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October 20, 2014

Philips posts 3rd quarter loss

Filed under: finance, loans — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 3:32 am

AMSTERDAM (AP) — Royal Philips NV, the world’s largest lighting maker, has reported a 104 million-euro ($132 million) loss for the third quarter, mostly due to a one-off charge after losing a patent infringement lawsuit against Masimo Corp. of the U.S.

The loss compares with net profit of 282 million euros in the same period a year earlier, but includes the $466 million award a U.S. jury handed to Masimo. Philips is appealing.

Sales dipped 1 percent to 5.55 billion euros, while operating margins — before charges — declined to 9.7 percent from 11.4 percent of sales.

Chief Executive Frans van Houten, who last month issued a profit warning and announced plans to split the company, said Philips is “facing sustained softness in a number of markets,” including China and Russia.

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October 15, 2014

Man arrested, second suspect sought in Scarborough home shooting

Filed under: loans, money — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 11:48 am

A man has been arrested and a second suspect is sought after shots were fired into a Scarborough home.

Three children, their mother and her friend were inside the Cataraqui Cres. and Warden Ave. area home last Tuesday when several rounds of ammunition from a rifle were fired from the outside. No one was injured.

Bullet holes were found in the front door, windows, interior walls and furniture.

Tevyn Rodney, 20, was arrested Friday and charged with discharging a firearm with intent to endanger life, mischief under $5,000, unauthorized possession of a firearm, and careless use of a firearm.

Police have released a photo of Justin Mohammed, 19, the second suspect in the shooting, in hopes the public will help in locating him no fax pay day loan. He is described as 5-foot-8 with a slim build and long, dark-brown/black hair. He is brown with a light complexion.

Mohammed is believed to be armed and dangerous, and police are advising anyone who sees him not to approach but to call 911 right away.

Police have not disclosed whether they believe this was a targeted attack.

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October 12, 2014

LA-area restaurants adding healthcare surcharge to cover workers

Filed under: marketing, money — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 12:56 am

LOS ANGELES • Some Los Angeles diners are discovering an unfamiliar new item when the bill comes for the truffled lobster Bolognese and for their crunchy Spanish fried chicken and waffles — a 3 percent surcharge for employees’ medical insurance.

The charge first appeared at one Los Angeles-area restaurant late last year; by early September, more than a dozen mainly high-end eateries followed suit. The added cost has given some diners heartburn and thrust the restaurants’ owners unwillingly into the debate over the Affordable Care Act.

The health care surcharge, the restaurant owners insist, isn’t a political statement, but a way to offer valuable benefits to employees while maintaining their profits, which are slim even at the most successful establishments.

“We want our staff to have health care,” said Josh Loeb, the co-owner of several popular dining spots. “It’s not because we support Obama or don’t support Obama, or are Democrats or are not Democrats.”

The Los Angeles-area restaurants aren’t the first to charge customers to cover health care.

After San Francisco implemented a health care mandate in 2008, many restaurants there adopted a surcharge to cover the cost of health insurance for employees.

Last December, Los Angeles restaurateur Bill Chait made a splash by introducing a 3 percent “Healthy LA” charge at his French restaurant Republique.

Loeb said he was inspired by the Northern California pioneers and emailed a group of “like-minded” restaurant owners this year to see whether they could plan a course of action together. The owners he reached out to, Loeb said, all run high-quality spots with many of the same clientele.

Many of the restaurant owners said they had been mulling over providing health insurance for years. They took the plunge after watching the Affordable Care Act pass and seeing other businesses find ways to offer health care for their employees.

“We decided it would be a good thing to do it as a group,” said Josiah Citrin, the chef-owner of Melisse in Santa Monica. “Usually when lots of people do things, it’s easier to make change.”

Citrin joined in even though Melisse doesn’t have enough workers to fall under the employer mandate that starts in 2016. That provision of the act requires businesses with more than 50 full-time workers to provide health insurance. The coverage will be a particular boon to longtime employees who are getting older, he said.

Younger restaurant workers such as Sarah Huxhold are also cheering the surcharge.

Huxhold, 31, a server at Milo & Olive in Santa Monica, said she lost her insurance through work last year after quitting to pursue a career in music. While out of work, her mother helped her buy coverage for about $500 a month, but Huxhold decided it was too expensive and dropped the plan in December.

Since then, she said she has tried unsuccessfully to get insurance through Medi-Cal. She’s been forced to scour Groupon for a deal on eye exams and pinned her glasses together to avoid getting a new pair.

Now that she will have insurance, she plans to get an annual physical and visit the dentist and optometrist. “I’m really excited about having insurance again,” Huxhold said. “There is no way I can pay for those things out of pocket.”

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October 9, 2014

Canada braces for EU free trade deal dispute with Germany

Filed under: mortgage, online ads — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 12:04 am

Canada is bracing for a dispute with Germany over whether its newly agreed free trade pact with the European Union should be reopened to erase arbitration clauses.

The final text of the accord, known as the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, was sealed Sept. 30, after five years of negotiations. Germany’s late call to question dispute settlement clauses has left Canadians puzzled, Canada’s chief negotiator, Steve Verheul, said Wednesday in Berlin.

Canada wants the rules embedded in the free trade accord “to stay in,” before the pact’s ratification, said Verheul in an interview in Germany’s lower house of parliament, where he was due to “explain Canada’s position.” Legal regress clauses that are outlined in the CETA agreement mark “considerable improvements on flawed arrangements of the past,” he said.

Related:

New German objections threaten Canada-EU trade deal

Stephen Harper plays down German concerns about Canada-EU trade deal

CETA a much-announced trade pact of dubious value: Walkom

The incoming EU Commissioner for Trade, Cecilia Malmstroem, is lining up with Canada to defend investment protection in CETA, while German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel, a Social Democrat, is adamant he’ll seek support for removal of the clauses before planned ratification of the accord next year.

Reopening the agreement means it “risks falling apart,” Malmstroem has said.

Wrangling over arbitration rules belies a surge in popular misgivings in Germany over the outcome of efforts to clinch an EU-U.S. trade accord, for which CETA has been perceived as a model.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who champions free trade with Group of Eight partners, is faced with divisions in her own coalition over arbitration rules as well as wider concerns among the general public.

Gabriel, in comments made on Sept. 25, blamed the European Commission for agreeing to the CETA clauses in 2011, and said Germany must “urgently” work with its EU partners to have the legal facility removed as domestic laws are adequate to address investor disputes.

Merkel has touted free trade deals with North America as a “mini-stimulus program” that would create thousands of jobs. That tallies with the hopes of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who hopes CETA will create 80,000 jobs.

CETA promises to abolish as much as 98 per cent of customs duties between Canada and the 28-nation EU trade bloc.

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October 7, 2014

Japan Lawmakers Flag Need for Exit Strategy as Yen Falls - Bloomberg

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

Japanese lawmakers are flagging the need for discussion of an exit strategy to a monetary policy program that

October 5, 2014

Man rushed to hospital being shot twice near Weston Rd. and St. Clair Ave. W.

Filed under: business, loans — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 4:56 pm

A shooting near Weston Rd. and Rogers Rd., has left one man with life-threatening injuries.

Toronto Paramedics said they received a call at 5:48 a.m. about a possible shooting.

A man in his 40s was rushed to hospital with several gunshot wounds, including one to his torso that paramedics called “very serious.”

Toronto Police are investigating.

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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 24, 2014

Amazon workers in Germany extend strike

Filed under: news, online — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 9:40 am

BERLIN • Workers at Amazon.com in Germany have extended a strike in a long-running wage dispute into a third day and targeted a fifth distribution center.

The ver.di union called workers at facilities in Leipzig, Bad Hersfeld, Graben and Rheinberg out on a two-day strike Monday. It then extended that by a day and on Wednesday added a center in the western town of Werne to the walkouts.

Amazon employs some 9,000 people in total at nine sites in Germany.

For more than a year, the union has been pushing for higher pay, arguing that Amazon workers receive lower wages than others in retail and mail-order jobs.

Amazon says its distribution warehouses in Germany are logistics centers and employees already earn relatively high wages for that industry.

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September 19, 2014

Pay hike on its way for SSM Health employees

Filed under: Uncategorized, legal — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 9:08 am

The holiday season could be a happy one for a vast majority of SSM Health’s employees across the health system’s four-state footprint.

The Creve Coeur-based nonprofit health care provider says it will increase eligible employees’ salaries by 2 percent starting this November, crediting the success of a cost-cutting initiative that began last fall.

In a letter sent to employees Sept. 12, CEO Bill Thompson wrote: “We are committed to providing fair and market-competitive salaries and benefits to our employees. It is also one of the reasons we have been working so hard to achieve our budget and end the year with strong financial performance. ”

The customary annual raises were temporarily suspended for eligible employees in 2014 as the health system tried to steer its finances back to black. Employees who missed their scheduled pay raise period (for most, that would have been in May), they’ll receive a lump sum come November to make up for the lost wage hike.

SSM employs 30,000 individuals, and those eligible for the pay increase include part-time employees, clinicians, managers and executives. New hires are excluded.

The boost in take-home pay comes on the heels of SSM’s success with a $150 million cost reduction plan that was implemented late last year to improve finances heading into fiscal 2014. Last year the health system posted a $74.3 million loss.

“To state the obvious, we exceeded our plan’s goals,” said Kris Zimmer, senior vice president of finance for SSM, said of the wage increase.

Through the six months ended June 30 operating income was $82.3 million, compared with a $1.3 million operating loss during the same period last year, a financial statement shows.

OVERHEAD TARGETED

A big chunk of the cost-cutting plan revolved around reducing overhead costs, which included eliminating 586 positions last October, restructuring management and reevaluating outsourced services.

One of the larger changes under the umbrella of cutting overhead costs was the decision to bring the legal team in-house. That represented a $4 million savings across its entire system throughout Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri and Oklahoma this year alone, Zimmer said payday loan lenders.

Locally, bringing legal in-house meant Greensfelder, Hemker & Gale lost some of its business with SSM. Greensfelder spokesman Steve Houston said no jobs were cut as a result of SSM’s move. Zimmer said SSM will use Greensfelder on an as-needed basis for “highly specialized” cases.

Other gains were made by improving the way payments are collected, which Zimmer said stemmed from better documentation of the care that was provided to improve reimbursement from payers like federal and state governments.

INTEREST-FREE LOANS

Also, this year SSM began offering patients interest-free loans in partnership with Commerce Bank to better collect unpaid medical bills.

The health system is also working to better predict staffing needs to reduce overtime pay. And the health system is working to better align the physician practices they’ve acquired over the years, a move that helps cut costs as those independent businesses can utilize the economies of scale the health system has to offer.

Earlier this month, the Post-Dispatch reported the health system had decided to change its name to SSM Health; dropping the “care” from its name. Currently, the entire system has more than 100 names, logos and brands. Rolling out one name and one logo for the entire system will eventually reduce marketing costs, Zimmer said.

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September 17, 2014

Ebola, not Putin or terrorism, is the real threat: Walkom

Filed under: online ads, term — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 7:24 pm

The gravest threat facing Canada and the world today is not terrorism.

Nor is it Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The gravest threat is a deadly virus known as Ebola. It is leapfrogging across West Africa at an accelerating rate.

It has killed almost 2,500 and is expected to kill thousands more.

Left unchecked, it is only a matter of time until the virus reaches North America. Given the incubation period of the disease, a traveller suffering from Ebola could pass through Canadian airport border controls without being aware he was infected and without showing any symptoms.

The World Health Organization says that up to 90 per cent of those who contract the disease will die.

The Americans have belatedly come to understand the seriousness of this epidemic. They have beefed up aid to West African nations such as Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Even cash-strapped Cuba is sending 165 medical workers to West Africa to help stop the epidemic before it crosses the Atlantic.

Yet Canada’s government treats this outbreak as a problem that has little to do with us.

“This is a major epidemic in that part of the world and we are concerned about it,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in July, in one of his rare comments on Ebola.

The United Nations says that $1 billion is required to bring the disease to heel in West Africa.

U.S. President Barack Obama has come up with $175 million and wants his country’s Congress to provide $88 million more.

On top of this, he is dispatching 3,000 troops to build treatment centres in West Africa. The Pentagon estimates that its role in the fight against Ebola will cost $500 million.

Canada, by comparison, is taking the cheapskate’s route.

Some research on an Ebola vaccine has been done by the Public Health Agency of Canada. The agency is also operating a small diagnostic lab in Sierra Leone.

But in total, Ottawa has so far committed only $7.5 million to fight Ebola on the ground.

That figure includes $2.5 million worth of supplies, such as rubber gloves, that the federal government already had in stock.

In the Commons Monday, opposition MPs asked why the government has not mobilized its military Disaster Assistance Response Team to West Africa.

They received no answer.

If the government were equally stingy in other areas of foreign affairs, its tepid response to Ebola might make sense.

But it is not. Ottawa has pledged $15 million to Iraq to help that country fight Islamic State militants. That alone is double what the federal government is spending on Ebola.

The federal government has also dispatched two Royal Canadian Air Force cargo planes to Iraq to shuttle weapons as well as “dozens” of military advisers.

The cost of this military component has not been made public.

Iraq is not the only conflict zone that attracts Canadian government money.

As part of its effort to contain Putin’s Russia, Ottawa is providing next-door Ukraine with non-lethal military aid (cost unknown).

Harper’s government has also promised Ukraine $220 million in economic aid to help it reduce its dependence on Russia.

On Wednesday, the prime minister vowed that Canada would support Ukraine in its efforts against Russia even if the struggle took 50 years.

But then funding conflict never seems to be a problem for politicians. As long as they are seen to be countering a recognizable human villain, money is always available.

In 2011, the federal government spent $104 million to take part in NATO’s air war against Libya’s eccentric but brutal dictator, Moammar Gadhafi.

Hotel bills alone cost Canada $11.5 million in that war, which left Libya in chaos.

The 12-year-long Afghan War against Taliban “scumbags” is estimated to have cost Canada somewhere between $14 billion and $18 billion.

To put that figure in context, the amount that Canada spent in just one year of that pointless war would be more than enough, by UN reckoning, to solve the entire Ebola crisis.

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