Michelle Obama: The Business Case for Healthier Food Options; In recent years, they have generated more than 70% of the growth in sales for packaged-goods companies

February 27, 2013, 7:29 p.m. ET

Michelle Obama: The Business Case for Healthier Food Options

In recent years, they have generated more than 70% of the growth in sales for packaged-goods companies.


For years, America’s childhood obesity crisis was viewed as an insurmountable problem, one that was too complicated and too entrenched to ever really solve. According to the conventional wisdom, healthy food simply didn’t sell—the demand wasn’t there and higher profits were found elsewhere—so it just wasn’t worth the investment.

But thanks to businesses across the country, today we are proving the conventional wisdom wrong. Every day, great American companies are achieving greater and greater success by creating and selling healthy products. In doing so, they are showing that what’s good for kids and good for family budgets can also be good for business.

Take the example of Wal-Mart WMT -0.30% . In just the past two years, the company reports that it has cut the costs to its consumers of fruits and vegetables by $2.3 billion and reduced the amount of sugar in its products by 10%. Wal-Mart has also opened 86 new stores in underserved communities and launched a labeling program that helps customers spot healthy items on the shelf. And today, the company is not only seeing increased sales of fresh produce, but also building better relationships with its customers and stronger connections to the communities it serves. Read more of this post

Signatures Of Famous CEOs, And The Secrets They Reveal

Would be great if the signature analysis can be extended to outstanding CEOs and leaders who are not commonly featured in a high-profile way since preconceived notions and pre-“knowledge” about their “character” can be gathered..  KB

Signatures Of Famous CEOs, And The Secrets They Reveal

Jay Yarow | Feb. 27, 2013, 9:00 PM | 43,613 | 3

We asked a handwriting analyst to look at the signatures of some big-name technology executives and tell us what they say about their personalities.

Sheila Lowe, president of the American Handwriting Analysis Foundation, provided a blurb for us on Jeff BezosSteve Ballmer, and many more.

In researching this story, another handwriting analyst said Lowe is “great” at analysis. Lowe’s group, the AHAF, is trying to get cursive back in school curricula.

Lowe cautioned that it’s difficult to truly read a person’s character based just on their signature. You need some handwriting samples.

“A signature by itself gives only a limited amount of information (it’s like looking at a photo of someone’s nose and trying to describe their whole face),” Lowe told us over email. “The signature is like the cover on a book, and doesn’t always jibe with what’s inside. It’s what the person wants you to know about them.”

Since these people are in tech, we’re guessing it’s been years since any of them hand-wrote notes. As a result we have to use signatures we’ve found through various online sources.

With Bill Gates, Microsoft’s chairman, what you see is what you get


Lowe: “Bill Gates takes the time to write a clear, clean, unpretentious signature that says, ‘What you see is what you get.’ There are signs of quick thinking, but the round dot over the ‘i’ says he’s patient with details. He’s willing to take the time to listen.”

Jack Dorsey, founder of Twitter and CEO of Square’s, “@” signature is about saying “who I am is what I do”


Jack Dorsey has two signatures we’ve seen online. This one plays on his Twitter founding.

Lowe’s take on this: “Jack Dorsey’s extremely simplified signature drops his last name and with the @ symbol, identifies him with what he does (‘who I am is what I do’). The k ends with a downward trail. If that’s how he normally signs, it may signify a desire to continually look back at the past and figure out how to benefit from his experiences, or to figure out how he got where he is now.”

Jack Dorsey’s more formal signature shows he’s a bottom line kind of guy


Here’s another Dorsey signature we found that’s more formal. Says Lowe, “This is more his public persona. This one is a logo-type signature, which happens to be easy to forge in its lack of complexity. It’s another case of illegibility that allows the writer to hide anything he doesn’t want the world to see. He’s a bottom line kind of guy, impatient and with that strong ending stroke, aggressive.”

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is not as outgoing as he would have us believe


Lowe: “Jeff Bezos’ first name leans left before moving rightward with his last name, which is not completely legible and ends in a dynamic movement upward. Despite the fact that he might have a lot to say (notice the open “o” in his last name), he’s not as outgoing as he would like us to think he is, but we would need to see more handwriting to figure out why. That final stroke is somewhat aggressive and acts as a wall to keep others out.”

Apple CEO Tim Cook’s sloppy signature says he doesn’t want us to know much about him


Tim Cook also has two signatures online. This one is his sloppier signature. Says Lowe of this one, “Tim Cook has a signature that resembles some sort of alien hieroglyphic. Since a signature is written for the purpose of communicating who you are, we can assume that Tim doesn’t want us to know much about him. What we can see, however, is that his mind is moving faster than he can write. He gets to the bottom line at warp speed and isn’t interested in hearing all the mundane details. If you come to him with a plan, make sure you’ve done your homework.”

Tim Cook also has a cleaner signature, which indicates family pride


We also found this Cook signature, which was on a check for developers. Says Lowe of this one, “He probably felt the need to be clearer, knowing his signature would be seen on this rather large check, so took more time with it. We don’t know which is his “normal” signature—probably the other one. This one has a very large ‘C’ in the last name—his father’s name—so there’s respect or regard for his family of origin.”

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer sets his own standards and doesn’t care what others think


Lowe: “Steve Ballmer’s signature is interesting for a couple of reasons. First, he crosses the ‘t’ in Stephen far to the right, indicating forward-looking enthusiasm. Second, the ll in Ballmer has a rather strange shape that reaches into the stratosphere and make me wonder if he’s a pilot. We see this type of formation in people who have a great deal of pride in their accomplishments. He wants to be seen as an intellectual, which may lead him to make things sound a lot more complicated than they really are. He sets his own standards and has less interest in what others think.”

Google co-founder Sergey Brin’s signature suggests he wants to be known as Sergey, not Mr. Brin


Lowe: “Sergey Brin’s somewhat sloppy signature is at least readable. He wrote it quickly, not paying much attention to the details—there’s no dot over his i. He has a sociable, casual approach, and with the capital S being taller than the capital B, he would rather be seen as ‘Sergey,’ than ‘Mr. Brin.'”

Google CEO Larry Page is a good listener


Lowe: “Larry Page just throws his clear signature down on the paper and doesn’t care what others think. The vowel letters are wide open, which suggests he is a good listener. However, the wide space between first and last name indicates the need for a wide berth of personal space. Don’t stand too close when you speak to him.”

Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg is pretty secretive


Lowe: “Mark Zuckerberg apparently doesn’t feel the need to share more than just his initials. True, it’s a long name to write, but anyone not knowing what the name says, would find it impossible to guess. He is definitely the man behind the curtain, pulling the strings in the background.”

Once Apple’s co-founder Steve Jobs started going, there was no stopping him


Lowe: “Steve Jobs wrote with a thick marker pen (like his black turtlenecks) and didn’t capitalize his signature. This points to humility, at least in the way he felt about himself, if not his work. The low upper loop indicate someone down to earth, whose focus was on the here and now. The t cross stays mostly to the left of the downstroke, and apart from the capitals, there are no breaks between the letters. He might have needed a second cup of coffee to really get going, but once he did, he was a steamroller who never stopped until he had finished what he started.”

Why Innovation By Brainstorming Doesn’t Work

Why Innovation By Brainstorming Doesn’t Work


FEBRUARY 28, 2013

Anything–even doing laundry–will help you dream up new ideas better than sitting in a meeting, says Debra Kaye, author of “Red Thread Thinking.” A case study of the history of the single-use detergent pod. Eleven men and women file into a conference room and take their places around a large table. Coffee cups and pastries are assembled in front of them. George, the leader, steps up to a large whiteboard and scrawls across the top “SOAP STORM SESSION 9/18/12.” “Okay, let’s begin,” he tells the group. “Let’s just start free-associating. What do we think of when we think clean laundry?” he asks. “To get the ball rolling, I’ll write a few words down,” he says and dashes off chore, piles, whites and brights, and fresh on the board. “What else?” he asks. Several people add a few more words: time-consuming, fold, bright, uncontaminated, pretty, nice, old-fashioned, and pleasant. The meeting continues for about an hour, with more words and thoughts added. The plan was for the team to come up with a new idea for laundry detergent. When the meeting is over, the team members file back to their cubicles, word lists in hand, to ponder the outcome–but none of them ever produced any new insights into doing laundry that would lead to a new product. That’s because the group made the fatal error of trying to innovate by brainstorming around the idea of the central attribute of laundry–cleanliness. So while they came up with a pretty long list of words, none of the few concepts that came out of the meeting–“cleans in a shorter time,” “cleans without presoaking,” “brightens without fading”–was out-of-the-box spectacular. This scenario takes place every day in office suites around the world. That’s an important point to remember, because companies everywhere are brainstorming the same things about clean laundry as my imaginary team. Everything about clean laundry likely has been thought of before. It turns out that a brainstorming session is a great place to load up on baked goods and caffeine, but it’s not so great for generating ideas. In fact, the team in my imaginary example would have come up with more original associations and innovative thoughts had they stayed home and sorted a sock drawer, taken a hike, relaxed in a bathtub, or done just about anything else autonomously–including a load of laundry.

The conventional wisdom that innovation can be institutionalized or done in a formal group is simply wrong. Part of what we know about the brain makes it clear why the best new ideas don’t emerge from formal brainstorming. First, the brain doesn’t make connections in a rigid atmosphere. There is too much pressure and too much influence from others in the group. The “free association” done in brainstorming sessions is often shackled by peer pressure and as a result generates obvious responses. In fact, psychologists have documented the predictability of free association. Read more of this post

The World’s Most Admired Companies: Built for brilliance; Seven of those top 10 companies are one-man phenomena: Apple, Google, Amazon, Starbucks, Southwest Airlines, Berkshire Hathaway, FedEx

The World’s Most Admired Companies: Built for brilliance

By Geoff Colvin, senior editor-at-large @FortuneMagazine February 28, 2013: 7:55 AM ET

The most important trend in the World’s Most Admired Companies ranking isn’t the concentration of tech firms at the top, striking though that is. The list holds an even larger and more powerful pattern: Seven of those top 10 companies are one-man phenomena. Apple, Google, Amazon, Starbucks, Southwest Airlines, Berkshire Hathaway, FedEx — each is the reflection of a single individual (or two, at Google) who is still around, with the notable exception of Apple’s Steve Jobs, gone less than 18 months.

To see how unusual that is and what large questions it raises for any company’s future in today’s economy, one must consider the very first Most Admired list, which appeared 30 years ago, in 1983. Only one among the top 10 was a one-man phenomenon: Digital Equipment, run by founder Ken Olsen. The others were all long-established institutions, corporate aristocracy: IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Johnson & Johnson, Eastman Kodak, Merck, AT&T, General Electric, General Mills.

Why this massive shift? In an information-based economy, a company can rocket to industry dominance and a towering valuation in the space of a founder’s career, much faster than in an industrial economy. It can also fall right back down, as Yahoo, AOL, and MySpace prove. Read more of this post

Many women were appalled at the Yahoo news, noting that Mayer, with her penthouse atop the San Francisco Four Seasons, her Oscar de la Rentas and her $117 million five-year contract, seems oblivious to the fact that for many of her less-privileged sisters with young children, telecommuting is a lifeline to a manageable life.

February 26, 2013

Get Off of Your Cloud


When Marissa Mayer became queen of the Yahoos last summer, she was hailed as a role model for women. The 37-year-old supergeek with the supermodel looks was the youngest Fortune 500 chief executive. And she was in the third trimester of her first pregnancy. Many women were thrilled at the thought that biases against hiring women who were expecting, or planning to be, might be melting.

A couple months later, it gave her female fans pause when the Yahoo C.E.O. took a mere two-week maternity pause. She built a nursery next to her office at her own expense, to make working almost straight through easier. The fear that this might set an impossible standard for other women — especially women who had consigned “having it all” to unicorn status — reverberated. Even the German family minister, Kristina Schröder, chimed in: “I regard it with major concern when prominent women give the public impression that maternity leave is something that is not important.” Almost two months after her son, Macallister, was born, Mayer irritated some women again when she bubbled at a Fortune event that “the baby’s been way easier than everyone made it out to be.” “Putting ‘baby’ and ‘easy’ in the same sentence turns you into one of those mothers we don’t like very much,” Lisa Belkin chided in The Huffington Post. Now Mayer has caused another fem-quake with a decision that has a special significance to working mothers. She has banned Yahoos, as her employees are known, from working at home (which some of us call “working” at home). It flies in the face of tech companies’ success in creating a cloud office rather than a conventional one. Mayer’s friend Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook wrote in her new feminist manifesto, “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead,” that technology could revolutionize women’s lives by “changing the emphasis on strict office hours since so much work can be conducted online.” She added that “the traditional practice of judging employees by face time rather than results unfortunately persists” when it would be more efficient to focus on results.

Many women were appalled at the Yahoo news, noting that Mayer, with her penthouse atop the San Francisco Four Seasons, her Oscar de la Rentas and her $117 million five-year contract, seems oblivious to the fact that for many of her less-privileged sisters with young children, telecommuting is a lifeline to a manageable life.

The dictatorial decree to work “side by side” had some dubbing Mayer not “the Steinem of Silicon Valley” but “the Stalin of Silicon Valley.”

Mayer and Sandberg are in an elite cocoon and in USA Today, Joanne Bamberger fretted that they are “setting back the cause of working mothers.” She wrote that Sandberg’s exhortation for “women to pull themselves up by the Louboutin straps” is damaging, as is “Mayer’s office-only work proclamation that sends us back to the pre-Internet era of power suits with floppy bow ties.”

Men accustomed to telecommuting were miffed, too. Richard Branson tweeted: “Give people the freedom of where to work & they will excel.” Read more of this post

Buffett once said that shunning dividends in his early years running Berkshire Hathaway allowed him to refocus the company on better businesses, much as a person would overcome “a misspent youth.”

Buffett Outlining Dividend Plan May Ease Successor’s Path

Warren Buffett once said that shunning dividends in his early years running Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (BRK/A) allowed him to refocus the company on better businesses, much as a person would overcome “a misspent youth.”

The 82-year-old billionaire is now focused on his legacy as he prepares the company he’s overseen for almost five decades for new management. Using his annual letter tomorrow to outline a dividend strategy could help explain to shareholders how the company’s next leaders should approach the challenge of allocating profits.

“It may ease the burden on the successors” if they are able to initiate a dividend, said Richard Cook, co-manager of the Cook & Bynum Fund (COBYX), which counts Berkshire among its largest holdings. Berkshire and its units “generate a lot of cash.”

Buffett has sought to teach shareholders about business, investing and corporate governance through the annual letters and meetings held in Omaha, Nebraska, where Berkshire is based. As the company grew with investment gains and acquisitions, so did its cash pile, which reached $47.8 billion at the end of September. That’s made the task of allocating the funds more difficult, because it’s hard to find worthwhile, large investments, Buffett has said. Read more of this post

God a Click Away as Web Courses Fuel Falwell’s College

God a Click Away as Web Courses Fuel Falwell’s College

Three times a week almost 13,000 students at Liberty University assemble for an hour of singing and speeches, evoking the spirit of a revival meeting that also attracts Republican politicians and Christian celebrities such as New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow. The collegians make up just 14 percent of the student body. The Lynchburg, Virginia-based school founded by Baptist minister Jerry Falwell in 1971 has an additional 82,500 online students, more than twice as many as three years ago, making Liberty the largest, private nonprofit university in the U.S. “When I look at those numbers it still boggles my mind,” said Jerry Falwell Jr., a soft-spoken lawyer who took over the institution after his father died in 2007.

Nonprofit private and state schools alike are discovering what for-profit colleges such as Apollo Group Inc. (APOL)’s University of Phoenix and Washington Post Co. (WPO)’s Kaplan University figured out more than a decade ago. Faced with a swelling number of overleveraged student borrowers, cuts in public subsidies and paltry endowment investment returns, they are embracing the Internet as a viable alternative to educating students. Read more of this post

In a bid to make some major changes in Jakarta, a group of business tycoons has offered to lend a hand in seeking solutions to the city’s problems.

Indonesian tycoons lend city a hand

A group of business tycoons has offered to lend a hand in seeking solutions to the city?s problems. -Jakarta Post/ANN
Thu, Feb 28, 2013
The Jakarta Post/Asia News Network

In a bid to make some major changes in Jakarta, a group of business tycoons has offered to lend a hand in seeking solutions to the city’s problems.

Indonesian moguls with the President Executive Club met with Governor Joko “Jokowi” Widodo on Tuesday to discuss a number of urban issues the administration is trying to deal with.

During the discussion, Jokowi encouraged the billionaires to step out of their offices to see the capital’s issues first-hand and accompany him on a tour of some slums.

“After I visited numerous slum areas to better understand the problems here, I must admit everything seemed too complicated. For example, all the banks along Jakarta’s 13 rivers are occupied by squatters. I want to take all of you to visit these areas. There are acute socioeconomic disparities in this city,” Jokowi told the forum at the Batavia Tower in Central Jakarta.

The Ciputra Group’s owner, Ciputra; Lippo Group founder Mochtar Riady; and Jababeka president director SD Darmono were among the club’s members who attended the forum. Read more of this post

Singapore’s Canary Wharf-Topping Condos Damp Dollar: Currencies

Singapore’s Canary Wharf-Topping Condos Damp Dollar: Currencies

Currency strategists are abandoning their forecasts for a record-setting rally in the Singapore dollar as government measures to rein in property prices reduce pressure on the central bank to cool inflation.

The local dollar will likely rise 2.3 percent to S$1.21 versus its U.S. counterpart by Dec. 31, based on the median estimate of 26 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. The forecast eased from an all-time high of S$1.19 at the end of last year, in the biggest outlook downgrade among Southeast Asian currencies. Singapore’s dollar won’t strengthen beyond the record of S$1.1992 until 2014, based on the polls.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is trying to curb property- market speculation with inflation almost double the 20-year average. A 1,636-square-foot (152-square-meter) condominium in the Marina Bay financial district sold for S$4.4 million ($3.6 million) in November, government figures show. A unit about the same size in London’s Canary Wharf was priced at 2.3 million pounds ($3.5 million), real-estate broker Foxtons Ltd said. Read more of this post

Google’s Brin Touting Glasses Says Smartphone Emasculate

Google’s Brin Touting Glasses Says Smartphone Emasculate

Sergey Brin has an unconventional view of the handheld devices that help generate billions of dollars in ad revenue for the company he co-founded.

Hunching over a smartphone while walking about is “emasculating,” Google Inc. (GOOG)’s Brin said yesterday at the Technology, Entertainment, Design conference in Long Beach, California, according to a blog post on the event’s website.

Brin was touting the benefits of Google Glass, his company’s wearable mobile-computing devices that resemble spectacles. His point: standing upright and summoning information to one’s eyes is a better use of the body than “rubbing a featureless piece of glass.”

“Is this the way you’re meant to interact with other people?” he said at the conference. “It’s kind of emasculating.” Read more of this post

North Dakota Fracking Boom Leaves Oil Hub a Bust: Muni Credit

North Dakota Fracking Boom Leaves Oil Hub a Bust: Muni Credit

Oil extracted from wells ringing Williston, North Dakota, helped push the state’s surplus to a record $1.6 billion and generate the nation’s lowest jobless rate. Drilling also left the city broke.

While the U.S. Census counts about 16,000 residents, Williston says it provides services to more than 38,000, including workers living in temporary camps, hotels, and even vehicles. Keeping up with the load is spurring budget gaps that will deplete rainy-day funds, according to Standard & Poor’s, which cut city debt to BBB+ in December, three steps above junk.

The $5.8 million of debt the city sold in December for water and sewer work is a fraction of the $625 million officials say they need for roads, the airport, water supplies and other facilities to handle the Bakken oil boom. The issue, which is exempt from state taxes, included debt due in May 2019 priced to yield 1.5 percent, about 0.75 percentage point above benchmark municipal securities, data compiled by Bloomberg show. Read more of this post

Gas Boom Projected to Grow for Decades

February 27, 2013, 8:50 p.m. ET

Gas Boom Projected to Grow for Decades


U.S. natural-gas production will accelerate over the next three decades, new research indicates, providing the strongest evidence yet that the energy boom remaking America will last for a generation.

OB-WM999_SHALE_G_20130227212402 Read more of this post

Smartphone app tests urine for medical conditions

Smartphone app tests urine for medical conditions

NEW YORK — A smartphone app that analyses urine samples for a range of medical conditions has been demonstrated at a science fair in the United States.

BY –


NEW YORK — A smartphone app that analyses urine samples for a range of medical conditions has been demonstrated at a science fair in the United States.

The app can be used as an indicator of 25 different health issues including diabetes, urinary tract infections, cancers and liver problems.

Users who pay £13 (S$24.30) to download Uchek from Apple’s App Store from the end of this month will also be sent a mat and five dipsticks. Read more of this post

Nintendo Wii Games Boost Performance of Trainee Surgeons, Study Finds

Wii Games Boost Performance of Trainee Surgeons, Study Finds

Playing Nintendo Co.’s Wii console improved the performance of surgeons learning operations involving tiny cameras and instruments in a study that suggests the device could have a role to play in educating doctors.

In a trial among 42 post-graduate surgeons in Italy, those who were asked to play Wii games such as Tennis and a 3D battle game an hour a day, five days a week for four weeks did better at 13 out of 16 measures on a surgical simulator than those who didn’t play the games, researchers from Sapienza University of Rome wrote in the journal PLoS One today.

Trainee surgeons commonly hone their keyhole surgery skills on computer simulators such as those made by Cleveland-based Simbionix USA Corp. However, the expense of the machines, combined with the difficulty of a technique that involves maneuvering tiny operating tools through very small incisions, as well as increased risks of lawsuits, have raised the need for training outside the operating theater, researchers led by Gregorio Patrizi from the university’s department of surgical sciences wrote. Read more of this post

Wall Street Junk Kings Selling Debt Poised to Lose Value

Wall Street Junk Kings Selling Debt Poised to Lose Value

Wall Street junk-bond underwriters, selling debt at a record pace after the securities returned 19 percent last year, say it’s obvious that prices will drop when interest rates rise. So don’t blame the banks.

“Our job first and foremost is to properly structure deals for companies that can support their debt and perform well,” said Craig Packer, the New York-based head of Americas leveraged finance for Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) “The interest-rate risk is just a law of nature.” Read more of this post

In-N-Out Burger Employees Can Work Their Way Up To $120,000 A Year With No Degree Or Previous Experience

In-N-Out Employees Can Work Their Way Up To $120,000 A Year With No Degree Or Previous Experience

Ashley Lutz | Feb. 27, 2013, 11:49 AM | 2,624 | 4

In-And-Out Burger prides itself on being a better fast food chain.

Employees start at a higher-than-average salary and even have the opportunity to advance to make $120,000, according to a recent report from the Orange County Register.

The median pay for food service managers across restaurants nationwide is about $48,000 per year.  Read more of this post

China Provinces Cut Growth Targets in Sign Debt Concerns Heeded

China Provinces Cut Growth Targets in Sign Debt Concerns Heeded

By Bloomberg News  Feb 27, 2013

Almost half of China’s provinces are setting their growth sights lower in the wake of the central government’s emphasis on the quality of expansion over speed, a sign of an increased focus on tackling rising debt.

Fourteen provinces have set lower targets for gross domestic product expansion this year than in 2012 and the other 17 left their goals unchanged, according to Nomura Holdings Inc. The weighted average target has dropped to 9.9 percent from 10.3 percent, Citigroup Inc. calculates.

Scaling back regional politicians’ growth-at-any-cost attitudes may limit China’s rebound from its weakest expansion in 13 years. At the same time, it may mitigate concerns that rising local-government defaults will threaten the financial system and pollution will worsen as leaders complete a once-a- decade power handover next month.

“In the future, the central government may look at more indicators, including pollution and debt, in assessing local officials,” said Zhang Zhiwei, chief China economist at Nomura in Hong Kong and a former researcher for the International Monetary Fund. “You can’t continue the traditional way of accumulating heavy debts to push up GDP in your term and then leave the trouble to your successor.” Read more of this post

Analyst: I Ain’t Afraid of No ‘Ghost Cities’

February 27, 2013, 4:34 PM

Analyst: I Ain’t Afraid of No ‘Ghost Cities’

For China bears, the empty “ghost cities” that dot the Chinese landscape stand as concrete evidence that economic doom is just around the corner.

In the aftermath of a construction frenzy that lifted China out of the Great Recession, Western hedge fund managers set off on trips to places like Ordos in Inner Mongolia to view the eerie phenomenon – and spooked themselves into believing that a massive oversupply of real estate meant a Chinese economic collapse was inevitable.

What happened? Well, housing prices and sales volumes have been steadily rebounding, to the point where the government is now contemplating new cooling measures. So much for the epic oversupply that bears predicted would wipe out growth.

“Hurray for Ghost Cities,” writes the economist and veteran China-watcher Jonathan Anderson in a recent note. Read more of this post

How to Be Mindful in an ‘Unmanageable’ World

How to Be Mindful in an ‘Unmanageable’ World

by Tony Schwartz  |   2:00 PM February 27, 2013

“I believe this is a very special moment in history, a kind of perfect storm. There is a growing recognition — to borrow language from AA — that our world has become unmanageable.” Those words have been reverberating in my head ever since Arianna Huffington, founder of the Huffington Post, said them over the weekend during the Wisdom 2.0 conference in San Francisco. She wasintroducing an iPhone app called “GPS for the Soul,” which is designed to measure heart rate variability as a window into your stress level at any given moment during the day.

It seemed fitting to me that Arianna described the challenges so many of us face in our work — and in our lives more broadly — by using the language of addiction. Her words rang especially true because I happen in the midst of reading a book by Bryan Robinson titled “Chained to the Desk: A Guidebook for Workaholics.”

The addiction of our times is digital connection, instant gratification, and the cheap adrenalin high of constant busyness. The heartening news is that more and more leaders in big companies are beginning to recognize the insidious costs of moving so relentlessly and at such high speeds. Read more of this post

Bosses are reining in staff because they can; The lesson from Marissa Mayer’s whip-cracking at Yahoo is that this is an age of harder work

February 27, 2013 7:59 pm

Bosses are reining in staff because they can

By John Gapper

The lesson from Marissa Mayer’s whip-cracking at Yahoo is that this is an age of harder work

Marissa Mayer, Yahoo’s new chief executive, has caused consternation by insisting that employees who have worked from home must in future come to the office. Her critics have pointed out that home workers are as productive, if not more so, as those in cubicles.

They are, however, missing the point. Ms Mayer is mostly doing this as a rough and ready way to reform Yahoo’s notoriously dysfunctional and disorganised culture. She is also doing it because she can.

The lesson to draw from Ms Mayer’s whip-cracking – in Silicon Valley, of all places – is that this is an age of harder work. From intense teamwork at the top to monitoring and surveillance at the bottom, managers are squeezing more from employees than they previously would have dared. Read more of this post

LinkedIn: The Ugly Duckling of Social Media

February 27, 2013, 7:58 p.m. ET

LinkedIn: The Ugly Duckling of Social Media


Shares of Facebook Inc., FB -1.90% Zynga Inc. ZNGA +4.76% and Groupon Inc.GRPN +7.78% tanked after their rocky stock-market debuts. But LinkedIn Corp.’sLNKD +6.83% stock is still soaring, closing at an all-time high of $168.55 on Wednesday.

That may be because of people such as Chris Hoyt, who helps manage recruiting forPepsiCo Inc. PEP +0.53% Mr. Hoyt said the beverage maker has ramped up its spending on LinkedIn over the past three years by paying for job ads, career pages and a recruiter talent finder. The professional-networking site has become one of PepsiCo’s main sources of job candidates. Read more of this post

Billionaire inventor James Dyson: Why we invent in Britain, but build in Singapore

Why we invent in Britain, but build in Singapore

James Dyson

Published at 12:01AM, February 26 2013

Singapore offers skills, location and a supply chain. The UK’s future lies in ideas and patents

For the past 15 years, Dyson’s highly-skilled engineers have been developing a tiny revolution in our laboratories. It is a new motor a third the size of a traditional one, but which can spin 100,000 times a minute — five times faster than a Formula One engine. Making 6,000 adjustments a second for optimal performance, the Dyson digital motor can supercharge prosaic machines.

At Dyson we invest heavily in our ideas and develop all of our technology in Britain: All our research takes place in Malmesbury where we employ 850 world-class design engineers and scientists — about a third of them recent graduates.

Our new motor performs like no other — and because we are developing it in our own laboratories, with our own people, no one else can get their hands on it (despite trying!).

This is not only good for Dyson, but also for Britain. The intellectual property is owned here and all the profits will flow back to the United Kingdom where we pay more than 85 per cent of our global tax.

But last week, Dyson opened a new £150 million (S$281.4 million) motor manufacturing facility in Singapore. Why?

Savvy governments understand the need to support advances like our new motor and to create incentives for companies to develop them. They also value the highly skilled workforce able to develop them — 40 per cent of graduates are engineers, versus 2 per cent in Britain. They realise that the more successful the company, the more they export, bringing more revenue into the country and employing more people.

And the potential for discovery at the moment is enormous, particularly in the sphere of materials. There are significant gains to be made from materials such as carbon 60 and graphene, which was discovered in Manchester. This is 40 times stronger than steel and 1,000 times more conductive than silicon.

Thankfully, Britain is moving in the right direction and there is a renewed desire to develop technology on its shores.

Prime Minister David Cameron has increased the research and development tax credit — which supports companies that take risks and invest in developing ideas for the future — to 225 per cent. As a result, patent applications rose 29 per cent in 2011 and investors have reacted positively.

But Britain still has a shortage of engineers — it has a 60,000 engineering deficit. Who will develop the ideas?


Britain is not the only country that is creating incentives for invention — and companies such as ours are in global competition. Singapore understands this and rewards investment in research and development with a thumping 400 per cent tax credit. The country supports and values inventiveness and backs it up with an education system that encourages ingenuity — they have plenty of world-class engineers.

Bereft of natural resources, Singapore realises that human resources and ideas are its trump cards.

The result is a buoyant economy, with highly inventive companies such as Rolls-Royce knocking at its door.

Building a complex motor such as the one that Dyson is developing, with minute tolerances, requires the precision of a fully automated production line. The highly-skilled workforce, the tax incentives and the nearby supply chain make Singapore appealing for us.

We will make six million motors this year; increasing our production capacity by 100 per cent — a necessary jump to meet rising demand, particularly from Japan and America. We source the motor’s 22 components from across Asia, so it makes little sense to ship them to Britain, only to export the finished motors back again. So Singapore is the obvious place for production.

Britain’s focus should be on generating ideas and patenting them — that is the high-value part of the process and the one that will earn this country a competitive advantage. Britons must focus on being the best problem solvers in the world, developing technology and then exporting it.

And for this Britain needs high quality engineers, backed up by supportive government incentives. The country has the foundations in place — but continuing government support, both through the education system and tax system, is essential.

Sir James Dyson is the founder of Dyson, the technology company. This commentary first appeared in British daily The Times.

Is the start-up nation sustainable? Israeli policy talks in terms of growth, not leadership, and that is no longer enough, argues Roy Keidar

Is the start-up nation sustainable?

Israeli policy talks in terms of growth, not leadership, and that is no longer enough, argues Roy Keidar.

26 February 13 12:59, Roy Keidar

The book “Start-up Nation” is very popular among American Jews. The idea that a small place like Israel, poor in natural resources and facing major security and diplomatic challenges, is number one in the world in start-ups per capita is a source of pride for Jews and Israelis, and an inspiration for other nations. But many people have begun to ask: In view of the processes underway in Israeli society and culture on one hand, and global trends on the other, is the “Start-up Nation” sustainable?

Israel’s success story is interesting and unique. It begins with the need of a society of immigrants to survive in the region. This need gave rise to technological innovations, such as drip irrigation, solar energy, and a slew of defense products developed in Israel. The adage, “Necessity is the mother of invention” was realized in Israel.

But it is not enough. Over the years, we have created a winning combination of scientific ability and an Israeli tendency to take risks. This combination was also the result of high-quality Russian-speaking immigrants, which brought to Israel thousands of scientists, and skilled manpower who were discharged from the army’s technology units.

Following Israel’s economic changes of the 1980s, the opening to the global environment and foreign capital, and access to overseas scientific and technological know-how, the country discovered the formula, which gave rise to the “Start-up Nation” model for the 2000s. And this without even mentioning Israeli genius.

But in the past decade, there have been signs that the model is becoming frayed, especially when global trends and their effect on Israel are examined. The world is competing for innovation and creativity. Multinationals aggressively buy talent, and skilled personnel move from country to country following financial incentives.

Governments provide huge budgets and tax breaks for R&D to create strong national economic clusters. Former growth engines, such as information, computers and telecommunications (ICT) are giving way to new technologies, such as self-production and 3D printers, which require different specializations and preparations to adapt the economy.

Given Israel’s security and economic challenges, it must be the world’s scientific-technological innovation spearhead, since this is the country’s largest resource and the only non-perishable one. The assumption that what worked in the past will also work in the future, and that the market should be allowed to do its thing cannot serve as a working assumption. The world is changing, and Israel must adapt and renew.

How can Israel create the conditions to remain the world’s scientific-technological innovation spearhead? The answer cannot be found in a book or plan, nor can it only depend on the government, the education system, or the private market. The way to be the spearhead of innovation begins and ends with a common vision which sets innovation as the goal and calls on all parties to adapt their operating strategies to achieving this vision, which does not currently exist in Israel.

Israeli policy talks in terms of growth, not leadership, and in the 21st century that is no longer enough.

The author is the CEO of the Reut Institute

Ancient King’s Hat Holds Clues To Korean Alphabet

Ancient King’s Hat Holds Clues To Korean Alphabet

Agence France Presse | Feb. 27, 2013, 6:18 AM | 937 | 1


Park Ji-Hwan/AFP

A hat which belonged to South Korea’s most revered monarch King Sejong has been recovered more than 500 years after it was looted by Japanese invaders, a senior scholar said Wednesday.

Apart from its intrinsic value as an historical relic, the discovery has thrilled scholars after documents were found stitched inside the hat carrying explanations of King Sejong’s greatest legacy — the Hangeul alphabet.

The monarch known as Sejong the Great ruled from 1418-1450. His reign had a profound impact on Korean history with the introduction of the Hangeul phonetic alphabet that replaced classical Chinese characters.

Hangeul vastly increased literacy — previously restricted to the top scholarly class — and remains the official script of both South and North Korea. Read more of this post

Japanese Robot Suit Approved For Worldwide Rollout

Japanese Robot Suit Approved For Worldwide Rollout

Agence France Presse | Feb. 27, 2013, 7:35 AM | 2,355 | 3

japan-robot-suitjapan-robot-suit-1 (1)


A robot suit that can help the elderly or disabled get around was given its global safety certificate in Japan on Wednesday, paving the way for its worldwide rollout. Read more of this post

“To be Korean is to get plastic surgery. You must do it, or young people will think you’re weird.”

Gangnam, South Korea Is Becoming The Plastic Surgery Capital Of Asia

Geoffrey CainGlobalPost | 12 minutes ago | 251 | 

A crowd of young women wait nervously in the lobby of a popular plastic surgery clinic in Apgujeong, the affluent neighborhood at the heart of Gangnam.

Photographs of Korean pop singers and actresses line the walls, winsome customers who smile next to their cosmetic surgeons.

“It’s painful, but I really want a face like those Korean actress girls,” says a Chinese patient leaving a check-up — with her nose wrapped in a surgical bandage.

Many customers have traveled to this neighborhood — home to some 400 cosmetic surgery hospitals — all the way from ChinaJapan and Southeast Asia. They’re hoping to take home a little “Gangnam style” for themselves.

That isn’t just a Psy reference. Gangnam is popular from an Asia-wide trend made famous over the past decade: the popularity of Korean television shows and pop singers known as the “Korean Wave.”

Plastic surgery is a lucrative trade in South Korea, with citizens edging out Greece, Italy and the US as the most cosmetically enhanced people in the world. Read more of this post

The coming R&D crash

The coming R&D crash

By Brad Plumer , Updated: February 26, 2013

One of the few things Republicans and Democrats have been able to agree on in recent years is that the government should be spending more on basic scientific research — the sort of research that, in the past, has played a role in everything from mapping the human genome to laying the groundwork for the Internet.

“Government funding for basic science has been declining for years,” Mitt Romney wrote in his 2010 book No Apology. “It needs to grow instead.” In his most recent State of the Union address, President Obama sounded a similar note: “Now is the time to reach a level of research and development not seen since the height of the space race.”

So it’s notable that the exact opposite is, in fact, about to occur. Thanks to budget pressures and the looming sequester cuts, federal R&D spending is set to stagnate in the coming decade. The National Institutes of Health’s budget is scheduled to drop 7.6 percent in the next five years. Research programs in energy, agriculture and defense will decline by similar amounts. NASA’s research budget is on pace to drop to its lowest level since 1988.

As a result, scientists and other technology analysts are warning that the United States could soon lose its edge in scientific research — and that the private sector won’t necessarily be able to pick up the slack. Read more of this post

Why language is the key to winning India’s mobile market

Why language is the key to winning India’s mobile market

By Leo Mirani — February 26, 2013

“I’ve only just returned from work.”Reverie Language Technologies

“I’ll be late coming home today”Panini Keypad

MUMBAI—India has the world’s largest mobile phone market after China. Yet the amount of money mobile networks make per user is among the lowest in the world: around $2 per month. Chinese carriers such as China Mobile make five times as much. AT&T rakes in $65 per user per month in the US.

The most obvious reason is that Indian carriers operate on razor-thin margins, charging customers $0.01 per minute. Smartphone users spend more butpenetration remains low. Half of Indian smartphone owners don’t have a data plan anyway, according to Prashant Singh of Nielsen. But there are other things that make India unique.

Unlike many markets, Indian carriers derive most of their revenues the old-fashioned way: from people making calls. Non-voice revenue is just 11% of the total. That’s about half as much as in Britain and just under a third of American and Chinese operators’ non-voice revenues (pdf). Only one in two Indians send text messages, much lower than the 62% in its class of what the World Bank defines aslower-middle-income countries. Considering the zeal with which Indians have taken to mobile phones, what explains their reluctance to embrace their use for other things?

A big obstacle is language (bhasha or vasha in Hindi). Most phones sold in India come with English-language operating system software. Despite India’s reputation as an Anglophone nation, only a tenth of its 1.2 billion people count English as their first, second or third language. In any case, one out of four Indians cannot read or write. But unlike linguistically homogeneous Russia or China, India’s 22 official languages (and several hundred unofficial ones) in 11 different scripts make it a difficult market to crack. Read more of this post

80% of Chinese gov’t office purchases above market price, with 70% of purchases at least 1.5 times higher

80% of Chinese gov’t office purchases above market price: report

Staff Reporter


Around 80% of office products and equipment purchased by Chinese government departments last year were above average market value, with 70% of purchases at least 1.5 times higher, reports the Guangzhou-based 21st Century Business Herald. Read more of this post

The bizarre new Chinese trend of using rubber as loan collateral

The bizarre new Chinese trend of using rubber as loan collateral

By Naomi Rovnick — 10 hours ago

Chinese commodities consumption is often weird. Quartz has reported how, last year, many individuals and companies purchased copper in order to have some so-called “collateral” to pledge to banks as security for loans. The trend was a huge driver in world copper demand.

The same is now happening with rubber, Reuters reports, with Chinese borrowers sending the rubber price up to a ten month high.

The Chinese buy commodities to use as loan backing for two reasons. First, they need to tick the “yes” box on loan forms that says “do you have collateral”. In the US, factory owners might pledge their freehold land in exchange for a loan. But the Chinese government officially owns all land and can seize it from leaseholders any time, which can make banks understandably reluctant to take it as collateral.

Second, Chinese borrowers hope the commodity will rise in value so they can sell it at the end of their loan term for a profit. That all depends on car sales, since the rubber is used in tires.

An important question, though, is why on earth Chinese banks are accepting rubber, a commodity that has a short shelf life,  as loan security in the first place. According to Reuters, rubber can only be stored for around six months.

If China’s rubber-backed borrowers default on their loans, then banks will end up owning the rubber.  And while bank managers could probably sell off any factory equipment—or even copper—seized from borrowers who failed to repay loans, if the rubber isn’t bought up by tire-makers before it deteriorates, it quickly loses its value. And what would the banks do with it then?

In China, rubber-for-loans bet at risk from economy, car sales

Tue, Feb 26 2013

By Lewa Pardomuan and Rujun Shen

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Chinese investors have been piling up rubber as collateral for financing, recently driving prices to 10-month highs, in what could be a risky bet as warehouses in the world’s top user fill up with a commodity that can only be stored for a limited time.

Copper, zinc and steel have been used as financing tools in China in the past few years, but the move into rubber to back loans has raised concerns about the potential impact on the rubber market from such large inventory overhang. Read more of this post

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