Richard Branson Is Tired Of Government Inaction, And Here's What He's Doing About It

Mention Richard Branson and these days, you immediately think space travel. But he's got a lot more than that going on in his orbit right now.

We snagged a few minutes with the British industrialist and founder of Virgin Group when he was in town last week for a celebration with his nonprofit Carbon War Room, which aims to reduce carbon emissions.

Branson originally started the nonprofit after growing tired of government inaction when it comes to climate change. So in that same spirit, we talked to him about other disrupters in the world of nonprofit, business and tech. Oh and also, shooting Justin Bieber into space and -- other good deeds.

HuffPost: Coming off of UN Week and Clinton Global Initiative last week, who in business, tech or philanthropy is doing something really important and innovative right this minute?

Richard Branson: The first person that comes to mind is Jochen Zeitz, the former CEO of Puma, who is the co-founder of The B Team (which, like Carbon War Room, was started with Virgin Unite). He was one of the first to recognize the need for businesses to move away from solely profit-driven motives and instead concentrate on the long-term interest of people, the planet and the wider economy.

HP: So should business be doing more to tackle social problems? Bill Gates said last week that philanthropy should be doing more than business. Whose responsibility is it?

RB: In the past, businesses have been there to make profits and they've left the government and the social sector to look after the world. Business people have felt we should get together so business can be a force for good. They see things slightly differently than social workers or governments. The three of us should be able to do better.

HP: How about those millennials? They've been stamped with this insignia of little more than yuppies who like to complain, but do you think they are ready to be the next generation of leaders?

RB: Older people are often quick to criticize younger generations, but I have a huge belief in the potential of youth. I’m fortunate enough to travel around the world and everywhere I go I meet exceptional young people who are already becoming leaders in their communities. I have a lot of hope that the next generation can take on our biggest challenges, from climate change to conflict resolution.

HP: What about new tech? What innovations are going to help us solve critical problems?

RB: Well, for example, we [Carbon War Room] are using tech to help get 20 gigatons of carbon out of the atmosphere to balance the Earth's books. And tech is always innovating -- now, the same guy who designed your iPad is now trying to save a lot of energy in homes, making it more affordable.

HP: Your upcoming zero-gravity space trip will use satellites to monitor things like over-fishing and other problems that damage the Earth. We heard Paris Hilton and Justin Bieber signed up. Who else is on the guest list?

RB: My children Holly and Sam will be joining me on a Virgin Galactic flight next year. We can’t wait to get up there.

Business Feed :

Wheat Thins: Chili Pot

Advertising Agency: BEING, New York, USA

Chairman & CCO: Mark Figliulo

Creative Director: Samira Ansari

Creative Director: Lisa Topol

Art Director: Mitchell Ratchik

Copywriter: William Burks Spencer

Executive Producers: Darryl Hagans, Jason Souter

Group Account Director: Brett Edgar

Account Director: Hugo Murray

Account Executive: Hunter Serenbetz

Assistant Account Executive: Kelly Mendola

Production Company: Smith & Jones Films

Director: Ulf Johansson

Executive Producer: Philippa Smith

Line Producer: Megan Moore

Director of Photography: Andrzej Sekula

Editorial: Mackenzie Cutler

Editor: Erik Laroi

Assistant Editors: Lisa White, Brendan Hogan

Executive Producer: Sasha Hirschfeld

Producer: Evan Meeker

Sound Design: Sam Shaffer

After Effects: Joe Miller

EFX Company: MPC

VFX Supervisor: Mikael Petterson

2D Compositor: Jonathan McKee

VFX Producer: Philip Whalley

Telecine: Co3

Colorist – Tim Masick

Sound Design/Audio Mix: Heard City

Sound Design/Mix: Phil Loeb

Executive Producer: Gloria Pitagorsky

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Responsible Gambling Council: Easy to spot, 2

It's never this easy to spot a gambling problem. Get to know the real signs at

Advertising Agency: Red Lion, Canada

Creative Director: Brett Channer

Copywriter: Dave Pigeon

Art Director: Anand Iyer

Account Director: John Schofield

Account Executive: Reeti Ahluwalia

Print Producer: Cherie Rudy

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Responsible Gambling Council: Easy to spot, 1

It's never this easy to spot a gambling problem. Get to know the real signs at

Advertising Agency: Red Lion, Canada

Creative Director: Brett Channer

Copywriter: Dave Pigeon

Art Director: Anand Iyer

Account Director: John Schofield

Account Executive: Reeti Ahluwalia

Print Producer: Cherie Rudy

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Responsible Gambling Council: After school

Advertising Agency: Red Lion, Canada

Creative Director: Brett Channer

Copywriter: Dave Pigeon

Art Director: Anand Iyer

Director: Martin Shewchuk

Director of Photography: Simon Nestel

Editor: Stewart Pellat

Sound Design: Dino Cuzzalino / IQ Productions

Production House: IQ Productions

Executive Producer: Mark Bisson

Account Director: John Schofield

Agency Producer: Mark Bisson

Account Executive: Reeti Ahluwalia

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Responsible Gambling Council: Early start

Advertising Agency: Red Lion, Canada

Creative Director: Brett Channer

Copywriter: Dave Pigeon

Art Director: Anand Iyer

Director: Martin Shewchuk

Director of Photography: Simon Nestel

Editor: Stewart Pellat

Sound Design: Dino Cuzzalino / IQ Productions

Production House: IQ Productions

Executive Producer: Mark Bisson

Account Director: John Schofield

Agency Producer: Mark Bisson

Account Executive: Reeti Ahluwalia

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ADM Relocating Headquarters: St. Louis Eyes Rival Chicago

ST. LOUIS -- At opposite ends of Illinois, St. Louis and Chicago have famously parried for more than a century: St. Louis snatched the 1904 Olympics even after Chicago had been named the host city, and the disdain between St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs fans fuels one of baseball's biggest rivalries.

Now the competitors are facing off on a new field of play in trying to woo the new global headquarters of Archer Daniels Midland Co., an agricultural giant that has been based for decades in the central Illinois city of Decatur, roughly halfway between the two cities. The multibillion-dollar company announced last week it needed better access to its global customers, including an international airport. But it isn't just about the 200 executive and information technology jobs that are part of the deal. It's also about prestige and bragging rights – and no doubt tax revenue from the high-paying boardroom jobs_ that come with landing a company that's among the world's biggest players in agricultural processing, ranked No. 27 on the Fortune 500 list.

Houston, Minneapolis and Indianapolis also have been mentioned as contenders, though ADM is staying mum about its selection process. Chicago has been floated as a favorite by experts, largely because it's home to the nation's second busiest international airport and behemoth businesses including McDonald's, Sears and aircraft-maker Boeing Co.

But that hasn't discouraged its old rival some 300 miles away, which is promoting itself as an agribusiness mecca that already includes the seed giant Monsanto Co.

"We've gotta have our swagger," said Katy Jamboretz, who works for the St. Louis region's economic development agency. "This would be a huge victory if we were to land a company of that stature."

If St. Louis has a sporting chance, some submit fan loyalty could play some role: Decatur is downstate Illinois, where at least as many baseball fans root for the Cardinals as the Cubs, maybe including some top ADM executives.

"Check their closet for red ball caps," said Charlie Leonard, a lifelong Cardinal fan who teaches politics and public administration at Southern Illinois University.

But he acknowledged the Windy City has "a deeper bench" of selling points.

"I don't know what kind of odds I'd give, but Chicago would be the favorite," he said. "St. Louis is mentioned so that it doesn't look like it's rigged for Chicago. But St. Louis should be flattered by the attention and use it to get others to give it a look."

ADM, which turns corn, soybeans and other crops into everything from animal feed to ethanol, has said it will keep its North American headquarters in Decatur, along with about 4,400 jobs – roughly one-sixth of its 30,000 employees worldwide.

Neither Chicago nor St. Louis is saying much about incentives they may offer, but an Illinois legislator proposes giving the company a 10 percent break on utility taxes for up to 30 years and an income-tax credit if it remains in Illinois. It remains to be seen whether ADM's decision may be swayed by Illinois' dismal fiscal outlook – it's nearly $100 billion behind in funding its pension liability and recently hiked the corporate tax rate by 30 percent, prompting some companies to threaten to leave Illinois.

A spokesman for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Tom Alexander, would only say: "We'll do our best to keep them in Illinois."

That's not to say St. Louis hasn't had its own struggles. Over about the past two decades, the region has lost global bases for Anheuser-Busch, McDonnell Douglas, May Department Stores, Trans World Airlines and others to mergers.

Jamboretz shrugged off those losses, pointing instead to what may be the region's biggest selling point: It's already home to Monsanto, a global leader in genetically modified crops, and Bunge North America, a diverse agribusiness and food company.

Monsanto plans a $400-million expansion of its suburban St. Louis research center, heralding that it could bring 675 new jobs to the region. And the area also boasts the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, a 227-worker research institute that soon will undergo a $45 million upgrade, including a new building to accommodate more than 100 additional researchers.

ADM spokeswoman Victoria Podesta acknowledged that the company "is having discussions with various public officials," though she wouldn't elaborate. "We would like to do this in a low-key way," she said.

But there is no shortage of partisans who would tout their city over the competition. St. Louis fans might point out that the Cardinals have won 11 World Series since the Cubs won their last in 1908, six years after George A. Archer and John W. Daniels started their linseed-crushing business.

"I'm sure the Cubs would want to sell (ADM executives) season tickets and a luxury box, but the question is whether the company would want to buy them, with the way the Cubs have been down so much," acknowledged Al Yellon, a Chicago Cubs blogger.

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Hortifruti: Only the good ones, 3

Only the good ones get in.

Advertising Agency: MP, Espírito Santo, Brazil

Creative Directors: Mônica Debbané, Gustavo Mendonça

Art Director: Louis Debbané

Copywriter: Ezen Tavares

Illustrator: José Azevedo

Published: September 2013

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Hortifruti: Only the good ones, 2

Only the good ones get in.

Advertising Agency: MP, Espírito Santo, Brazil

Creative Directors: Mônica Debbané, Gustavo Mendonça

Art Director: Louis Debbané

Copywriter: Ezen Tavares

Illustrator: José Azevedo

Published: September 2013

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Financial Independence Is Getting Harder To Attain, Especially For African Americans (STUDY, INFOGRAPHIC)

The Shutdown Is Workplace Bullying Gone Wild

"Our challenge today is to explain how Congress evolved into our national nutcase." So says Gail Collins, in her excellent New York Times piece "Congress Cracks Up."

I'm not sure how many ways I can say I agree with Mrs. Collins, but suffice to say, I agree. Some of the members of the 113th Congress are acting probably more irrationally than any we've seen in decades. But, from what I see and what I've learned over the years, I'd say they aren't acting just like "nutcases," they're acting like what they are... workplace bullies.

In October of 2012, I wrote a piece on The Huffington Post, called "Who Did You Bully Today?" In it, I listed types of adult bullying that are not only getting in the way of efforts to keep kids from brutalizing each other, but are actively giving these kids full on bully lessons. Among the groups I listed was the United States Congress.

This is some of what I said then about our elected officials:
There are some great politicians out there, dedicated and devoted to the public good, and many are active supporters of violence prevention. But, as a group, "hired" by us to work together in essentially a two-party system, they would earn a great big "dysfunctional" label and earn it easily...

I'm hoping they'll gaze into their collective mirror and look at what's not working in their own halls. I think many of them would like to see more civility in the process of legislating.

I still await this civility, and have a feeling I will be "awaiting this civility" for a long time. We currently face a government shutdown and the tactics being used by the "shutdown" gang are textbook bully tactics.

Here's what I've learned about the types of workplace bullies from years of working with our Waitt Institute for Violence Prevention partners, Workplace Bullying Institute founders Drs. Gary and Ruth Namie, and from studying the work of the late workplace bullying activist Tim Field.

The first four types come from the Drs. Namie, and the last four come from Tim Field

See if the behavior of our people on the Hill doesn't sound like the types of schoolhouse nemesis we've all faced.

1) The Screaming Mimi -- These are the specialists in "the outbursts." Some of the rants are well timed, and some are just uncontrolled. Either way, it's not the most effective tactic, although they rarely know that. They're the classic "slam them into the locker" types.They tend to lose their temper at each other and sometimes the host in double screened news show interviews. It's fun to watch for a few minutes, until you change the channel because really nothing of value is being heard or said.

2)The Constant Critic -- Haven't we all experienced the "know it all"? They rarely know it all, but they'll let you know they do, both on the floor and on the networks. Like Downton Abbey's dowager countess, "I am never wrong," and the elementary school tattle tale, it's always someone else's fault. Always.

3)The Two-Headed Snake -- I like to think of these folks as the "divide and conquer" champions of the playground. The "enemy of my enemy is my friend" tactic is at work here. Backstabbing is their game and they do it well.

4)The Gatekeeper -- This one is my personal favorite when it comes to Congress. If you can't do something yourself, then keep someone else from doing anything at all. Obstruction, obstruction, and more obstruction. Nothing gets done, and they like it that way.

5. The Attention Seeker -- The "grandstanders"! The speech makers that everyone starts to tune out are in it for themselves. They love the attention, they love the press, they love to be noticed. They're the class clown with a mean streak, and the show off that no one likes. They don't play well with others, because it's all about them.

6. The Wannabe -- These are the Hill dwellers who just aren't very competent. Knowing this, they'll make sure others look as clueless as they are. It keeps the focus off their deficiencies. If little Johnny isn't the best student in class, he'll make sure little Susie and little Bobby look worse than he does.

7. The Guru -- In their minds, they are above all criticism and above reproach. They may be experts, but in their minds, they're the only experts. Possible "teacher's pet." This is the kid with their hand raised-all the time.

8. The Sociopath -- This is the most dangerous type of bully, with no empathy, no loyalty, no bonds. Like many sociopaths, they are master manipulators, and can be charming in getting to their goal, which is always to look out for themselves. Period.

And we want our children to stop bullying each other? Ms. Collins asks in her excellent piece, ""So, what do you think is wrong with these people?" I would simply answer, see above.

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Hispters and Suits Are All Rethinking Work-Life

I got to experience two workplace meetings recently that on the surface seemed like two very different orbits. One was held in a trendy loft in Manhattan where hipsters brought dogs and attendees ate cakes out of mason jars. The other was held in a standard corporate conference room where business attire and strong coffee reigned.

Despite the contrasts, the mission of both gatherings was the same -- make work work better by creating what we at Families and Work Institute sometimes call "sustainable workplaces."

One meeting was the Conference Board's Work Life Leadership Council -- representing the stalwarts of Corporate America's human resources world -- and the other was the Work Revolution Summit - representing the tech-savvy entrepreneurial world.

The Council brought in young speakers to get insights on what men and women want and need out of work today. And the Summit brought in old speakers to find out what men and women want and need out of work today. (There were folks of all ages at both events, but I'm trying to make a point here.)

Tiffany Dufu with Levo League and a member of Lean In circle's national launch team told Council members there's a lot more to being successful than just simply achieving results. And Matt Schneider, co-founder of NYC Dads Group, spoke about "the breadwinner penalty" and how men are expected to work hard above all else, not spend time with family.

At the Summit, Tony Schwartz, founder of The Energy Project, extoled the values of being all in at work and in your personal life, and creating a better culture by doing more for employees; and marketing guru Seth Godin wanted people to take more chances at work, big chances that could even get them fired.

Aside from Godin's advice, which seemed out of touch for the regular working stiffs out there, all the speakers and attendees had their hearts in the right place. The ultimate objective for almost everyone involved was rethinking the way we work today. A befitting concept to ponder this October in particular since it's National Work and Family Month.

It proved to me that whether you're toiling away in the halls of large corporations, or a small startup with a Ping-Pong table, the issues of work end up converging.

A great example of this came from Paloma Medina, Manager of Learning and Development at Etsy, the ecommerce site for handmade products. She said the company had always had an entrepreneurial, start-up mentality, letting employees figure out their own ways to work; but now that the company is growing suddenly it's not as easy to maintain that entrepreneurial ethos, especially with more rank and file workers being added to fill orders.

Turns out success brings with it a host of challenges when it comes to work, and before you know it an upstart company can become just another immovable corporate statue.

Indeed, many of the speakers and attendees at the Summit talked about how they escaped Corporate America early in their careers because they just couldn't handle the inflexible work and cubicle model. And many speakers and attendees at the Council meeting focused on how they needed to change the inflexible work mentality; and as for cubicles, there are hopes open workspaces and hoteling may soften that image.

At the end of the week on my train ride home, I tried to digest everything I'd heard, all the ideas and hopes for the future. Clearly, figuring out how to create a more flexible and effective workplace for organizations of all types and sizes would make life easier for small companies, and it would lead to better work environments at big companies.

Ultimately we all have to realize that work without flexibility, without boundaries, will doom our own health, our employees' health, our companies' health, and invariably the health of the nation.

How do we get there?

It's all about fostering workforce sustainability similar to the environmental sustainability movement. But instead of figuring out how humans can better interact with nature employers are figuring out how humans can better interact with and thrive at work. There are six key steps needed to nourish the workplace soil and create a thriving culture.

This multi dimensional strategy to develop a better workplace ecosystem encompasses:

• Work/life/play

• Job autonomy/job challenge,

• Supervisor support,

• Perpetual learning,

• Climate of respect and trust,

• Economic security.

But most importantly it's seeing ourselves and our employees as human beings first.

Schwartz put a fine point on it during the Revolution Summit: "Renewal is something that's fundamentally human. We're not designed to operate like computers."

(Here's Families and Work Institute's take on what makes a Sustainable Workplace)

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How Much Mortgage Can You Afford?

Before you apply for a home loan, evaluate your personal finances. How much you earn versus how much you owe will likely determine how much a lender will let you borrow. Read on to learn how to do the math. (You can also use's Home Affordability Calculator to determine how much house you can afford.)

Add Up Your Income

First, determine your gross monthly income. This includes any regular and recurring income that you can document. If you can't document the income, or if it doesn't show up on your tax return, then you can't list it to qualify for a loan. However, you can use unearned sources of income such as alimony or lottery payoffs. And if you own income-producing assets such as real estate or stocks, the income from those can be estimated and used in this calculation. If you have questions about your specific situation, any good loan officer can review the rules.

Add Up Your Debt

Next, calculate your monthly debt load. This includes all monthly obligations like credit cards, installment loans, car loans, personal debts or any other monthly payment like alimony or child support. For revolving debt like a credit card, use the minimum monthly payment for this calculation. For installment debt, use the current monthly payment. And you don't have to consider a debt at all if it is scheduled to be paid off in less than six months. Add everything up to get a figure we'll call your monthly debt service.

How Lenders Calculate What You Can Pay

Most lenders don't want you to take out a home loan that will overload your ability to repay everyone you owe. Although every lender has slightly different formulas, here is a rough idea of how they look at the numbers.

Typically, your monthly housing expense, including monthly payments for taxes and insurance, should not exceed 28 percent of your gross monthly income. If you don't know what your tax and insurance expense will be, estimate about 15 percent of your payment. The remainder can be used for principal and interest repayment.

In addition, your proposed monthly housing expense and your total monthly debt service combined cannot exceed 36 percent of your gross monthly income. If it does, your application may exceed the lender's underwriting guidelines, and your loan may not be approved.

Depending on your individual situation, there may be more or less flexibility in the 28 percent and 36 percent guidelines. For example, if you can make a large down payment and thus borrow less than 80 percent of the home's value, the qualifying ratios become less critical. Likewise, if a rich uncle is willing to co-sign the loan, lenders will be much less focused on the guidelines discussed here.

Explore Your Loan Options

Remember that there are hundreds of loan programs available in today's lending market, and each has different guidelines. So, don't be discouraged if your dream home seems out of reach.

Also keep in mind that you control a number of factors that affect your monthly payment. For example, you might choose to apply for an adjustable-rate loan, which has a lower initial payment than a fixed-rate program. Or you can make a larger down payment, which will lower your projected monthly payment.

For more tips on calculating your mortgage and financing advice, visit

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Hortifruti: Only the good ones, 1

Only the good ones get in.

Advertising Agency: MP, Espírito Santo, Brazil

Creative Directors: Mônica Debbané, Gustavo Mendonça

Art Director: Louis Debbané

Copywriter: Ezen Tavares

Illustrator: José Azevedo

Published: September 2013

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Obama: Government Shutdown Would Be 'Height Of Irresponsibility,' It's 'Entirely Preventable'

President Barack Obama spoke from the White House Monday on the looming government shutdown.

"If the Congress does not fulfill its responsibility to pass a budget today, most of the government will shut down tomorrow," Obama said.

Obama gave a rundown of how a government shutdown would affect Americans. He noted that "NASA will shut down almost entirely" though Mission Control will remain active; national parks and monuments will close; and veterans will find support centers unstaffed.

"A shutdown will have a very real economic impact on a lot of people right away," Obama said.

"The idea of putting people's hard-earned progress at risk is the height of irresponsibility, and it does not have to happen," Obama said.

Obama said a shutdown "is entirely preventable" if the House acts as the Senate already has. Obama also directly addressed those who think using Obamacare as a bargaining chip in budget negotiations will keep the health care law from being implemented.

"You can't shut it down," Obama said of the health care law.

"Does anybody truly believe that we won't have this fight again in a couple more months?" Obama asked.

Obama called keeping the government open a "basic responsibility" and said preventing a shutdown wouldn't be seen as a point of weakness.

"Keeping the government open is not a concession to me," Obama said.

This is developing... Check back for more...

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7 Charts That Show Just How Bad Things Are For Young People

Young people are taking longer to launch their careers, but it's not totally their fault, a report released Monday from Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce, found.

"What we see here is it's the economy, not attitudes," Anthony Carnevale, the director of the Georgetown center, told The Huffington Post. Young job seekers are having trouble finding work and making money because of structural changes that have been taking place for some time, according to the report.

Here are 7 charts from the report that illustrate some of the most frightening trends.

The share of young people in the labor force is at its lowest point since 1972.

labor force participation

The situation is so bad that young people make up a much larger share of America's unemployed population than they do of the nation's workforce.

employed vs unemployed

For the young people who are lucky enough to have jobs, it's taking longer than ever to start earning the median wage. In 1980, the average worker hit the median wage at 26, now that number has gone up to 30.

young adults wages

And the earnings of men ages 18 to 29 have been declining relative to the earnings of everyone else since 1980.

mens earnings

The result is that it's getting harder for young Americans to build up any wealth. Older Americans had 44 times as much wealth as younger Americans in 2009. That's up from 13 times as much wealth in 1984.

wealth gap

And the job market is bound to get even more competitive. By 2020, more than 65 percent of jobs will require a degree beyond high school.

jobs degrees

This is especially troubling because government spending for higher education has been on the decline since 1999.

higher education spending

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Obamacare Exchanges To Launch Tuesday Despite Obstacles, Glitches, Top Health Official Says

WASHINGTON -- Nothing will stop the Tuesday rollout out of the centerpiece of President Barack Obama's health care reform law, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Monday.

Obamacare's health insurance exchanges, online marketplaces for people who are uninsured or buy coverage directly, will launch on Tuesday, despite the looming possibility of a government shutdown, Republican calls for delay and the likelihood of glitches in the system, Sebelius said during a meeting with reporters at the department's headquarters.

"Shutdown or no shutdown, we're ready to go start enrolling people tomorrow," Sebelius said. "All of us see this as sort of the eve of a new chapter. We're about to make some history."

More than three years after Obama signed his landmark health care overhaul into law, consumers can begin using the health insurance exchanges on Tuesday, the start of a six-month sign-up period for coverage that begins as soon as Jan. 1. The health insurance exchanges will enable people who don't get health benefits at work or who aren't enrolled in a government program like Medicare to compare health plans on price and benefits, and to learn whether they qualify for financial assistance.

The Obama administration has been insistent in recent weeks that the health insurance exchanges would open on time in the more than 30 states where the federal government is running at least part of them. Sixteen states and the District of Columbia are operating their own health insurance exchanges, and a few have acknowledged that they won't be fully functional right away. The federally operated exchanges will go live at 8:00 a.m. EDT Tuesday, another Health and Human Services official told reporters.

Sebelius repeated the assurances offered by other officials and restated the administration's expectation that the health insurance exchanges will encounter some difficulties in the early days.

"We're likely to have some glitches. We will fix them and move on. Is this a sign that the law is flawed and failed? I don't think so," Sebelius said. "There are people who I'm sure would like to declare the bill done and gone by the end of the first week in October."

Likening the launch of the health insurance exchanges to Apple releasing operating system updates to resolve flaws on devices like iPhones and iPads, Sebelius pleaded for the public's patience when problems arise.

"No one is calling on Apple to not sell devices for a year or to get out of the business because the whole thing is a failure. Everybody just assumes, well, there's a problem, we'll fix it, we'll move on," she said. "Hopefully, they'll give us the same slack they give Apple."

The Wall Street Journal and others have reported that the federally run health insurance exchanges were producing inaccurate figures when calculating the size of tax credits for low- and middle-income consumers, especially in more complicated cases, such as when family members would receive health coverage from different sources.

But Sebelius said Monday, "We are confident that the accuracy level is there."

Health and Human Services officials showed reporters a preview of how consumers will shop for health insurance on the federal exchanges, or learn whether they qualify for government benefits like Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program.

The multi-step process begins with creating an account and entering personal information about the applicant and his or her family, including addresses, ages, Social Security numbers, income information, and whether anyone uses tobacco. These factors all contribute to determining the price of health insurance and how much, if any, financial assistance the household can receive.

Tax credits are available to people earning between the federal poverty level, which is $11,490 for a single person this year, and four times that amount, or about $46,000. Additional subsidies are available to defray out-of-pocket costs like co-payments and deductibles for people who make up to 250 percent of the poverty level, or about $29,000 for an individual.

People who make up to 133 percent of the poverty level will be eligible for Medicaid benefits, but only in about half of states because many refused to use Obamacare funds to expand their Medicaid programs. Health insurance exchange shoppers eligible for Medicaid will be referred to state agencies for applications, a Health and Human Services official said.

After determining whether a person qualifies for financial assistance or government benefits, the federal exchange will allow the consumer to compare the costs and benefits of health insurance plans from various providers. After completing an application, consumers will have to contact the insurance company of their choice to set up payments.

Health coverage purchased by Dec. 15 will be in effect on Jan. 1; consumers will wait a few weeks for plans chosen later. The enrollment period ends March 31, barring a change in personal circumstances, like losing a job or getting married.

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5 Ways to Launch a Successful Online Business

Brands Try to Have an Oreo Moment With 'Breaking Bad' Finale


The subject matter may have been dark, but the audience was huge — so some brands couldn't resist trying for real-time marketing tie-ins with the Breaking Bad series finale on Sunday

Marketers tried their best to find elements in the show to address. For instance, a poisoning plot point in the finale provided an opportunity for some brands in the alternative sweetener category

Spoiler alert: In the final episode, antihero Walter White replaces a character's stevia with the poison ricin, ensuring fatal consequences. Though stevia is an unbranded ingredient, marketers of products using stevia, including Truvia and soft drink Zevia, have addressed the mention in their Twitter feeds: Read more...

More about Twitter, Marketing, Business, and Breaking Bad

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Wildlife Rangers Featured In Final Video Of WWF Series 'Stop Wildlife Crime' (VIDEO)

"Every four days, a ranger is killed in the line of duty."

So begins the final video in the World Wildlife Fund's comprehensive and troubling series, "Stop Wildlife Crime." The short film highlights the ongoing, and increasingly violent, efforts by wildlife rangers to protect endangered species including elephants, rhinos and tigers.

Demand for both ivory and rhino horn has skyrocketed in recent years. Nearly 700 rhinos have been slaughtered in South Africa this year, surpassing last year's record of 668. Wildlife experts also estimate more than 35,000 African elephants were killed in 2012.

You can add to the conversation with the hashtag #StopWildlifeCrime, and head on over to the WWF's YouTube page to watch the other videos in the series.

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Was ‘Breaking Bad’ Really a Financial Hit?

Dan Mitchell

For all the hype surrounding “Breaking Bad’s final season—and especially last night’s finale—the show’s ratings were not only considerably lower than those of many other cable shows, but represented only a fraction of top-ranked network fare. The finale drew an estimated 10.3 million viewers. Despite blanket news media coverage, media appearances by cast members, and social media being overrun with Heisenberg talk, the finale didn’t even match the *average* of AMC’s biggest hit, “The Walking Dead.” The zombie-fest drew between 9 million and 11 million viewers on average last season—higher than any drama on television, including on the broadcast networks. According to Advertising Age, the average cost of a 30-second spot on “The Walking Dead” last season was between $200,000 and $250,000, with last-minute buys reaching as high as $375,000. The “Breaking Bad” finale drew a reported $250,000 for each 30-second spot. Last season, before the hype began to crest, ads were going for an average of just $56,000. The show was unquestionably a huge success for AMC, but perhaps more for its cultural currency than its actual currency (though the fact that more than half of the show’s viewers were in the all-important 18-49 age demo didn’t hurt). Together with “The Walking Dead,” and “Mad Men,” “Breaking Bad” helped AMC become an advertising powerhouse: the network’s ad revenues leaped by 14% last quarter, to $147 million. Walter White may be dead, but the undead hordes of “The Walking Dead,” and the spiritually dead ad men of “Mad Men,” will help AMC get over the loss. “Mad Men” has only one season left. (MORE: How to Make Airline Tickets Less … Awful) Elsewhere on cable, Duck Dynasty—a hugely successful show about a family that makes duck calls—drew 9.6 million viewers for its season finale. “The Bible,” on The History Channel, drew an average 11.3 million viewers, though many of them outside of the 18-49 “dollar demo.” The numbers add to the continuing story of media fragmentation. The last comparable television event signoff was probably the series finale of “Friends” in

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McDonald's Drive-Thru Service Is Slower Than Ever. Here's Why (VIDEO)

Fast food is slowing down.

Customers are waiting longer than ever to drive away with a quick meal, even at fast food behemoths like McDonald's. The home of the golden arches recently saw its average wait time climb to 189.5 seconds from order to pick-up, which is 9 seconds above the industry average and ranks as the slowest ever for McDonald's.

In an industry where most major companies do between 60 and 70 percent of their business at the drive-thru, even a small increase in wait times can be bad news. HuffPost Live's Josh Zepps talked with Matthew Ong, a retail analyst at Nerd Wallet, about what might be to blame for the longer wait.

"It's because the menus are getting more complicated," Ong said. "As these fast food chains start offering more options -- a lot of those because they're trying to be healthier but they also don't want to eliminate those cult favorites they still have on the menu in general -- the menu has just ballooned."

Ong said a more streamlined collection of offerings is the key to keeping the drive-thru model efficient.

"McDonald's is going to be like many other fast food chains -- they're going to have to face some tough choices on what they want to actually keep on their menu and what they want to get rid of," he said.

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Harry Reid Compares Tea Party To Bullies In Shutdown Fight

WASHINGTON -- Senate Democrats argued Monday that they couldn't give an inch on whittling away Obamacare in a government funding bill because it would be like encouraging bullies to hit them again and again with other fast-approaching must-pass pieces of legislation.

"With a bully, you cannot let them slap you around because today they slap you five or six times," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters. "Tomorrow it's seven or eight times. We are not going to be bullied."

Reid noted that Democrats have agreed to fund the government for six weeks at the spending levels that the tea party-driven Republicans want. "We have done everything we can," he said.'

The Senate majority leader argued that a standoff next month over raising the nation's $16.7 trillion debt ceiling would be even worse than shutting down the federal government.

"This is horrible what they're doing now, but as the Business Roundtable has said, the Chamber of Commerce said, the debt ceiling is cataclysmic. They are playing with fire, and the American people know who's creating the fire," Reid said.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) added to that later, telling reporters in a brief hallway interview that giving in on funding the government now would lead to hostage-taking on both raising the debt ceiling and passing a full-year spending bill in November or December.

"Anything on Obamacare, if we were to give in to them, then the hard right would say, 'See, all we have to do is hang tough on the debt ceiling and we'll get more. All we have to do is hang tough on full funding of the government in December and we'll get more.' If you give in to this kind of extortion, you will be extorted again even more so," Schumer said.

Michael McAuliff covers Congress and politics for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.

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Obama To Speak On Budget Negotiations

President Barack Obama will speak Monday afternoon on the ongoing budget negotiations in Congress.

Obama also spoke on the looming government shutdown Friday afternoon. If Congress doesn't agree on a budget by midnight ET, the government will shut down for the first time in 17 years.

This is developing... Check back for more...

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Competition Bureau won't appeal ruling on credit card fees

Visa MaterCard Fees

The Competition Bureau says it will not appeal a tribunal decision to dismiss a bureau complaint that accused Visa and MasterCard of exerting too much power in forcing merchants to accept credit cards that carry higher fees.

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'Breaking Bad' Home Listing On Craigslist Is Super Clever, Century 21 (PHOTO)

We're not here to spoil the "Breaking Bad" series finale for those who missed it last night. But we will give major props to real estate agency Century 21 and the clever way they used the show for brand promotion.

According to Ad Age, Century 21 posted a fake listing of Walter White's home on Craigslist. The ad, which appeared hours before Sunday's show, is still on the site. It states the house is an "Albuquerque Palace." Its description was a nod to the show -- there's a two-car garage perfect for a Pontiac Aztek or Chrysler 300. "Walter's house is like its own character on the show ... as the show is coming to an end we felt like the home is going to receive a lot of attention," Matt Gentile, director of social media for the company told Ad Age.

You can trust that this was only a spoof, as the real owners of the house, Fran and Louie Padilla, told TMZ they would never, ever sell their beloved home.

Here's the Craigslist ad from Century 21:

breaking bad

breaking bad

Head over to Ad Age and Craigslist for more information. Be sure to check out Century 21's Twitter for more on "Breaking Bad."

Watch the video above to see the actual home used in the series.

Have something to say? Check out HuffPost Home on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr and Instagram.


Do you have a home story idea or tip? Email us at (PR pitches sent to this address will be ignored.)

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Today's Marketing Cookie: Your Photos Never Sounded So Good

Today's Fortune: "You have musical talents. Make them known."

Today's Marketing Cookie® is about photos that sing.

2013-09-27-TodaysMarketingCookie20130926.jpgThere is an old saying, "a picture is worth a thousand words", and thanks to my friends at Shuttersong, great photos are no longer silent. With a simple click of a button, your photos can speak, they can sing, and unlike videos, they've never looked so good.

Visual content is shared and liked as many as twelve times more than text or links on social networking sites. Agencies like ours have been working in a perpetual huddle to develop strategies for maximizing the power of photos for the brands we represent. We do this, because it works. We overlay brand messaging on photos, we add quotes, captions, sayings, offers and calls-to-action, all in an attempt to extend the power of photos into a vehicle for delivering more prospects into the sales funnel.

For instance, the following photo was submitted by an enthusiastic M&M's fan, and her quote was printed on the image. Imagine how much more powerful this photo could have been if Jennifer had used Shuttersong to record herself saying, "I LOVED it." Wow! No matter how you look at it, even though the M&M's marketing team used ALL CAPS to capture Jennifer's excitement, something is lost in the translation. Seeing the transcript of her quote will never be as impactful as hearing the excitement in her voice.


2013-09-27-shuttersong.png Capturing user-generated photos is but one example of how Shuttersong presents an untapped, new opportunity for marketers. With some clever thinking, brands can also use Shuttersong to deliver rich media advertising messages in the photos already being published, shared and syndicated through all social channels.

Best of all, users do not need the free Shuttersong app to hear your photos. Watch the video below to get a great sense of how Shuttersong works, and you'll see what today's fortune is talking about as it says, "You have musical talents. Make them known."

About today's fortune

Every day, Myles Bristowe, the CMO at CommCreative writes a blog post based on whatever it says in other people's fortune cookies. The photo for today's fortune (above) came from Marsh Cochran Sutherland of Lincoln, MA. Marsh is an experienced Boston area startup founder and a proven social media marketing evangelist. Marsh is consistently ranked Top 10 in the world's Top 100 Startup Experts To Follow On Twitter... and for good reason. For further inspiration, I encourage you to follow Marsh on Twitter: @marshsutherland & @socialgrow

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Shutdown In Federal Government Looms, Workers Prepare For Process

WASHINGTON -- Federal employees will still have to report to work for about four hours Tuesday even if the government shuts down.

Federal agencies have told employees that the only work they can do must be related to the shutdown. Shutdown tasks include changing voicemail messages, posting an out-of-office message on email, securing work stations and documents and completing time cards. Once they head home, furloughed employees are under strict orders not to do any work. That means no checking emails on Blackberries or smart phones.

Office managers are encouraging workers to leave government-issued equipment in a secure place in the office.

If a shutdown continues, all employees can expect to be paid on schedule on Oct. 15, 2013 for hours worked from Sept. 22 through Sept. 30.

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Wall Street Deregulation Bills Likely To Attract Bipartisan Support After Shutdown Negotiations

WASHINGTON -- When the drama surrounding a government shutdown abates, the House of Representatives expects to take up legislation to expand taxpayer support for derivatives, the complex financial products at the heart of the 2008 meltdown. And while traditionally straightforward tasks like funding the federal government have become raucously contentious in recent weeks, a bill subsidizing Wall Street banks is likely to garner significant bipartisan support.

Also on the post-shutdown agenda is legislation that would prevent the Department of Labor and the SEC from implementing new consumer protection standards for 401(k) accounts and other retirement funds.

Both bills are efforts to roll back reforms that passed under the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform bill. A small cadre of liberal Democrats are marshaling opposition to the bills, but still expect dozens of Democrats to join a united Republican Party in passing the legislation.

"As we're trying to forestall a government shutdown, we've got these ugly financial services bills on the horizon," said Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), co-chair of the House Progressive Caucus. "It's a multi-pronged attack on the middle class."

Dodd-Frank banned companies that sell some types of derivatives from receiving government perks like cheap loans from the Federal Reserve or deposit insurance from the FDIC. Any bank that continued to sell these derivatives would be forced to wall them off in a separate subsidiary that didn't receive taxpayer support. Credit rating agencies grant more favorable ratings to derivatives that are sold from within taxpayer-insured banks, making such derivatives more profitable. Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and Bank of America are the biggest players in the derivatives market, although Goldman doesn't deal derivatives from its taxpayer-backed unit.

The House Agriculture Committee approved legislation in March to repeal Dodd-Frank's limits on taxpayer support for derivatives by a vote of 31 to 14; and the bill passed the House Financial Services Committee two months later by a margin of 53 to 6. Republican support in both committees was unanimous. Two of the bill's four original cosponsors are Democrats -- Reps. Jim Himes (D-Conn.) and Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), and other Democrats, including Rep. David Scott (D-Ga.), have defended the bill in committee hearings.

"[This] was never given proper consideration in the House during the initial development of Dodd-Frank and ... it could have substantial unintended consequences," Scott said in March hearing. "It could lead to less and lower quality capital in the affiliate, thereby actually increasing risk."

At the same hearing, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) warned against the derivatives bill, citing the deregulation of the 1990s.

"Two of the worst votes I ever made in this place was the Commodity [Futures] Modernization Act of 2000 that exempted all of these [derivatives] from any regulation," Peterson said. "You're putting taxpayers on the hook. And if you wanna do that, fine ... You can vote any way you want, but this could come back and haunt you."

The 401(k) bill cleared the House Financial Services Committee in June by a vote of 44 to 13. Dodd-Frank required the SEC to conduct a study on new standards for brokers and investment advisers, and in January 2011, the agency released a study urging strong new protections. The recommendations included support for a rule obligating investment professionals to manage their clients' funds based solely on what is in the client's best financial interest without regard to what transactions would benefit the fund manager's company.

"If you're going to be giving people what everyone would understand to be retirement advice, you have to do it in that person's best interest," Ellison said. "You can't do it in your best interest, pushing products that you're going to profit from without telling your client."

Both the SEC and the Labor Department have delayed their rules amid heavy pressure from financial firms, and the House will soon consider legislation that would impose a new set of delays.

The bills could be voted on as early as this week, depending on whether or not the government shuts down at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday morning. Supporters of the legislation hope it will clear the full House sometime between the shutdown drama and the partisan standoff over raising the debt ceiling. Both bills are strongly supported by Wall Street banks and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the most prominent lobbying group for large corporations, and are opposed by the Consumer Federation of America and labor unions.

Liberal Democrats said they expect to rally stronger opposition to the 401(k) bill than against the derivatives bill, because the risks to future retirees is more easily understood than that posed by derivatives.

President Barack Obama is unlikely to sign either bill into law, but opponents worry that a strong showing of bipartisan support could persuade him to approve the legislation. In 2012, Obama signed off on another financial deregulatory bill dubbed "The JOBS Act" amid significant support from both parties in Congress.

In response to the prospect of the bills coming to a vote, Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) said, "Why don't we just save ourselves some time and hand Goldman Sachs a trillion dollars?"

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Hulu CEO Rethinks the Concept of Ads on Paid Subscriptions

hulu plus

What do Netflix and Amazon Prime have in common? Besides being two of the most popular movie and TV streaming services, they don’t put ads on their shows.

Hulu looks a lot like Netflix. They have loads of new and classic TV shows and movies that you can stream right now, on your computer, your tablet or phone. But with Hulu, you get commercials. Lots and lots and lots of commercials. Three 30-second spots per half hour – which doesn’t sound so bad when you read it but it’s bad when you’ve watched the same ad three times in forty minutes.

But hey, it’s free so they have to pay for the shows somehow, right?

Not really, because Hulu Plus, the paid subscription side of the service, has ads, too. Maybe, just maybe, that’s why the service isn’t doing so well. I know it’s the reason I canceled my subscription.

After two failed attempts to sell the business, Hulu’s CEO Andy Forssell is rethinking the plan. He told investors that he intends to scale back the number of ads in the video streams. He’s also considering a higher level account that eliminates ads altogether. It works for Netflix, but Hulu doesn’t have a large customer base – so subscriptions alone won’t pay the bills. Not right now but that’s okay because Disney, 21st Century Fox and NBCUniversal, co-owners of the site, recently invested $750 million in the biz.

Said Forssell,

“What the $750 million lets us do is press down the accelerator and grow (the subscription business) faster, both through content and marketing. We want to get it to scale.”

Hulu has a younger, richer audience than broadcast TV. You can see who their demo is just by hitting the front page of the site. New shows from Fox, Saturday Night Live, Family Guy. They run a large number of shows from around the world and they have a whole channel devoted to video game news and trailers. Hulu should work. It’s a whole different vibe from Netflix and Amazon Instant. It’s more like YouTube with production value – and it’s backed by three of the biggest entertainment powerhouses.

Hulu should be making money and tons of it – maybe, instead of getting brands to buy ads, they should get them to sponsor content. That’s how you satisfy both the accountants and the consumers.

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Brookfield Property buys Brookfield Office in $5B deal

Brookfield Office

Toronto-listed Brookfield Property Partners LP plans to buy Brookfield Office Properties Inc. in a $5-billion US deal that it said will create one of the world's largest commercial property companies.

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Friday's Jobs Report Won't Be Released If There's A Shutdown

WASHINGTON — The Labor Department has no plans to release the closely watched U.S. monthly jobs report as scheduled Friday in case of a partial government shutdown that lasts through the week.

A Labor official with direct knowledge says there wouldn't be enough staffers on site to compile the jobs report. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to discuss the matter publicly. A document the department filed Friday says its Bureau of Labor Statistics, which prepares the jobs data, would have only three employees working in case of a partial government shutdown.

The monthly jobs report includes the unemployment rate and the number of jobs employers added. It is one of the most influential economic reports in the world. Its data can heavily affect global financial markets.

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Advertising Watchdog 'Concerned' About Native Advertising

The National Advertising Division's first official look into sponsored content determined that an article series running on Mashable earlier this year was appropriately identified, the group said Monday.

An NAD spokeswoman said the nearly six-month examination into a campaign from Qualcomm for its Snapdragon processor chip was part of the group's routine monitoring program. The NAD is the marketing industry's self-regulatory body, backed by agencies and marketers.

The campaign had come to the NAD's attention after Mashable removed the "sponsored by" label that ran with a 20-article series Snapdragon had sponsored. The removal is what prompted the NAD's examination of the campaign, according to Laura Brett, staff attorney at NAD.

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