Chinese university invents world’s lightest material; It is also exceptionally strong and is able to recover its original form after being compressed up to 80% over a thousand times. It can absorb oil 250-900x its volume

Chinese university invents world’s lightest material

Staff Reporter

2013-03-21

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The aerogel produced by Chinese scientists is so light that it can be placed on a flower. (Photo/Xinhua)

Chinese scientists have successful developed an aerogel that they claim is the lightest material in the world. The density of the gel is only one sixth of air at 0.16 milligrams per cubic centimeter, 0.04 milligrams lighter than aerographite, a substance produced by German scientists last year which hitherto held the record.

Scientists led by professor Gao Chao from the Department of Polymer Science and Engineering at Zhejiang University, produced the aerogel by freezing graphene with a carbon nanotube, removing their liquid components and keeping only their structures, according to Chinese science website Science and Technology Daily.

The aerogel is so light that a mug made of the material would be able to perch on a green foxtail and would not bend a hair of the plant, said professor Gao.

It is also exceptionally strong and is able to recover its original form after being compressed up to 80% over a thousand times. It can absorb oil 250-900x its volume. Existing oil absorbers can only take in up to 10x their volume.

Professor Gao said that the material could be used to soak up oil leaks in the world’s oceans. Once the aerogel is soaked with the oil, people can squeeze the oil out and reuse the aerogel, according to the Chinese-language Dushi Kuaibao, published by the local Hangzhou Daily. Read more of this post

McDonald’s franchises in China need 5 years to break even

McDonald’s franchises in China need 5 years to break even

Staff Reporter

2013-03-21

McDonald’s franchises in China may need up to five years before they break even, according to the Shanghai-based First Financial Daily. Chinese investors interested in taking up a new McDonald’s franchise must pay an initial fee of 2 million yuan (US$320,000) and must also pay for the building itself, equipment and other additional costs, including monthly franchising operations and advertising fees. An outlet may need to operate for five years before it starts to see a profit, based on the current sales of a typical McDonald’s restaurant and the increasing cost of running a business in the country, analysts say. The US fast food giant is continuing to expand its China network, with new franchises licensed in Hunan province last September, and the Jiangsu Rongjin Group obtaining franchise rights last October. McDonald’s has also opened more outlets in Fujian and Sichuan provinces, according to sources familiar with the business.

McDonald’s is one of the world’s highest-grossing fast food chains and derives its profits from other channels in addition to its burgers, selling franchising and property as well as renting out its outlets. The company reported operating revenue of US$9.9 billion in 2011. Total business from its restaurants, franchising fees and rents accounted for 32%, 23% and 45% of operating revenue, respectively. However, the company has failed to successfully apply its standard business model in China. Rival KFC beat McDonald’s into China and has held the lead in terms of revenue and expanding its franchises over the past 20 years. McDonald’s hopes to expand its network in mainland China from 1,500 to 2,000 restaurants by the end of 2013 and 20%-30% of its restaurants will be franchise outlets by 2015. According to analysts, McDonald’s should work more closely with agents within China to better understand the local market.

Chart Of The Day: China PMI Vs Electricity Production

Chart Of The Day: China PMI Vs Electricity Production

Tyler Durden on 03/20/2013 22:13 -0400

HSBC’s China Flash PMI just printed above expectations at 51.7, disappointing those hoping for more stimulus but just Goldilocks enough to satisfy the world that China is firing on all cylinders… But, and there’s always a but, the following chart suggests that the diffusion-driven survey-based PMI data may be just a little different from the hard data on the ground. Of course, everything could have magically turned around in the last 3 weeks (aside from Copper demand and PBoC repo/rev. repo that is). For now, we tip our hat to the well planned PMI print as indicative that all is well in the smog-ridden pig-barren nation but scratch our chin at just what is powering all this growthiness… HSBC’s Flash PMI upticked more than expected but remains in that neverland zone… and here are the stunning sub-indices showing the ‘surges’ – hhmm – employment? pricing? even New Export Orders are in ‘fence-sitting’ mode… But when judged against the history of a relatively tight relationship to Electricity production… is it any wonder we call it the Chart of the Day… It seems we are about to witness a jump from -13% YoY decline (as we discussed here the largest ever) to a +10% YoY rise in the span of just one month…

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Brene Brown, author of “Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Lead”, interviewed by Oprah in a two-part episode of “Super Soul Sunday”

Brene Brown interviewed by Oprah in a two-part episode of “Super Soul Sunday”

Posted by: Kate Torgovnick
March 20, 2013 at 5:30 pm EDT

On Sunday, Oprah Winfrey revealed that she and TED speaker Brené Brown are “soul mates.” As the pair sat down for an in-depth discussion on Super Soul Sunday— part one of which aired last Sunday, with part two to air next Sunday — they excitedly talked about many of the concepts which Brown raised in her classic TED Talk, “The power of vulnerability.” One interesting moment came when Brown shared a counterintuitive thought on what scares us the most. “As someone who studies shame and scarcity and fear, if you asked me, ‘What is the most terrifying, difficult emotion we experience as humans?,’ I would say joy,” says Brown. “When we lose our tolerance for vulnerability, joy becomes foreboding. So what we do in moments of joyfulness is we try to beat vulnerability to the punch … We try to dress-rehearse tragedy.” In fact, says Brown during the first part of this intervie,  fear seems to be an ever-present part of our experience. “I think there’s a thin film of terror wrapped around us,” says Brown. “If it’s not, ‘I’m not safe enough’ or ‘I’m not secure enough,’ it’s ‘I’m not liked enough,’ ‘I’m not promoted enough,’ ‘I’m not loved enough’ … at the very bottom, ‘I’m not good enough.’”

The most unbelievable rainbows around the world

The most unbelievable rainbows around the world

People’s Daily Online  08:18, March 21, 2013  

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A rare picture of beautiful rainbow clouds floating over Mount Everest. 

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A double rainbow hangs on the sky of Dartmouth, Devon, UK. The British photographer has spent seven years for this moment. He had taken more than 2,000 similar photos before he successfully captured the perfect moment of the double rainbow

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A rainbow observed in Ishigaki City, Okinawa, Japan. The rainbow was reflected by the moonlight.

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A rainbow shows above the Niagara Falls while an American is performing tightrope walking

How emoji conquered the world; The story of the smiley face from the man who invented it

How emoji conquered the world

The story of the smiley face from the man who invented it

By Jeff Blagdon on March 4, 2013 11:46 am Email @jeffblagdon

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In 1995, sales of pagers were booming among Japan’s teenagers, and NTT Docomo’s decision to add the heart symbol to its Pocket Bell devices let high school kids across the country inject a new level of sentiment (and cuteness) into the millions of messages they were keying into telephones every day. Docomo was thriving, with a bona fide must-have gadget on its hands and market share in the neighborhood of 40 percent. But when new versions of the Pocket Bell abandoned the heart symbol in favor of more business-friendly features like kanji and Latin alphabet support, the teenagers that made up Docomo’s core customer base had no problem leaving for upstart competitor Tokyo Telemessage. By the time Docomo realized it had misjudged the demand for business-focused pagers, it was badly in need of a new killer app. What it came up with was emoji.

Shigetaka Kurita is the man who created emoji, and during his time at Docomo he saw the shift happen first-hand. He was part of the team working on i-mode — a project that was just beginning to take shape, but would be the world’s first widespread mobile internet platform, combining features like weather forecasts, entertainment reservations, news, and email. i-mode would prove so popular that it would completely engulf the country, giving Japan’s mobile internet a nearly 10-year lead internationally. Initially, though, the i-mode team needed ideas, and in order to get a look at other work already being done on mobile internet applications, Kurita and others visited San Francisco in 1998 to check out AT&T’s Pocket Net.

It was the first service in the world to provide amenities like email and weather forecasts over a cellular network, and using AT&T’s new cellular digital packet data (CDPD) service, it was capable of transfer speeds of 19.2Kbps. (In comparison, an average US LTE connection today is around 9.6Mbps, or about 500 times faster). “At the time, the specs on the devices were really poor, so they weren’t able to display images, for example,” Kurita explains. Pocket Net had weather news, but things like ‘cloudy’ and ‘sunny’ were just spelled out in text. The lack of visual cues made the service more difficult to use than it ought to be, and Kurita recognized that AT&T’s mobile experience would benefit majorly from some extra characters for contextual information. Read more of this post

China’s Hidden Debt Risk

China’s Hidden Debt Risk

20 March 2013

Zhang Monan. Zhang Monan is a fellow of the China Information Center, a fellow of the China Foundation for International Studies, and a researcher at the China Macroeconomic Research Platform.

BEIJING – In the last 200 years, there have been more than 250 cases of sovereign-debt default, and 68 cases of domestic-debt default. None of these was an isolated incident. Indeed, such defaults – combined with factors like large current-account or fiscal deficits, overvalued currencies, high public-sector debt, and insufficient foreign-exchange reserves – have always triggered financial crises, from the Mexican peso crisis in 1994 to the Russian ruble crisis in 1998 to the American subprime mortgage crisis in 2008.

Since China’s era of reform and opening up began, the country has experienced three instances of large-scale public-finance problems. In the late 1970’s, the country faced a debilitating fiscal deficit. In the 1990’s, its corporate sector was plagued by “triangular debts” (when a manufacturer that has not been paid for its product is unable to pay its suppliers, which in turn struggle to pay their suppliers). Later that decade, financial institutions were burdened by bad debts generated by state-owned enterprises.

Now China is experiencing a fourth instance of elevated debt risk, this time characterized by high levels of accumulated local-government and corporate debt. To be sure, China’s national balance sheet, which boasts positive net assets, has garnered significant attention in recent years. But, in order to assess China’s financial risk accurately, policymakers and economists must consider the risks that lie in the country’s asset structure – and the liabilities that are not included on its balance sheet. Read more of this post

Swedish business is being cast as a model for long-term stability and growth; the Swedish model of active ownership of companies – the distinctive way Sweden has placed corporate power not with management but with shareholders who are obliged to elect board directors and be involved in big strategic decisions

March 20, 2013 6:52 pm

Scandinavia: Model management

By Richard Milne

Swedish business is being cast as a model for long-term stability and growth

The two men joke, finish each other’s sentences and defend the other from attack. “You start!” jokes one when the subject turns sensitive.

But behind this veneer of camaraderie, the two are rivals: Börje Ekholm and Anders Nyrén are two of Sweden’s most important businessmen, heading the holding companies that together control more than half of Stockholm’s stock exchange.

For the first time in the 69 years that their two companies – Mr Ekholm’s Investorand Mr Nyrén’s Industrivärden – have existed side by side their chief executives have agreed to give a joint interview.

The subject that has brought them together is the Swedish model of active ownership of companies – the distinctive way Sweden has placed corporate power not with management but with shareholders who are obliged to elect board directors and be involved in big strategic decisions.

With a structure that promotes long-term thinking, the Swedish model is attracting interest worldwide from regulators and governments looking to head off financial crashes. Some think that adapting the model’s tenets could reduce the short-term thinking that can damage companies, while also boosting local industry. Read more of this post

Big Data Can Bring Patients to Water But It Can’t Make Them Think; Aetna can tell its members if they’re likely to develop cardiovascular disease. It does this by tracking data from lab results, pharmacy data and claims data of its 18 million members

March 20, 2013, 7:30 PM ET

Big Data Can Bring Patients to Water But It Can’t Make Them Think

Michael Hickins

As it prepares to vie for new business from some of the 30 million additional people entering health exchanges through the Affordable Care Act next year Aetna Inc. is looking to analytics as a means of lowering the cost of some coverage. According to Michael Palmer, head of innovation for the Hartford, Conn.-based insurance company, Aetna is using a new analytic platform to predict which ailments its members are likely to contract over the coming year in order to lower the odds that they will develop cardiovascular disease, one of the more expensive and endemic diseases it has to cover.

This information could help improve health outcomes for patients, dramatically lowering health care costs for themselves, their employers and Aetna itself, says Mr. Palmer. “Better outcomes also lead to better costs. It’s a virtuous cycle,” he told CIO Journal Wednesday after a presentation at the Structure: Data conference in New York. But Mr. Palmer also noted that it’s difficult to get people to act on the information they’re given, even if it’s for their own good.

For example, Aetna can tell its members if they’re likely to develop cardiovascular disease. It does this by tracking data from lab results, pharmacy data and claims data of its 18 million members, looking for data showing that a given individual suffers from three of any of five factors – high cholesterol, high blood pressure, low HDL (so-called good cholesterol), high triglyceride levels, and abdominal girth – all of which are indicative of metabolic syndrome. “We found we can predict at the individual level the probability of their getting metabolic syndrome in the coming year,” Mr. Palmer said. Read more of this post

Biggest Solar Collapse in China Imperils $1.28 Billion; China’s Solar Billionaire Undone as Banks Push Suntech to Brink

Biggest Solar Collapse in China Imperils $1.28 Billion: Energy

Investors stand to lose most of the $1.28 billion they put into Suntech Power Holdings Co. (STP) after the solar manufacturer said it wouldn’t resist a bankruptcy petition filed in China.

The company, based in Wuxi, outside Shanghai, had more than $2 billion in debt and defaulted on $541 million in bonds due on March 15, prompting eight Chinese banks to ask a local court to push Suntech’s main unit into insolvency.

“There’s a host of companies that have gone to Wall Street investors and gotten billions of dollars, and these investors are ultimately going to be on the hook and get nothing out of it,” Angelo Zino, an analyst at Standard & Poor’s Financial Services LLC in New York, said in an interview yesterday. Read more of this post

Facebook Targeted in U.S. as Asian Chat App Line Invades

Facebook Targeted in U.S. as Asian Chat App Line Invades

Line, the Asian chat app that reached 100 million users about three times faster than Facebook Inc. (FB), is putting growth before profit to take on the U.S. social-networking giant and Twitter Inc. in their own backyard.

With 38 percent of its users in Japan, developer NHN Japan Corp. is honing plans to expand Line’s reach, setting up a U.S. marketing team and planning joint promotions and content- delivery agreements with local companies. NHN Japan is still at an investment phase as it targets as many as 1 billion customers globally, said Jun Masuda, chief strategy and marketing officer.

“This year, we want to capture North America,” Masuda said. “We’re not focused on being in the black. It isn’t time to cash in yet.”

Known for cartoon characters and other “stickers” that users can include in chat messages, Line is among several apps from Asia challenging Facebook, Twitter and Microsoft Corp.’s Skype as a way of communicating via mobile devices. South Korea’s KakaoTalk is looking to Vietnam and Indonesia to expand past 82 million users; China’s WeChat has about 300 million.

Line reached the 100 million-user mark 19 months after its June 2011 debut, compared with 49 months for Twitter and 54 months for Facebook, according to NHN Japan. Read more of this post

Easy money over for Asian junk bonds; 50% of January deals are now trading underwater

Easy money over for Asian junk bonds

Bankers and investors warn high-yield bonds from Asian issuers face headwinds due to compressed spreads.

By Jame DiBiasio | 21 March 2013

After a banner year of issuance, capped by a record $10.6 billion issued in January 2013, investors in Asian high-yield debt face a tougher environment.

“Income will dominate and capital appreciation will be limited,” says Bryan Collins, portfolio manager at Fidelity Worldwide Investments.

Tim Jagger, head of Asian fixed income at Aviva Investors, says that in contrast to the equity-like returns that investors enjoyed in 2012, this year they will only make money from the coupon of Asian high-yield bonds.

Julian Trott, head of debt syndication for Asia ex-Japan at Goldman Sachs, says 50% of those January deals are now trading underwater. He expects credit investors will return to high grade instruments. “There will be more discrimination of high yield by investors,” he says. Read more of this post

Alibaba’s Jack Ma outlines e-commerce vision for China

Jack Ma outlines e-commerce vision for China

The founder of Alibaba Group speaks to investors at an annual Credit Suisse conference ahead of stepping down as CEO in May.

By Anette Jönsson | 21 March 2013

In five years, e-commerce will account for 30% of total retail sales in China, Alibaba chairman and CEO Jack Ma said yesterday in a passionate speech that displayed his unwavering belief in the continuing development of the sector.

“Traditional businesses still think e-commerce is a business model. It is not, it is a lifestyle,” he told the audience at Credit Suisse’s Asian Investment Conference, adding that in 10 years nobody will talk about e-commerce as it will be a natural part of everyone’s lives, just like nobody is talking about electricity today.

The Alibaba Group, which includes Taobao, the popular consumer-to-consumer online shopping platform, and business-to-consumer sales platform Tmall.com, currently account for about 5% of total retail sales in China, said Ma, who called his 30% forecast “very conservative.”

According to Ma, e-commerce in the US is like a dessert – a supplement for traditional businesses. The infrastructure is so good in the US that it is difficult for a pure online company to grow to surpass the traditional businesses. But in China, because the infrastructure is so bad, e-commerce becomes the main course, he said. Read more of this post

Buffett Says Bet on Natural Juices of Market; “Never bet against what humans can accomplish if they’re operating in the right soil. And we have the right soil.”

Buffett Says Bet on Natural Juices of Market

Warren Buffett, the billionaire chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (BRK/A), said investors should bet on the “natural juices” of capitalism in the U.S. even as lawmakers struggle to narrow the budget deficit.

People tend to “focus too much on what the government’s done, and to give them either credit or blame,” Buffett said in an interview conducted by the chief executive officer of Business Wire, the Berkshire subsidiary that distributes press releases. “The real credit belongs to our system.”

Buffett, 82, has used annual letters to shareholders and public appearances to highlight the prospects for the world’s largest economy, where most of Berkshire’s operations are based. He’s also called for an increase in taxes on the wealthiest individuals to help reduce budget deficits and forestall cuts, an approach that Republicans say would hurt growth.

The U.S. economy “is coming back because of the natural juices of capitalism and not because of government,” Buffett told Business Wire’s Cathy Baron Tamraz in a video interview posted online today. “We have a wonderful system that eventually is self-cleansing and always moves forward.” Read more of this post

Fending off university-attacking zombies; Educators worldwide are moving away from a narrow and term-limited skills focus, and towards what one might call “renewable competencies”

Fending off university-attacking zombies

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David Naylor, Special to Financial Post | 13/03/14 | Last Updated:13/03/14 3:26 PM ET

Last week, David Naylor, the president of the University of Toronto, made a speech to Empire Club of Canada members about what he describes as educational zombies — government and industry calls for more job-specific education at universities and more research aligned with industry needs. His speech was timely in that it responded to a growing chorus of criticism in the media and industry circles that a university education is no longer a ticket to meaningful and gainful employment, and that the ideals of a liberal arts education are no longer sufficient to prepare graduates for the workforce. Following is the abridged text of Mr. Naylor’s remarks.

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Earlier this week, the University of Toronto made a wonderful decision in naming Meric Gertler as my successor as President.  As my term winds down, I have to say that it has been an extraordinary privilege to serve the University of Toronto community.

At the same time, impending retirement does mean that I am now something of a zombie…lurching around for a while in a transitional state.  And who better than a zombie president to tackle two zombie ideas about higher education and advanced research?

You may ask:  What’s a zombie idea?  Well, it’s one of those persistent and infectious pieces of misinformation, a meme that shouldn’t be alive but just won’t die.

There are two zombie ideas that trouble me these days.

Zombie 1:  Universities ought to produce more job-ready, skills-focused graduates.  Stop all this liberal arts guff and this social science silliness.  What Canada needs to compete and win in the world economy are more folks with college diplomas, and universities that focus on preparing people for careers — for the real world.

Or, as the Governor of Florida memorably put in a radio interview 18 months ago: “You know, we don’t need a lot more anthropologists in the state.  It’s a great degree if people want to get it, but we don’t need them here.”

Zombie 2:  Those ivory towers full of fat-cat academics and loopy students asking unanswerable questions.  Their wilful irrelevance is a waste of taxpayers’ money.  Get them out of the public trough and get them doing things that Canadian business can really use.

The reason these zombie ideas are dangerous is not just because decision makers in the U.S. and Canada have been infected by them.  They are also hard to destroy because there is unquestionably some truth, and therefore some life, to both of them. Read more of this post

Meet the next generation of Indian technology firms—and the obstacles they face

Meet the next generation of Indian technology firms—and the obstacles they face

Mar 16th 2013 | MUMBAI |From the print edition

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SIGNS of middle age were obvious at a recent gathering of Nasscom, the club for India’s giant IT industry, which now has sales of $100 billion and is dominated by outsourcing firms. The venue was a hotel in Mumbai, a five-star fortress of foyers and finger food. The guests of honour were politicians. Grey-haired, well-fed executives sat and talked in jargon. It was hard to spot anyone close to India’s median age of 26. Things have come a long way since 1981 when Infosys, a bellwether Indian IT firm, was founded in a flat by seven hungry engineers with $250.

Yet if you walk to the exit of that hotel and reject the option of an expensive limousine, or of hailing a bashed-up street taxi, and instead press “Book now” on your phone screen, another Indian tech scene appears. The application links a network of taxis using satellite positioning, cheap Chinese-made smartphones, souped-up Google maps and credit cards. A 6km (4-mile) drive north in a modern car will deliver you to a snack shop, above which is the firm that runs the system. Olacabs was set up in 2010. Its co-founder, Bhavish Aggarwal, is a 26-year-old engineer who has worked for Microsoft in Seattle. He has raised a slug of venture capital, some of it American, and says business is growing at 30% a month. “When you start you are viewed as a fool,” he says. “But if you are worried about that, you’re in the wrong line of work.” His goal is to transform transport in India’s congested cities.

India needs a million Olacabs: start-ups that use technology to overcome everyday problems. The economic benefits would be huge. And in a country with a stuffy business culture, in which commercial and political dynasties are all too common, a technology revolution would be a colossal breath of fresh air. It would help unleash the energy of a generation of young people. But will it happen? Read more of this post

Brainbox nation: America remains the world’s biggest spender on R&D, though others are inching up

Brainbox nation: America remains the world’s biggest spender on R&D, though others are inching up

Mar 16th 2013 |From the print edition

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IT IS NOT much to look at: an anonymous suburban office building, wedged between a shopping mall and a car dealership. Yet the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, has had a hand in many of the most celebrated technologies of the age, from the internet to global positioning systems to radar-foiling stealth aircraft. Its boss, Arati Prabhakar, jokes about having invented fire.

DARPA remains gamely engaged in research that to outsiders sounds like science fiction. Its Living Foundries programme, for example, is trying to work out how to use microbes to detect and repair worn or corroded materials. Blood Pharming aims to create a kit to grow blood from a culture for battlefield transfusions. ChemBots is investigating robots that can change their shape to squeeze through small openings and then reconstitute themselves on the other side.

America puts more into R&D than any other country, and agencies like DARPA are in the vanguard. Yet by the National Science Foundation’s latest count, in 2009, the country’s share of global spending on R&D had fallen to 31%, from 38% in 1999. As a share of GDP its expenditure now ranks only ninth in the world, at almost 2.9%. Investment in research even fell slightly in absolute terms for a couple of years during the recession, whereas in other countries it continued to grow quickly. China’s outlays, for instance, raced ahead by 20% a year in the decade to 2009. Read more of this post

IBM Spent A Million Dollars Renovating And Staffing Its Former CEO’s Office

IBM Spent A Million Dollars Renovating And Staffing Its Former CEO’s Office

Max Nisen | Mar. 20, 2013, 8:21 AM | 1,843 | 1

Sam Palmisano was an excellent CEO for IBM. During his decade or so in charge of the company, he successfully transitioned it away from hardware into a services and software powerhouse.

Still, details in IBM’s latest proxy statement raised eyebrows this week. In addition to providing a historically large exit salary, the company disclosed it is paying around a million dollars to staff and furnish an office for its retired CEO.

Palmisano’s retirement package is worth approximately $271 million, according to Footnoted.com‘s Michelle Leder, who has been analyzing SEC filings since 2003.

According to the Wall Street Journal, if that figure is correct, Palmisano’s would be one of the 10 highest CEO pay packages in history. Only six US CEOs have left with packages valued in excess of $200 million.  Read more of this post

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