would thank us and urge Sen. Reid to act," Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said.


Obama and House Republicans have both proposed plans to tie interest rates to the U.S. government’s cost to borrow for 10 years. The spread between what students pay and the government’s cost to borrow is much narrower in Obama’s plan, but House-passed legislation caps the interest rate for students.


Meanwhile, a plan by leading Senate Democrats proposes to keep the rate low for two years while Congress rewrites the Higher Education Act. Arne Duncan, Obama's education secretary, has signaled that he may favor such a plan. His spokesman, Daren Briscoe, declined to comment.


Since the law's expiration last year, Congress and the White House have publicly clashed over student loans, seeking to paint each other as unhelpful to students. Last year, a one-year deal blocked higher rates for most undergraduate loans, but set the stage for this year's fight.


Crisis governance, distasteful to some voters, may be especially disheartening to students. Rather than tackling the mounting cost of college and the record relative interest rates borrowers are paying to annually borrow nearly $80 billion from the government, this specific piece of the higher education debate is small: On average, students would pay an additional $1,000 (or about $7 a month) if the interest rate doubles on subsidized Stafford loans.


Meanwhile, tuition increases continue to outpace inflation, local governments are cutting back funding for public colleges and universities, families are paying more than ever to send their kids to school, and total student debt has surpassed credit cards and auto loans as the second-biggest source of household debt.






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Norquist, Koch-Backed Groups' Unusual Support Revealed

Tobacco giant Reynolds American Inc. last year helped fund several of the nation’s most politically active — and secretive — nonprofit organizations, according to a company document reviewed by the Center for Public Integrity.


Reynolds American’s contributions include $175,000 to Americans for Tax Reform, a nonprofit led by anti-tax activist Grover Norquist, and $50,000 to Americans for Prosperity, a free-market advocacy outfit heavily backed by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch.


The tobacco company’s donations are just a fraction of the nearly $50 million that those two groups reported spending during the 2012 election cycle, almost exclusively on negative advertising. Federal records show that Americans for Prosperity alone sponsored more than $33 million in attack ads that directly targeted President Barack Obama.


But the money, which Reynolds American says it disclosed in a corporate governance document at the behest of an unnamed shareholder, provide rare insight into how some of the most powerful politically active 501(c)(4) “social welfare” nonprofits are bankrolled.


Reynolds American is the parent company of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, which makes Camel and Winston brand cigarettes.

“The shareholder specifically requested that we disclose information about 501(c)(4)s, and in the interests of greater transparency, we agreed,” Reynolds American spokeswoman Jane Seccombe said.


Large corporations — tobacco companies or otherwise — almost never release information about their giving to such groups, and it’s most unusual for the groups themselves to voluntarily disclose who donates to them.


These groups, which obtain their nonprofit status because they say their “primary purpose” is not political activity, are generally under no legal obligation to detail their funding sources. Super PACs and other recognized political committees, by contrast, must report the names of their contributors who give more than $200 and the amounts they give.


Yet during the 2012 election cycle, various social welfare nonprofit organizations, emboldened by the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision in January 2010, spent more than $250 million to promote or attack federal political candidates, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. The source of most of that money remains a mystery.


Reynolds American’s other contributions last year to 501(c)(4) groups include $100,000 to the Partnership for Ohio’s Future, an organization run by the Ohio Chamber of Commerce that spent several million dollars in a failed 2012 ballot initiative campaign to uphold a law limiting public workers’ collective bargaining rights. It also gave $12,500 to the National Taxpayers Union, a 501(c)(4) group that backed Republican candidates last year with modest expenditures.


Ohio Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President Linda Woggon told the Center for Public Integrity she wasn’t aware that Reynolds American planned to disclose its donation to Partnership for Ohio’s Future.


But Woggon said she did not have a problem with officials there doing so, adding that “the decision is up to the company.”


Americans for Prosperity, which in 2011 reported to the IRS it received more than $25.4 million in contributions and grants, “leaves it up to our supporters” to decide whether to reveal their donations,” spokesman Levi Russell said.


“It’s their right, and we respect it,” he said.


Officials at Americans for Tax Reform, which in 2011 reported to the IRS that it received nearly $4 million in contributions and grants, did not reply to several requests for comment.


Within the tobacco industry, Reynolds American competitor Lorillard, which manufactures Newport brand cigarettes, has no nonprofit donation disclosure policy in place.


Ronald Whitford, the company’s associate general counsel, said Lorillard “could look at possibly enhancing disclosure in the future.”


Altria, the world’s largest tobacco company, does make contributions to politically active nonprofit organizations, spokesman Bill Phelps said — but he would not name any beneficiaries.


Altria’s corporate policy only requires it disclose its contributions to 501(c)(4) nonprofits in narrow circumstances, none of which applied to its 2012 donations, Phelps said.


For example, Altria, which makes Marlboros, the top-selling cigarettes, would publicly disclose a contribution if a nonprofit used at least $50,000 specifically for “political activities” as defined by the Internal Revenue Service — but only if the nonprofit informed Altria of this fact.


The IRS considers political activity to be the “participation in, or intervention in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.”


Therefore, by its own rules, Altria would not disclose contributions that a 501(c)(4) used to fund so-called “issue advertisements” that are sometimes barely distinguishable from ads that directly advocate for or against a politician.


Politically active nonprofit groups such as Americans for Prosperity and Crossroads GPS, which was co-founded by GOP strategist Karl Rove, together spent millions of dollars on these kinds of communications last year.


Reynolds American’s written corporate policy on nonprofit donation disclosure is similar to that of Altria. But the policy “represents the minimum disclosure threshold,” said Seccombe, the company spokeswoman.


Reynolds American specifically acknowledged its donation to Americans for Tax Reform “because of expected stakeholder interest, not because the contributions were intended to be used or were in fact used for ‘political activity’ as that term is meant for purposes of the Internal Revenue Code,” Seccombe added.


She declined to speculate on which 501(c)(4) organizations Reynolds American will donate to this year. But officials will release information on its 2013 donations early next year, she said.


The company’s actions, although limited and hardly in real time, “set a precedent” and are “to be commended,” said Bruce Freed, president of the Center for Political Accountability, which tracks and advocates for political transparency by corporations.


“We just haven’t seen this with other companies related to their giving to (c)(4)’s,” Freed said.


The Center for Public Integrity is a non-profit, independent investigative news outlet. For more of its stories on this topic go to publicintegrity.org.











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The Joy of Illusions - Al Seckel's Visual Illusion Speech Showcases Effects of Visual Trickery (TrendHunter.com)

(TrendHunter.com) Al Seckel discusses how visual illusions can please audiences in his visual illusion speech. Oftentimes the visual perception of individuals are fooled into seeing certain objects through visually...

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Oklahoma Schools Destroyed By Tornado To Rebuild

MOORE, Okla. -- Administrators believe rebuilding a pair of Oklahoma elementary schools destroyed by a May 20 tornado will help their neighborhoods' long-term recovery, though some parents and children aren't sure it's a good idea to put up new schools on land where seven third-graders perished after being crushed by debris.


"They can rebuild, but not in the same exact spot. People died there," said Antonio Garcia, who rode out the top-of-the-scale EF5 twister inside the Plaza Towers Elementary School on his last day of sixth grade. When school restarts in the fall, he will have moved on to junior high, but he says the site should be made a memorial to his dead schoolmates.


"Don't build it in the same spot. And make it safer for everybody," he said.


Moore School District Superintendent Susan Pierce said this week the district would rebuild the Briarwood and Plaza Towers schools on their same sites after shuffling their 1,150 students into other schools for the 2013-14 school year. The district must also rebuild a gymnasium at East Junior High, which was also destroyed.


"We think it's essential for the kids and the community to come back strong at the same location," Pierce said. "It'll be good for them to see the construction there."


Some parents agree with the decision.


"I agree about getting everything back to normal for the children," said Antonio's mother, Crystal O'Reagan.


Crews began demolishing the Plaza Towers school Thursday. About 500 students attend that school, while Briarwood has about 650 students.


Pierce said she is hopeful the schools will be built with a safe room that can protect pupils from violent weather, and a group of Oklahoma lawmakers on Thursday launched a nonprofit group to help retrofit existing schools.


Officials estimate it will cost about $20 million to replace the schools. Robert Romines, who takes over as superintendent July 1, said administrators are working with insurance companies, architects and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.


The group Shelter Oklahoma Schools would be funded by private donations. Oklahoma has 1,600 public schools; safe rooms cost between $600,000 and $1 million per school. Houston-based energy company Apache Corp. has already said it will donate $1 million.


Moore Public Schools, the state's fastest-growing district with more than 23,000 students, has experience in rebuilding schools destroyed by tornadoes. A tornado that struck the city on May 3, 1999, destroyed Kelley Elementary School, but classes had already been dismissed for the day and no one was injured. The school was rebuilt on the same foundation and its hallways were made into safe rooms where overhead doors can be shut to enclose the halls as tornados pass overhead.


"We've done this before," Pierce said. "We're working on some kind of similar plan."


Romines, like some parents, said the schools are anchors in their neighborhood and it wouldn't be right to build elsewhere.


"Those buildings are the center of the community. They'll be bigger and better," Romines said.


David Wheeler's son, third-grader Gabriel Wheeler, attended Briarwood Elementary and he wants the school rebuilt in the same place. The family's home is next to the school and was damaged by the tornado.


"That's our community. That's where we live," David Wheeler said. "We're all on board. Most of the children are on board as well."


But Amy Sharp, who pulled her daughter, fourth-grader Jenna Dunn, from Plaza Towers just moments before the twister struck, suggested the school could be moved to an open field adjacent to the former site.


"I don't know if I'm comfortable with my child going to the school on the same site where seven children died. That's kind of morbid," Sharp said.


Gail Stillman, director of student services for Moore Public Schools, said the district will make counselors available for students who have anxieties about future storms or who have difficulty transitioning to a school in a different neighborhood or returning to one of the rebuilt ones.


"There is some concern about that, of course," Stillman said. "There's always a concern that that's going to case an emotional reaction. It's normal that people experience that."


The new schools won't resemble the previous ones, which should lessen the trauma, Stillman said.


Romines, the incoming superintendent, said administrators are also discussing ways to honor the seven third-graders who died at Plaza Towers.


"We have plans to remember," Romines said. "We can't ever forget."






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Joan Williams: Why Men Work So Many Hours

How many employed American mothers work more than 50 hours a week? Go on, guess. I've been asking lots of people that question lately. Most guess around 50 percent.


The truth is nine percent.


Nine percent of working moms clock more than 50 hours a week during the key years of career advancement: ages 25 to 44. If we limit the sample to mothers with at least a college degree, the number rises only slightly, to 13.9 percent. (These statistics came from special tabulations of data from the U.S. Census Bureau's 2011 American Community Survey.)


This "long hours problem," analyzed so insightfully by Robin Ely and Irene Padavic, is a key reason why the percentage of women in top jobs has stalled at about 14 percent, a number that has barely budged in the past decade. We can't expect progress when the fast track that leads to top jobs requires a time commitment that excludes most mothers and, by extension, most women. A recent study by Joni Hersch of Vanderbilt Law School found that the mothers most likely to enter the fast track -- graduates of elite universities -- are less likely to be working full-time than mothers with less prestigious degrees. Only 45.3 percent of mothers who graduated from top-tier institutions and only 34.8 percent of MBAs have full-time jobs. Most aren't full-time homemakers: in addition to parenting, they typically have part-time jobs or community service roles. But you can bet your boots it's under-valued work that rarely, if ever, leads to positions of power.


Despite the obvious importance of the hours problem, progress has been limited. An increasingly common response is to declare victory.


"What flexibility means today is not part-time," the head of work-life at one large organization told me recently. "What people want is the ability to work anytime, anywhere." That's true if your target labor pool is twenty-somethings and men married to homemakers. The head of HR at another large organization asked, when I described the hours problem, "What do you mean, how can we get women to work more hours?"


We can't get mothers to work more hours. We've tried, and failed, for 40 years. Mothers won't bite for a simple reason: if they work 55 hours a week, they will leave home at, say, 8:30 and return at 8:30 every day of the workweek, assuming an average commute time. Most moms have this one little hang-up: they want to see their children awake. Increasingly, many fathers do, too.


And yet, after 40 years of intensive effort, the work-life frontier looks grim. Recent events confirm this. In late 2012, Bank of America announced that it was preparing to add more restrictions to its work-from-home program, reportedly to increase efficiency. Early this year, Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly ended the company's "results only work environment" (ROWE) program that judged corporate employees only on (gasp!) performance, and not where or how long they worked. And, of course, Marissa Mayer eliminated telecommuting at Yahoo! (Why have we only heard about that one? Because women CEOs are held to higher standards, that's why.)


Why are workplace flexibility programs so hard to sustain? The business case for such programs' benefits is well-known. The elimination of ROWE is particularly striking because the path-breaking work of Erin Kelly, Phyllis Moen and their colleagues has produced rigorous regressions that ROWE reduced turnover and turnover intentions, reduced employees' interruptions at work, reduced time employees' engaged in work of little value to the company, and increased employee's sense of job involvement, using rigorous social science methodology.


But the issue here is not money. At issue are manliness and morality.


For upper-middle class men, notes sociologist Michèle Lamont, ambition and a strong work ethic are "doubly sacred... as signals of both moral and socioeconomic purity. Elite men's jobs revolve around the work devotion schema, which communicates that high-level professionals should "demonstrate commitment by making work the central focus of their lives" and "manifest singular 'devotion to work,' unencumbered with family responsibilities," to quote sociologist Mary Blair-Loy. This ideal has roots in the 17th century Protestant work ethic, in which work was viewed as a "calling" to serve God and society. The religious connection has vanished... or has it?


Blair-Loy draws parallels between the words bankers used to describe their work -- "complete euphoria" or "being totally consumed" -- and Emile Durkheim's classic account of a religion ceremony among Australian natives. "I worshipped my mentor," said one woman. Work becomes a totalizing experience. "Holidays are a nuisance because you have to stop working," said one banker interviewed by Blair-Loy. "I remember being really annoyed when it was Thanksgiving. Damn, why did I have to stop working to go eat a turkey? I missed my favorite uncle's funeral, because I had a deposition scheduled that was too important."


Work devotion marries moral purity with elite status. Way back when I was a visiting professor at Harvard Law School, I used to call it the cult of busy smartness. How do the elite signal to each other how important they are? "I am slammed," is a socially acceptable way of saying "I am important." Fifty years ago, Americans signaled class by displaying their leisure: think banker's hours (9 to 3). Today, the elite -- journalist Chrystia Freeland calls them "the working rich" -- display their extreme schedules.


Not only is work devotion a "class act" --a way of enacting class status -- it's also a certain way of being a "real" man. Working long hours is seen as a "heroic activity," noted Cynthia Fuchs Epstein and her co-authors in their 1999 study of lawyers. Marianne Cooper's study of engineers in Silicon Valley closely observes how working long hours turns pencil pushing or computer keyboarding into a manly test of physical endurance. "There's a kind of machismo culture that you don't sleep," one father told her. "Successful enactment of this masculinity," Cooper concludes, "involves displaying one's exhaustion, physically and verbally, in order to convey the depth of one's commitment, stamina and virility."


Workplace norms cement felt truths that link long hours with manliness, moral stature and elite status. If work-family advocates think they can dislodge these "truths" with documentation of business benefits, they are sorely mistaken. The coverage of Marissa Mayer's decision to eliminate telecommuting highlights how even hard data get lost in the shuffle.


The press coverage acknowledged the robust evidence that telecommuting boosts productivity -- and then dismissed it as if productivity were a silly little side-issue. "Okay, okay, it might boost productivity," was the argument, "but it inhibits innovation." Okay, but after you spark those great ideas in the lunchroom, you need quiet time to work them through -- for which telecommuting is perfect. No mention of that, though.


So, here's where we stand. If institutions are serious about advancing women, they'll have to address the hours problem -- that's the only way to get a critical mass of women poised for leadership. But we'll never address the hours problem until we open up a conversation about what drives it.


It's not productivity. It's not innovation. It's identity. If you've lived a life where holidays are a nuisance, where you've missed your favorite uncle's funeral and your children's childhoods, in a culture that conflates manly heroism with long hours, it's going to take more than a few regressions to convince you it wasn't really necessary, after all, for your work to devour you.




This post originally appeared on HBR.org here.






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