Democracy vs. Oligarchy

2014-03-31-freedomofspeech.jpgIn his 1943 painting "Freedom of Speech," Norman Rockwell illustrated American democracy in action by depicting a man speaking up at a town meeting. A framed poster of Rockwell's painting hangs proudly on a wall in my Senate office in Burlington, Vt.

Since 1990, when I was first elected to Congress, I have held hundreds of town meetings in almost every community in Vermont. Just this past Sunday I held a town meeting in Middlebury, Vt., with a video connection to meetings in three other towns. At these town meetings I listen to what my constituents have to say, answer questions and give a rundown of what I'm working on and what's going on in Washington.

This process -- an elected official meeting with ordinary citizens -- is called "democracy."

Ironically, at the same time as I was holding town meetings in Vermont, a handful of prospective 2016 Republican presidential candidates (Jeb Bush, John Kasich, Chris Christie and Scott Walker) trekked to Las Vegas to audition for the support of Sheldon Adelson, the multibillionaire casino tycoon who spent at least $93 million underwriting conservative candidates in the last election cycle. Those candidates were in Las Vegas for the sole purpose of attempting to win hundreds of millions from him for their presidential campaigns.

The disastrous 2010 Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United threw out campaign funding laws that limited what wealthy individuals and corporations could spend on elections. Since that ruling, campaign spending by Adelson, the Koch brothers and a handful of other billionaire families has fundamentally undermined American democracy. If present trends continue, elections will not be decided by one-person, one-vote, but by a small number of very wealthy families who spend huge amounts of money supporting right-wing candidates who protect their interests.

This process -- a handful of the wealthiest people in our country controlling the political process -- is called "oligarchy."

The great political struggle we now face is whether the United States retains its democratic heritage or whether we move toward an oligarchic form of society where the real political power rests with a handful of billionaires, not ordinary Americans.

Clearly, if we are to retain the fundamentals of American democracy, we need to overturn the Supreme Court decision. The fact that more than 500 communities and 16 states have expressed support for overturning Citizens United is a good step forward, but much more needs to be done.

Overturning Citizens United, however, is not enough. If we are serious about elections being fought over ideas, we must move toward public funding of elections.

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Babcock wins UK nuclear clean-up deal

British engineering contractors and US group Fluor given £7bn contract covering sites such as Hinkley, Sizewell and Dungeness

Britain has awarded a 14-year, £7bn contract to manage the decommissioning of its nuclear sites to engineering contractors Babcock and US group Fluor. The deal covers some of Britain's oldest nuclear power sites, including Hinkley, Sizewell and Dungeness, and is one of the largest contracts the country has put out to tender.

Britain's Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) said the contract should save at least £1bn from the previous contract, handled by EnergySolutions for the past 14 years.

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Good Afternoon, Vietnam: A Revolutionary Small Business Impetus and I Learned About It on Skype

Vietnam has implemented an almost-foolproof regulation to promote business growth. And in doing so, they are exceeding global development forecasts through a new wave of entrepreneurs -- all part of government efforts to stabilize accelerated growth. After implementing the program in 2011 starting a business has become increasingly attractive, which is vital in a country where at least 97 percent of entrepreneurs are small business owners.


As exciting as the social enterprises presented were, the most interesting and perspective-changing lesson for me was the Vietnamese flat tax. This is what allowed for organizers Trang Nguyen, Thuy Minh, Huong Nguyen, and Duong Lee to put on the event -- and its an incentive to even further growth in this nation.

A flat tax is a simple concept. For instance, our income tax system in the US which progressively taxes income at an increased rate per the total income. So, income of $100 is taxed at a higher rate than income of $10. Meanwhile, a flat tax is a single, stagnant rate that applies to all income above zero.


The conference

We know exactly how government regulations and taxes greatly impact the small business owner (see here).

Furthermore, I have seen with my own eyes the energy and excitement in the economies of Cambodia and Vietnam -- despite the very recent history of tragedy in both places (i.e. genocide, civil war, and all the social and economic implications of both (see here, here, and here). In hindsight, we can see the Colonial circumstances that led to this tragedy -- much like taxation without representation led to our own country's independence. Perhaps, with a simpler tax code, this could have been prevented?


In Vietnam last fall

Vietnam's rapid growth over the past several years has only been boosted by the government's tax laws, which help small business people incorporate their companies in just 12 weeks, the profits of which are currently taxed at a flat rate of 22 percent or less -- as low as 10 percent for those operating in the industrial zones.


In Vietnam last fall

Small business owners also have a 50 percent decrease in the personal income tax they owe. So, while some of the business structuring imposed by the government lags (doing business effort and transparency, to name two) -- this environment is one that allows many individuals to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams.

Enterprise Income Tax Law: Article 13.- Tax rate incentives

1. Newly set up enterprises under investment projects in geographical areas with extreme socio-economic difficulties, economic zones or hi-tech parks; newly set up enterprises under investment projects in the domains of high technology, scientific research and technological development, development of the States infrastructure works of special importance, or manufacture of software products are entitled to the tax rate of 10 percent for 15 years.

2. Enterprises operating in education-training, vocational training, health care, cultural, sports and environmental domains are entitled to the tax rate of 10 percent.

3. Newly set up enterprises under investment projects in geographical areas with socio-economic difficulties are entitled to the tax rate of 20 percent for 10 years.

4. Agricultural service cooperatives and people's credit funds are entitled to the tax rate of 20 percent.

5. For large-scale and hi-tech projects in which investment should be particularly attracted, the duration for application of tax rate incentives may be extended but must not exceed the duration specified in Clause 1 of this Article.

6. The duration for application of tax rate incentives specified in this Article is counted from the first year an enterprise has turnover.

I look forward to reporting the latest innovations in entrepreneurship and social enterprise here in the coming weeks.

Special thanks to Lauren Bailey and Maya Horgan for assistance.

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Carl Levin Says Caterpillar Avoided Billions In Taxes

WASHINGTON (AP) — Sen, Carl Levin says manufacturing giant Caterpillar Inc. has used an aggressive tax strategy to shift profits overseas in order to avoid paying billions in U.S. taxes.

The Michigan Democrat chairs the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. The committee's Democratic staff says in a report released Monday that Caterpillar avoided paying $2.4 billion in U.S. taxes since 2000 by shifting profits to a wholly-controlled affiliate in Switzerland. The report raises questions about the validity of the tax strategy but does not accuse the Peoria, Ill.-based manufacturer of breaking the law.

Julie Lagacy, a Caterpillar vice president, said in a statement that the company complies with all tax laws. She said Caterpillar pays an effective income tax rate of 29 percent, among the highest for multinational manufacturers.

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Mary Barra promises to 'do the right thing' as GM recalls 1.3m more cars

CEO releases testimony ahead of congressional hearing, as GM recalls 1.3m more vehicles to fix power-steering issue

General Motors boss Mary Barra will tell Congress on Tuesday her company will do the right thing as she answers questions on why it took 10 years to recall millions of cars despite evidence the auto company knew of fatal flaws in their designs.

Barras prepared testimony was released Monday as GM recalled another 1.3m vehicles to fix a power-steering issue, another setback as Congress, regulators and private law firms probe the events leading up to GM's recall of 2.6m vehicles for ignition-switch defects now linked to 13 deaths.

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When it comes to work-related reading, LinkedIn users are rarely off the clock

time-enough-at-last-350x263 Last week, LinkedIn announced their new Content Marketing Score tool which is supposed to help you make the most out of your online consumables. Today, they continued down this road with a quick look at when users like to read work-related content.

When is important for one simple reason – there’s too much stuff and too little time. Like Henry Bemis, we’re all stuck in a world where there’s not enough time to consume all of the intriguing books, blog posts and papers. Because of that, we’re forced to pick, choose and prioritize based on what lands in front of us at any given moment.

Right now, there could be an amazing article that will solve all of life’s dilemmas on my Facebook feed. But by the time I get to that feed later today, it will have been pushed down by a dozen more posts from friends and family. I’ll skim the first few posts then move on without ever seeing that life-changing article.

Now, if that article hit my feed around eleven o’clock tonight, there’s a 99% chance that I’d see it and click. That’s my reading time and it’s also a quiet time for my friends and family so that post will stay at the top of my list until morning.

Timing really is everything.

Which brings us to the results of LinkedIn’s “when do you read” survey.

They found that most people fell into one of three categories: On the Clock (40%), Off the Clock (40%) and Around the Clock (20%). The trick is knowing where you target audience lands since the first two are pretty evenly divided.

LinkedIn Content Reading Timeline

On the Clock people know how to compartmentalize. They do the majority of their work-related content reading while they’re at work. These well adjusted workers even take a lunch break and very few will pick up business materials after dinner. They’re also less likely to read on the weekend. For the most-part, when they’re off the clock, they’re off.

Off the Clock people don’t have time to read while they’re performing their daily duties, so they read during traditional downtimes such as lunch and bedtime. They’re also much more likely to read professional materials on the weekend and while they’re on vacation. LinkedIn says this could be because they have highly structured or high stress jobs that don’t allow them to do anything but work, work, work. Think stock trader, nurse or teacher.

Around the Clock people are a small segment who can’t consume enough content in a day. 76% take public transportation to work so that’s prime time for catching up on all kinds of content. Used to be the daily news, but now, thanks to smartphones and tablets, commuters can consume all kinds of work-related content while they ride.

Now all you have to do is figure out which segment describes your audience. Better yet, put up a poll and ask them. If a large portion of your followers are commuters, get those articles up early before the day begins. Highly structured industry? Post articles late in the day for evening consumption.

Here’s another idea; create a downloadable file with 5 of your best articles. Offer it at the beginning of the week and encourage followers to load it on to their mobile devices so they can access the content whenever they have a free moment. That way you don’t have to worry about posting time because your work will already be there when the reader is ready.

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GM Announces Another Major Recall Before Testimony

3 Pieces of Advice for Young Entrepreneurs

I'm two months shy of 25 years on this extraordinary earth. I'm employed full-time; I teach Zumba three nights a week; I'm a dog-mom, girlfriend, daughter, sister, aunt, business owner; and lastly, I am an entrepreneur. By every single stretch of the imagination, I am an innovator, producer and undertaker. While some may argue the morality and good nature of my business sense, I take copious amounts of pride in where my heart and soul reside. I see the opportunity for improvement, change, partnerships and revenue in almost every exchange I encounter. I am constantly looking for new ways to make things work better, faster and more progressively. My heart and my brain long to make lives happier, healthier and more successful. I love my life and every working minute of it. But as almost any business owner or human being in general would probably admit, there are days that are tough. So tough, I want to cry (and by want to, I mean I do) and I want to give up. I want to tell all my clients to take a walk and I seriously consider selling piña coladas on the beaches of Mexico for all of eternity.

Every single day is a learning experience for me, and every project and deal I work through makes me a stronger and happier person. I believe it would be selfish of me to not share my insight with others.

While I most definitely cannot take the stress, disappointment and angst away for you (I would be cheating you if I did that), I can let you know that it really honest-to-God, will be alright. It will work out, you will prevail, and you can sleep at night. You're not alone, and at least one person in this unpredictable world has walked down the path that you are currently seeking. I can't make you succeed and I may not ever meet you, but we share common ground and common passion; I believe this to be one of the most powerful connections humans have the ability to experience.

So here it is. Here is my grand finale: The three things that I have learned, and am still perfecting each day, as a business owner and entrepreneur. I hope you not only read, but internalize, relate it to your life experiences, and let it help you feel how connected you and I are, and how the universe knows our work is diligent and true.

1. Every single client or partner you will ever meet and work with is extremely unique and rare.

These differences will frustrate you at times. I encourage you to let it frustrate you, acknowledge the difference, and then seize the opportunity to learn. Your way is not the right way and there is always room for improvement. More eyes and brains mean more solutions. Embrace the diversity and turn it into something positive.

2. Keep your cool.

Professionalism and class are much harder to come by these days than you may imagine. When you receive a snooty short email that makes your skin crawl, don't respond immediately. Take a second to calm down, look at something else and come back to it. The email you write immediately after reading it and the one you write an hour later are hauntingly different. Listen, breathe, step outside and come back with a positive, solution oriented response. Don't be afraid to be the bigger person when necessary, and defend your points that are valid and progressive.

3. Give love to get love.

For me, this plays an important role in not only my work life, but my personal and spiritual life. The universe works in magnificent ways that I will never fully wrap my brain around and I believe that what you put out into the world will most definitely find its way back to you. That being said, give your entrepreneurial and business love out. Give out your knowledge and expertise to those around you like beads at Mardi Gras (only don't make people take their clothes off for it). We are all experts in one area or another. People can always learn and benefit from your knowledge and not everyone will always be a client or consumer. I put this into play when I come across a website or social media platform that could use some improvement. I reach out with a very casual "Hey there, your site looks amazing, great work! Online marketing is my passion and as we are working together on X project, I would love to share a few tips with you on how you can easily improve your site. Glad to work together and happy to answer questions!" The gratitude and kind words I get back are more than worth it. What else? I get a client every now and then out of it! Bottom line, spread the love. Open your brain, no one is going to steal it from you, and do well for others.

To all entrepreneurs, young and old, experienced and inexperienced, press on. Take the moments that you feel the smallest and build yourself back up. Open the lines of communication with the people you work with and seize the opportunity to learn. The world has a special place in it for minds like ours. Keep up the good work.


Join Daffnee on her journey at, on Facebook, on Instagram @Daffnee, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+.

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GM recalls 1.3 million cars over power steering issue

GM Plant Closures

General Motors is recalling an additional 1.3 million late-model vehicles in the U.S because they may experience a sudden loss of electric-power steering assist.

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Kitchensurfing Raises $15 Million to Bring Private Chefs to Your Home


Chris Muscarella's first experience with the restaurant business came in 2010 when he helped his friend open Rucola, an Italian eatery in Brooklyn. Muscarella, an entrepreneur at heart who got his start in the tech industry, was struck by how difficult it is for chefs to launch their own businesses.

"One of the things I saw was a tremendously talented labor pool of chefs," Muscarella says. Yet the cost of opening a restaurant, among other factors, meant many "will probably never have the opportunity to be their own entrepreneurs."

"Restaurants are great," he adds, "but they are bad businesses." Read more...

More about Startups, Business, Home, The Launchpad, and Food

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Google Maps and Pokemon Team Up for Ultimate April Fool's Quest


Gotta catch 'em all — April Fool's Day jokes, that is

April 1 has already arrived in Australia and Japan, so Google has started their yearly deluge of tech-themed pranks. This year's Google Maps prank is a throwback to classic 2000s gaming, via everyone's favorite pocket monsters

In a new "job ad," Google created a colorful augmented reality game in which the winner earns the distinction of ultimate Pokemon Master and a position at Google

And while some might be disappointed that this job listing doesn't actually exist, Google did at least create a mobile app game, so you can still relive your childhood Pokemon-catching days Read more...

More about Google, Viral Videos, Google Maps, April Fools, and Pranks

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Are You Ready For A TOTAL Transformation? – NMPRO #1,042

Today’s message is only for a select few. You’ll know who you are.

If today’s message is for YOU and you’d like to learn more about the upcoming Go Pro Intensive in Cabo San Lucas CLICK HERE or go to

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America's Pension Black Hole: Dissecting Warren Buffett's Tapeworm

In Berkshire Hathaway's latest annual letter, Warren Buffett described public pension plans as a "gigantic financial tapeworm" and warned of a decade of pain. He was right on the first point, less so on the second.

On May 31, 2004, Alberta Martin (née Stewart) died of complications from a heart attack in Montgomery, Alabama. She was 97. With her death, the American Civil War Pension program finally laid to rest its last widow. Today, only two unnamed children -- each paid a modest $876 a year -- stand between the pension program and the end of a long convoluted journey that nobody foresaw, and which began over a century and a half ago in 1862.

The Civil War Pension scheme remains an enduring reminder of the unintended consequences of promises lightly made today, with little regard or planning for the future. Originally set up during the war to pay pensions to disabled Union veterans and their dependents (including widows and orphans), the scheme was gradually extended over successive decades to encompass all veterans and their families.

The consequences were punishing. During the 1880s, the pension scheme accounted for almost half the federal budget, leading to social tensions and public anger. For example, in 1887, President Grover Cleveland vetoed a new pensions bill, claiming that it "put a further premium on dishonesty and mendacity."

As veterans aged and died, they also became attractive annuities. Younger women married far older veterans, including the aforementioned Alberta Stewart, who married 81-year-old William Martin in 1927, aged just 21. When he died in 1931, she married his grandson two months later. By the time Alberta passed away in 2004, the Civil War pension schemes -- Union and Confederate -- had cost the federal government well over $100 billion in today's terms and far in excess of the Civil War's original cost.

Today, the American Civil War Pension scheme is an obscure historical footnote but its lessons are no less profound.

A Crisis in Slow Motion

One of the tragedies of the Great Recession is that we are so focused on the "urgent" today that we have completely forgotten about the far more important tomorrow. Human myopia dictates there will always be a bias, but the consequences of this ostrich mentality are far-reaching.

A century ago, retirement was an aspiration. The average life expectancy was 52 for men and 57 for women. Today, we will likely spend a third of our lives in retirement. It's a notable and staggering achievement. But as people live longer -- 15 minutes more for every passing hour, by some estimates -- there is a darker side: the cost of catering for this grey renaissance through pensions, health care and the like. As the baby boomers come up for retirement in coming years, this means enormous pressures on an already strained public balance sheet in key areas such as social security, Medicare and long-term care.

Today, these future liabilities are nebulous because they are not officially recorded. According to the CBO, the current debt-to-GDP ratio is 73 percent -- a "reassuring" number in today's world. But this official number only takes into account the acknowledged public debt. Add pension obligations, social security, Medicare etc., and you soon get a very different number.

The ratio now suddenly balloons to above 500 percent of GDP. But even that is only the beginning. Professor Laurence Kotlikoff at Boston University, an expert on long-term forecasting, calculates that the total gap between all projected spending and all projected taxes for the U.S. is a staggering $222 trillion, based on the CBO's latest projections.

This unfunded iceberg implies a very real solvency crisis for the U.S. in the long run. We can tinker with tax codes. We can make budgetary changes at the margin to control toady's far more miniscule deficit. But in terms of solving the far more important crisis beyond our horizon, this is the equivalent of using a thimble to bail out the Titanic.

Today, we no longer have that luxury. As generations continue to live longer, the strains on our social fabric continue to grow in the absence of solutions. If nothing changes, the U.S. will pay an additional 8 percent of GDP in age-related expenditure by 2050. That is another $1.1 trillion a year in additional costs, without even counting the accrued total burden by then.

Hope for Tomorrow

The long-term planning and management of society require a long-term perspective. In practice, the actions of policymakers always have a horizon far shorter than the complex system they manage.

But little decisions today play out in big ways tomorrow.

We choose to fight the urgent crisis today over the far more important crisis building up in the future. In our eyes, the overarching need is to preserve the financial system today. There is also the hope that if stimulus works, the economy will roar back into life and make those future larger payments eminently more affordable. There is always time enough to plan the deeper reforms tomorrow that will make social security, health care and other spending viable, and sustain society.

Unfortunately, hope is not a strategy. Tomorrow, there will be another urgent crisis and without action, our myopic horizon will push off deeper issues for another day.

It is time to remember the important, not just the urgent. Else, we risk repeating the familiar Roman motif of a vigorous beginning lapsing as usual into a careless end.

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Banking Union Time Bomb: Eurocrats Authorize Bailouts and Bail-Ins

"As things stand, the banks are the permanent government of the country, whichever party is in power." -- Lord Skidelsky, House of Lords, UK Parliament, 31 March 2011)

On March 20, 2014, European Union officials reached an historic agreement to create a single agency to handle failing banks. Media attention has focused on the agreement involving the single resolution mechanism (SRM), a uniform system for closing failed banks. But the real story for taxpayers and depositors is the heightened threat to their pocketbooks of a deal that now authorizes both bailouts and "bail-ins" -- the confiscation of depositor funds. The deal involves multiple concessions to different countries and may be illegal under the rules of the EU Parliament; but it is being rushed through to lock taxpayer and depositor liability into place before the dire state of Eurozone banks is exposed.

The bail-in provisions were agreed to last summer. According to Bruno Waterfield, writing in the UK Telegraph in June 2013:

Under the deal, after 2018 bank shareholders will be first in line for assuming the losses of a failed bank before bondholders and certain large depositors. Insured deposits under £85,000 (€100,000) are exempt and, with specific exemptions, uninsured deposits of individuals and small companies are given preferred status in the bail-in pecking order for taking losses . . . Under the deal all unsecured bondholders must be hit for losses before a bank can be eligible to receive capital injections directly from the ESM, with no retrospective use of the fund before 2018.

As noted in my earlier articles, the ESM (European Stability Mechanism) imposes an open-ended debt on EU member governments, putting taxpayers on the hook for whatever the Eurocrats (EU officials) demand. And it's not just the EU that has bail-in plans for their troubled too-big-to-fail banks. It is also the U.S., UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and other G20 nations. Recall that a depositor is an unsecured creditor of a bank. When you deposit money in a bank, the bank "owns" the money and you have an IOU or promise to pay.

Under the new EU banking union, before the taxpayer-financed single resolution fund can be deployed, shareholders and depositors will be "bailed in" for a significant portion of the losses. The bankers thus win both ways: they can tap up the taxpayers' money and the depositors' money.

The Unsettled Question of Deposit Insurance

But at least, you may say, it's only the uninsured deposits that are at risk (those over €100,000 -- about $137,000). Right?

Not necessarily. According to ABC News, "Thursday's result is a compromise that differs from the original banking union idea put forward in 2012. The original proposals had a third pillar, Europe-wide deposit insurance. But that idea has stalled."

European Central Bank President Mario Draghi, speaking before the March 20th meeting in the Belgian capital, hailed the compromise plan as "great progress for a better banking union. Two pillars are now in place" -- two but not the third. And two are not enough to protect the public. As observed in The Economist in June 2013, without Europe-wide deposit insurance, the banking union is a failure:

[T]he third pillar, sadly ignored, [is] a joint deposit-guarantee scheme in which the costs of making insured depositors whole are shared among euro-zone members. Annual contributions from banks should cover depositors in normal years, but they cannot credibly protect the system in meltdown (America's prefunded scheme would cover a mere 1.35% of insured deposits). Any deposit-insurance scheme must have recourse to government backing. . . . [T]he banking union--and thus the euro--will make little sense without it.

All deposits could be at risk in a meltdown. But how likely is that? Pretty likely, it seems...

What the Eurocrats Don't Want You to Know

Mario Draghi was vice president of Goldman Sachs Europe before he became president of the ECB. He had a major hand in shaping the banking union. And according to Wolf Richter, writing in October 2013, the goal of Draghi and other Eurocrats is to lock taxpayer and depositor liability in place before the panic button is hit over the extreme vulnerability of Eurozone banks:

European banks, like all banks, have long been hermetically sealed black boxes. . . . The only thing known about the holes in the balance sheets of these black boxes, left behind by assets that have quietly decomposed, is that they're deep. But no one knows how deep. And no one is allowed to know - not until Eurocrats decide who is going to pay for bailing out these banks.

When the ECB becomes the regulator of the 130 largest ECB banks, says Richter, it intends to subject them to more realistic evaluations than the earlier "stress tests" that were nothing but "banking agitprop." But these realistic evaluations won't happen until the banking union is in place. How does Richter know? Draghi himself said so. Draghi said:

"The effectiveness of this exercise will depend on the availability of necessary arrangements for recapitalizing banks ... including through the provision of a public backstop. . . . These arrangements must be in place before we conclude our assessment."

Richter translates that to mean:

The truth shall not be known until after the Eurocrats decided who would have to pay for the bailouts. And the bank examinations won't be completed until then, because if any of it seeped out - Draghi forbid - the whole house of cards would collapse, with no taxpayers willing to pick up the tab as its magnificent size would finally be out in the open!

Only after the taxpayers -- and the depositors -- are stuck with the tab will the curtain be lifted and the crippling insolvency of the banks be revealed. Predictably, panic will then set in, credit will freeze, and the banks will collapse, leaving the unsuspecting public to foot the bill.

What Happened to Nationalizing Failed Banks?

Underlying all this frantic wheeling and dealing is the presumption that the "zombie banks" must be kept alive at all costs -- alive and in the hands of private bankers, who can then continue to speculate and reap outsized bonuses while the people bear the losses.

But that's not the only alternative. In the 1990s, the expectation even in the United States was that failed megabanks would be nationalized. That route was pursued quite successfully not only in Sweden and Finland but in the U.S. in the case of Continental Illinois, then the fourth-largest bank in the country and the largest-ever bankruptcy. According to William Engdahl, writing in September 2008:

[I]n almost every case of recent banking crises in which emergency action was needed to save the financial system, the most economical (to taxpayers) method was to have the Government, as in Sweden or Finland in the early 1990's, nationalize the troubled banks [and] take over their management and assets ... In the Swedish case the end cost to taxpayers was estimated to have been almost nil.

Typically, nationalization involves taking on the insolvent bank's bad debts, getting the bank back on its feet, and returning it to private owners, who are then free to put depositors' money at risk again. But better would be to keep the nationalized mega-bank as a public utility, serving the needs of the people because it is owned by the people.

As argued by George Irvin in Social Europe Journal in October 2011:

[T]he financial sector needs more than just regulation; it needs a large measure of public sector control--that's right, the n-word: nationalisation. Finance is a public good, far too important to be run entirely for private bankers. At the very least, we need a large public investment bank tasked with modernising and greening our infrastructure . . . . [I]nstead of trashing the Eurozone and going back to a dozen minor currencies fluctuating daily, let's have a Eurozone Ministry of Finance (Treasury) with the necessary fiscal muscle to deliver European public goods like more jobs, better wages and pensions and a sustainable environment.

A Third Alternative -- Turn the Government Money Tap Back On

A giant flaw in the current banking scheme is that private banks, not governments, now create virtually the entire money supply; and they do it by creating interest-bearing debt. The debt inevitably grows faster than the money supply, because the interest is not created along with the principal in the original loan.

For a clever explanation of how all this works in graphic cartoon form, see the short French video "Government Debt Explained," linked here.

The problem is exacerbated in the Eurozone, because no one has the power to create money ex nihilo as needed to balance the system, not even the central bank itself. This flaw could be remedied either by allowing nations individually to issue money debt-free or, as suggested by George Irvin, by giving a joint Eurozone Treasury that power.

The Bank of England just admitted in its Quarterly Bulletin that banks do not actually lend the money of their depositors. What they lend is bank credit created on their books. In the U.S. today, finance charges on this credit-money amount to between 30 and 40 percent of the economy, depending on whose numbers you believe. In a monetary system in which money is issued by the government and credit is issued by public banks, this "rentiering" can be avoided. Government money will not come into existence as a debt at interest, and any finance costs incurred by the public banks' debtors will represent Treasury income that offsets taxation.

New money can be added to the money supply without creating inflation, at least to the extent of the "output gap" -- the difference between actual GDP or actual output and potential GDP. In the U.S., that figure is about $1 trillion annually; and for the EU is roughly €520 billion ($715 billion). A joint Eurozone Treasury could add this sum to the money supply debt-free, creating the euros necessary to create jobs, rebuild infrastructure, protect the environment, and maintain a flourishing economy.

Ellen Brown is an attorney, founder of the Public Banking Institute, and a candidate for California State Treasurer running on a state bank platform. She is the author of twelve books, including the best-selling Web of Debt and her latest book, The Public Bank Solution, which explores successful public banking models historically and globally.

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Square Now Accepts Bitcoin for Its Online Marketplace

Senate report claims Caterpillar avoided $2.4bn in US taxes

Carl Levin's subcommittee on investigations says the equipment-maker routed money through a Swiss subsidiary

One of the world's biggest manufacturing companies diverted more than $8bn in profits to Switzerland in order to avoid US taxes, according to investigators working for the Senate.

Caterpillar, the world's largest maker of construction and mining equipment, allegedly avoided paying more than $2.4bn in US taxes over a decade by striking a deal with Swiss tax authorities to pay as little as 4% on the profits from its lucrative international spare parts business through a Geneva-based subsidiary.

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Elverys gets management buyout after Irish court decides against Mike Ashley

Interested parties, including Sports Direct, had to submit investment proposals to ensure the survival of the business

Sports Direct has missed out on a chance to expand its business in Ireland after a court ruled that a management-led buyout should take over the struggling Elverys chain. The ruling is a disappointment for the British retailer, founded by the Newcastle United owner, Mike Ashley, who tried to elbow his way into takeover talks in January.

Sports Direct already owns a 50% stake of the Heatons department store chain in Ireland but hoped the acquisition of Elverys would help it get around restrictions on its sales of replica local rugby kit by the sports brand Adidas.

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Asiana Airlines Admits Pilot Error To Blame For San Francisco Crash

Nightkraft: Beatvertise

Advertising Agency: Milk, Hamburg, Germany

Creative Directors: Bahador Pakravesh, Behnaz Pakravesh

Copywriter: Susanne Pakravesh

Music: Nightkraft

Published: March 2014

via Business Feeds

The Dianet Project: The Journey of research

Since the beginning of time there's been men willing to travel for the sake of discovery. In a globalized world things have not changed at all. Students and scientist need more than ever to connect and to break barriers. That is how Dianet was born. Dianet is the acronym for Danube's initiative and Alps Adriatic Network. An initiative being held in AREA Science Park between between April 2013 and April 2015.

Advertising Agency: APZmedia, Trieste, Italy

Creative Director: Pablo Apiolazza

Art Director: Pablo Apiolazza

Copywriters: Serena Pulcini, Ginevra Tonini, Mattia Cristofori, Michele Da Col, Pablo Apiolazza

Additional credits: Special thanks to Federica Raffin

Published: March 2014

via Business Feeds

BlackBerry Wins Ruling Against Ryan Seacrest's Startup

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Troubled smartphone maker BlackBerry has won an early round in its legal battle against an iPhone keyboard made by a startup co-founded by "American Idol" host Ryan Seacrest.

A court order bans Seacrest's company, Typo Products LLC, from selling its iPhone keyboard in the U.S. while BlackBerry Ltd. proceeds with a patent infringement case against the product. BlackBerry contends Typo Products ripped off the design from the physical keyboards used for typing on BlackBerry's phones. U.S. District Judge William Orrick in San Francisco ruled that BlackBerry is likely to prove its infringement claims against Typo Products and would be damaged if the sales of the $99 iPhone keyboard were allowed to continue.

The ban could be lifted later in the case if Typo Products prevails in its claims that its iPhone keyboard isn't based on any of BlackBerry's patented designs or technology.

"This ruling will help prevent further injury to BlackBerry from Typo's blatant theft of our patented keyboard technology," BlackBerry said in a statement.

Typo Products said it plans to appeal Orrick's ruling. "Typo will continue to make and sell innovative products that busy people can't live without," the Los Angeles company said in a statement.

In court papers, Typo Products warned that it might go out of business if it was not allowed to keep selling its iPhone keyboard.

Seacrest started Typo Products with entrepreneur Laurence Hallier last year. The iPhone keyboard went on sale in January as an alternative to typing on a touch screen.

The physical keyboards on BlackBerry's phones helped reshape the way that people used mobile devices.

But those phones have been waning in popularity since Apple Inc. released the first iPhone in 2007, threatening BlackBerry's survival. As its losses have mounted, BlackBerry's market value has plummeted from more than $80 billion in 2008 to less than $5 billion today.

The Canadian company is trying to bounce back by focusing more on its software than its smartphones under CEO John Chen, who took charge last year. BlackBerry lost $5.9 billion in its last fiscal year ending March 1.

Business Feed :

My Day in the Life of Dale Carnegie


My favorite book of all time is Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People. This book is the blueprint to building an amazing network by giving back to others by listening to them, taking an interest in them, and finding their strengths. The philosophy is so simple, yet profound. Better yet, it works. Carnegie passed away in 1955, seventeen years before I was born. I've often wondered, what it would have been like to live a day in the life of Carnegie.

There are some people who are put on earth to deliver a message. Dale Carnegie, Zig Ziglar, Og Mandino, and Napoleon Hill were a few of the first in the revolution of thought leadership and their lessons went on to influence entire nations. To have personally known the likes of amazing leaders like these must have been mind-altering. They change the way you perceive the world, interact with others, and achieve goals.

Today marks a whole new era of thought leadership, with an entirely new set of names brandishing the industry with concepts designed to help people from all walks of life live their dreams. While the likes of Carnegie, Ziglar, and Mandino have passed on, others of their caliber have been born in a world where we are hyper-connected to not just our neighbors, but to everyone we have ever met in our lives, through social media. Forty years ago, one could get by without studying and understanding thought leadership, because most had such a small sphere of influence that their capacity to win friends, create influence, and achieve dreams, paled in comparison to the opportunities that are available in today's world. After all, today, everyone you need to know to achieve your dream is literally at your fingertips, a click away on social media. The thought leaders of today - the Tony Robbins, Sheryl Sandbergs, Michael J. Mahers, Arianna Huffingtons, and Hal Elrods of the world carry a huge weight on their shoulders. Not only must they master and share the lessons of the Carnegies, Ziglars, Mandinos and Hills, they must also create and teach new strategies for achieving greatness in a world that is totally interconnected, and where the average person each day is communicating with more than just his neighbors and family, he's talking to the entire world.

Recently I had the rare opportunity to spend two days with one of the greatest thought leaders of our world today, Michael J. Maher. I wanted to interview him on greatness. I wanted to pick his brain about what it takes to shoulder the responsibility of leading millions of people to better lives in today's new socially connected economy. I did the interview with Michael, which I'll share at another time. Today I'm going to share with you something way more special than the sixty minute back and forth we had about success.

Remember what I said at the opening of this post? What would it be like to spend a day in the life of Dale Carnegie? What I realized as I began writing the article about my interview with Michael J. Maher, is that I had experienced something much more special than just the interview alone. I had been given the opportunity to live a day in the life of one of the greatest thought leaders of our time, the father of the Generosity Generation, and the author of the best-selling book, The Seven Levels of Communication, Michael J. Maher. The time I spent with Michael was the story that I needed to share, more than the conversation we had. Join me as I offer you right now four crucial lessons to living a life of significance from the man that literally wrote the book on it. These lessons were garnered from my observations of this amazing visionary, over two days we shared together in San Diego. I'll save the interview for another day, because today I'm offering you enough to change the trajectory of your life forever:

There's No Sweeter Name - In true Carnegie fashion, Michael J. Maher, is a master of memorizing the names of every person he meets. We were meeting another thought leader, Hal Elrod, for lunch at a restaurant that Michael had visited the day before. When the waitress greeted us, Michael addressed her by name. Said Carnegie, "There is no sweeter sound to one's ear than the sound of his name." Michael J. Maher lives by this. Once you know someone's name, you have planted the seed for a potential relationship to be born. In fact, Michael goes out of his way to create that relationship with everyone he meets. Upon addressing the waitress by her name, he then asked her if she was ready for her upcoming day off in which she'd be climbing a nearby mountain. Michael went on to ask her questions about the trip. I sat back and observed, blown away by the simple generosity he offered by getting to know others. He had planted the seed by asking for and then remembering her name, and he was watering that relationship by asking questions about her. By the way, I saw Michael plant and sow numerous relationships in our short time together, with wait staff, perfect strangers, and taxi drivers. Michael invested time and interest in every person he met and it was amazing to watch.

Fashion Forward - In my two days with Michael J. Maher, he was always the best dressed in the room, wearing pinstriped suits, a tie, and perfectly buffed shoes. We even shared a ride to the airport where we were both returning to our respective homes and while I had dressed in jeans and sneakers to relax for the long ride home, Michael wore his signature navy pinstriped suit. "Do you own jeans," I wondered aloud? "Yes, but you never know who you'll meet on a plane." Michael is always prepared with his A Game. One of my first mentors out of college taught me the importance of always dressing for the job I wanted, not the job I had. Since that time twenty years ago, rarely do I wear jeans or casual clothing to work. Michael took my thinking to a whole new level. If you want to live a life of significance, and help others do the same, you better dress like you mean it all of the time. There's a good chance someone totally amazing is sitting next to you on that plane ride and the best way to catch their attention is to make them wonder the moment you sit down, "Wow...who's this guy? Probably someone I need to know!"

It's All About Perspective - Michael is a lifelong learner. In the business of sales training and motivational speaking, he sees the entire world as his own personal focus group. On the ten minute ride to the airport I watched Michael in action as he quizzed our driver, Debra, about what it would take for her to refer one of her clients to a real estate agent. Michael had just come back from interviewing one of the best real estate agents in the world for his new Mastery Spotlight Series program that he will be unveiling in May and he's obsessively curious about how the mind of the consumer works because this gives him an edge over every other sales trainer and motivational speaker. Michael is in the business of helping sales professionals master their own personal greatness by helping them better understand what their customers want, and the only way for Michael to know what customers want is by talking to them about it. Michael is constantly picking the brain of anyone he talks to in order to see the world from their perspective. The greatest sales people in the world have a 360 degree perspective, and so must the best trainers, speakers, and authors in the world as well.

Let Your Principles Shine - Back to that lunch meeting with myself, Hal Elrod, and Michael. Upon having our food served, I immediately dug in. Michael stopped both Hal and I for a moment to ask if he could say a blessing before we ate. "Of course!" we both agreed. In a world that has become so hectic, busy, and even downright draining at times, Michael has found a way to step back, breath, and let his principles shine. His love of God and his family are infectious. As important as it is to him to carry out his purpose in life, he has found a way to do it without compromising his morals nor the people that are the most important to him. There are many examples in the world of people who have sacrificed everything, including God and family, to achieve their dreams. Michael J. Maher proves that the only way to achieve big dreams is in a way that is in moral alignment with your own personal principles.

Now I know what it must have been like to spend a day with Dale Carnegie, because I've experienced as close as one can possibly get through my two days with Michael J. Maher. Millions like me have followed his book, speeches, and mission, and I can say now from experience, he is a visionary and leader who is as authentic as they come. The Generosity Generation has legs, because the leader of this movement has heart, determination, and values. Dale Carnegie once said, "You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you." Michael J. Maher is the absolute proof of this. Millions follow his message because he has become obsessively interested in everything that makes other people awesome.

Business Feed :

'No Problem, I Will Take Care of It' -- A Lost Art?

Today's business culture has changed over the years, and so have the people that make up businesses. I have noticed in my career a paradigm shift in the ability of younger minds (Gen-Y / Millennials), to take ownership and responsibility for business actions. Maybe it's because they are considered the "Me Me Me Generation." Maybe it's because it appears their own self-opinion comes before their employer's business requirement or if applicable, before the client's needs. As a corporate marketing and agency professional, I have experienced this lack of self-accountability in the younger generation. I do think it could be a lost art in today's younger professionals.

Just Figure It Out

Recently, I read a LinkedIn article titled "Fearless Entrepreneur" by Ralph de Geus. I can relate to his eight key points. His points are intrinsically me, or at least most of them. I have to admit, I am not one of those fearless entrepreneurs. However, many of those traits I am happy to have as part of my repertoire. My favorite in his article is, "They say yes first--then figure out how to deliver."

Earlier in my career I learned how to say yes first as a young producer and account director while working for marketing agencies. When working with clients, I realized that saying no sent signals that meant I don't care about my job or the requirement. I learned to never say no, but to always say yes. Then I just figured it out afterward. Yes, it was very frustrating and extremely challenging and stressful. If you work in an agency environment, it's a skill that is a must to survive. In fact, it's a business requirement.

"No problem, I will take care of it." -- My Story

Four of us from our agency had a meeting scheduled with a prospective client in their office. The client just happened to be one of the ten largest brands in the world. As an agency, we invested two weeks working on our ideas, trying to figure out how we would win the business and perfecting our pitch presentation. After two hours explaining all the ideas that we developed and how those ideas would be exceptional for their business, the VP of Marketing stood up in an immediate, resounding manner and said, "Let's move ahead." What seemed like seconds later he said, "We can get started on this tomorrow." Within minutes we had scheduled our kick-off meeting that required a lot of work and pre-planning. It all had to be completed by 10 a.m. the next morning and delivered to his office. My anxiety level instantly began to elevate. We all shook hands, shared our excitement over the project and exited the room. As we walked down the hallway, my boss turned to me and said, "Looks like you have some work to do Scott, We're counting on you." Naturally I said, "No problem, I will take care of it," -- shaking in my shoes and sweating as I continued walking.

I must admit, at that moment in time, I had no idea how I was going to figure out everything I needed to do in the next 20 hours. In fact, I was stressed on the inside, but not showing it on the outside. My poker face was in full gear. I told myself that I must focus on the business and client requirement and make sure I get everything accomplished. At the time, I didn't think about it, but now that I look back, if I had really thought of the magnitude of the client's global reputation, I probably would have chosen not to drink any coffee the entire week before our meeting. 10 a.m. in the morning arrived - project plan in place, creative team all present sitting around the table, focused, prepared and ready for action. A client success story had just begun!

Never Let Them See You Sweat

Part of the ongoing challenge is to never let your team or your client see you sweat, even when the stakes are high and you don't exactly know how to solve the problem that's in front of you. This is critical so that you give your client positive signals that show them you have it all together and will take care of their needs, regardless of the challenges.

One of my favorite phrases is, "No problem, I will take care of it." It's probably one of the best phrases you can use in your career, as long as you follow through and make sure you get the job done. There's nothing better than hitting home runs with your boss or your clients time after time. Earning their trust is priceless.

As marketers, we must adopt this characteristic in our professional lives. No, you don't have to be involved in client work. All companies expect employees to perform with their A-game. The same principle applies. When your boss asks you to do something, your answer should be, " no problem, I will take care of it," every time.

The Lost Art -- Doesn't Have To Be Lost

As I alluded to earlier, in my opinion, this appears to be missing in the repertoire of our younger professionals. If you happen to be a Millennial or even another generation, and you see that the "no problem, I will take care of it" trait is missing in yourself, here's my suggestion -- fix it. What I mean is, hold yourself accountable.

The business requirement and/or the client requirement must be elevated above your own personal likes and dislikes. Yes, it's stressful and uncomfortable. However, the lost art must be found, and I feel it's up to us older, more seasoned marketers to teach and instill this in the younger professionals that are working for us.

Guess what? Now the accountability is on us Gen-X and Boomers. "No Problem, I Will Take Care Of It" -- It's all in a days work.

Business Feed :

GM Recalling 1.3 Million More Cars

General Motors announced Monday it is recalling more than 1.3 million cars in order to fix a power steering problem.

Here's a list of the cars subject to the recall, according to the company's website:

  • Chevrolet Malibu: All model year 2004 and 2005, and some model year 2006 and model year 2008 and 2009 vehicles

  • Chevrolet Malibu Maxx: All model year 2004 and 2005, and some 2006 model year

  • Chevrolet HHR (Non-Turbo): Some model year 2009 and 2010 vehicles

  • Chevrolet Cobalt: Some model year 2010 vehicles

  • Saturn Aura: Some model year 2008 and 2009 vehicles

  • Saturn ION: All model year 2004 to 2007 vehicles

  • Pontiac G6: All model year 2005, and some model year 2006 and model year 2008 and 2009 vehicles

  • Service parts installed into certain vehicles before May 31, 2010 under a previous safety recall

More from the Associated Press:

The new recall brings to 6.1 million the number of vehicles GM has recalled since February. The initial recall — now at 2.6 million small cars for an ignition switch defect — prompted the automaker to name a new safety chief and speed up pending recalls.

The company expects recall-related costs to total $750 million in the first quarter.

In the latest recall, dealers will replace the power steering motor and other parts for free.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Business Feed :

Why The Effects of Blame Kills Productivity

My dad is retired US Marine Corp. He fought for our country in both Vietnam and in Korea. As a Platoon Sergeant, his goal was to complete the missions while keeping his men alive. Think of it as the reality of management under fire, only in his case the fire were real bullets. Whenever one of his men made a mistake, he always kept the mission in mind. "Forget what the hell you did wrong, and just complete the mission" was his mantra in the midst of battle. Being under attack was punishment enough for any man. There was no time to chop heads or take names while you were getting shot at.

There seems to be this problem in our society, where we threaten and scare our employees to not make mistakes, instead of motivating them to do what's right. Why in the world do we do this, and shoot ourselves in the foot? Worse yet, instead of rewarding the employee for being honest, we reward the manager who fired that employee -- like that made everything "better". Really?

We have all been there, some of use more than once -- we make a mistake, and we have to let the boss know. We think of two options -- be forthcoming and honest and take our punishment while fixing the problem, or hide the truth until we can fix the problem without anyone knowing. What typically happens is that under fear of punishment, we will hold back the truth long enough to deal with the issue and fix it before anyone finds out.

This seemed to be the case with GM, who for years knew about issues with ignition switches turning off cars, sometimes while the car was on the freeway going 60 mph. People were hurt, and people died. Ultimately, management found out and started their witch hunt, asking "who's fault was this"? Obviously if the engineer who designed the switch felt that he could go to management and let them know about the problem without punishment, he probably would have openly. But alas, someone held the problem in, and we know the outcome.

Our society, and many others, has the habit of focusing on blaming people instead of just getting the job done. We will spend money and time, in congressional hearings, or board meetings, or one-on-one tongue lashings, just to punish whomever is responsible for making a mistake. This is neither productive or beneficial for anyone. If a person stands to get punished for a mistake, he, and everyone above him, will do whatever they can to avoid getting punished, even if it means lying, cheating and stealing. It happens all the time, and way too often.

In war, soldiers don't have the luxury of looking for who to blame for a mistake. They are in battle, being blow up and shot at. They have to focus their energy on stopping the enemy and completing the mission, not on going after their own team mates. The old saying is "shoot at the enemy, not at me". When we spend time looking for who to blame, we waste precious time and resources, instead of using them to further our goals. And we also demotivate employees, by telling them that admitting to a problem means pain and suffering. It's the worst use of negative feedback, and it kills businesses. What's really bad is that we spend the time looking to blame someone, because we ourselves don't want to get punished for someone else's problem.

Think about changing the paradigm of "punish anyone who makes a mistake", into "reward someone who openly admits to mistake, and work together to fix the issue and move forward". In many people's minds, the latter takes too much effort. But the effort benefits everyone by giving employees the confidence in fixing issues with the help of management, instead of fixing mistakes while under management threats.

Because at the end of the day, it's all about the mission and the goal of the company, not about who's head needs to get chopped off...

Business Feed :

Google Maps Is Taken Over By Pokémon In April Fools' Prank

Google is starting April Fools' Day a bit early this year.

The company's maps division announced in a video published on Monday, Mar. 31, that it's got a new job opening. The title? Pokémon master.

In order to find the best Pokémon master, Google has developed a Pokémon Challenge that is what it calls "the most rigorous test known to man."

So how does it work? Google has added hidden Pokémon throughout the latest version of Google Maps, and to complete the challenge you have to catch them all.

To play, you must you have the most recent version of the Google Maps App. Open it and click the search bar, where you'll see a Pokéball and a button that says "Press start."

google maps pokemon

From there, you'll see little Pokémon figures all over your map. There even will be Pokémon-style houses. Like here:

google maps pokemon

To catch a Pokémon, simply click it (kind of boring, we know). You'll have to search all over the globe to find them all. Here's what it looks like to catch Dragonite:

google maps pokemon

The deadline to find all 150 Pokémon is April 2, 2014 at 2:00 P.M. PDT.

Google's video says people who find all of the Pokémon in time will be invited to the Googleplex to participate in the final round of hiring. The winner supposedly will start his or her job as Pokémon Master on Sept. 1, 2014.

Sadly, this is almost definitely a prank. Need proof? In the disclaimer of Google Maps's video, it says "the role of Pokémon master is not yet available" and recommends you go to Google's jobs page. Hmm.

You can follow Google Maps on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ for hints.

Business Feed :

Shareholders May Recover From the Advisors to a Board of Directors

Shareholders may sue members of corporate boards of directors when they breach their fiduciary duties. These fiduciary duties include the duty of care and loyalty. A recent Delaware Court of Chancery decision allowed a lawsuit against an advisor to the directors. The advisor was determined to have aided and abetted the directors' breach of fiduciary duty in the course of a sale of the corporation (In Re Rural Metro Corporation Stockholders Litigation). Although the legal doctrine of aiding and abetting is not new, this decision is a reminder that third parties outside of the corporation may owe duties to the shareholders.

The Delaware Court in a 92 page opinion reviewed the facts in lengthy detail. In brief summary, the advisor did not disclose conflicts of interests that caused the sale price to be below fair value. The presence of an exculpatory (non-liability) provision in the certificate of incorporation for individual directors was irrelevant in this case because the duty of care applies to the directors as a whole. Part of this duty is to ascertain potential conflicts of interests by outside advisors. The directors settled claims against themselves before trial.

The advisor to the board intentionally acted (scienter) in a manner that misled the directors. General language in the advisor's engagement letter with the board contained vague statements about other clients. This was insufficient to reveal a conflict of interest in this specific transaction. The Court in this case has requested additional financial information to determine the appropriate dollar amount of damages. Doubtless there will be additional legal actions before this case is completed.

A spectrum of professionals including financial advisors, attorneys and accountants may potentially be liable for aiding and abetting the directors' breach of fiduciary duties. A key distinction between this claim and one for ordinary malpractice is the presence of scienter, intentional conduct that goes beyond ordinary negligence. In any situation involving financial loss, shareholders should engage an experienced attorney to determine the potential liability of individuals surrounding and assisting the board of directors.

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Joe Manchin Claims He Was 'Lied To' About Involvement In Don Blankenship Film

A film funded by former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship meant to tell "what really happened" in 2010's Upper Big Branch mine disaster, which left 29 miners dead, features a familiar face: Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).

Manchin first appears in the film, which can be seen above, at the 7:37 mark, saying how coal helped America overcome "the stranglehold the British had on us" and "our own Civil War." He later discusses monitors that track the amount of methane gas in coal mines, and comments on how using fuel sources other than coal would "drive the price [of energy] unbelievably high."

Manchin is shown later in the film, around the 27:00 minute mark, saying he "never heard" claims of natural gas being present in the Upper Big Branch mine, a belief pushed by Blankenship that the Mine Safety and Health Administration has rejected.

On April 5, 2010, an explosion that a Mine Safety and Health Administration report attributed to the ignition of methane gas caused the deaths of 29 miners in Massey's Upper Big Branch coal mine in Montcoal, W.Va. The MSHA cited "a workplace culture" at Massey "that valued production over safety," saying that the company cut corners in a way that put workers' lives at risk. Blankenship continues to push the theory that the incident was actually a natural gas explosion.

Manchin spokesman Jonathan Kott told The Huffington Post the senator's office was unaware the film was tied to Blankenship.

"We had no idea and were never notified about the source of funding for this film," Kott said. "Our understanding was that it was about mine safety."

Dave Boucher of the Charleston Daily Mail reports that a spokesman from Manchin's office said the senator was "deceived" by the company that made the film.

Manchin's office later supplied the following statement to HuffPost:

Adroit Films, the propaganda firm behind this shameful documentary, never disclosed to me the intent of this film. They lied to my face and told me this documentary was focused on mine safety, an issue I have been committed to since the Farmington Mine disaster that killed my uncle and 77 miners. Had I known the film was in any way associated with Don Blankenship, I would have never agreed to the interview. I spoke with them for more than half an hour about mine safety and how we must prevent an Upper Big Branch disaster from ever happening again. Yet, the producers only dedicated one minute and thirty-two seconds of my thirty-minute interview to mine safety -- one of the most important issues in West Virginia -- to attempt to vindicate Don Blankenship. He should be more concerned with his role in the deaths of 29 brave miners and the ongoing U.S. Department of Justice investigation rather than filming a propaganda documentary. I am not only livid that I was lied to, but I am even more enraged that Don Blankenship would manipulate a tragedy to promote himself and his own agenda. I am going to pursue every legal recourse available against Adroit's despicable tactics. The most tragic part of all of this is that the families of these miners are forced to suffer yet again at the hands of Don Blankenship.

The film states that the MSHA did know of Blankenship's involvement in the project and refused to be interviewed because of the former CEO's role.

Blankenship's film asserts that the MSHA's conclusions about the disaster "were wrong," instead highlighting the findings of "independent experts" like Dr. Martin Herzberg, a mine, fire and explosion expert and climate change denier who says in the film that it's an "insult to the miners" who died to think they would work in unsafe conditions.

Blankenship's documentary, called "Upper Big Branch - Never Again," can be seen above.

Business Feed :

Soda Market Losing Its Fizz

(Adds details on sales by brand, byline)

By Phil Wahba

NEW YORK, March 31 (Reuters) - Americans cut back on drinking carbonated soft drinks again last year with soda sales reaching their lowest levels in nearly two decades, according to a leading beverage industry newsletter.

Total sales volume fell 3 percent in 2013 to 8.9 billion cases, the ninth straight year of decline and the lowest since 1995, according to Beverage Digest. Soda sales fell 1.2 percent in 2012 and 1 percent in 2011. Each case is equal to 192 liquid ounces.

Soda sales in the United States grew throughout most of the 1990s, before beginning to slow in 1999. Sales have been in decline since 2005. (Graphic:

Industry critics have pointed to the soda industry as contributing to the U.S. obesity epidemic, and growing health concerns among consumers have hurt sales, experts said.

"The beverage industry is getting more and more challenging in the U.S. The obesity and health and wellness headwinds are not letting up," Beverage Digest Editor John Sicher said, adding that sales of diet sodas have been hit by worries about the healthfulness of artificial sweeteners.

By company, Coca-Cola Co's share of the U.S. soft drinks market rose 0.4 percentage points, while PepsiCo Inc's market share shrank by the same percentage, slammed by a 4.4 percent decline in its soda sales volume, or twice the rate of Coca-Cola's drop, according to Beverage Digest.

Adding to the industry's concerns, the growth of bottled water sales has slowed.

One Coca-Cola brand, Coke Zero, edged into the top 10 soda brands, replacing Diet Dr. Pepper. Of all the top soda brands, only Sprite saw sales gains last year. Coke and Diet Coke were the 2 top selling brands last year, followed by Pepsi and PepsiCo's Mt. Dew.

If not for the fast-growing sales of energy drinks such as Red Bull and Monster Beverage Corp products, soda volume would have fallen 3.3 percent last year. Monster's sales volume was up 7.7 percent in 2013. (Reporting by Phil Wahba in New York; Editing by David Gregorio and Lisa Shumaker)

Business Feed :

GM recall probe to look at why nothing done for so long

GM Barra

If GM knew it had a problem, why wasn't something done to fix it? Congress will seek the answer to that question and others this week as it presses General Motors CEO Mary Barra and federal regulators about their handling of a safety defect in the Chevrolet Cobalt and other small cars.

via Business Feeds

Soda Sales Drop To Lowest Point Since 1995

Are Brand Rivalries Like the Taco Bell-McDonald's Dust-Up Good Marketing?

Christopher Heine - April 01, 2014 at 03:23AM

Taco Bell and McDonald's last week had an epic exchange after the former debuted its "Ronald McDonald" TV spot. And Ford took on Cadillac in what has been a late March defined by brand marketers having a little fun at another's expense.

It raises the question: Do public rivalries make for good brand marketing?

We asked a few folks at the 5th I-Com Global Summit, which kicked off proceedings this afternoon in Sevilla, Spain.

Here's how they answered:

Tania Yuki, CEO of Shareablee:

Stuart Wilkinson, comScore's head of industry relations:

Lucas Olmedo, CEO of online recommendations engine Fligoo:

via Business Feeds

Chinese pork firm that bought Smithfield seeks $6B in IPO


A Chinese pork producer that bought U.S.-based Smithfield Foods Inc. late last year has plans for an initial public offering in Hong Kong that will raise up to $6 billion US.

via Business Feeds

Candy Crush Maker King Is Going on a Massive Hiring Spree

Peak Pizza Is Here: American Appetite for Pizza Cools Off

The Staffing Question

How did that person ever get promoted?

If you've ever worked in a corporation. you've probably asked yourself that question more than a few times. Not out of jealousy (one hopes) but more out of a sense that you don't share management's apparent recognition of this particular person's skills.

It happens often. At newspapers, reporters are often promoted to editor because so many reporters come in each year that management thinks editors can be made out of reporters (which isn't true p- editing is a different skill). And then editors are promoted to managers because, well, they need to make room for more editors. Managing and editing might seem to be skills that align with each other. But no.

I ran into someone who worked with someone with whom I worked a while back, and when this person's name came up, he said, "He brings nothing to the table. Yet he keeps being given positions of responsibility." I thought I had been the only one to think that.

I don't understand why certain people are marked for advancement despite their evident -- at least to observers such as coworkers -- lack of talent. (Except a talent for advancement.)

I know some people are good at self-promotion, hoping that it will lead to real promotion. Meanwhile, other, more talented folk, can be left toiling away unnoticed.

I think of this because of something I recently read about how the Mexican fast-food chain Chipotle handles its workers. It promotes from within -- and it searches for the right people for the right position. It's not a consideration along the lines of, "if someone's been here so long, then that person should be at this place in the company" That's a dead-end way of thinking.

Chipotle promotes from within -- like a lot of companies -- but looks for qualities that can't be taught (and these don't seem to include self-promoting). A lot of assessment is based on what coworkers think, not just managers, and not the opinion of people who think that if they promote someone their own job might be in jeopardy.

That's a way to kill a company: to instill paranoia.

But what really makes a company better?

Not promoting people who seem to do one thing okay and then trying to replicate it in a different situation. No: it's promoting people who are conscientious, happy, help others, are of service, want to share their experiences. The qualities you'd want in a friend.

Not that a friend makes the best manager, or that you want a manager to be your friend. But you do want your managers to have the qualities of the people you admire.

That's a big deal. I have a small company, and we have worked hard to find people who share our values. This is not an easy task. But it pays off in knowing that we are working toward a shared goal that means something to each of us.

It's not about managing up. It's about being of service.

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Congress To Pass Bill To Stop Cut To Medicare Doctors

WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress is poised to give doctors who treat Medicare patients an eleventh-hour reprieve from a cut in their government fees.

Monday's planned Senate vote would send legislation to repair Medicare's flawed payment formula for a year to President Barack Obama for his signature. It comes just hours before a midnight deadline. The $21 billion measure would stave off a 24 percent cut in Medicare reimbursements to doctors for a year and extend dozens of other expiring health care provisions such as higher payment rates for rural hospitals. The legislation is paid for by cuts to health care providers, but fully half of the cuts won't kick in for 10 years.

It's the seventeenth temporary "patch" to a broken payment formula that dates to 1997 and comes after lawmakers failed to reach a deal on financing a permanent fix.

The measure passed the House on Thursday, but only after top leaders in both parties engineered a voice vote when it became clear they were having difficulty mustering the two-thirds vote required to advance it under expedited procedures. Several top Democrats opposed the bill, saying it would take momentum away from the drive to permanently solve the payment formula problem.

There's widespread agreement on bipartisan legislation to redesign the payment formula that would doctors 0.5 percent annual fee increases and implement reforms aimed at giving doctors incentives to provide less costly care. But there's no agreement on how to pay the approximately $140 billion cost of scrapping the old formula.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., promised to keep pressing ahead with a long-term solution, proposing to use savings from the troop drawdown in Afghanistan to pay the cost. Republicans and most budget experts say such savings are phony and are demanding at least some of the money to come from cuts to Obama's Affordable Care Act.

The heavily lobbied measure blends $16 billion to address Medicare physicians' payments with about $5 billion more for a variety of other expiring health care provisions, like higher Medicare payments to rural hospitals and for ambulance rides in rural areas. Manufacturers of certain drugs to treat kidney disease catch a break, as do dialysis providers and the state of California, which receives increases in Medicare physician fees in 14 counties such as San Diego and Sacramento that are designated as rural and whose doctors therefore receive lower payments than their urban counterparts.

The bill increases spending by $17 billion over the next three years, offsetting the cost with cuts to health care providers. The authors of the bill employed considerable gimmickry to amass the cuts, however, and fully half of them don't appear for 10 years. For instance, the bill claims $5 billion in savings through a timing shift in Medicare cuts in 2024.

Other savings come from curbs on payments to hospitals that care for a large share of indigent patients. But those hospitals first get a one-year reprieve from cuts scheduled in 2016.

The measure would give Medicare doctors a 0.5 percent fee increase through the end of the year. It also creates two new mental health grant programs, including $1.1 billion over four years for improvements to community health centers and $60 million over four years for outpatient treatment for people with serious mental illness.

The measure is the product of talks between House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Majority leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. It solves the fee schedule problem through next March.

Because of a flawed formula dating to 1997, Medicare doctors are threatened with big fee cuts almost every year. After allowing a 4.8 percent Medicare fee cut to take effect in 2002, Congress has since stepped in 16 times to prevent the cuts.

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Here Are Some First Steps for Northwestern's Union

The national media has focused on "pay-for-play" for college athletes after the recent National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruling allowing Northwestern University football players to unionize.

The concept of universities cutting paychecks to college athletes is a complex one, one that could have numerous ramifications, including unknown effects for female athletes under Title IX and male athletes in so-called minor sports.

However, if the ruling survives all the legal challenges to come, there are several relatively straightforward items that a Northwestern players' union -- or a potential athletes' union at any university -- could bring to the bargaining table quickly.

Here are a few actions that college athletes should push for immediately when dealing with the NCAA in general and individual university athletic departments in particular:

1) Cover All Sports-Related Medical Expenses for Athletes and Disallow the Pulling of Scholarships From Athletes Who Suffer Injuries While Engaged in Sports Activities For Their School

Currently, there are athletes losing their athletic scholarships (or having them reduced) due to injuries occurred during athletic competition for their university. That's simply wrong.

As the National College Players Association (NCPA), headed by former UCLA linebacker Ramogi Huma, says, "It is immoral to allow a university to reduce or refuse to renew a college athlete's scholarship after sustaining an injury while playing for the university."

Even worse is the fact that some schools aren't paying for all -- or part - of athletes' medical expenses that are clearly tied to sports-related injuries. Those occurrences need to stop.

2) Require Athletic Scholarships to Cover the Full-Cost of College Attendance and Be For Five Years

"Full" athletic scholarships should be just that and cover the full-cost of college attendance for students.

According to an NCPA and Drexel University study, the average scholarship shortfall (out-of-pocket expenses) for each "full" scholarship athlete was approximately $3,222 per player during the 2010-11 school year.

Many major college football and basketball players come from impoverished circumstances. The full cost of attendance should be covered under full athletic scholarship programs. The NCPA suggests these additional scholarship costs could be easily covered by using a relatively small percentage of post-season revenues. That sounds reasonable.

In addition, athletic scholarships should be for five years. This would prevent coaches and athletic directors from "firing" athletes due to injuries or athletic performance reasons - even when they are excelling in the classroom.

3) Develop Policies That Severely Limit Weekday Games

Academic performance is hindered, and graduation rates are damaged, by the growing number of NCAA Division I games that take place on weekdays.

In order to honor the NCAA's stated mission "to integrate intercollegiate athletics so that the educational experience of the student athlete is paramount" the number of weekday games needs to be curtailed significantly.

Scheduling Tuesday and Wednesday night football games is not in the best interests of students' educational work.

4) Adopt the Olympic Model of Allowing Athletes to Benefit Economically From Their Fame

Economically, college football and basketball players continue to be exploited.

According to a study by the National College Players Association and the Drexel University Sport Management Department, football and men's basketball players at top sports schools are being denied at least $6.2 billion between 2011 and 2015 under National Collegiate Athletic Association rules that prohibit them from being paid.

Admittedly, paying athletes salaries as university employees is a complex challenge that could take years to sort out. However, allowing college athletes to receive money from outside the athletic department is much more straightforward and can happen quickly.

It's fair and just. And it gets rid of a lot of the hypocrisy in college sports.

It's time to let athletes benefit from their fame and likeness like every other student at our colleges and universities. Let them take endorsement money like the coaches that lead them. If the local auto parts store wants to pay a college athlete to sign autographs for two hours during a store sale, why shouldn't the athlete be allowed to take that opportunity? If someone wants to give an athlete a gift -- be it cash or tattoos -- why should that be banned? College students on music scholarships are free to accept cash or gifts for playing a weekend gig at the local club. What makes athletes different?

As an example, it's time to eliminate the NCAA's outdated concept of amateurism and allow college athletes to get paid for having their likeness on calendars.

The fact is, nobody else in our country has to deal with the economic restrictions that NCAA athletes currently face.

The Olympics dumped the amateur myth and allowed athletes to make money from their athletic ability and fame. And guess what? The world didn't end! In fact, the Olympics are more popular than ever.

"The plight of college athletes is definitely a civil rights issue," says civil rights historian and author Taylor Branch. "College athletes are citizens and are being denied their rights by what amounts to collusion. Colleges are telling football and basketball players they can't get anything above a college scholarship. The athletes are being conned out of their rights. We need modern abolitionists to fight this unjust and unstable system."

The Northwestern football players have stepped up. Now, we need others from all walks of life to join the fight.

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