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November 26, 2014

Holidays start in August for some small businesses

Filed under: Uncategorized, technology — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 1:36 pm

NEW YORK (AP) — Chris Mann learned it’s better to hire help for the November and December holidays while people in many parts of the U.S. are still wearing shorts and tank tops.

Mann used to wait until the holidays were at hand before hiring. But the brand-new workers peppered managers with questions about products and procedures at his two Woodhouse Day Spas in the Cincinnati and Dayton, Ohio, areas — just as the managers were trying to help an influx of extra customers.

“It’s nearly impossible to train in the busiest time of the year,” says Mann, whose spas offer services like massages, facials, manicures and pedicures. Now he hires in August. By mid-November, the holiday staffers are up to speed and the spas run efficiently, he says.

Seasonal hiring isn’t as temporary as it used to be for some small businesses. Hiring extra help takes time. And then there’s the extra training and supervision. Thin staffing at many small businesses makes the process of assimilating seasonal workers harder than at larger companies. It all adds up to owners taking on holiday season employees as early as summer — or making other advance preparations to get ready for the influx of business near the end of the year.

SEEKING THE RIGHT FIT

David Bolotsky starts hiring in August to be sure he gets seasonal staffers who have a good attitude, work well with others and are willing to commit to a job not likely to lead to year-round employment.

The owner of Uncommon Goods, an online retailer of clothing and home goods, brings in recruiters to screen prospective staffers and try to weed out ones who look like they won’t be a good fit. Finding staffers is complicated by the location of his business. Uncommon Goods is based in the New York City borough of Brooklyn and some potentially good staffers would rather work in Manhattan. That makes for a smaller pool of candidates and a longer search process.

“It’s a mountain to climb and it’s a huge mountain every year,” Bolotsky says.

BIG-TIME PLANNING

Some small businesses take on so many seasonal staffers they transform into large companies for a short time. That requires well-organized hiring and training systems.

Vermont Teddy Bear Co., which sells stuffed, toy bears that wear outfits for holidays, graduations and other occasions, has about 135 year-round staffers. This year the Shelburne, Vermont, company expects 1,000 temporary workers to take telephone orders, pack boxes and work in the retail store at its factory, CEO Bill Shouldice says. That’s up from 850 last year. Like other smaller companies, Vermont Teddy Bear begins its seasonal hiring in late summer.

The company also gives year-round staffers short-term promotions so they’re able to supervise the influx of seasonal workers. And it hires human resources people temporarily to screen prospective employees and make sure they’re right for the job.

“You don’t want to hire a bunch of people who don’t show up, who didn’t really understand they’re going to be talking to customers or using computers or packing boxes,” Shouldice says.

TOO SOON TO TELL

But not every company can hire months in advance. Some owners have to wait until the last minute because they can’t predict staffing needs that early. Mohu, a manufacturer of high-definition TV antennas, usually has a surge in orders around the holidays when people buy new TVs. Last year, CEO Mark Buff had to double his staff to 50 from 25 to manufacture, pack and ship the antennas, but the hiring spurt didn’t happen until early December.

“We don’t know yet about this year,” says Buff, whose company is located in Raleigh, North Carolina. “It really depends on the orders.”

_____

Follow Joyce Rosenberg at www.twitter.com/JoyceMRosenberg

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November 16, 2014

Australia-China Trade Deal to Drive Exports Beyond Mining - Bloomberg

Filed under: mortgage, technology — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 6:40 pm

Australia will reach a free trade deal with China today, cementing ties with its biggest economic partner and reducing the nation

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November 2, 2014

Republican gains could aid Obama’s Asia trade pact

Filed under: mortgage, technology — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 5:36 am

WASHINGTON (AP) — Big Republican gains on Election Day would be a blow to much of President Barack Obama’s agenda, but one stymied item on his to-do list might get a fresh chance to move forward: trade. That could breathe life into Asia-Pacific trade talks essential to his efforts to deepen engagement in the region.

Obama needs special authority, known as fast track, to negotiate trade deals that Congress can accept or reject, but cannot change. It would smooth the way for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which is under discussion with 11 nations, and help advance separate negotiations with the 28-member European Union.

Fast-track legislation was introduced in January but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., would not allow a vote. Many Democrats fear that opening markets to countries with lower wages and standards will cost American jobs. Republicans tend to be more supportive, seeing more trade as benefiting the economy.

With Republicans favored to take control of the Senate and expand their House majority, trade could become a rare point of agreement between a Republican Congress and the White House.

Yet obstacles would remain.

Many Republicans would hesitate to a Democratic president make progress on his agenda. Among Democrats, there’s widespread opposition in the House to the Asian pact. Opposition is less strong in the Senate, but it only takes a few lawmakers to use procedural tactics and try to block the deal.

With or without fast track, there’s no guarantee that the TPP nations can reach an agreement. The main players, the U.S. and Japan, appear at loggerheads over access to Japan’s heavily protected agriculture market.

When TPP trade ministers met in Australia in late October, they announced significant progress in negotiations but no deal ahead of the Nov. 10-11 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, where leaders of the 12 nations will want to signal the end is in sight.

Having a clear definition of exactly what’s in the pact would help trade legislation in Washington, said Jeffrey Schott, an international trade specialist at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

“The large majority of the Republican party would support this and would be lobbied hard by the business community to get the legislation through,” Schott said. “This is not just a symbolic issue. This is a dollars and cents issue.”

But Lori Wallach of the advocacy group Public Citizen said U.S. negotiators have not broached in the TPP negotiations the issue of currency manipulation, despite demands from many U.S. lawmakers that it be included.

“The U.S. Congress will not provide the Obama administration with trade authority in no small part because it has ignored Congress’ demands for the deal,” Wallach said.

Liberal-leaning groups also fear it will lead to Internet censorship and grant more power to corporations, adding to the reluctance among Democrats to support it.

The ambitious talks seek to cut tariffs and set broader rules on issues such as intellectual property and state-owned enterprises, and apply to countries that account for nearly 40 percent of the world economy and one-third of global trade. Besides the U.S. and Japan, the participants are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

The administration views the TPP as strategically important for U.S. outreach to the Asia-Pacific. The main U.S. business advocacy group also views it as an opportunity to expand exports to the region’s fast-growing economies.

Christopher Wenk, the senior director of international policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said Republican congressional leaders have said consistently that trade is an area where they are interested to work with the president, but Obama needs to take the initiative.

“We definitely want to see more leadership from the administration and the president himself on trade issues after the elections,” Wenk said.

Republican advocates for the deal have accused Obama of failing on that count. They include the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, Utah’s Orrin Hatch, a co-sponsor of the fast-track legislation and an important voice in the months ahead.

As the negotiations come down to the wire, the importance of getting fast-track authority grows. Without it, other governments will question whether the deal they agree on with the U.S. could be tinkered with by Congress, which could derail it.

U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman wrote Foreign Affairs magazine that fast-track authority “would give U.S. trading partners the necessary confidence to put their best and final offers on the table.”

Obama is under fire for his handling of foreign policy and he stands little chance of attaining other legislative goals on immigration and raising the minimum wage in a Republican-controlled Congress. Success on trade could burnish his presidency during his final years in office.

“Trade could be a real big achievement of the last couple of years of this president’s term,” Wenk said.

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September 27, 2014

The Syrian Civil War has destroyed a family’s past

Filed under: Uncategorized, technology — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 10:28 am

BEIRUT

September 25, 2014

New Zealand Bond Sales Booming as Kiwi Strength Rattles Wheeler - Bloomberg

Filed under: economics, technology — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 8:48 pm

Sales in New Zealand

September 11, 2014

Ameren overearnings complaint fails to sway Missouri regulators

Filed under: online ads, technology — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 6:24 am

Ameren Missouri customers won’t be seeing lower bills anytime soon after an overearnings complaint from its largest customer failed to sway state utility regulators.

In a Wednesday hearing, Missouri Public Service Commissioners said they did not agree with an overearnings complaint filed by Noranda Aluminum, which had accused the utility of making $50 million in excess profits. That could have led to lower bills for Ameren customers, who have seen electric bills rise by about 40 percent since 2006.

While the PSC still must issue a final ruling, the commissioners said Noranda did not convince them that Ameren was consistently earning above the profit level they set.

“Noranda had to meet the burden of proof,” Commissioner Stephen Stoll said. “I don’t believe they did prove that Ameren’s rates were unjust and unreasonable.”

Noranda had contended that Ameren overearned by $50 million last year, half of which it attributed to an allowed rate of return that was too high. While the PSC staff agreed that Ameren appeared to have earned about $25 million above its rate of return last year, it maintained that earnings flatten out over time and a more comprehensive study was needed first no fax payday loan. PSC commissioners agreed.

“This system envisions that revenues, expenses and profits will fluctuate, sometimes significantly … but will even out over time,” Commissioner Daniel Hall said.

The PSC ruling against Noranda is the second loss at the commission this year for the Missouri aluminum smelter, which also sought to lower its rates with a concurrent PSC action filed in February. That request would have lowered its rates at the expense of other Ameren customers, who would have likely seen rate increases.

Noranda filed the overearnings complaint at the same time, which won the support of consumer groups that regularly fight against higher utility rates. The commission denied Noranda’s rate request last month, and Noranda said last week it would lay off 125 to 200 people as a result of the decision.

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September 6, 2014

New Town residents fight plan for conventional subdivision

Filed under: legal, technology — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 1:24 pm

ST. CHARLES • Bob and Cindy Messmer moved to the New Town area three years ago, drawn by modern homes of various sizes and price tags on an old-style street grid with easy walking to shops, restaurants and recreation.

Now the Messmers and many of their neighbors are fighting a suburban-style subdivision proposed for New Town’s southeast edge along Boschertown Road.

The City Council would have to remove the 93-acre tract from the “new urbanist” district it authorized in 2003.

“To diminish that vision at this point … would be a big step backward,” Bob Messmer, an architect, told the council Tuesday night.

Another resident, Lindsay Sutton, was more blunt. “Please don’t let our land be sold off to make another everyday ordinary subdivision,” she said.

The proposed builder, Tom Hughes, says New Town is a wonderful place but not for everyone. He says there’s also consumer demand for a more conventional, lower-density development in the immediate vicinity.

“We believe folks need to have a choice of a different type of lifestyle” in the area served by Orchard Farm public schools, he said. A current suburban-type subdivision nearby, Charlestowne, will be sold out in a few months, he added.

He pointed out that several hundred other lots in other parts of New Town will still be available through two other builders.

The Hughes project, Charlestowne Crossing, would have 234 single-family homes plus a new elementary school planned by the Orchard Farm district.

New Town has about 1,300 dwellings with approximately 3,000 residents. The original New Town developer, Greg Whittaker of Whittaker Builders, had envisioned as many as 5,700 homes going up there over 15 to 20 years.

Home building has continued although the pace slowed with the recession that took hold in 2008.

After Whittaker Builders encountered financial difficulties in the recession, a consortium of banks — WBI Resolution LLC — took over ownership of much of New Town as well as the Whittaker firm’s role as overseer of the New Town plan.

Greg Whittaker is still involved in the project through NT Home Builders, a company he manages and that bought some New Town land from WBI Resolution, said NT attorney Brad Goss.

Goss also represents Hughes’ group, which last year purchased 305 acres from WBI Resolution, including the 97 it now wants removed from the city’s New Town zoning rules.

Last month WBI removed the tract from its internal New Town regulations and said it no longer considered the area to be part of the development.

Opponents worry that allowing the conventional subdivision could set a precedent.

“In the next few years, you’re going to find more young families that want to build and there’s not going to be any more room in New Town,” said resident Ariane Cameron.

Goss said, however, that Hughes had made no decision on what to do with the rest of the New Town land his group bought.

“He’s willing to sit down and talk to people” about it, Goss said.

Hughes said the 234 lots he wanted to remove from New Town were offset by the addition last year of 236 residential lots on land originally slated for warehouse-type uses.

Critics also say that removing the tract would reduce the potential pool of homeowner fees that fund some New Town amenities and hurt current and future residents. Fewer areas for businesses in the mixed-use development also will be available, they warn.

More than 100 people, most of them opponents of the plan, packed into the council hearing on the issue. A vote is expected on Sept. 23.

Kim Higgins, who lives in the conventional Stable Ridge area nearby, was among a handful attending who supported Hughes’ request.

“I hate to see it sit empty year after year and no progress,” she said, referring to the vacant tract. She added that people in her area have a strong sense of community just as New Town residents do.

“We walk our dogs, too; we talk to our neighbors,” Higgins said. “We watch out for our children just the same.”

Supporters of Hughes’ request may have the upper hand politically, because six of the 10 council members are listed as co-sponsors. Seven votes are needed for passage.

A two-thirds majority is required because the city’s planning and zoning commission voted 6-2 last month to recommend against council approval.

A commission report said some members believed removing the tract would have a negative impact on New Town. The report also cited “incompatibility” of the Charlestowne Crossing home design with those in New Town.

Mayor Sally Faith, a planning commission member, was among those voting against Hughes’ proposal. However, she hasn’t said if she would veto or sign the bill if the council passes it. Veto overrides require seven votes.

Council President Dave Beckering, the bill’s sponsor, told the crowd Tuesday night that the vote was about the best use of the land.

“Nobody else wanted to buy it to build anything on it, let alone New Town-style homes,” he said.

Moreover, he said, it’s St. Charles’ only viable option for large-scale residential development inside the city limits. He said there was also little land available for annexation.

Councilman Rod

Herrmann, whose ward includes New Town, sides with opponents. He said the original developer “had a dream and a vision, and these folks here believed in it.”

“They know it could take 15 or 20 years, and they’re willing to wait,” he said.

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August 27, 2014

Why the Tim Hortons-Burger King deal boosted the Canadian dollar today

Filed under: Uncategorized, technology — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 7:48 pm

The Canadian dollar was higher Wednesday, benefitting from the major deal struck that will see American fast-food giant Burger King buy Canadian coffee-and-doughnut chain Tim Hortons for $12.5 billion.

The loonie rose 0.41 of a cent to 91.72 cents US.

The cash-and-stock deal will see the parent of the U.S. firm, 3G Capital, own 51 per cent of a new company, which will be the world’s third-largest quick service restaurant company.

The loonie has been pushed higher in the past by big corporate deals. That’s because a foreign buyer acquiring a Canadian company will need Canadian currency to close the deal, boosting demand for the loonie on financial markets.

Our double-doubles better not start tasting like double-singles: editorial

Traders also anticipated a strong economic growth update Friday when Statistics Canada releases the June reading on gross domestic product. Economists expect that GDP grew by 0.2 per cent in June, which would translate into annualized growth of 2.6 per cent.

And next Wednesday, the Bank of Canada releases its next decision on interest rates.

On the commodity markets, October crude in New York was up 22 cents to US$94.08 a barrel.

December copper was down a cent to US$3.21 a pound, while December bullion gained $1.30 to US$1,286.50 an ounce.

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August 21, 2014

To us, Tina Fontaine just another missing native kid: Mallick

Filed under: legal, technology — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 6:52 am

The call for a federal inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous girls and women isn’t the result of nearly 1,200 females crying out from wherever their graves may be. It isn’t history leaking blood, it is a continuing serial tragedy, and pretty little Tina Fontaine, her corpse hauled out of the Red River on the weekend in the bag her killer had stuffed her into, is just the latest instalment.

What makes Tina’s death worse is that at age 15, she was only 5’3” and weighed a feather-light 100 pounds. It was so easy for the killer to murder Tina, bag her up and dump her in the river. Even though her family and the police were looking for her, he calculated that she would be just another missing native kid, fun to torment, easy to slaughter and really easy to dispose of.

He was right. She was only found by chance while police divers searched for the corpse of a man, Faron Hall, also native, who had been seen struggling in the water. Hall’s body was also brought in. Behind the big blue tarps screening Tina’s corpse from view, Winnipeg’s Canadian Museum for Human Rights gleamed in the distance.

Tina’s story is harrowing, starting with the ID photos sent out as she went repeatedly missing after her life turned bad. There she is smiling with a cool ‘do, short on one side and long on the other, with big hoop earrings that must have made her very proud. On her slender neck just north of her throat, there is a worrying bruise or abrasion.

After Tina’s father got cancer when she was 4, her grandmother took her in, CTV reported. “She was a happy baby. She was a happy girl,” Thelma Fontaine said. But after her father was beaten to death in 2011, Tina fell apart. She was put into foster care in Powerview, Man., and then in Winnipeg, the latter a poor choice because she was both attracted to city life and unable to cope with it. Police say she may have been working the streets, and in the past year, she had run away three times. In one November 2013 notice of her disappearance, the RCMP in Powerview said she “is noted to have a history of attending Winnipeg.” That time she was found two days later but you can’t make a miserable, desperate teenager stay when she wants to flee.

“She had barely been in the city for a little over a month and she’s definitely been exploited, taken advantage of, murdered and put into the river in this condition,” Winnipeg homicide unit officer Sgt. John O’Donovan told reporters. And then he said what police are generally too brisk to say: “She’s a child. Society would be horrified if we found a litter of kittens or pups in the river in this condition. This is a child. Society should be horrified.”

O’Donovan has nailed us. We do treat aboriginal people like animals. Think of the children of Attawapiskat, a James Bay reserve which floods regularly and where children have basically been camping out in school shacks for years, begging the federal government for help. Those children are appallingly neglected.

“Yet the ones we see come down here and that we have as . . . patients, they are wonderful kids,” said a Toronto doctor who headed up north to help them. “They have got a great temperament, they’re very kind, they’re very intellectual, they are fun to be with high risk personal loans.” One Toronto rescuer was particularly upset by conditions in Moosonee. “It horrified me. There was neglect and abandonment and a very hard life.” Another said happily, “They are just lovely lovely children.”

Oh, I’m sorry, I mis-wrote myself. My mistake.

Replace “kids” and “children” with “dogs” and “doctor” with “vet” and I will be correctly quoting from a July story in the Toronto Star about white people going to Attawapiskat to treat stray dogs, “adopt” them and bring them back to Toronto. There is not a word about aboriginal children being neglected or abandoned or having a “hard life” after 150 years of colonialism, family patterns disrupted by residential school, sexual abuse, extreme poverty and hearty never-ending racism.

Dogs do as they’re told, for food. They attend obedience classes, don’t run away, don’t judge their pathetic unkempt owners, and fill a hole in the lives of inadequate people who don’t like children, much less aboriginal ones.

You may disagree. If ignoring Attawapiskat children in favour of dogs doesn’t seem harsh to you, read a 2010 Facebook post by Lorrie Steeves, a Winnipeg woman whose husband Gord is running for mayor of Winnipeg. “Lorrie Steeves is really tired of getting harrassed (sic) by the drunken native guys in the skywalks. we need to get these people educated so they can go make their own damn money instead of hanging out and harrassing (sic) the honest people who are grinding away working hard for their money. We all donate enough money to the government to keep thier (sic) sorry assess (sic) on welfare, so shut the f— up and don’t ask me for another handout!”

After the CBC reported the Steeves story on Aug. 8 — this was the last day Tina was seen alive in downtown Winnipeg — accompanied by a photo of Steeves at a gala with a big glass of white wine in front of her, Steeves apologized. I’m glad she did and I’m glad she enjoys a drink, but if this is how white Canadians think — that they are themselves exquisite while aboriginal Canadians are flawed beyond redemption and their sufferings of less interest than those of dogs — we have a long way to go. Well obviously we have a long way to go.

An inquiry into Canada’s missing and murdered women might lay this all open under a bright light, but Stephen Harper’s Conservatives call it unnecessary. In the meantime, think of Tina Fontaine of the Sagkeeng First Nation in Manitoba. When she went missing last year, a heartfelt flyer with her picture described her, with an addendum: “Scars on both arms.”

People cut themselves when they’re hurting. Tina was hurting badly. The flyer also warned passersby, “Tina went missing before. Do NOT approach her harshly please.” She was approached harshly, one final time.

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July 26, 2014

Nevada gambling revenue jumps 14 percent in June

Filed under: business, technology — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 5:20 am

LAS VEGAS • Nevada officials say casino revenues shot up more than 14 percent in June thanks to a banner month on the Las Vegas Strip.

The state Gaming Control Board reported Friday that Nevada casinos brought in about $907 million in June.

Las Vegas Strip casinos pulled in $532 million in June, up more than 22 percent from the same month a year ago. Downtown Las Vegas casino revenues of $41million were up 12 percent.

Reno casino revenues of $48 million were down 3 percent compared with June 2013, while South Lake Tahoe casinos brought in $12 million and were down 2 percent payday loans.

The state collected $44 million in taxes based on the June winnings, which is up less that 1 percent compared with a year earlier.

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