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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.”

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Follow Joyce Rosenberg at www.twitter.com/JoyceMRosenberg

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November 24, 2014

Oregon GMO food label measure headed for recount

Filed under: canada, loans — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 10:36 pm

PORTLAND, Ore. • Tallies of the last remaining ballots show an Oregon measure that would require labeling of genetically modified foods lost by only 809 votes and is headed for an automatic recount.

Officials released the full statewide count Monday.

It shows Measure 92 was defeated by a margin of only 0.06 percentage point. That’s well under the threshold for a recount.

A hand tally of ballots is likely to begin the first week in December, after Secretary of State Kate Brown certifies the election results payday advance low fees.

Recounts rarely create a significant change in the final vote tally. The advocacy group FairVote says the average recount shifted the result by less than 0.03 percentage point in 22 statewide recounts since 2000.

Oregon’s last statewide recount was for a ballot measure on civil forfeiture in 2008.

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November 8, 2014

U.S. airstrike destroys convoy carrying Islamic State leaders

Filed under: loans, term — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 7:56 pm

BAGHDAD—The U.S. has conducted a series of airstrikes targeting Islamic State leaders near the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, U.S. military officials said Saturday.

The airstrikes on Friday night destroyed a convoy of 10 armed trucks believed to be carrying some Islamic State (IS) leaders, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity to describe military operations.

The officials could not confirm whether the top Islamic State leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was among those targeted. Al-Baghdadi has declared himself the caliph, or supreme leader, of the vast areas of territory in Iraq and Syria under IS control.

Despite the airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition, Sunni militants have continued to carrying out deadly bombings targeting Iraqi security forces and civilians. A suicide truck bomber struck the convoy of a top Iraqi police officer killing eight people, including the ranking official, authorities said Saturday, in an attack that bore the hallmarks of militants from the Islamic State group.

The late Friday attack happened when the suicide attacker drove his bomb-laden truck into the convoy of police Lt.-Gen. Faisal Malik al-Zamel, who was inspecting forces in the town of Beiji north of Baghdad, police said. The blast killed al-Zamel and seven other police officers, while wounding 15 people, hospital officials and police officers said.

Meanwhile on Saturday, a series of bombings in and around the capital Baghdad killed at least 43 people, with the deadliest blast hitting the city’s sprawling Shiite district of Sadr City, where a car bomb tore through a commercial area, killing 11 people and wounding 21.

There has been an uptick in the number of bombings blamed on Sunni militants in the capital and mostly targeting Shiites, feeding sectarian tensions in the city, as the security forces of the Shiite-led government battle the Sunni militants of the Islamic State group to the west and north of the capital. More recently, the attacks targeted Shiite pilgrims marking Ashoura, the highlight of the sect’s religious calendar.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack in Beiji, 250 kilometres north of Baghdad, but suicide bombings have been the signature style of Sunni militants for more than a decade in Iraq.

Shiite Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, recognizing al-Zamel’s standing, led mourners at al-Zamel’s funeral on Saturday and a top army officer, Gen. Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi, vowed to avenge his death.

“Beiji will be the graveyard of Daesh (the Arabic acronym for the IS group),” said a clearly moved al-Saadi on state television payday loan lenders.

Al-Saadi and al-Zamel have been leading the ongoing battle to rid Beiji, which is located in Salahuddin, of IS fighters who swept into the city last summer. “We have cleansed many of Beiji’s neighbourhoods and we will shortly announce its complete liberation,” said al-Saadi.

A U.S.-led coalition has been launching airstrikes on Islamic State militants and facilities in Iraq and Syria for months, as part of an effort to give Iraqi forces the time and space to mount a more effective offensive. The IS had gained ground across northern and western Iraq in a lightning advance in June and July, causing several of Iraq’s army and police divisions to fall into disarray.

On Friday, U.S. President Barack Obama authorized the deployment of up to 1,500 more American troops to bolster Iraqi forces, including into Anbar province, where fighting with IS militants has been fierce. The plan could boost the total number of American troops in Iraq to 3,100. There now are about 1,400 U.S. troops in Iraq, out of the 1,600 previously authorized.

“What is needed from the U.S. is that it should work to bring the Iraqi people together,” said Hamid al-Mutlaq, a Sunni Iraqi lawmaker. “America, and others, should not become an obstacle that hinder the Iraqis’ ambitions for a free Iraqi decision that serves the interests of Iraq”

Besides the Sadr City bombing, at least nine people were killed and another 18 wounded when a car bomb tore through the commercial neighbourhood of Al-Amin in southeastern Baghdad. Two car bombs also killed eight people and wounded 16 on a commercial street in Baghdad’s southwestern Amil neighbourhood, police officials said.

A car bomb also detonated on a commercial street in Baghdad’s busy central al-Karadah district, killing seven people and wounding at least 21, officials said. In Yousifiya, a town just south of the capital, two people were killed and four wounded in a bombing near a fruit and vegetable market. Another car bomb struck Zafaraniya in southeastern Baghdad, killing six and wounding 13, officials said.

Hospital officials confirmed the casualties. All police and hospital officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to journalists.

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October 30, 2014

WhatsApp founders own nearly $9B in Facebook stock

Filed under: Uncategorized, term — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 1:24 am

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — WhatsApp founders Jan Koum and Brian Acton received 116 million shares of Facebook stock currently worth nearly $9 billion when they sold their mobile messaging service to the social networking leader earlier this month.

The breakdown of the big winners in Facebook Inc.’s $22 billion acquisition emerged Wednesday in a regulatory filing.

Koum, a Ukraine immigrant who was once living on welfare, reaped the biggest jackpot with 76.4 million Facebook shares now worth $5.8 billion. That makes him Facebook’s fourth largest stockholder behind company CEO Mark Zuckerberg and two mutual funds, Fidelity Management and Vanguard.

Acton, who worked with Koum when they were both Yahoo Inc. engineers, owns 39.7 million Facebook shares worth $3 billion.

More than 45 other WhatsApp current and former employees also received Facebook stock.

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October 26, 2014

Indonesia

Filed under: finance, marketing — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 8:16 pm

Indonesian President Joko Widodo turned to members of previous governments and executives from state-owned companies as he named his new cabinet, promoting Bambang Brodjonegoro to finance minister.

Brodjonegoro, who was the deputy finance minister for the last government, joins Coordinating Minister of Economic Affairs Sofyan Djalil, a former state-owned enterprises minister, in the top posts to run Southeast Asia

October 23, 2014

Gauge of US economy posts solid 0.8 percent gain

Filed under: loans, management — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 10:44 am

WASHINGTON (AP) — A gauge designed to predict the economy’s future health posted a solid increase in September after no gain in the previous month.

The Conference Board says its index of leading indicators rose 0.8 percent last month following a flat reading in August which originally had been reported as a small 0.2 percent gain.

Economists expect that continuing strong gains in employment should boost incomes and help support solid economic growth in the United States in coming quarters despite a weaker outlook overseas payday lenders.

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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 18, 2014

As Toronto dithers, Guelph sets sights on 21st century

Filed under: Uncategorized, mortgage — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 12:40 pm

There is a city in Ontario that is well on its way to reimagining the role of local government. And it’s not Toronto.

Earlier this year I wrote in this space that the Toronto mayoral candidates were missing the point. I argued that the city is on the cusp of profound changes and needed a mayor with vision and an ability to lead.

The networked age provides new opportunities to reinvent our local infrastructure and institutions.

All the Toronto mayoral candidates ignored the advice. So imagine my surprise when an email from Mayor Karen Farbridge of Guelph arrived, saying that her community is actually working hard to implement the transformations I outlined in the article.

I’ve looked into her claims and have concluded that the city’s elected officials, public servants and 120,000 citizens are well on their way to reimagining the role of local government.

So Toronto mayoral candidates please take note. My vision is achievable. Here is what Guelph is doing in seven key areas I outlined in my original article.

1. Promoting Entrepreneurship to Achieve Prosperity

I argued that when it comes to jobs, entrepreneurship is key, as close to 80 per cent of new jobs come from companies five years old or less, and technology enables little companies to have the capabilities of big companies.

Innovation Guelph is the Guelph region’s central institution for the support of entrepreneurship. Since launching in 2010, it has coached more that 500 companies and helped channel more than $12 million into client companies.

Guelph’s urban planning includes the development of mixed-use residential and business districts, including the Guelph Innovation District. This envisions a large tract of land close to the city’s core being transformed into a vibrant community that will mix residential and business development.

Guelph is collaborating with entrepreneurs and neighbouring communities to create a unique innovation super-cluster corridor, stretching from Toronto through Guelph to Kitchener-Waterloo. The cities of Guelph, Kitchener, Waterloo and the Region of Waterloo partnered with financial and technology sectors to create a business case for provincial and federal investment in all-day, two-way GO commuter rail service. Working together, these communities landed a commitment to increased service and two-way GO train service in the 2014 provincial budget.

2. Open Government

Guelph City Council unanimously approved an ambitious open government plan that had been co-produced from the outset with engaged citizens, local business and community stakeholders. Guelph’s vision for open government is a public service that grows into an “open by default” culture matched by citizens who regularly participate in government decision making.

The city is releasing data sets as public assets and has a vision for including data from community partners, such as businesses, educational institutions and agencies.

Here’s fresh thinking: the orientation manual built traditionally for councillors’ orientation has been turned inside out into an online user guide to local government, so that the public has the same information as new councillors.

The city and University of Guelph are in the early stages of launching a Civic Lab to bring design thinking approaches to address difficult issues affecting local communities.

3.Turning Public Safety Inside Out

Policing is moving into a new paradigm, where police focus on engaging citizens rather than delivering services to them. Already one of the safest cities in Canada, Guelph has launched Guelph Enterprise — a model for innovation in human services. The model asserts that cities do not have a policing problem but a marginalized people problem. To maintain safe communities we need more than just great policing — we need strong health care, education and social services working together.

In a few short months since its inception in May 2014, the group has shown this collaborative approach has tremendous opportunity to free up resources and capacity for stretched service providers.

4.Rethinking Transportation

I saw no evidence that Guelph is preparing for intelligent transportation systems and autonomous vehicle systems that are just around the corner.

However, the city council has made affordable, alternative transportation a priority for Guelph’s growth. Guelph’s cycling master plan has nearly doubled the city’s bike lanes over the past six years and is adding bike lanes as part of all road reconstruction. Guelph now has more than 100 lane-kilometres of bike lanes with another 110 kilometres in varying stages of approval. Guelph residents enjoy an additional 110 kilometres of off-road trails for pedestrians and cyclists.

Transit use is growing. Guelph Central Station was built in downtown Guelph to bring together Guelph Transit, GO trains and buses, VIA Rail and Greyhound buses. Guelph also introduced an affordable bus pass program.

5. Creating a Sustainable City

Amazingly, Guelph is building North America’s first city-wide district energy network.

The Community Energy Initiative is a kind of central heating and cooling system to serve industrial, commercial and residential buildings across the city. The system is designed to draw energy from multiple sources: solar, geothermal, biogas, waste heat and traditional fuels.

Since 2006, Guelph’s population has increased by 10 per cent while greenhouse gas emissions per capita have declined 10 to 15 per cent.

Since 2006, water conservation efforts have reduced average daily water production by 6.1 million litres per day. The average Guelph resident uses 20 per cent less water than the average Ontario resident.

According to Waste Diversion Ontario,Guelph’s innovative organic waste processing plant has led to the highest residential diversion rate of any municipality in Ontario.

The Guelph processing plant was built with additional capacity to be able to receive organic waste from neighbouring municipalities to subsidize the cost paid by Guelph taxpayers for the service.

6. Transforming Social Services

The digital revolution enables cities to better integrate social services, reducing cost and improving value.

Over the years, Guelph social services have decried the “business as usual” siloed approach to delivering public services. Recently, the city formalized this community philosophy with the creation of Guelph Wellbeing. Guelph used the Canadian Index of Wellbeing, developed at the University of Waterloo and rarely used at the city level, to survey residents to assess overall well-being.

The Guelph Wellbeing Leadership Group was formed to champion the initiative and includes 22 community leaders from different sectors, agencies and stakeholders within the city. They agreed to work together using shared performance indicators to tackle tough issues such as of affordable housing, social and physical connectivity, and food security. Instead of duplicating efforts and wasting tax dollars, they are pooling resources inside and outside government to find solutions.

7. Reinventing Local Democracy

Leaders in Guelph, whether at the city or university or in business, social services and community groups, have big ambitions. Events like Hackathons, Health Jams and Change Camps demonstrate a community approach to redefining the relationship between citizens and their local government. If successfully implemented, the open government and Guelph Wellbeing initiatives can go a long way to building trust among community stakeholders, to redefining the role of citizen and government.

Through its work in environmental sustainability, Guelph has demonstrated that cities can innovate. Through its fresh approach to problem-solving and open-government principles, Guelph is challenging the traditional industrial-age approach to local government and democracy. Shared ownership, decentralized decision-making, community engagement have the potential to shift the relationship from “us vs. them” to “we’re in this together.”

I travel the world speaking with and advising government and business leaders. Few communities demonstrate the ambition and discipline of Guelph. And I see no reason why the initiatives in a community of 120,000 can’t be replicated in a city the size of Toronto.

Oh: and to reiterate a final note to Toronto candidates. “Please stop calling me a taxpayer, dammit! I’m a citizen. And I want to live in a 21st century city! Which of you has a vision and plan to get us there?”

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October 3, 2014

Surge of hiring cuts US jobless rate to 5.9 pct.

Filed under: Uncategorized, money — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 10:16 pm

WASHINGTON (AP) — In a burst of hiring, U.S. employers added 248,000 jobs in September and helped drive down the unemployment rate to 5.9 percent, the lowest since July 2008.

The Labor Department’s report Friday also showed that employers added a combined 69,000 more jobs in July and August than the government had previously estimated.

The unemployment rate fell from 6.1 percent in August and is now close to 5.5 percent, which many economists consider a healthy level for the United States. The lower rate, combined with the surge in hiring, will intensify debate within the Federal Reserve on whether to raise its benchmark interest rate earlier than expected. Most economists have predicted that the Fed would start raising rates in mid-2015.

The Fed might now feel heightened pressure to raise rates to prevent a strengthening economy from igniting inflation. On the other hand, inflation remains so low — even lower than the Fed’s 2 percent target rate — that it might decide to maintain ultra-low rates well into next year to try to further strengthen the economy. The Fed’s low-rate polices have helped keep borrowing rates low for consumers and businesses.

Average hourly wages didn’t budge last month, a surprising trend in light of the healthy job growth. Joseph Brusuelas, chief economist for the consulting firm McGladrey LLP, suggested that more jobs in better-paying industries haven’t yet translated into higher pay because employers still have so many applicants to choose from.

“Policymakers will certainly be worried by the lack of wage growth,” said Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit. “Without substantially higher wage growth, the fear is that households will pull back on consumption if interest rates and borrowing costs start rising, snuffling out the wider economic recovery.”

September’s robust hiring eased fears that a tepid job gain in August might have signaled the start of a slowdown. But the 142,000 gain that was initially reported for August was revised up Friday to 180,000. In addition, July’s job gain was upgraded from 212,000 to 243,000.

Stock prices jumped after the release of the jobs report. The Dow Jones industrial average was up 119 points in late-morning trading.

The job gains for September were broad-based and included many higher-paying industries. Professional and business services, which includes engineers, accountants and architects, added 81,000 jobs, the most in seven months. Construction companies added 16,000 jobs, manufacturing 4,000.

Government jobs, which usually pay solid wages, rose 12,000, the most in five months. Retailers added 35,000 jobs and hotels and restaurants 23,000.

The average work week rose for the first time in six months, to 34.6 hours from 34.5 in August. Sam Coffin, an economist at UBS, predicted that employers won’t be able to increase that figure much and will likely instead have to step up hiring no teletrack payday loan.

The average hourly wage, though, dipped a penny to $24.53. In the past year, the average has increased just 2 percent. That’s scarcely higher than inflation, which rose 1.7 percent in the past year. In a healthy economy, wages usually rise 3.5 percent to 4 percent a year.

Typically, a falling unemployment rate signals a likely increase in wages. The main reason is that employers have to pay more to attract the workers they need. Some Fed members have already warned that the unemployment rate is low enough to spur higher inflation.

But Fed Chair Janet Yellen has said she is tracking many other gauges besides the unemployment rate, most of which still show scars from the Great Recession. For example, there were 7.1 million people working part-time jobs last month even though they want full-time work. That figure is up from just 4.6 million before the recession.

From the Fed’s perspective, Coffin said the sluggish wage growth and tame inflation may offset solid job growth and low unemployment rate. That could keep the Fed on schedule to wait until the middle of next year to increase rates.

There are still signs of job market weakness in the other measures Yellen tracks: Among the 9.3 million unemployed, 3 million have been out of work for more than six months. That figure has declined in the past three years but is still more than twice its precession proportion.

And a broader measure of unemployment that includes part-time workers who would prefer full-time jobs, as well as those who have stopped searching, is 11.8 percent. Still, that’s down from 12 percent in August and 13.6 percent a year ago.

The improved job growth comes after President Barack Obama touted his administration’s economic achievements in a speech Thursday. The economy is the top issue in voters’ minds as the November elections near.

The number of unemployed fell in September by 329,000. Most of them found jobs. But nearly 100,000 stopped looking for work. Their exodus lowered the percentage of Americans working or looking for work to 62.7 percent, the lowest proportion since February 1978.

September’s job gain means more Americans are earning paychecks and can spend more. The annual pace of economic growth is expected to remain above 3 percent for the rest of the year. Business investment is picking up, and consumer spending is growing at a steady if modest pace.

___

AP Economics Writer Paul Wiseman contributed to this report.

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September 29, 2014

New Zealand dollar sinks after central bank sells

Filed under: Uncategorized, business — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 5:16 am

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — The New Zealand dollar sank Monday after the central bank disclosed it conducted its biggest sell-off of the currency in seven years to lower an exchange rate that is squeezing exporters.

Data released by the Reserve Bank showed it sold 521 million New Zealand dollars ($410 million) during August. That came after the central bank governor, Graeme Wheeler, said the currency was too strong.

The disclosure pushed the currency known as the Kiwi down nearly 2 percent against the U.S. dollar to its lowest level in over a year before it recovered slightly to trade at $0.78. The currency has dropped 12 percent since July, when the central bank announced it was suspending its program of interest rate hikes.

The bank had earlier been the first among developed nations this year to begin hiking interest rates. It raised the benchmark rate four times to 3.5 percent as it tried to cool the economy, which had been growing at a relatively fast clip of 4 percent.

Even as rates were rising, farmers who play a key role in the economy were facing tougher times personal loans for people with bad credit. Wholesale dairy prices have fallen by more than 40 percent since February, prompting dairy giant Fonterra to last week announce a big cut in projected payouts to farmers over coming months.

Those farmers will be hoping for a boost from the central bank’s actions as a weaker dollar makes New Zealand exports more attractive abroad.

Wheeler has repeatedly said he believes the Kiwi is too high. He went further last week by releasing a statement saying conditions would justify intervention.

“The exchange rate has yet to adjust materially to the lower commodity prices,” he said. “Its current level remains unjustified and unsustainable. We expect a further significant depreciation, which should be reinforced as monetary policy in the U.S. begins to normalize.”

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