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Did you know that economists were using women’s fashion – outfits and make-up – to gauge the state of the economy?! And you thought these MBA-laden gurus pored over a zillion Microsoft Excel spreadsheets and spent many a long night in heavy debates in boardrooms! HA!

According to an article published in Australia, some economists have faith in the Skirt Length Theory and the Leading Lipstick Indicator as sound market indicators, as both tend to demonstrate the state of the economy. Who would have thunk it??

The Skirt Length Theory, as explained by Investopedia.com, is easy to understand: if skirts are short, the market is is going up; if they are long, the market is going down.

The same site explains the Leading Lipstick Indicator as a theory where consumers turn to “less expensive indulgences, such as lipstick, when she (or he) feels less than confident about the future. Therefore, lipstick sales tend to increase during times of economic uncertainty or a recession.” Supposedly, after the attacks of 9/11 sales of lipstick products doubled.

Another economic indicator is the Hot Waitress Economic Indicator.  Typically, it is propositioned, in a strong economy attractive people hold better paying jobs so are less likely to be found working in lower paying positions. However, in a weak economy, they are forced to look for other work and, thus, are found in lower paying positions such as waitressing.

But don’t feel left out of the economic equation, men! There is actually an economic fashion trend on the male side…

Behold – the Men’s Underwear Index!

Men, unlike women, view underwear as a necessity so sales on male underwear is typically steady and dependable. However, in bad economic times, sales for men’s underwear drops considerably and only picks up again when the economy improves.

Let us hope that 2010 brings shorter hemlines, pale, natural lips, ugly waitresses, and men with drawers of new underwear!

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This is big news and it could mean very bad things for us “little people.” Credit cards rates will skyrocket, along with other bank interest rates such as your mortgage. What’s next? With all the shootings and cries of “terrorism” it could be martial law. This bears watching and following in the news…

From Huffington Post

Ryan Grim

First Posted: 11- 5-09 05:59 PM   |   Updated: 11- 6-09 05:38 PM

bankAmid the ongoing financial regulation overhaul, the banking industry is hoping to pull off a quiet power grab that has eluded its grasp since the Great Depression, by stripping the independence of the board that sets financial accounting standards.

The move could effectively let banks set their own accounting standards in rough economic times.

Astonishingly, at a time when the public is crying out for greater regulation to limit excessive risk-taking by financial institutions, the banks are trying to get Congress to agree that the next time there’s a big downturn, they should have the ability to alter their accounting standards — essentially, fudge the numbers — so that the public and investors won’t be able to tell how insolvent they really are. By ignoring their declining asset values, they can avoid the standard requirement of raising more capital.

The mechanism is contained in an amendment set to be introduced in mid-November by Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.) that would move final authority over the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) from the Securities and Exchange Commission to a new body, a so-called “oversight” board, that would include the officials charged with managing systemic risks to the financial markets.

These regulators would have the authority to override FASB’s accounting guidelines by taking into account economic conditions.

The move is so radical that it has split corporate America. The bankers and members of Congress who support it have earned themselves an unlikely enemy: the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

A typical business or investor, after all, prefers honest, independent accounting, because they buy and sell real things based on real value.

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“Washington isn’t thinking straight,” said Josh Rosner, managing director of Graham, Fischer & Co, a New York-based financial analyst who advises regulators and institutional investors. “Financial statements are for the benefit of investors.”

Indeed, allowing banks to alter accounting standards when they run into trouble is incentive to take more risk and, in essence, institutionalizes fraud. The regulators would now be under enormous political pressure — and sometimes under direct orders — to allow banks to remain in business long after they’ve become insolvent, in the hopes that things will turn around and they’ll grow again.

And rather than stabilize the system, removing accounting independence destabilizes it in the long run, as investors and other banks have little confidence in the veracity of financial statements.

Perlmutter told the Huffington Post that under his proposal, the FASB “would stay with the SEC, but in instances where an accounting procedure or a way it’s being implemented poses a threat to the financial system by exaggerating what’s going on — is pro-cyclical to a point that it, too, threatens the system — then the financial regulator, the systemic regulator, could look in to it.

“For virtually every situation you can think of, there’s no change, but [there would be a change] in the event that there’s a threat to the system, like the dysfunctional market we had from October through March, and that the accounting procedures just didn’t fit for a system where there was no market,” Perlmutter said.

Leslie Oliver, a spokeswoman for Perlmutter, said backers of the amendment haven’t been surprised at the opposition from certain sectors of corporate America.

“That’s understandable for a company that has tangible assets,” she said. Perlmutter said he has yet to hear directly from the Chamber.

That the banking industry finds itself in opposition to large sectors of the business community is evidence that a historic power struggle for control of the economy is underway.

The issue is stirring up the House Financial Services Committee. “It’s caused a great deal of controversy,” said committee chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.). Frank has yet to take a position, he said, waiting until Perlmutter finishes meeting with members of the committee. “I told him I would wait until he finishes his conversations,” Frank told HuffPost.

FASB is fighting to keep its independence. “The amendment that’s being considered represents a shift that threatens to fundamentally challenge the objectives of financial accounting and politicize the process and harm financial system,” said FASB spokesman Neal McGarity. “The mission of bank regulators is to ensure the safety and soundness of the banking system. We have a different mandate. That’s why this is of considerable concern.”

A powerful subcommittee chairman already opposes it. “I’m for keeping the independent FASB and I see no reason to change it,” Rep. Paul Kanjorski told HuffPost.

The Chamber joined with investors and auditors in opposing the Perlmutter amendment.

From a letter sent to top committee members by representatives of the Center For Audit Quality; the Chamber of Commerce; and the Council of Institutional Investors:

“By placing the FASB under the jurisdiction of a structure charged with managing systemic risks to the financial markets, accounting rules will be viewed though the narrow lens of a few large companies from specific industries, rather than considerate of the applicability of financial reporting policies to over 15,000 public companies. Such a narrow focus can skew standards such that it makes understanding of transactions that businesses engage in on a daily basis more difficult and undermine the confidence of investors. We believe that the SEC has been and continues to be best suited to provide the oversight of the FASB for such a broad and diverse economy.”

The American Bankers Association stands on the other side. “A Systemic Risk Oversight Council could not possibly do its job if does not have oversight authority over accounting rulemaking,” top bank lobbyist Ed Yingling testified before the committee on October 29. “This is a major deficiency in the draft legislation. Accounting policies are increasingly and profoundly influencing financial policy and the basic structure of our financial system. Thus, accounting standards must now be part of any systemic risk calculation. To do anything less creates the potential to undermine any action taken to address a systemic risk. The Financial Accounting Standards Board should continue to function as it does today, but it should no longer report only to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The SEC’s view is simply too narrow. Accounting policies contributed to the crisis, as has now been well documented, and yet the SEC is not charged with considering systemic and structural effects.”

Yingling said the ABA “strongly supported” the approach taken by Perlmutter. “We thank Representatives Perlmutter and [Frank] Lucas [R-Okla.] for their foresight and leadership on this critical issue.”

While the big banks would be pleased by the change, Frank said, the major push has come from community banks. Perlmutter said that his amendment was one of the community bankers’ highest priorities.

Community banks are a popular and powerful political force in Congress. They didn’t heavily trade the exotic products that nearly brought down the global economy; they received little in the way of bailout money; they don’t give multi-billion-dollar bonuses; they tend to take more responsibility for loans that they issue; and they’re generally respected members of the local community.

“Many members of the committee are supportive of community banks,” said Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), one of the most progressive members of the committee and a subcommittee chair. “The big banks have been such an outrageous, scandalous story about how they operate and what they have done that we tend to want to support the community banks in whatever they ask us to do.”

Waters told HuffPost she supports Perlmutter’s amendment.

And winning the support of community bankers is in essence a necessary condition for Democrats who want to pass reform legislation through the Financial Services Committee. The Perlmutter amendment could be a way to win community banks over to the idea of a systemic regulator, a priority of the administration.

But working to loosen accounting rules could come back to hurt the Democratic Party: When the system goes down again, voters will want to know why.

When HuffPost asked Frank if Wall Street was pushing Perlmutter’s measure, he responded emphatically.

“You have this caricature in your heads. You literally don’t understand the way the world works,” he said. “It’s the community banks, the credit unions, who are driving this…Seriously, the community banks have the political clout here. Not the Wall Street banks.”

Frank said the ABA was likely pushing for the amendment to win favor with community banks in its rivalry with the Independent Community Bankers of America.

Perlmutter agreed. “It’s the community banks I’ve been working with. I’m not hearing it from the Wall Street guys,” he said.

While the ABA has traditionally been associated with large Wall Street banks, it also represents small banks and is attempting to expand its membership by signing up more community bankers.

It works well for the big banks when their interests are aligned with the little ones, as is the case here. When their interests are not aligned, the little banks often win. Community banks, for instance, won an exemption from examinations — though not the rules — related to the Consumer Financial Protection Agency.

The ICBA wants to use its clout and the distrust of the big banks to move Perlmutter’s amendment even further in their direction. “We’re not buying and selling all the time. We hold a lot of things for the long term…. So we’d like to build in some additional sensitivity to community banks so would like to make that more explicit,” Steve Verdier, an ICBA senior vice president, told HuffPost. “We’re going to get in touch with [Perlmutter] to see if there are more things that can be done to tweak it in our direction.”

Much of the debate around the amendment comes down to what is called the mark-to-market accounting requirement. Banks — both big and small — have long sought to avoid marking their assets down to market prices when those market prices are too low. Marking down the assets requires the bank to take a loss on its books, which then requires it to raise more capital by selling off assets at low prices. Banks claimed that in the fall, the market had frozen and that they couldn’t sell assets. Another way of putting it is that the market price was lower than they wanted to accept.

Regardless, forced selling at low prices creates a downward spiral that banks and the GOP blame for the financial crisis last fall. The GOP called for a study of the effect of mark-to-market accounting on the economic collapse as part of the bailout. That report found the accounting practice did not cause the collapse. Either way, the banks hope to avoid that cycle when the commercial real estate market collapses and they find themselves with bad loans again.

“It’s about easing the pressure to reduce the value of their assets in community banks, so they don’t have to raise more capital,” Frank said.

Asking accountants to change standards based on economic conditions could very well make their heads explode, however. It’s not their job, they say, to keep the system from collapsing. It’s their job to give honest numbers. If a company is bankrupt, it’s bankrupt.

“Accounting standards are not policy,” remarked one person involved in the fight.

But they have become policy. In the spring, Kanjorski’s subcommittee hauled the head of FASB in for a hearing and demanded the number-crunchers change their mark-to-market standards within three weeks or Congress would do it for them. FASB’s head pushed back during the hearing, saying that banks who called him asking for such a change were usually bankrupt fairly quickly.

“They practically dragged him into the hallway and beat him to death,” said Rep. Brad Miller (D-N.C.), a committee member skeptical of the Perlmutter amendment.

Three weeks later, they eased their accounting rules. But it wasn’t simple for the banks. Even with the intense congressional pressure, the change only sneaked by by a single vote and created tension on a board accustomed to a freedom from politics. The Perlmutter amendment would make such a battle unnecessary for the banks.

“There are a lot of banks that are in a lot of trouble and have a lot of exposure to commercial real estate,” Miller said. “You can’t fix that with accounting.”

Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) fought a lonely battle last spring to stave off the loosening of the accounting rules and opposes this more dramatic shift, as well. Banks may have good reason to want to overstate the value of their assets, he said, and it may work for a time. But an economy can’t be run indefinitely on imaginary numbers. “I enjoy reading fiction, but not in financial statements,” he said.

UPDATE: HuffPost obtained a copy of the amendment language that is circulating among lobbyists. Perlmutter’s spokeswoman confirmed its authenticity.

The amendment would empower the council overseeing FASB to “recommend to the SEC, either publicly or privately to take such action as is necessary, including but not limited to suspension, modification or elimination of such accounting principles, standards or procedures as they may apply to the stability of the financial system or the safety and soundness of financial companies, as a whole, for such duration as is reasonable and appropriate.”

If the SEC doesn’t follow the “recommendation,” according to section (c) of the amendment, the council can order it to do so.

In other words, for the sake of financial stability, bank regulators could secretly order the “elimination” of accounting standards.

SEC. 1103. PRUDENTIAL OVERSIGHT OF ACCOUNTING PRINCIPLES AND STANDARDS THAT POSE SYSTEMIC RISKS.(a) IN GENERAL.–In the event that any member of the Council believes that an accounting principle, standard or procedure threatens the stability of the United States financial system or companies, as a whole, then the Council shall investigate and by a majority vote, determine whether any corrective action, emergency or otherwise, is necessary to prevent or mitigate any adverse effects from such principle, standard or procedure. In the event that the Council determines that corrective action is necessary then, the Council shall recommend to the SEC, either publicly or privately to take such action as is necessary, including but not limited to suspension, modification or elimination of such accounting principles, standards or procedures as they may apply to the stability of the financial system or the safety and soundness of financial companies, as a whole, for such duration as is reasonable and appropriate.

(b) ADOPTION OF COUNCIL RECOMMENDATIONS BY SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION.–the Securities and Exchange Commission shall ensure that the prudential standards recommended by the Council are implemented within 60 days of the Council’s recommendation or within such other time period specified by the Council.

(c) FAILURE TO ADOPT STANDARDS.–If the Securities and Exchange Commission fails to ensure that the prudential standards recommended by the Council are implemented within the time period specified in paragraph (b), the Council is authorized to direct that any recommendations issued pursuant to paragraph (a) be implemented for the purposes of generally accepted accounting principles.”

UPDATE II: The SEC and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants both oppose the amendment, as well. “Accounting should be about accounting, and not about anything else,” writes SEC chair Mary Schapiro in a letter to Frank sent Thursday.

From a letter from the AICPA:

It is our understanding that Congressman Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) is considering language to amend the Financial Stability Improvement Act of 2009, which would undermine the independent accounting standard process as currently carried out by the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB). The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) strongly opposes this amendment and any attempt that would serve to undermine the independence of accounting standard setting. The purpose of public company financial reporting is to provide investors with clear, objective, and transparent financial information. This helps investors make informed investment decisions. Any attempt to divert financial reporting from its primary investor-focused objectives to other policy objectives with regard to financial institutions damages investor protections.

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Right on, you go, dude! Keep on standing up for your rights! I’m proud that you did that! But sorry that you had to learn about the ignorance in this country in that manner. But, there are other jobs..

Home Depot is not the end all in building supply stores; there are plenty of other places that sell the same stuff – and at lower costs, like Lowes…

onenationFrom The Palm Beach Post TCoastTalk

October 23rd, 2009 by TCPalm.com

OKEECHOBEE — Trevor Keezer didn’t start working at The Home Depot to make a religious statement. He just wanted to earn money for college.

“I want to go to school to become a nurse,” said the 20-year-old Okeechobee resident.

Keezer says for 19 months, ever since he started working as a cashier at The Home Depot in Okeechobee, he’s worn a button with an American flag on it that reads: “One nation under God, indivisible.”

Keezer sees the quotation, taken from the pledge of allegiance, as his way of supporting American troops at war, and of expressing his Christian faith.

In December, his older brother Army Spc. Steven Keezer Jr., is scheduled to deploy to Iraq for his second tour of duty.

For more than a year, Keezer says none of his managers mentioned the button on his Home Depot apron, except one supervisor who commented she liked it.

“She actually wanted to wear it,” Keezer said.

Then, last month, when he started bringing his Bible to work, Keezer says his manager confronted him about the button.

“That’s when I was told it had to come off, or I would be sent home. So they sent me home for six straight days without pay. And then today they terminated me,” he said.

Craig Fishel, a spokesman for The Home Depot, said he could not comment on specific personnel issues, but added, “The company’s dress code policy states that we do not allow noncompany buttons, regardless of their message or content.”

Fishel says Home Depot has a “proud history” of supporting the military, and that it sanctions several of its own buttons for employees to wear, including one that reads: “United We Stand.”

Keezer said he preferred to wear his button because “you can’t have country without God. Every pin they showed me had no ‘God’ on it or anything.”

Fishel says the company gives employees several warnings when they violate the dress policy before terminating them.

But Keezer says, “It never crossed my mind to take off the button because I’m standing for something that’s bigger than I am. They kept telling me the severity of what you’re doing and I just let God be in control and went with His plan.”

Keezer says he was a model employee at Home Depot and he liked his job.

“I was cashier of the month and I’ve won six ‘Homer’ awards — that’s the highest award you can get at Home Depot.”

Keezer has the support of his family. “I’m so proud of him,” said his mother, Francine.

Local business owners are rallying to his cause, too.

Jim McCoin, owner of Cowboy’s Barbecue and Steak Co., said, “Amen. I am proud of him. If you can’t stand for what you believe in, then why be there.”

McCoin says he’d like to order some of the “One nation under God” buttons for the employees of his two local restaurants.

As for Keezer, he says he didn’t set out to make a religious statement, but now that he has, he believes he’s done the right thing.

“I want to be a voice for the rest of the Christians and for the citizens of this country to stand up for the country. You know, quit being told to sit down. Say what you want to say and don’t be afraid of the consequences,” he said.

_______________________________

Frank Cerabino, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer, presented his take on how the Home Depot corporate office would respond to the situation at this link. Some do not find it amusing – you judge it for yourself.

One of the comments left at this column caught my eye and I repost it here:

By Lee

Oct 28, 2009 3:45 PM

I am a combat veteran and do believe in God. What I find interesting in any business is the fact that no one is told to shave his beard if he is a Sikh, no one is told to remove their shawl if they are female and muslim or a Yamilka if they are Jewish. But if you are a Christian you are not allowed to show in any form that you are a Christian. In fact it is frowned upon in corporate America. It seems odd that we do not allow Christians to show some form of their religion. Why are we always apologizing to people of other religions for being Christian? I am not a right wing fanatic nor a left wing fanatic. I am a former Marine and as most people know we tend to be a bit patriotic, sometimes to a fault. I will not apologize for that. We have a country that is out of control due to many reasons. This man being fired would not have happpened in the fifties, but he is today, is that progress in terms of tolerance? I am truly saddened when the moral fiber of the people in this country is so weak that it cannot tolerate one individual supporting his brother with a phrase from the pledge of alliegence of the United States. But I forget myself, Home Depot as well as Lowes and other companies are in business to make a profit not a statement. For example, Christmas is for our recognition of Christ’s birthday and all that it means to Christians and business is trying to change how we view that, along with other religions. It is not Happy Holidays to me, it is Merry Christmas. I am offended by any corporate policy that forces people in their business to say to me “Happy Holidays”. It is Christmas that is the holiday, nothing else on that date. Business make money off of that holiday and the least they can do is properly recognize it. I wonder how many people are subverting their own point of view for the sake of the almighty dollar at their job. We work on Sunday and that didn’t use to be. How many people of different religions get their religious day off each week to go and practice their religion. If you ask for it as a Christian, you might as well quit your job or expect to not be hired. Not so with other religions, corporate policy makers are afraid of other religions that stand up for themselves, not Christians. I hope that that Mr. Keezer is able to get a job that recognizes all that he stands for with wanting to support his brother going to combat. Reading a Bible at work is not offensive, not being allowed to read on is, that is how Hitler became so strong, by eliminating freedom and moral conscience. Welcome to the new world.   The New World Order, that is, Lee…

Link to Home Depot Boycott petition (though Nardelli is no longer CEO) http://www.petitiononline.com/hdsucks/petition.HTML

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From Excite News

dragon1.jpg

China Firms Sink Roots Across the Globe

Mar 16, 1:04 PM (ET)

By JUSTIN PRITCHARD

Amid the torrent of clothes, electronics and toys surging out of China comes a little-noticed export: international companies.

For centuries, individual Chinese have sought their fortunes abroad, creating Chinatowns around their restaurants and shops. Now, Chinese firms are going global, pushed by a government turned capitalist, pulled by untapped markets and armed with bundles of money from a thriving economy back home.

Auto plants are popping up in Latin America. A sprawling commodity bazaar promises a provincial Swedish city new life. A car parts distributor is snapping up ailing companies in the U.S. Rust Belt, a TV factory hums in South Africa and a high-tech firm is landing contracts to revamp the Persian Gulf’s telecommunication networks.

Just as the earlier arrival of Japanese companies changed U.S. manufacturing, over time Chinese companies could affect how their Western rivals approach innovation, competition and business itself.

“We not only consider ourselves pioneers,” says Sean Chen, who at 26 is overseeing the construction of a $100 million electrical parts plant and industrial park in the American South. “We also consider ourselves explorers.”

Chen and his fiancee, Joy Chen – both took American first names – moved from Shanghai to Atlanta to set up shop for General Protecht Group Inc., a company controlled by his father. While the goal is profits, Sean Chen and his father view the venture almost as a social experiment – its aim, he said through an interpreter, is to marry the best Chinese and American work practices.

“I want to have the efficiency and execution normally shown by the American employees and the brotherhood that a Chinese company normally shows,” Sean Chen says. “There are capitalists and there are socialists and I want to see whether they can get along.”

The Chinese corporate presence is still small overseas, but it’s growing fast:

Chinese companies invested more than $30 billion in foreign firms from 1996 to 2005, nearly one-third in 2004-05 alone, according to an analysis by Usha Haley, a professor of international business at the University of New Haven. Computer maker Lenovo Group helped launch the frenzy in December 2004 by announcing it would acquire IBM Corp.’s personal computer unit for $1.75 billion.

In the United States and Canada, Chinese firms now have about 3,500 investment projects, compared to 1,500 five years ago, according to an estimate by Maryville University professor Ping Deng. Large state-owned companies jumped ahead; medium and small private firms are catching up.

Total investment in the U.S. is between $4 billion and $7 billion, Ping estimates. In Europe, Chinese acquisitions last year alone totaled $563.3 million, according to research company Dealogic.

Last year, 29 Chinese firms debuted on U.S. stock exchanges, just two shy of the total for the previous three years combined, according to the Bank of New York Mellon Corp. (BK)

The number of U.S. visas issued to Chinese executives and managers who transfer to U.S. posts within their companies nearly doubled to 2,043 between fiscal years 2004 and 2007. The current fiscal year is on pace to top that, U.S. State Department statistics show.

Chinese businesses are not just establishing offices and factories overseas. They also are developing and selling products under their own brands, rather than simply supplying Western firms in search of cheap manufacturing.

The competition may make it harder for American and European firms to milk early profits from cutting-edge products before reducing prices and releasing them to the mass market. Vulnerable sectors include high-definition TVs, portable DVD players, medical technology, and perhaps even cars, according to Peter Williamson, a professor of international management at the University of Cambridge with extensive China experience.

At the Detroit Auto Show in January, one mid-sized SUV from China with goodies including a leather interior was priced at just $14,000 – less than half what many comparable cars cost. Models could be available by early next year in nine states.

Chinese firms can use their low-cost manufacturing advantage to pile on additional features. And they can do that by copying taste-making Western firms, circumventing the expense of product development. If the quality is high enough, the strategy can be devastating.

“It will pull to pieces the profit models of their competitors,” Williamson says. “It’s a classic case of attacking your competitor where you know they’re reluctant to respond, because it’s very costly.”

The dynamic recalls how Japanese auto makers forced their U.S. competitors to make options such as power windows and air conditioning standard.

Unlike the Japanese, whose 1980s arrival in the U.S. was at first greeted as a threat, Chinese businesses are being courted by states including Michigan, California, Illinois and Georgia.

Not that all arms are open.

Congressional scrutiny has dogged several investments, including the billions of dollars that government-owned funds are investing in top Wall Street institutions. National security concerns have scuttled several deals, including the attempted 2005 purchase of oil giant Unocal Corp. and a $2.2 billion bid to buy the tech company 3Com in February.

In the Swedish coastal city of Kalmar, labor union and media criticism has been the backdrop for delayed Chinese plans to open a hotel and wholesale warehouse for Chinese-made commodities. Project manager Angie Qian tromps around, trying to get things done at the speed she was used to in Shanghai.

“China is developing very quickly and so people work very fast and don’t plan very far ahead,” says Qian, herself a study in constant motion. “In Sweden everything takes a much longer time.”

The $160 million project, going up on the site of a shuttered chocolate factory, could help revive a city abandoned by car maker Volvo and train maker Bombardier Transportation.

It wouldn’t be the first project of its kind. Dubai boasts an enormous Dragon Mart shopping mall and residential complex; Chinese centers with other backers have opened in Eastern Europe, Italy, England and Russia.

But the Kalmar project faces problems.

Fanerdun Group, the company bankrolling the project, has reportedly not received Chinese government approval to transfer funding from China to Sweden. The company has said it will pay wages of Chinese workers into Chinese bank accounts instead of Swedish accounts.

The national construction workers’ union and local media have criticized Fanerdun for not paying some of the Chinese workers who helped prepare the site at all. The issue has delayed construction.

Elsewhere, miscalculations have led to early, and sometimes spectacular, failures. There was the Splendid China theme park in Florida that no one really visited. A group of investors never recovered from the fiasco of trying to evict poor tenants from the downtown Los Angeles hotel they planned to refurbish.

Chinese companies that wither often see the first branch as a trophy, and neglect the long-term strategy that can lead to greater profits, according to business professor Ping. He based his survey on 400 Chinese companies doing business in the U.S. and Europe.

Drastic differences in business culture also can hobble a venture. Western managers can demand more authority than Chinese bosses are accustomed to, and official directives can alienate workers.

For all their energy and drive, many Chinese managers and executives lack formal training. That is changing.

At UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, for example, Chinese applications more than doubled from 87 in 2005 to 180 in 2007. The 2007 class had 14 Chinese students, the most in the school’s history.

Wife and husband Stella Li and Steven Zhu quit high-profile careers in China to study in Los Angeles. Li is slated to graduate this spring – Zhu got his MBA last year and landed at Google doing data-driven sales analysis. Both see an opportunity to gain a sophistication in finance and strategy they couldn’t get working back home.

“We definitely want to take all the experience and the things we learned in the U.S. back to China,” Li said. “But short term, we would like to get more exposure in business here.”

Chinese firms are still learning the kinds of data-driven market analysis, branding and other business practices that are commonplace in the West.

“What’s scary to think of is when they marry cost consciousness with U.S.-style just-in-time inventory management,” says Charles Freeman, a China specialist at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, who recalls talking to a cell phone maker that was storing 100 million headsets behind its factory.

Few Chinese companies have been in the U.S. longer than the American subsidiary of the auto parts giant Wanxiang Group, which incorporated in 1993. The founder of the home company is one of China’s richest men. His son-in-law, Pin Ni, led the Chicago-area subsidiary from cheap parts supplier up the value chain by buying or working with companies that were distressed – owing to competition from China.

Wanxiang America Inc. has been welcomed for saving manufacturing jobs. Illinois has proclaimed a Wanxiang Day and Michigan offered the company subsidies.

Pin talks exactly like what he is – an executive who’s part of a multinational. It’s all about core competence and optimizing strength and horizontal integration. He casts himself as a matchmaker who spots what disparate firms do best to create as efficient a manufacturing process as possible.

“Even today you want to say, is there enough Chinese companies in the United States?” Pin asks. “I would say no.”

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_41210482_starbucks203ok.jpg

On Tuesday, 2/26/08, approximately 7100 Starbucks stores shut down for an expresso tutorial/pep rally. Starbucks “baristas” learned to properly pour expresso into a coffee drink from a shot glass. Starbucks management felt that the mini-training session was well worth some loss in profts in order to ensure that “perfect coffee drink.”

Am I excited over this? No. I’m still waiting for the cost of a regular cup of coffee to drop from $1.69 to $1.00. I liked when Starbucks talked about this idea but I guess the idea died.

The regular cup of coffee doesn’t even require much expertise in pouring it from the pot to the cup and then presenting it to my hand. Hey, I can even pour it myself – I don’t need special training.

Another thought, Starbucks could even sell me the cup for a dollar and allow me to dispense the coffee for myself freeing up the “baristas” for really important drinks requiring special expresso attention. The company should be looking at protecting their investment (barista training on expresso) and unloading the less labor intensive aspects. Right?

Sounds like a good trade-off to me…

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This may not be the best news for Americans needing gasoline and oil but Venezuelan oil supplier, Petroleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA), is slapping back at the overly aggressive Exxon Mobil corporation.

As you’ll recall a couple of days ago, Exxon Mobil stomped on PDVSA by getting a British court to freeze $12 billion of PDVSA’s own assets in a move to take over the company. Boy, that takes gall but it’s becoming a norm with the imperialist attitude we are seeing these days under the Bush regime and the New World Order.

And boy oh boy is Exxon Mobil one greedy mo-fo… Just look at their last year’s profits:

On February 1, 2008, for the year 2007, The New York Times reported that Exxon Mobil “beat its own record for the highest profits ever recorded by any company, with net income rising 3 percent to $40.6 billion, thanks to surging oil prices. The company’s sales, more than $404 billion, exceeded the gross domestic product of 120 countries. “

I say you go PDVSA! Don’t take any shit from Exxon Mobil – fight, fight, fight! Don’t let those overbearing fat, rich, piggy, snobby, imperialist, greedy, self-centered s.o.b.’s. push you around! Besides it looks like they have enough money to keep 120 countries from suffering from poverty, starvation, famine, epidemics and a host of other things, as well as maintaining the living of all the residents within those countries, and they can certainly keep them in OIL – so they don’t need your’s too!

Furthermore, don’t buy Exxon Mobil gasoline or products; don’t support companies like this.

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Venezuela Halts Oil Sales to Exxon Mobil

Tuesday February 12, 9:27 pm ET
By Fabiola Sanchez, Associated Press Writer

Venezuela’s State Oil Company Halts Oil Sales to Exxon Mobil

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuela’s state oil company said Tuesday that it has stopped selling crude to Exxon Mobil Corp. in response to the U.S. oil company’s drive to use the courts to seize billions of dollars in Venezuelan assets.

Exxon Mobil is locked in a dispute over the nationalization of its oil ventures in Venezuela that has led President Hugo Chavez to threaten to cut off all Venezuelan oil supplies to the United States. Venezuela is the United States’ fourth largest oil supplier.

Tuesday’s announcement by state-run Petroleos de Venezuela SA, or PDVSA, was limited to Exxon Mobil, which PDVSA accused of “judicial-economic harassment” for its efforts in U.S. and European courts.

PDVSA said it “has paralyzed sales of crude to Exxon Mobil” and suspended commercial relations with the Irving, Texas-based company.

“The legal actions carried out by the U.S. transnational are unnecessary … and hostile,” PDVSA said in the statement. It said it will honor any existing contracts it has with Exxon Mobil for joint investments abroad, but reserved the right to terminate them if permitted by the terms of the contracts.

It was unclear how much oil PDVSA supplies to Exxon Mobil, the world’s biggest publicly traded oil company. Both Chavez and Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez previously said the company is no longer welcome to do business in Venezuela.

Venezuela’s decision leaves up in the air the situation of a refinery in Chalmette, La. — a joint venture supplied by Venezuelan oil in which PDVSA and Exxon Mobil are equal partners.

Exxon Mobil spokeswoman Margaret Ross declined to comment on the move by Venezuela but added that “it is our long-standing practice to take appropriate steps to meet our customers’ needs.”

Exxon Mobil is challenging the Chavez government’s nationalization of one of four heavy oil projects in the Orinoco River basin, one of the world’s richest oil deposits.

A British court issued an injunction last month temporarily freezing up to $12 billion of PDVSA’s assets. Exxon Mobil also has secured an “order of attachment” from U.S. District Court in Manhattan on about $300 million in cash held by PDVSA. A hearing to confirm the order is scheduled for Wednesday.

Other oil companies including Chevron Corp., France’s Total, Britain’s BP PLC and Norway’s StatoilHydro ASA have negotiated deals with Venezuela to continue as minority partners in the nationalized projects. ConocoPhillips and Exxon Mobil balked at the government’s tougher terms and have been in compensation talks with PDVSA.

Earlier Tuesday at an energy conference in Houston, Exxon Mobil senior vice president Mark Albers declined comment on any court proceedings with Venezuela, though he said the company is eager to negotiate fair compensation for its assets.

Exxon Mobil is taking the dispute to international arbitration, to which Venezuela has agreed. Its legal actions essentially seek to corral Venezuelan assets ahead of any decision by the arbitration panel.

Venezuela’s announcement came after Ramirez, the oil minister and PDVSA president, reiterated in a newspaper interview Tuesday that Venezuela is ready to cut off oil supplies to the United States if pressed into an “economic war.”

“If they want this conflict to escalate, it’s going to escalate. We have a way to make this conflict escalate,” Ramirez was quoted as saying.

The White House on Tuesday declined to comment on Venezuela’s threat. “When there’s a litigation that’s ongoing, different parties will say anything to try to win over on an argument,” said White House press secretary Dana Perino.

Meanwhile, Venezuelan state television has begun airing short anti-Exxon segments, with a message appearing on the screen in red text reading: “Exxon Mobil turns oil into blood.”

The U.S. remains the No. 1 buyer of Venezuelan oil, and Chavez relies largely on U.S. oil money to stimulate his economy and bankroll social programs that have traditionally boosted his popularity.

Some analysts say it would make little sense for Chavez to follow through on his broader threats to cut off oil sales to the U.S. because Venezuela owns refineries in the United States that are customized to handle the South American country’s heavy crude.

Ramirez said Venezuela is selling the U.S. a daily average of 1.5 million barrels of crude and other products derived from oil

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What should we make of this folks? I, personally, don’t like the sound of this at all and DHS is right in the thick of things!

Armed officials on flights into the U.S.? Non-U.S. citizens having to apply for permission to come to the U.S.? Our economy will grind to a slow and deadly halt and die.

Bush orders clampdown on flights to US

EU officials furious as Washington says it wants extra data on all air passengers

Ian Traynor in Brussels The Guardian, Monday February 11 2008

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Bush administration is calling for armed air marshals on transatlantic flights. Photograph: Eric Meola/Getty Images

The US administration is pressing the 27 governments of the European Union to sign up for a range of new security measures for transatlantic travel, including allowing armed guards on all flights from Europe to America by US airlines.

The demand to put armed air marshals on to the flights is part of a travel clampdown by the Bush administration that officials in Brussels described as “blackmail” and “troublesome”, and could see west Europeans and Britons required to have US visas if their governments balk at Washington’s requirements.

According to a US document being circulated for signature in European capitals, EU states would also need to supply personal data on all air passengers overflying but not landing in the US in order to gain or retain visa-free travel to America, senior EU officials said.

And within months the US department of homeland security is to impose a new permit system for Europeans flying to the US, compelling all travellers to apply online for permission to enter the country before booking or buying a ticket, a procedure that will take several days.

The data from the US’s new electronic transport authorisation system is to be combined with extensive personal passenger details already being provided by EU countries to the US for the “profiling” of potential terrorists and assessment of other security risks.

Washington is also asking European airlines to provide personal data on non-travellers – for example family members – who are allowed beyond departure barriers to help elderly, young or ill passengers to board aircraft flying to America, a demand the airlines reject as “absurd”.

Seven demands tabled by Washington are contained in a 10-page “memorandum of understanding” (MOU) that the US authorities are negotiating or planning to negotiate with all EU governments, according to ministers and diplomats from EU member states and senior officials in Brussels. The Americans have launched their security drive with some of the 12 mainly east European EU countries whose citizens still need visas to enter the US.

“The Americans are trying to get a beefing up of their visa-waiver programmes. It’s all contained in the MOU they want to put to all EU member states,” said a diplomat from a west European country. “It’s a very delicate problem.”

As part of a controversial passenger data exchange programme allegedly aimed at combating terrorism, the EU has for the past few months been supplying the American authorities with 19 items of information on every traveller flying from the EU to the US.

The new American demands go well beyond what was agreed under that passenger name record (PNR) system and look certain to cause disputes within Europe and between Europe and the US.

Brussels is pressing European governments not to sign the bilateral deals with the Americans to avoid weakening the EU bargaining position. But Washington appears close to striking accords on the new travel regime with Greece and the Czech Republic. Both countries have sizeable diaspora communities in America, while their citizens need visas to enter the US. Visa-free travel would be popular in both countries.

A senior EU official said the Americans could get “a gung-ho frontrunner” to sign up to the new regime and then use that agreement “as a rod to beat the other member states with”. The frontrunner appears to be the Czech Republic. On Wednesday, Richard Barth of the department of homeland security was in Prague to negotiate with the Czech deputy prime minister, Alexandr Vondra,

Prague hoped to sign the US memorandum “in the spring”, Vondra said. “The EU has done nothing for us on visas,” he said. “There was no help, no solidarity in the past. It’s in our interest to move ahead. We can’t just wait and do nothing. We have to act in the interest of our citizens.”

While the Czechs are in a hurry to sign up, Brussels is urging delay in order to try to reach a common European position.

“There is a process of consultation and coordination under way,” said Jonathan Faull, a senior European commission official involved in the negotiations with the Americans.

To European ears, the US demands sound draconian. “This would oblige the European countries to allow US air marshals on US flights. It’s controversial and difficult,” an EU official said. At the moment the use of air marshals is discretionary for European states and airlines.

While armed American guards would be entitled to sit on the European flights to the US, the Americans also want the PNR data transfers extended from travellers from Europe to the US to include the details of those whose flights are not to America, but which overfly US territory, say to central America or the Caribbean.

Brussels has told Washington that its demands raise legal problems in Europe over data protection, over guarantees on how the information is handled, over which US agencies have access to it or with whom it might be shared, and over issues of redress if the data is misused.

The Association of European Airlines, representing 31 airlines, including all the big west European national carriers, has told the US authorities that there is “no international legal foundation” for supplying them with data about passengers on flights overflying US territory.

The US Transport Security Administration has also asked the European airlines to supply personal data on “certain non-travelling members of the public requesting access to areas beyond the screening checkpoint”.

The AEA said this was “absurd” because the airlines neither obtain nor can obtain such information. The request was “fully unjustified”.

If the Americans persevere in the proposed security crackdown, Brussels is likely to respond with tit-for-tat action, such as calling for visas for some Americans.

European governments, however, would probably veto such action, one official said, not least for fear of the “massive disruption given the huge volume of transatlantic traffic”.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2008

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