Out First Order of Business – Bringing The News

Handpicked stories about any and everything

   Feb 15

Google Isn’t Top Dog In China

Cited: CNN

Google may very well be the 800 lb. gorilla here in the United States when it come to online search engines and indeed they are. Google has a market share in the U.S. higher than 50% over its top competitors in Microsoft and Yahoo. However, in China, the top search engine is Baidu and their market share seems to be nearly insurmountable, even for Google.

Today, Baidu boasts of a share of the search engine market in China of over 78%, while Google is barely approaching 17%, and according to industry analysts, Baidu has a lot more room for growth despite its already fairly lofty ranking. For its part, Google attributes a great deal of the difference between the two companies to a concerted effort on the part of Google to willingly withdraw from the Chinese market due to their strong concerns about censorship in China and the heavy-handed way in which the Chinese government tries to control what is and what isn’t allowed to flow through their cyber space.

The market will be paying close attention to the financial reports from Baidu, which are due out later this week, at which time analysts expect that the Chinese search engine giant will report a gain in their earnings per share of 82% and a huge increase in sales of over 90%, numbers that not even Google can match. However, before jumping on the Baidu bandwagon, investors should be aware that the bandwagon is already very crowded as shareholders have already pushed the price of a share of Baidu beyond a 30 time multiple of expected 2012 earnings. But if their earnings continue to multiply as they have to this point, market watchers say that the price per share and the multiple paid for a share is only going to go higher, much higher.

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My take:

It looks like being a business operating in cahoots with the Chinese government is the only way to make serious money there, at least when it comes to the Internet, and social media type of businesses. Google and Facebook have to be very wary of the Chinese government whereas as company like Baidu has no such concerns and can operate within the confines of Chinese law and still make a tremendous amount of money. Investors in the company are then left to ponder if they want to fill their pockets at the expense of freedom of speech for people in China?

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Other Resources

Ensuring Privacy of Data Recovery

There are a lot of people who end up losing data but never try to get it back because they think that having a professional extract the data or perform a RAID recovery would end up having that information spread everywhere, but any company whose job it is to recover data from digital storage devices would always be able to guarantee that the data they recovered would be kept private. When seeking out a company to perform data recovery, it’s always a good idea to check out their privacy policy and what they guarantee for the data that is recovered.

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   Feb 15

Online Gamer Reports Slowing Activity

Cited: MSNBC

You may wonder how does an online game company, especially one that has gone public, actually make enough revenue to keep itself running successfully, and keep its shareholders happy? Well, the online game site, Zynga, has reason to ask these very questions after reporting that activity for its games slowed to end 2011.

Zynga has only recently become a publicly traded company and the earnings report for the fourth quarter of 2011 was their first ever and it was hardly the introduction into the big-time that they were expecting. While the company did report that activity on their site was up 13% in 2011 from 54 million active users per day from 48 million per day in 2010, the number of people playing on their site was flat from the third quarter of 2011. In December 2011 Zynga went public and its IPO raised over $1 billion for the company.

Zynga’s fortunes going forward are closely tied to Facebook so they will be eagerly watching for the long anticipated IPO of Facebook to see how the market responds to shares of that social media giant hitting the market. Spokemen for Zynga say that up to 94% of the revenue generated for the company comes from its ties with Facebook so it is easy to understand why the Facebook IPO will be such closely watched by Zynga. The ups and downs of many other social media companies will also scrutinized in the run-up to the Facebook IPO with industry analysts saying that companies like LinkedIn, Pandora, and Groupon have a lot to gain should the IPO go well, which everyone expects will be the case.

Investors in Zynga would like to see the company derive much more of its revenue from mobile devices and iPads and to diversify away from so much dependence on social media outlets for its profits.

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My take:

The Facebook IPO is everywhere, even with companies like Zynga, that have staked their future on its partnership with Facebook. You have to believe that at some point in the future the Facebook bubble will burst and it what comes fluttering down won’t be pretty. Then again that’s what my great-grandfather said about the gasoline engine, what my grandfather said about the television, and what my father said about the Beatles.

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Other Resources

Water Front Weddings

When deciding upon a wedding that might not be inside or in a church, one of the most popular locations is one where there is a view of the water whether it is a lake or a rolling ocean or even a marina. For these types of gatherings, sometimes attendees will stand around the couple as they say their vows and at other times the couple will provide comfortable seats with Alpine chair covers to make a subtle formal statement for the ceremony even though it’s being done outside. Just about any style of ceremony is appropriate when it’s near the ocean

Casual or Official Betting

There are millions of people who place very casual bets that are just between friends and might be something as simple as an office pool where everyone bets on who might win the Super Bowl or how many points a particular team might score during a game. And there are also some official sports betting institutions which are specifically built to accommodate betting and have grown quite a following in the past few years as the internet seems to have taken over and allowed bets to be made more frequently and more easily from just about anywhere.

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   Feb 15

Boxers and Briefs Not Men’s Only Choices

Cited: CNN
For as long as any guy can remember, or his father and grandfather for that matter, when it came to underwear, you were either a boxer or a brief man, and only until recently did either come with any interesting colors, patterns, or any other visually alluring displays. However, as many men have now found out, a third choice is becoming a very big hit with the guys and the way this new line of men’s undies came about is something of a stroke of luck.

The boxer briefs, a combo of both traditional men’s underwear styles, is the brainchild of Tom Patterson, founder of Tommy John men’s underwear and he stumbled on the idea for the comfy hybrid by chance. Always on the lookout for the next big thing, Patterson found himself looking at existing products and wondering how he could make them better. After being laid-off from his sales job, Patterson began his search in earnest and started to focus on his poorly fitting and ill-constructed undershirt. His research led him to a higher end fabric called micro modal, which is much softer and more flexible than cotton and doesn’t yellow over time like cotton.

Patterson took samples of the fabric and had a local tailor construct underwear in the shape of the boxer brief and after several modifications he found a company to manufacture the new undergarment for him under the name Tommy John.  His company has been in business now for three years and sales revenue from his line of men’s undergarments is expected to rise to $4 – $6 million in 2012 from much more modest beginnings when he first started.  Patterson is planning on expanding his line of products into men’s socks, robes, and other garments that he says have been stagnant for so many years. Other men’s clothing company aren’t about to be left behind as the market for improved men’s wears blossoms with underwear giant Jockey also coming out with its own line of hybrid briefs and other undergarments for men. Their lead man for the Jockey products will be Tim Tebow, who will be modeling their new “Stay Cool” product line.

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My take:

It’s great that there are other choices on the shelves now for men. The boxer brief is a great product are many of the other new material undershirts. I am looking forward to trying the Tommy John line of socks, but I don’t think I’ll be getting one of their robes any time soon; it’s just too Hugh Hefner for me.

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Other Resources

First Coffee Drinkers

Although coffee comes from plants that grow in a number of different countries around the world, it is suggested that the first people to do something with coffee beans were the Ethiopians which soon led to an expansion of their use throughout the Arab world. In the 1400s it was seen that coffee gained even wider acceptance and spread away from Arab nations into places like India and Europe and later to Indonesia and the American continents. These days it’s common to get wholesale coffee in just about every country on the planet as it’s so popular.

Folk Art in the Home

It can be fun to makeover a home with a different style and for people who would enjoy a folksy style of decor, one fun option is to decorate with Jim Shore as these figurines are not only very intricately made and very beautiful but the company comes out with a variety of figurines each year which can be used for many different holidays and can even be used just for fun and regular decoration. One of the nice things about these figurines is that they’re also collectible which means they become valuable over time.

Bringing Food to a Party

Although it’s definitely easy to go to the store before a party and pick up a random potato salad to take to the party, it can also be a nice thing to talk to the person who has created the party itself to make sure that the snack or salad being brought to the party will match the overall food theme. For example, if a family is bringing out the Caja china for a pork feast, it might be a good idea to bring something that would match the tone and flavor of such a meal.

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   Feb 15

Convict Leads Police to Victims’ Remains

Cited: CNN

The families of victims of violent crimes, particularly murder, live the pain and suffering of the crime for the rest of their lives. But for those whose loved ones are never found, no body ever recovered, they are haunted even more so and the lack of closure for them makes their suffering all the more painful. A California man convicted in the murders of four people was convinced by a bounty hunter to disclose the burial area where he disposed of his victims, and while he was more motivated by money than remorse, Wesley Shermantine, did indeed lead police to the spot where they could find his victims.

Shermantine was promised a cash reward of $33,000 by bounty hunter Leonard Padilla, if he told them where authorities could find the people that he, and another man convicted in the murders, could find the remains of his victims. Shermantine agreed and drew a detailed map for police, which led them to an abandoned well in Calaveras County, to a piece of property owned by the Shermantine family. Mr. Shermantine, one of the “Speed Freak Killers” so dubbed by the media at the time of the trial, sent details and a map to a journalist, who then forwarded the information on to the police.

At the well site, police found human remains as well as hundreds of pieces of clothing and personal belongings of the victims buried 45 deep in the now dry well. Authorities believe that the remains of many more than four bodies are in the well and they have contacted other police and federal law enforcement authorities to check their missing persons records and to send them information on these still missing persons to see if perhaps their remains might be among the many being found at the gruesome site.

Police have tentatively identified two victims, Chevelle Wheeler and Cyndi Vanderheiden, both of whom disappeared in the 1980′s after falling into the hands of Shermantine and is accomplice. The money paid to Mr. Shermantine is said to be going for headstones for his parent’s grave site as well as restitution for his crimes.

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My take:

We live among some very horrible, evil people. This is a story that lends itself to telling your children and anyone else that may be vulnerable, including yourself, to be more wary than trusting. It is a cold way to go through life but there are so many predators out there that you have to be oh so careful or else you or a loved one may be the next one to be found at the bottom of a well.

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Other Resources

Working with a Disability Denial

It often seems as though one of the reasons an individual might have to deal with a denial regarding their disability claim is because their type of issue isn’t seen that often and might not be the sort of issue that a disability approval group would be able to understand as far as approving disability was concerned. This sometimes means that an individual who is seeking disability status might need to speak with a disability retirement attorney who would be able to point that individual in the right direction or assist with an actual legal claim for such benefits.

Using Tax Prep Software

For individuals who are otherwise not that interested in dealing with the complexities of tax math with a pen and paper, it has been suggested that using a type of tax software would be a good idea for anyone looking to get things done in a hurry, but some tax lawyers suggest that utilizing tax software if someone’s taxes are excessively complex might actually be a bad thing because software has been known to miss certain things that might otherwise need to be filed to ensure that a person’s entire tax debt has been properly paid for.

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   Feb 15

J&J Hits Snag in Foreign Market for Artificial Hip

Cited: MSNBC

Johnson & Johnson is said to have marketed and sold an artificial hip replacement in overseas markets after its sale in the U.S. was rejected by the Food and Drug Administration.  The U.S. regulatory agency decided in 2009 not to approve the hip replacement part know as an artificial surface replacement device (ASR), essentially a hip-socket cup, because J&J had not submitted enough clinical evidence of the safety and efficacy of the product. So after being on the market for approximately eight years, the FDA told J&J that they could not market this product any longer, as well as another similar model.

J&J continued to market and sell the other variation of the ASR because of a loophole in the regulations, but was prohibited from selling the other, which however they continued to market in foreign countries, particularly the U.K. Despite having both devices recalled by the manufacturing arm of J&J, DePuy orthopedics, because of the number of the devices said to be failing in patients that got that part when having a hip replacement, J&J still petitioned the FDA to gain approval to sell the product overseas. When the FDA declined the requests, J&J still sold the ASR outside of the U.S. due to the easier regulatory climate in other countries.

At no time is the FDA saying that J&J broke any laws in selling the ASR overseas, just that they were knowingly selling a device that both doctors and patients say is failing at very high rates. In addition, the U.K. regulatory agency overseeing such matters, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, said that J&J is not required by British law to advise them about any FDA refusal to sell the devices in the U.S.

J&J is bracing for heck of a legal battle stemming from the recall of the ASR as there are over 5000 lawsuits pending against the healthcare giant. The company has set aside a war chest of $3 billion in anticipation of the cost of fighting and perhaps having to settle these suits.  In not disclosing the denial of the FDA to sell the device, and the use of a similar hip replacement part cleverly skirting the exact regulations, J&J also faces serious consumer dissatisfaction with their brand even though spokesmen for J&J insist that they violated no laws or regulations.

After the British regulatory agency had received a tremendous number of complaints about the ASR, DePuy issued a total recall of the device, which now puts the company in the middle of a serious legal battle..

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My take:

How the heck do you recall a hip replacement part? its not like recalling a muffler for your car or some such thing that can be easily removed and replaced. Do these patients have to undergo surgery to have the parts removed and then send them back to J&J? Holy hanna, this seems like it’s going to be a much bigger problem that J&J ever imagined. I wonder, was it worth it to gloss over what they knew about the FDA not approving the device?

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Other Resources

Bundling Insurance Together

The popular thing in insurance to do these days is to bundle a number of different programs together into one policy so that the person buying insurance can save some money and a Scottsdale State Farm agent would likely be able to combine a number of different types of insurance together for this goal. The great thing about insurance is that most large carriers do provide many types of insurance so bundling isn’t that difficult to do. It’s a worthwhile call to an insurance agent to see whether bundling and combining policies might offer a savings in money.

Changing a Personality

There are some interesting arguments at work in some areas of psychology which question whether or not various types of personalities that a person might possess naturally could be changed to accommodate a specific job or relationship and sometimes it’s important for an individual to consider taking a Myers-Briggs to confirm just what type of personality they have. Some people are of the opinion that obtaining a different personality just takes work while others suggest true personality can’t change and that if someone wants to become a different type of person, it will take constant work their entire life.

Issues that Impact Personal Injury

There are some things that happen in life which are pretty cut and dried as far as whether a person might be able to investigate the possibility of a personal injury lawsuit with the representation of Lynwood WA personal injury lawyers, but not all circumstances are that clear. A person might believe that they are entitled to some sort of restitution under the law after a particular type of accident or an incident, but it’s important to note that the motions of going through a personal injury lawsuit aren’t always appropriate for every type of circumstance and a lawyer can help with the decision to sue.

Stages of Care

When an individual requires assistance in the home for various and everyday projects such as cooking or light cleaning, it is likely that a few years after such services are required that more intensive Coconut Creek home care options might need to be considered.  Generally additional options for care which might need to be included in future visits might include issues of bathing, getting dressed and even getting to the doctor for specific appointments and checkups. Often if a person lives alone, such visits are very important to ensure that a person is going to be able to be safe in their home.

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   Feb 14

Greek Bailout Put on Hold

Cited: CNN

Just one day after the Greek Parliament passed a controversial austerity budget, which sparked violent protests and riots in Greece, the Euro Zone ministers overseeing the rescue package have delayed an announcement about when the funds would be available to the Greek central bank. A meeting scheduled for Wednesday, February 15, 2012 was cancelled and a conference call was scheduled instead, news that sent the financial markets, particularly those in Europe into a tailspin. Jean-Claude Juncker, head of the banking group in charge of the bailout operation, said that more work would have to be done between Greece and the International Monetary Fund, as well as the bank lenders that are involved in the bailout, before any funds would be made available to Greece.

In particular, Juncker cited an additional e325 million in cuts that would have to be made by the Greek government in order to satisfy promises made to the IMF and the eurozone lenders. He also seemed to be inferring that some reassurances need to be made by Greece with a concrete plan to ensure debt sustainability. Part of the reason for concern among the banks involved in the bailout is yet another indicator pointing to the dismal health, or lack thereof, of the Greek economy. This morning Greece reported that their GDP for 2011 fell by 6.8%, much higher than economists had predicted. Other growth revisions show that the Greek economy contacted by 7% in the fourth quarter of 2011, all of which points to increased pressure on the Greek government, which need upwards of euro 130 billion from the IMF and other European lenders to keep from defaulting on the obligations.

The austerity measures laid out by the Greek government in the budget passed yesterday incited violent riots in Athens and other cities around Greece. The fear on the part of the Greek public as well as analysts viewing the developing situation from the outside is that extreme budget cutting in the midst of an incredibly weak economy can further undermine economic growth by gutting demand and output in both the public and private sector.

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My take:

I don’t see how the Greeks are going to remain in the euro. If they have to pull out, it could be a disaster of monumental proportions and could very well precipitate similar problems for Italy, Portugal, and who knows who else.

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Other Resources

Owning Cleaning Equipment

One decision that a company usually has to make regarding the cleanliness of the office is how much the space will require regarding cleaning equipment and whether it is better to allow the office cleaning Weston FL company to bring in the equipment or whether it might be best to keep the equipment on site for the cleaners to use. Sometimes cleaning companies may have specific styles of operation where they always provide the cleaning equipment while others may work with a client to use specific cleaning materials provided by the company itself for various cleaning purposes.

Protecting Items in Storage

One of the things that anyone who is going to be using a storage unit needs to consider is how much they will need to pay in storage costs for various sizes of storage units but also how safe a particular Sayville self storage might be. Obviously the best way to keep things safe in storage is to obtain insurance but it’s also worth looking into the type of security options on a storage unit because sometimes a storage facility will allow for an increase in the type of security offered through better locking mechanisms or enhanced locks.

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   Feb 14

Teacher’s Aid Accused of Sex Crimes

Cited: MSNBC

The city of Los Angeles is still trying to come to terms with allegations that a veteran teacher took lewd photographs and committed various acts of depravity with grade school children during his tenure in school and now another sex crime committed by an LA teacher’s aid is making headlines. The aid, who also worked as the volley ball coach at South Los Angeles high school, is accused of committing sex crimes with children, some that may have been students at the school. The teacher’s aid, Alain Salas, was arrested and charged earlier this week by FBI agents investigating the case.

Officials at the South Los Angeles High School say that they do not know all of the details about the crimes and that they aren’t sure if the victims were indeed students at their school. In what to some appears to be looking for cover, LA District Superintendent John Deasy said that there are over 100,000 full-time and part-time employees that work in the LA school system and that some of them, very few of them, make bad choices sometimes. The new allegations come on the heels of two other sex scandals in the LA school system, one of which is still under investigation and involves inappropriate contact with a forth grade student.

The other case involves 50 year old former third grade teacher, Paul Chapel, who is accused of 16 counts of continuous sexual abuse at the Pacoima Elementary School where he taught for many years. The crimes are said to have been committed by Chapel over the course of 30 months between September 2010 and April of 2011.

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My take:

These are stories that you never want to hear about but that you always have to be on guard for to protect your children. Perhaps there has to be some kind of system that lets these kids know that it is alright to speak up about inappropriate behavior before people like Chapel are able to prey on so many young children.

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Other Resources

The Art of Sports Betting

What many people don’t understand regarding betting on sports is that today’s gambling isn’t just the closing of one’s eyes and pointing at one of the potential winners of a race or event. Today’s sports betting is fairly complex not only with the variety of different bets that can be made, but also regarding the actual act of choosing the winner. While betting a few dollars on something isn’t going to set anyone back, to make a truly huge amount of money in sports betting, the only option is to study how it’s done and employ accepted strategies for picking winners.

Daytime Parties for Weddings

There is the running joke at many weddings that the bride and groom always show up with barely any sleep the night before because they were both out at their Las Vegas bachelor parties and bachelor parties, but being tired at one’s wedding doesn’t necessarily have to be a required part of getting married. It’s definitely possible to get everything done early in preparation of the wedding and this can include the party options as well. Not only are people able to have their parties in the daytime, but in a place like Las Vegas, there’s always parties all day.

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   Feb 14

CitiGroup Banks On Overseas Growth

Cited: CNN

Citibank came through the financial crisis in relatively good shape, albeit with a strong helping hand from Uncle Sam, and to some extent on its expansion into markets overseas. While many of these financial ventures have yet to pan out for CitiGroup, industry analysts say that their inroads into the credit card market in China will pay off handsomely for them. Citibank is the only foreign bank that has been permitted by the Chinese government to issue credit cards inside of China, a move that was approved by China late last week. The CEO of Citibank, Vikram Pandit, landed in China last week and was there to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the mega-banking institution.

Citibank is expanding its presence in overseas markets while rivals like Bank of America are concentrating on domestic banking operations while investment banking firms such as Morgan Stanley are attempting to shore up their brokerage business. All of these financial giants have come a long way since the depths of the financial crisis and bursting of the housing market bubble that nearly collapsed the entire financial system. For its party, Citibank is already familiar with doing business overseas and sees the mature markets of the U.S. and the tighter margins due to the regulatory environment as a good reason to continue to focus their growth in overseas markets. At the present time Citibank already generates over half of their revenue from business conducted in foreign countries.

Citibank’s expansion into markets in Latin America, Asia, and the Middle East is evident in noting that their lending to corporations and individuals abroad is up by 22% while that in the U.S. is down 6% over the last two years. Deposits from overseas operations also grew 14% in the last two years while falling 2% in North America during the same time period. And if their investment overseas is any indication, Citibank will continue to focus on Latin America and Asia, having invested over $600 million on operations in those regions last year.

Citi is probably the best known foreign bank in China having established branches in 13 cities in China as well as many other consumer outlets. It is very important for Citibank to have branches in China in order to conduct its credit card business because the branch is the only place that a private citizen can obtain a credit card. Prior to the announcement last week, Citibank was working in partnership with other local Chinese banks in distributing credit cards in China. The credit card market in China is already quite large and is forecast to be massive in the future. While some 270 million credit cards are in circulation now, analysts say that number could be well over one billion by 2025 with the market valued at $2.5 trillion based on the growing wealth and population of China.

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My take:

Sounds like the credit card business in China is another bubble that at some point will also burst. I just hope that Citibank and the people that run it don’t think that the American taxpayer will be there to bail them out of this mess. I also hope that they are not borrowing money in the U.S. at near zero interest rates by the graces of the FRB and lending the money overseas instead of trying to help U.S. businesses get back on their feet.

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