Archive for November, 2014

You have to really have an imagination to come up with an Ad like this Fiat Ad

November 30, 2014 Leave a comment
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November 30, 2014 Leave a comment


Provided that the above-mentioned relevant conditions are in place, sourcing countries not only benefit from the creation of jobs and economic growth based on the apparel and footwear industry. Often, the evolution of this basic industry paves the way for a more diversified production and economy at a later stage. Taiwan is a clear example of this evolution: from an apparel-based economy, the country has now moved to more complex electronic and financial services.

However, the apparel and footwear manufacturing sector also faces numerous challenges as it is often associated with human rights abuses, poor environmental performance as well as questionable purchasing practices – challenges that sometimes dwarf the millions of jobs created by the industry and its contribution to the country’s economy.


In order to address these challenges, the adidas Group strongly believes that long-term partnerships with its suppliers are of utmost importance.

Within the company, the Global Operations department, specifically Sourcing, looks into these aspects in collaboration with Social and Environmental Affairs (SEA). And while the company spreads its sourcing over multiple countries, 80% of its global production comes from the so-called ‘strategic’ suppliers.

Our sourcing strategy embodies the very spirit this company is built upon: only the best for the athletes. We do not simply buy products from our suppliers, but we instead have built outstanding, long-term partnerships with them which ultimately allow us to develop and bring the best-performing product to market.



Instead of frequently changing suppliers depending on which one can offer the same product for the cheapest price, the adidas Group focuses on key long-term partners that are transparently disclosed in its global supplier list. The relationship with these core suppliers has existed for over a decade. For example, this year the company celebrated more than 25 years of sourcing in Indonesia.


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Not even increasing labour costs in some of these countries have produced challenging effects on these relationships. In fact, business in Cambodia, Vietnam and Indonesia has been growing, not shrinking. To have an idea, the wage increase over the period 2011 to 2013 has been 19% in China, 45% in Vietnam and 54% in Indonesia.In the long run, it is these long-standing partnerships that carry greater benefits for both parties rather than constantly changing to maximise short-term profits.


The terms of business with suppliers are not based on a purely order/purchase relationship. Over time, the adidas Group has for example also developed specific programmes to address productivity, efficiencyand quality at supplier level.

More interestingly, substantial investments on both sides are made. This is why the company also places its own personnel in the strategic factories, where they work closely with the local personnel on developing the next innovation. Take Brazuca, the 2014 FIFA World Cup™ icon and the ultimate example of innovation in ball manufacturing.

Brazuca was produced in China by a long-term partner and supplier of the adidas Group, Longway. Why in China? Why at this factory? Since the beginning of the cooperation with the adidas Group in 1997, Longway has established itself as the expert in high-tech ball production. In 2006, engineers and developers from Longway and adidas set up a Centre of Excellence at the factory: this is where Brazuca was brought to life.

These two-way relationships generate synergies, trust, dynamism and technology transfer, which are all key to fostering innovation.


Many also question the industry’s approach when it comes to social and environmental considerations. In the case of the adidas Group, the business relationship with suppliers is guided by the company’sWorkplace Standards, which contain clauses to ensure fair labour practices, fair wages, safe working conditions and environmental standards in factories.

Thanks to hundreds of factory visits every year, the company consistently reviews and evaluates suppliers, works with them to address issues and makes improvements where necessary. In 2013, nine manufacturing relationships were terminated with suppliers who failed to adhere to the standards and requirements.

This is not all we do. We also proactively engage with governments to tackle critical issues such as minimum wages, freedom of association or environmental standards. Ultimately, business can thrive only if the right conditions are in place and as a responsible company we want to drive positive and long-lasting change.


For example, back in 2010, the adidas Group successfully led a group of suppliers and brands to develop a protocol ensuring the exercise of trade union rights in the workplace in Indonesia. More recently, the company has joined the U.S. Business Call on Climate Change, urging federal policymakers to collaborate on a bold response to climate change.


Over the last two decades, the adidas Group has been working on defining the key elements of effective management of its supply chain; the current challenges require changes that will not happen overnight, though. From fair wages to women’s rights, from migrant labour to chemical management – there is still a lot to do to maintain the balance between shareholder expectations, economic success and social and environmental advancement.

The adidas Group is convinced that commitment to long-term solutions is the right way to achieve this balance, so that all sides can benefit: the developing countries through social and economic advancement as well as the adidas Group through best-in-class products and economic value. As John McNamara concludes:

It is a challenge but we want to keep leading the game – on the pitch and off the pitch.


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Accessories Are the Latest Fashion for Investors

November 29, 2014 Leave a comment


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Retailers That Primarily Sell Apparel Fare Worse Than Those With Other Offerings

 Nov. 29, 2014

Clothes may still make the man. But increasingly it seems any retailer’s duds will do.

Amid cheaper gasoline and stronger economic data, a sense of optimism surrounds retail sales in the all-important fourth quarter.

But not all retailers are created equal. That is true even within the subset of specialty stores—outside the big-box retailers, in which a divide appears to be emerging between companies that primarily sell clothing and those that don’t.

Over the past two years, apparel retailers have largely seen shrinking same-store sales and operating income, while those more focused on accessories, such as Michael Kors Holdings and L Brands , have been mostly shielded from the storm, according to Nomura analyst Simeon Siegel. He estimates the 10 apparel retailers he covers will see an average decline in operating income of 16% in 2014 versus average growth of 24% for the five “nonapparel” companies, as he labels them. The gap was even more stark in 2013, when apparel firms saw profits drop 35% on average versus an 85% jump at the nonapparel firms.

Mr. Siegel chalks this up to e-commerce lowering the barriers to entry for new apparel companies. This has led to a proliferation of online competition for teen retailers such as Aéropostale and Abercrombie & Fitch , as well as those targeting older consumers such as Ann, which operates Ann Taylor stores, and Chico’s FAS .

Indeed, no apparel company has generated positive same-store sales growth for the past three quarters. This is the first period since the beginning of 2005 during which none of the publicly traded specialty clothing retailers has won market share, according to Mr. Siegel.

Accessories makers have fared better, thanks, it seems, to their differentiated offerings. Signet Jewelers , Tiffany , Michael Kors, Kate Spade and L Brands all posted solid same-store sales growth in the first nine months of fiscal 2014. Fossil Group ’s sales have been roughly flat. Only Coach has seen declines.

Michael Kors and other retailers more focused on accessories have better weathered a storm in apparel sales in recent years. Above, a Michael Kors store in Tokyo.ENLARGE

Michael Kors and other retailers more focused on accessories have better weathered a storm in apparel sales in recent years. Above, a Michael Kors store in Tokyo. Bloomberg News

Granted, retailers, including apparel firms, have reduced inventory over the past year. But one year of historical data may not show the complete picture. Looking at the range of specialty retailers’ inventory per square foot going back to 2010, Aéropostale and L Brands were the only two heading into the second half of 2014 with inventories below trough levels, according to Wells Fargo .

For Aéropostale, such an adjustment makes sense given recent steep declines in sales per square foot. But it is unclear when that decline will be arrested. And lower inventories aside, apparel retailers may have to cut prices just to lure people in the door amid higher online competition.

For investors seeking to get ahead of the latest fashion, now looks a good time to accessorize.

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U.S. Officials Chase Counterfeit Goods Online

November 29, 2014 Leave a comment

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ICE, Customs Agents Police a Global Trade That Has Shifted From Ports to E-Commerce



A counterfeit Coach handbag displayed by ICE officials on Friday.ENLARGE

A counterfeit Coach handbag displayed by ICE officials on Friday. Patrick T. Fallon for The Wall Street Journal

Nov. 28, 2014

LONG BEACH, Calif.—Friday was one of the biggest shopping days of the year, but U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents here have other plans for the holiday season.

Over the next few weeks, the agency is ratcheting up efforts to track down and confiscate millions of dollars’ worth of gift-friendly goods before they can reach store shelves or the doorsteps of online shoppers.

The holidays are a popular time for knock-off sales—everything from headphones and electronics to sports jerseys, jewelry, handbags and toys. Shoppers, especially on Black Friday, are looking for deals. And often, as long as it looks real, many admit they will go with the more budget-friendly option.

But ICE and U.S. Customs and Border Protection are prepared to crack down on that trade, coordinating an increased number of enforcement actions. “It’s hugely important because of the dollar loss that’s experienced by industry and by the U.S. in general” in tax revenue, Special Agent in Charge Claude Arnold said Friday.

In each of the last three years, federal agents have seized counterfeit goods with a retail value totaling well over $1 billion. A vast majority of those goods come from China and Southeast Asia, commonly arriving on U.S. shores at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, according to ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations branch.

But increasingly, the counterfeit market has been going online, where it can be easier to trick buyers with slick websites and photographs copied from genuine retailers. Many of those goods no longer come in through the ports, where Customs agents might intercept them. Instead, they are being shipped directly to consumers.

UGG boots, for example, have many online imposters, says Graham Thatcher of Southern California-based Deckers Outdoor Corp. , which owns the brand. Deckers has managed to shut down more than 60,000 websites selling knock-off versions of its familiar fur-lined UGG boots. But the fakes are still out there, and because UGGs are such a popular gift, the holiday shopping season is one of the primary times of year that people get duped.

“Those are some of the saddest stories,” said Mr. Thatcher, a brand-protection associate. “People will have saved up to buy them, primarily for their daughters, and on Christmas they open them up and right away they know they’re fake,” he said. “It’s really sad.”

In response, UGG created a service on its website where consumers can enter the address of the website where they are shopping, and UGG will tell them whether it’s an authentic retailer or not.

While online sales have become popular for counterfeit vendors, there are still storefront operations in places like Santee Alley, in downtown Los Angeles, agents said. On Friday morning, hundreds of discount vendors there were rolling up their metal gates and setting out mannequins and other displays, spilling out of their stalls into the narrow street.

Ellie Rivera, a 24-year-old employee at Betty Shoes, said Black Friday tends to be busy even though not many of the retailers in the area offer specials. Prices in the Santee Alley shopping district are already highly discounted. “They just want to shop because it’s Black Friday,” she said.

Ms. Rivera said her store sells Chinese-made women’s shoes, but no knock-offs. “Everyone knows there’s undercover police” in the area, she said.

Mr. Arnold of ICE says local law enforcement still conducts storefront checks, but the real threat these days is online. And while he admits that his job is to remove many of the season’s most popular gifts from the market, Mr. Arnold says his agency is no Grinch.

“If we are,” he said, “we wear that label with a badge of honor.”


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Retailers That Primarily Sell Apparel Fare Worse Than Those With Other Offerings

November 29, 2014 Leave a comment


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Survey: Nordstrom, Amazon most engaged brands on Pinterest

November 26, 2014 Leave a comment


Nordstrom was the most engaged retail brand on Pinterest, followed by Amazon, according to Curalate, which collected more than 180,000 Pins and analyzed nearly five million interactions associated with the Top 100 brands from November 1st to November 21. Rounding out the top five: Urban Outfitters, American Eagle Outfitters and Zulily.

New York – Nordstrom was the most engaged retail brand on Pinterest, followed by Amazon, according to Curalate, which collected more than 180,000 Pins and analyzed nearly five million interactions associated with the Top 100 brands from November 1st to November 21. Rounding out the top five: Urban Outfitters, American Eagle Outfitters and Zulily.
The most popular product on Pinterest is the J Crew Women’s camp sock followed by American Eagle Outfitters’ Sequin Sleeve Sweater and JC Penny’s military jacket and striped top.
Of the 180,000-plus product images Curalate looked at, 81.7% were shared organically from brands’ websites showing that organic engagement continues to be incredibly important for brands. Despite this, Curalate pointed out, brands are still missing out on organic engagement. Twenty-eight percent of the brands it surveyed have yet to add Pin It buttons to their product pages, and 44% of brands do not have Pin It buttons on their homepages, making it difficult for consumers to share the products they find while browsing these brands’ sites.
Brands need to take stock of their products. Three out of the top five products that generated the most engagement are either no longer available for purchase or are no longer available in the suggested color. This is a missed opportunity for brands, as these are the products that consumers aspire to own, and yet they will be unable to buy them. In other key findings: Fashion is dominant. Eight out of the 10 most-engaged products on Pinterest were related to fashion (either apparel or accessories).
Brands need to take stock of their products. Three out of the top five products that generated the most engagement are either no longer available for purchase or are no longer available in the suggested color. This is a missed opportunity for brands, as these are the products that consumers aspire to own, and yet they will be unable to buy them, according to Curalate.


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European Commission Formally Commits to Enhanced Transparency in TTIP

November 26, 2014 Leave a comment


Monday, December 01, 2014
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

The European Commission on Nov. 25 adopted a proposal to significantly increase transparency in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiations with the United States. The Commission indicates in a press release that this decision is “vital to ensure that the general public has accurate and full information on the EU’s intentions in the negotiations, to address the concerns and to evacuate misperceptions.” The communication adopted by the Commission includes the following commitments.

– making public more EU negotiating texts that the Commission already shares with member states and the European Parliament

– providing access to TTIP texts to all members of the European Parliament, not just a select few, by extending the use of a “reading room” to those MEPs who have had no access to restricted documents so far

– classifying fewer TTIP negotiating documents as “EU restricted,” making them more easily accessible to MEPs outside the reading room

– publishing and updating on a regular basis a public list of TTIP documents shared with the European Parliament and the Council

The Commission will also make an effort to report more extensively on the outcome of negotiating rounds and prepare additional online materials that explain EU negotiating positions and approaches. On the other hand, the Commission does not intend to publish any U.S. documents or common negotiating documents without the explicit agreement of the United States. The EU market opening offers on tariffs, services, investment and procurement would not, in principle, be made public either as they are the essence of the confidential part of the negotiations.

To get news like this in your inbox daily, subscribe to the Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report.

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Gain from Getting Back to Nature

November 25, 2014 Leave a comment


Posted by Arthur Gutch on Tue, Nov 25, 2014 @ 04:46 PM

Ten years ago a walk in the woods with our family dog dramatically changed my life. The ten years prior to my dog-walk awakening had been mired in what you might call…non-movement related activies. Too many hours focused on the computer screen writing or late nights working without pause had put me into a state of utter staleness. Getting back to nature was a way to reconnect my mind and body, but it also shed some light on a more intriguing concept, that maybe there was a benefit to simply “being in nature”.

Author_DogFor those of you that suffer from chronic non-movement syndrome (CNMS) or lack of nature there is a cure…move more in your nearest natural setting, whether it be a park, a backyard, cornfield or if your lucky a nearby natural forest. Once you start the process of re-balancing by investing time in natural surroundings you may wonder why it took you so long to get to this place of renewal! An author who has taken a pen to this subject is Richard Louv in “The Nature Principle” published in 2011. In his book the author touts the restorative powers of the natural world. He discusses the need for more balance and the mind/body/nature connection also called vitamin N. He takes a deep dive into the use of technology and natural experience to increase intellligence, creative thinking and productivity – the hybrid mind.

nature-principle-cover-lrgWhy is this important to you as an author

As an author you need to use your mind to develop wonderfully unique ideas, stories and solutions to problems so it seems reasonable that if nature could provide some additional energy to get the juices flowing then so be it. It may be that you can re-fuel a nascent primal power that is activated by touching tree bark, holding dirt in your hands or by simply taking in the sky and the natural surroundings, allowing you to access a new reservoir of health, well being and enhanced writing!

How can a writer or self published author leverage nature!

1. Remove yourself from technology. Re-balancing away from technology and getting a daily dose of nature can help to counteract the ill-effects of technology. We are surrounded by and being bombarded with apps, web pages, e-mail, texts, vociemail and other bits and bytes of information that is according to many having both a positive and negative effect on our minds and body. Don’t get me wrong, technology is great but there is growing evidence that indicates some serious side-effects of technology overuse.

2. Try some physical activity in nature. My walk with the dog lasted almost 10 years until I decided running might be better. Now its running five miles, four times a week on the trails. Trail running is amazing! You don’t need to run, you can walk or skip for that matter. The point is that being physical in nature is a very natural event for humans, or at least it used to be when eating required it. Do aworkout in nature and according to many experts reap more rewards than if inside. Exercise adds oxygen to your system, which fuels your brain for better writing. Do some simple exercises in the woods or backyard or park and get the maximum impact.

3. Give yourself a regular mental shot in the arm.Once you start spending more time in nature, as crazy as it may sound you begin to look at things a little differently. If you are already spending time in nature the effects may not be as pronounced. It’s only after you consistently invest the time in the natural expereince that you begin to see things new and differently.

To wrap this up it is the opinion if this writer that there is something to “being in Nature” and in the age of the machines that we love there is certainly room for another outlet to fuel or passion and energy for getting the word out!

Keep the Faith and May the Force be with You!

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Sweeping New Controls on Ozone Emissions

November 25, 2014 Leave a comment

NY Times

(blog note:)Now let’s help AM4U Inc to clean the world’s fresh water supplies:

NOV. 25, 2014

The sweeping regulation, which would aim at smog from power plants and factories across the country, particularly in the Midwest, would be the latest in a series of Environmental Protection Agency controls on air pollution that wafts from smokestacks and tailpipes. Such regulations, released under the authority of the Clean Air Act, have become a hallmark of President Obama’s administration.

Environmentalists and public health advocates have praised the E.P.A. rules as a powerful environmental legacy. Republicans, manufacturers and the fossil fuel industry have sharply criticized them as an example of costly government overreach.

The proposed regulation would lower the current threshold for ozone pollution from 75 parts per million to a range of 65 to 70 parts per million, according to people familiar with the plan. That range is less stringent than the standard of 60 parts per million sought by environmental groups, but the E.P.A. proposal would also seek public comment on a 60 parts-per-million plan, keeping open the possibility that the final rule could be stricter.


Emissions from a power plant in Kentucky. The sweeping regulation will aim at smog from power plants and factories across the country.CreditLuke Sharrett for The New York Times

Public health groups have lobbied the government for years to rein in ozone emissions and said the regulation was one of the most important health decisions Mr. Obama could make in his second term.

“Ozone is the most pervasive and widespread pollutant in the country,” said Paul Billings, a senior vice president of the American Lung Association. “Ozone is linked to a wide range of serious health consequences — not just asthma, coughing,wheezing and cardiovascular diseases, but the ultimate health effect premature death.”

William Becker, executive director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, said, “For the past several years, the public has been living with a false sense of security about whether the air they’re breathing is safe. Ozone is not only killing people, but causing tens of millions of people to get sick every day.’’

But industry groups say that the regulation would impose unwieldy burdens on the economy, with little public health benefit.

“Further tightening the current ozone standards — the most stringent ozone standards ever — is a major concern because of the potential cost and impact on the economy,” said Howard Feldman, director of regulatory affairs for the American Petroleum Institute, which lobbies for the oil industry. “Air quality has improved dramatically over the past decades, and air quality will continue to improve under the existing standards. The current review of health studies has not identified compelling evidence for more stringent standards, and current standards are protective of public health.”

The proposed ozone rule comes as the longstanding battle over Mr. Obama’s use of the Clean Air Act to push his environmental agenda is erupting in Congress and the courts. The ozone rules are expected to force the owners of power plants and factories to install expensive technology to clean the pollutants from their smokestacks

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Want Blue Eyes With That Baby?

November 25, 2014 Leave a comment



The Strange New World of Human Reproduction
Should a woman’s own 55-year-old mother bear the woman’s (gulp) triplets? Well, it’s happening. Where should society draw the lines here?
Welcome to the brave new world of technology-enhanced human reproduction with its promise of alleviating the heartache of infertility, and its dangers of crossing ethical and moral lines. At a time when more options are available for women to conceive on their own timetable, perhaps hone their embryos to be free of disease and defects, and postpone childbirth until it fits their schedule, human reproduction is veering into a future that doctors, scientists, and philosophers aren’t entirely prepared for.

The New America Foundation, a Washington-based think tank, assembled a series of panels last Thursday to explore the frontiers of reproductive technology from the routine-though-still-expensive IVF (in vitro fertilization) to PGD (pre-implantation genetic diagnosis) where parents can screen embryos for potential defects, and mitochondrial intervention that produces sensational headlines like “Meet the Three-Parent Baby.”

A panel titled “Where Babies Come From” explored the three-parent dilemma created when a second woman donates an egg to provide the future baby’s mitochondrial DNA. Even though there are then three genetic parents, Dieter Egli, a senior research fellow with the New York Stem Cell Foundation, hastened to assure people there are still just two parents, that the additional DNA is “not a necessary nor sufficient to claim parenthood.”

Other panelists rallied to the cause of “the invisible woman”—the second and generally anonymous egg donor. Charis Thompson, Chair of Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, declared herself “a huge fan of multi parenthood. Let’s acknowledge the repertoire of people making a child. Let’s celebrate the whole damn lot so that everybody has a good life.”

Mitochondrial intervention is the practice of replacing DNA that carries a genetic disease. It is intended to prevent serious diseases like muscular dystrophy, but it is hugely controversial because it could open the door to people manipulating genetic material. It’s currently banned in the United States, but the FDA is studying its safety and its efficacy. The U..K. is further along in bringing the procedure to market. “It’s a social benefit to a very small number of people, ten people a year maybe in the U.K. Is it worth crossing this very bright line that could put us into the world of eugenics?” asked Marcy Darnovsky, executive director at the Center for Genetics and Society.

Eugenics is a word that made everyone at the event uncomfortable. The moderator of the panel titled “How Far is Too Far,” said she doubted that any high-school student today would even know what the word eugenics meant, or could believe that any government could be that heavy-handed in controlling reproduction. Reproductive technologies are lightly regulated, and scientific advances fueled by financial incentives could overtake ethical and moral considerations.

The mood was lightened considerably by the co-hosts of the podcast “Mom and Dad Are Fighting.” They described themselves as the opposite of experts, and they parried about such burning issues as when is it too old to start having kids, how many biological parents are too many, and in the year 2100, if there was a pill you could take to have a baby in three months, instead of nine, should everyone in the world have a right to that?

In the year 2100, if there was a pill you could take to have a baby in three months, instead of nine, should everyone in the world have a right to that?
Dan Kois, the dad in the duo, cut to the chasse when he observed, “With all these technologies, who decides who has the right to do these things, and who pays for it?” Alison Benedikt, the mom, said she wished she had her children earlier so she could look forward to a “third chapter” without children. “Now we’re all older parents,” she said of her peers.

In the panel on “Whose Business is Reproduction?” Deborah Spar, president of Barnard College, said she tells her students they shouldn’t see freezing eggs as a “magic cure all,” but that it might be an insurance policy. “If you make partner [at a law firm] and unfreeze your eggs at age 42,” you could be a big winner, she said. Still, she cautions women against falling for what is “a very clever marketing operation, but not necessarily a cure all for how to lead the perfect life.”

Asked if the ability to reproduce should be a human right, Spar said she would leave that for the philosophers to think about. “Not being able to become a mother at 65 is not a medical condition, it’s just tough luck,” she said. “With the definition of family changing, technology will always move faster than social norms, and both of them will move faster than the law.”
Spar has a new book titled The Baby Business: How Money, Science and Politics Drive the Commerce of Conception. The word conception could be changed to deception as many entrepreneurs in the world of reproduction are in the business of selling false dreams. It’s an area particularly prone to inequality, Spar noted: “Infertility crosses all economic lines, it’s one area where Mother Nature is fair, for better or worse.” Women without the resources to pay thousands for IVF lose out twice, she said, once because they’re infertile, then because they can’t afford treatment. Unequal access to this brave new world was an ongoing theme, along with questions about emerging legal structures and how to guarantee anonymity for donors in an era of increasing openness and transparency. Panelists polled each other on whether they’d be upset if they learned they had been frozen as an embryo. The answer was no, but one said if her parents lied to her about it, she’d be really upset. On the other hand, said Jane Maienschein, Director of the Center for Biology and Society at Arizona State University, “Would you be upset if you learned someone was paid to gestate you, and we don’t know what happened to her.”

Camille Hammond, CEO of Tinina Q Cade Foundation, said simply that the pathways to parenthood are different. She found hers after five years of infertility when her mother—at age 55—delivered her daughter and son-in-law’s triplets. The foundation, named after her mother, provides financial help to needy families that are infertile. “Nobody wants to stand in the way of people having families,” says Hammond.

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Annual Report Examines Chinese Economic and Trade Actions

November 24, 2014 Leave a comment



Tuesday, November 25, 2014
Trade Report

The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission has released its 2014 report to Congress on the national security implications of the trade and economic relationship between the U.S. and China. This year’s report covers key U.S.-China economic and trade issues, security developments, and China’s diplomatic efforts in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond. In addition, the report examines bilateral clean energy cooperation, China’s growing health care sector, and the safety of Chinese drug imports into the United States. Also covered in the report are matters related to the East Asian regional balance of power, China’s ongoing military modernization, Chinese domestic stability and China’s bilateral relationships.

As has typically been the case, the report casts a critical eye on Chinese policies and practices and makes a number of recommendations for responsive action by the U.S. government. On the positive side, the report welcomes efforts by Chinese authorities to extend better health care and health insurance particularly to the underserved rural population as well as the first steps to lift the domestic residency permit system. China also began to implement plans for a free trade zone in Shanghai that might provide greater access to foreign financial services and health care companies.


– The U.S. trade deficit with China grew by 4.1% during January-August 2014 despite a 6.2% increase in U.S. exports. The bilateral trade deficit stood at $318.4 billion in 2013, setting a record for the fourth straight year.

– China has stalled on liberalizing key sectors in which the U.S. is competitive globally, such as services. Meanwhile, Chinese foreign investment flows into the U.S. have grown while U.S. FDI into China is lower due to an increasingly hostile investment climate. Growing Chinese investment in the U.S. could be a boon to U.S. employment but the peculiarities of state influence on Chinese corporate behavior in the U.S. may also pose significant competitive challenges for domestic companies, with serious drawbacks for U.S. workers.

– China’s chronic overcapacity, especially in sectors such as steel and solar panels, continued to harm U.S. manufacturing and exports by dumping excess supply into global markets.

– The Chinese government made little to no progress this year in implementing the economic reforms designated by its leadership during the 2013 Third Plenum. Instead, Chinese President Xi Jinping and his leadership team focused on a broad anticorruption campaign while using stimulus to avoid further economic slowdown.

– Even as U.S. manufacturing has slumped U.S. corporations have relocated manufacturing operations to China and imports of Chinese manufactured goods have grown exponentially. Unfair Chinese trade practices, including market protections, subsidization and favoritism toward certain domestic players as well as provisions for limiting foreign investment in certain manufacturing operations, have also contributed indirectly to the ongoing decline in U.S. manufacturing employment.

– Although China committed to sweeping reforms when it joined the WTO, Chinese efforts to honor these commitments have slackened in the last ten years. U.S. enforcement actions have increased but the results of these efforts have been limited and many issues remain unaddressed.

Key Trade/Economic Recommendations

– Congress should direct the Government Accountability Office to update its report on the effectiveness of the U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade and the Strategic and Economic Dialogue. The updated report should include an assessment of the objectives sought by the U.S. in these talks and whether China has honored its commitments to date.

– Congress should require the Department of the Treasury to include in its semiannual report to Congress specific information on the beneficial economic impact of China moving to a freely floating currency in terms of U.S. exports, economic growth and job creation. In addition, Congress should urge the administration to begin immediate consultations at the G-7 to identify a multilateral approach to addressing China’s currency manipulation.

– Congress should consider amending existing trade enforcement rules to ensure that foreign investment in the U.S. cannot be used to impede the ability of domestic producers to bring petitions for trade enforcement actions.

– Congress should consider legislation that would make available a remedy to domestic firms that have been injured from the anticompetitive actions (such as access to low-cost or no-cost capital) of foreign state-owned companies for the injury that has been inflicted and allow for the potential award of treble damages.

– Congress should request that the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the Department of Commerce and the International Trade Commission report on the extent to which existing authorities would allow for sanctions to be imposed against entities that benefit from trade secrets or other information obtained through cyber intrusions or other illegal means and were provided by a national government, foreign intelligence service or other entity utilizing such means. If authorities do not exist, they should provide a proposal to address such problems.

– Congress should urge the FDA to insist on expedited approvals from the Chinese government for work visas for agency staff as well as on expanded authority to conduct unannounced visits at drug manufacturing facilities in China.

– Congress should pursue measures to improve the government’s information about drug ingredient and dietary supplement producers, especially for imports. To this end, Congress should urge the FDA to work with its Chinese counterparts to establish a more comprehensive regulatory regime for registering China-based active pharmaceutical ingredient producers and make this producer information available on demand for U.S. agencies.

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Alliance of Artist Communities Residency Deadlines for 2015

November 24, 2014 Leave a comment

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Despite Persecution, Guardian of Lake Tai Spotlights China’s Polluters

November 24, 2014 Leave a comment

NY Times

NOV. 23, 2014


The environmental activist Wu Lihong was jailed for speaking out about pollution in China’s Lake Tai. Now he is free, but he is still protesting the industrial waste that streams into the lake.


Video by Jonah M. Kessel on Publish DateNovember 23, 2014.


ZHOUTIE, China — By autumn, the stench of Lake Tai and the freakish green glow of its waters usually fade with the ebbing of the summer heat, but this year is different. Standing on a concrete embankment overlooking a fetid, floating array of plastic bottles, foam takeout containers, flip-flops and the occasional dead fish, Wu Lihong, the lake’s unofficial guardian, shook his head in disgust.

“If you jumped into this water, you’d shed a layer of skin,” he said one recent afternoon. “The government claims they are cleaning up the lake, but as you can see, it’s just not true.”

Seven years after a toxic algae bloom forced millions of people who depended on the lake to find alternative sources of drinking water, Lake Tai, which straddles two provinces in the Yangtze River delta, remains a pungent symbol ofChina’s inability to tackle some of its most serious environmental problems.

Since the 2007 crisis, which drew widespread domestic news media coverage and prompted a special meeting of the cabinet, the government has spent billions of dollars cleaning up the lake, the country’s third-largest freshwater body. But environmentalists say it has little to show for the money. Hundreds of chemical plants, textile mills and ceramics workshops continue to dump their noxious effluent into the waterways that feed into Lake Tai.

Lake Tai


“Some progress has been made, but we haven’t yet reached a turning point,” said Ma Jun, one of the country’s leading environmentalists. “For many factories, the cost of violating the rules is lower than the cost of compliance.”

Also unchanged is the persecution of Mr. Wu, 46, a scrappy, self-taught environmentalist who spent three years in jail on what he said were trumped-up fraud charges — punishment, he said, for his dogged campaign against the factory owners and their local government allies, whom he blames for despoiling the lake.

Since emerging from prison in 2010, Mr. Wu has continued his advocacy work, prompting a predictable response from the authorities. He is subjected to periods of confinement at his home in Zhoutie, a village on Lake Tai. His cellphone is monitored by the police and he is barred from traveling beyond Yixing, the township in eastern Jiangsu Province that includes Zhoutie.

Plainclothes police officers often accompany him on shopping excursions, and surveillance cameras line the narrow road to his home. Vengeful officials, he said, have even stymied his efforts to find a job by warning away would-be employers. “If it wasn’t for the garden in front of my house, I’d probably starve,” said Mr. Wu, a short, pudgy-faced man who often sounds like he is shouting, even when indoors.

Reached by phone, an employee of the Zhoutie public security bureau denied that it curtailed Mr. Wu’s freedom.

The experiences of both Lake Tai and Mr. Wu speak volumes about the Chinese government’s often contradictory approach to environmental protection. Confronted by public anger over contaminated air, water and soil, the ruling Communist Party has sought to shutter obsolete steel mills, restrict the number of license plates available to big-city drivers, and recalibrate the economic-growth-at-all-costs criteria used to evaluate local officials. This year, Prime Minister Li Keqiang “declared war” on pollution in a speech to the national legislature.

But some local officials oppose policies they fear could close factories and eliminate jobs. They also prefer to deal with environmental problems their own way, if at all, which is why Mr. Wu ran into trouble with officials in Jiangsu, a relatively wealthy slice of coastal China that has prospered from its fecund, well-watered landscape but even more from industrial development, which has fouled the region’s rivers and canals.

Beginning in the mid-1990s, when he began noticing a sickly rainbow hue in the once-pristine creeks near his home, Mr. Wu began a campaign to name and shame polluting factories in Zhoutie. He collected water samples in plastic bottles, wrote letters to high-ranking environmental officials and invited television reporters to film how factories secretly discharged their wastewater at night.

In 2001, after local officials drained and dredged a canal that had been polluted by a dye plant in advance of an inspection tour from Beijing, Mr. Wu exposed their ruse — which included dumping carp into the canal and dispatching villagers with fishing rods to complete the Potemkin image of ecological recovery. In the years that followed, he became something of a media celebrity; in 2005, the National People’s Congress named him an “Environmental Warrior.”

Back in Yixing, which earns 80 percent of its tax revenue from local industry, officials were furious. In 2007, as he was preparing a lawsuit against the environmental bureau, Mr. Wu was arrested and charged with trying to blackmail a company in exchange for withholding accusations of wrongdoing. During his interrogation, Mr. Wu said, he was whipped with willow branches, burned with cigarettes and kept in solitary confinement with little to eat. “The abuse was more than I could take, so of course I signed the confession they had drawn up,” he later said.

Elizabeth Economy, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of “The River Runs Black: The Environmental Challenge to China’s Future,” said environmental activists in China must walk a fine line, knowing when it is safe to push and when it is best to keep quiet. “Wu is a maverick, prone to say exactly what he thinks without considering the political consequences,” she said. “That is not the type of political participation that Beijing desires, even if he is right.”

That summer, shortly before he was put on trial, the industrial effluent flowing into Lake Tai from the 2,000 factories in the region reached a tipping point, prompting the algae bloom that forced officials in the nearby city of Wuxi to cut off water to two million residents.

Under the glare of a national spotlight, Jiangsu officials said they would spend more than $14 billion to clean up the lake and vowed to address the problem of toxic algae blooms within five years.

But the money, government researchers acknowledge, has had a negligible impact. According to the Lake Tai Basin Authority, 90 percent of water samples taken from the lake this summer were considered so toxic that contact with human skin was ill-advised. Wuxi, in the meantime, has found an alternative source for its drinking water.

In a recent interview with Xinhua Daily, Zhang Limin, deputy director of the Lake Tai Water Pollution Prevention Office, said the flood of contaminants had begun to level off, although it is still more than three times as much as the lake can absorb without killing most aquatic life.

Flushing the lake with water from the Yangtze River has improved water quality somewhat, though critics say it simply pushes pollution further downstream. These days, many polluters have built pipelines to centralized waste-treatment plants that are incapable of handling the flow. Others simply pipe waste directly into waterways through underground conduits that allow them to avoid detection.

But environmentalists say there is reason for hope. In April, the central government revised the nation’s environmental law for the first time since 1989, imposing steep fines on polluters and requiring companies to disclose pollution data. The regulations, which take effect in January, will also allow environmental groups to file public interest lawsuits against factories that break the law.

Mr. Ma, the environmentalist, said the new measures include important tools for cleaning up Lake Tai and other ailing bodies of water, but the key would be enforcement. “All it takes is the mayor or the head of a county saying, ‘You can’t touch this factory. It’s too important to the local economy,’ ” he said.

Mr. Wu said he was less hopeful, noting how little has changed in recent years despite intense pressure from Beijing and the billions of dollars spent. “A lot of that money ends up lining the pockets of local officials,” he said.

His outspokenness has taken a toll on his family, who have also been subjected to frequent harassment. Last year his daughter, Wu Yunlei, went to the United States on a tourist visa and promptly requested political asylum. “When I was younger, I didn’t understand what my father was doing and I was often angry about the trouble it caused us, but now I’ve come to appreciate it,” she said in an email.

Once content to focus on the environment, Mr. Wu now believes that healing his beloved lake requires more sweeping change. “If with all their wealth, the Communist Party can’t clean up this lake, it tells you the problem is much bigger,” he said. “I’ve come to realize the root of the problem is the system itself.”

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Welcome to Shoppost for Amazon Webstore

November 24, 2014 Leave a comment


Welcome to Shoppost for Amazon Webstore

Being able to reach your customers with interactive, dynamic and effective content is an ideal way to increase conversions for your ecommerce store. For retailers, this takes the form of posting a link on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest. But there’s a lot more that can be done.

We have offered Shopify and BigCommerce users the ability to do more. And, starting today, the Shoppost platform for social commerce is now available for merchants using Amazon Webstore, Amazon’s hosted e-commerce platform. You can go use Shoppost for Amazon Webstore now.

By using Shoppost, Amazon Webstore’s retailers can merchandise and sell their products in-stream on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and blogs in a post that mimics an e-commerce storefront and connects purchasers directly to their branded checkout process. Shoppost even provides analytics and reporting for your storefront.

Quick setup, quick results

We’ve been working with some of Amazon’s great retailers These early adopters have already begun seeing results as part of an early tester system, which you can join now, as well!

Online catalogue company Spiegel has been innovating in the commerce space for more than 150 years. Spiegel has a great history of “firsts.” It introduced the teddy bear to America in 1908/1909, invented the credit card, launched Barbie, invented a super computer in the 50s, launched Gloria Vanderbilt & DKNY and it was the first major online retailer in 1995. Integrating Shoppost into its social commerce strategy was a natural fit.

Spiegel Screen Shot

HD Military Sales has been using the system to reach its customers with unique Harley Davidson merchandise. The team there has been able to utilize the detailed postings quickly and says that it is “already seeing results.”

Harley-Davidson AMZN Webstore on FB

Additionally, Fair Indigo, which bills itself as providing style with a conscience has been using Shoppost to promote its brand of stylish clothes that puts the eco in economical. The highly engaging content from Shoppost has been able to seamlessly connect to the Amazon shopping cart and processing system.

Fair Indigo utilizes Shoppost to reach customers with its unique styles.

Seamless integrations boost sales

Customers quickly move from consideration to purchase when viewing product promotions in their news feeds on social media sites. Shoppost pulls product details including images, availability, sizing, colors and pricing directly from the Amazon platform. Any purchase from a Shoppost takes customers straight to the merchant’s branded shopping cart, providing a seamless, trusted checkout experience.

The Shoppost web app also provides a robust analytics tool that delivers valuable data about customers’ engagement, and which products convert best on which sites.

The ability to quickly integrate with Amazon’s backend management is a great asset for retailers.

Are you ready to realize the benefits? Read more on Shoppost for Amazon Web Store and engage with your customers today!

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I Forget Why I Posted This

November 24, 2014 Leave a comment

A Caregiver’s Guide to Alzheimer’s Disease Symptoms and Stages

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