Posts Tagged ‘Business’
Yes, I know it’s an advertisement for Beneful!
A number of things conspired yesterday to make the spare hours disappear. Including time to write a post for this place.
However, during the day Chris Snuggs sent me the following video.
Don’t know about you, but I found the ‘machine’ made me smile!
Hope it does the same for you.
Is it just me?
It is my usual pattern to awake around 5am, sit upright in bed and browse the latest news on my tablet computer. Jean sleeps on most times next to me.
Thus it was last Friday morning that I am sitting in bed reading the latest goings on around the world.
But, unusually, that morning’s wanderings left a bleak mark on me. See if you feel the same way when I share the stories that I read.
From Naked Capitalism.
The Tragedy of the Soma Mine-Workers: A Crime of Peripheral Capitalism Unleashed
Posted on May 16, 2014 by Yves Smith
Yves here. This post explains how the horrific mine explosion in Western Turkey, which has officially claimed nearly 300 lives as the death count continues to rise, was not an accident but the direct result of privatization and circumvention of safety standards. And unlike the West, where industrial and mining accidents are met with short-term sympathy but little if any real change in working conditions, protests have broken out, not just in the mine town of Soma but also in major cities. As Mark Ames has pointed out, American has airbrushed out much of the history of labor’s struggles for safe workplaces and better pay. Violence against efforts to organize workers was common. Henry Ford had a private army of thugs for just this purpose. The tragedy in Turkey should serve as a reminder of what has been won, and how fragile those gains are.
By Erinç Yeldan, Dean of the faculty of Economics and Administrative Sciences, Yasar University and an executive directors of the International Development Economics Associates. Cross posted from Triple Crisis
One of the greatest work-crimes in mining industry occurred in Soma, a little mining village in Western Turkey. At noon-time on Tuesday, May 13, according to witnesses, an electrical fault triggered a transformer to explode causing a large fire in the mine, releasing carbon monoxide and gaseous fumes. (The official cause of the “accident” was still unknown, at this writing, after nearly 30 hours.) Around 800 miners were trapped 2 km underground and 4 km from the exit. At this point, the death toll has already reached 245, with reports of another 100 workers remaining in the mine, yet unreached.
Turkey has possibly the worst safety record in terms of mining accidents and explosions in Europe and the third worst in the world. Since the right-wing Justice and Development Party (AKP) assumed power in 2002, and up to 2011, a 40% increase in work-related accidents has been reported. The death toll from these accidents reached more than 11,000.
(Read the rest here.)
From the BBC News website:
In just over five years Britain will have run out of oil, coal and gas, researchers have warned.
A report by the Global Sustainability Institute said shortages would increase dependency on Norway, Qatar and Russia.
There should be a “Europe-wide drive” towards wind, tidal, solar and other sources of renewable power, the institute’s Prof Victor Anderson said.
The government says complete energy independence is unnecessary, says BBC environment analyst Roger Harrabin.
The report says Russia has more than 50 years of oil, more than 100 years of gas and more than 500 years of coal left, on current consumption.
By contrast, Britain has just 5.2 years of oil, 4.5 years of coal and three years of its own gas remaining.
France fares even worse, according to the report, with less than year to go before it runs out of all three fossil fuels.
(Read the rest here)
Again from Naked Capitalism:
UK Survey Finds High Levels of Depression and Desperation Among the Young
Posted on May 16, 2014 by Yves Smith
If you’ve been keeping half an eye on economic news, the UK has of late been looking pretty spiffy relative to its advanced economy peers, with 2014 growth forecast at 3%. Even though unemployment in the UK is at its lowest level in five years, the young and the long-term unemployed haven’t benefitted to the same degree.
One issue that doesn’t get the attention that it merits is the destructive psychological impact of being out of work. Work doesn’t just provide money, as critical as that is. It provides a way of organizing your time, social interaction, and a place in society, even if that place is not really where you’d like to be. Being unanchored is extremely taxing. Recall that the Japanese get people to quit by giving them a desk and nothing to do. The lack of legitimacy, the implicit shaming of being isolated is sufficiently punitive as to induce workers to give up their pay and being able to tell their families they have a job.
The BBC reports on the results of a survey by the Prince’s Trust called the Macquarie Youth Index, which is based on a survey of roughly 2200 16 to 25 year olds. 13% were what the survey called Neet: not in employment, education, or training.
I will return to the terrible implications of this report after I declare a past interest. Before I left England in 2008, I was an active volunteer with the Prince’s Trust. My years of being associated with the Trust taught me that helping young persons discover their strengths, enable them to maintain and defend a positive self-image, and offer them real hope for their future lives, was and is the most important role of society; without doubt!
Now back to that report:
The survey found high levels of suicidal thoughts and self harm among this group, and high levels of stress among the young generally. Key excerpts from the article:
The report found 9% of all respondents agreed with the statement: “I have nothing to live for”…
Among those respondents classified as Neet, the percentage of those agreeing with the statement rose to 21%.
The research found that long-term unemployed young people were more than twice as likely as their peers to have been prescribed anti-depressants.
One in three (32%) had contemplated suicide, while one in four (24%) had self-harmed.
The report found 40% of jobless young people had faced symptoms of mental illness, including suicidal thoughts, feelings of self-loathing and panic attacks, as a direct result of unemployment.
Three quarters of long-term unemployed young people (72%) did not have someone to confide in, the study found.
Martina Milburn, chief executive of the Prince’s Trust, said: “Unemployment is proven to cause devastating, long-lasting mental health problems among young people.
Then there was the report from the NASA study team that key glaciers in West Antarctica are in an irreversible retreat. First seen by me on the BBC News website, from where the following photograph was taken.
To really understand the message that Planet Earth is sending out to us humans, I would recommend reading Antarctica’s Glaciers Disintegrating over on Patrice Ayme’s blog. Here’s how Patrice finishes that essay:
We imparted acceleration to the biosphere. We are pushing the biosphere around. And we know that the force we are applying is only augmenting. That means the acceleration, and even more the speed of the change, is going to get worse quick. That’s basic dynamics, first quarter of undergraduate physics.
Of course, neither the leaders of France, Great Britain, or the USA has taken such a course: they are basically ignoramuses at the helm (and Angela Merkel, who knows plenty of physics, made a risky bet she seems to be losing).
Clearly, we should instead apply the brakes to the maximum (instead of flooring the accelerator). What would be the price of this cautious? None, for common people: hard work to de-carbonize the world economy would require dozens of millions to be employed that way, in the West alone.
That, of course, is a scary thought for plutocrats, who much prefer us unemployed, impotent, and despondent.
All of this is sending out a message. The message that if we are not very, very careful this could be the end-game for human civilisation on this Planet.
But do you know what really puzzles me?
It’s that this message is increasingly one that meets with nods of approval and words of agreement from more and more people that one sees going about one’s normal life. Perhaps, because there’s more and more reporting from a wider and wider range of sources. Like The Permaculture Research Institute website recently publishing This Collapse is a ‘Crisis of Bigness’. Like Grist publishing Walmart is the last place Obama should be making a clean energy speech.
Like Ian Welsh publishing Equal Rights to Profit from Impoverishing People and Causing a Great Extinction Event. Like Patrice in an essay last Friday about the way in which Main Stream Media is Manipulated. Viz:
Main Stream Media (MSM) has been the instrument of control of the People ever since there were oligarchies. It used to be about temples and priests, now it’s more about controlling papers, radio, TV, and the Internet.
and later on:
This crudeness, and vigilance of censorship by the owners [of the New York Times], is why the Obamas, Clintons, Krugmans, and Stiglitzs have to be careful. After all, they are just employees enjoying the perks of the system. Yes, they don’t own it. Ownership is everything. If the servants want to keep on thriving, those “leaders” will have to please the owners. So they “lead” where the real owners are willing us all, the herd, to be led.
Patrice rounds his essay off, thus:
The plutocracy focuses on direct control of the world imperial system, and that means controlling the giants (especially the three military leaders of the West). This is where the propaganda is the thickest.
The New York Times is considered to be the “newspaper of record” in the USA. However, the bottom line is that this is the third century during which it is owned and controlled by a particular family. How can these two elements be compatible? Why is that particular family “of record”?
Even in the Middle Ages, the most absolute kings there were, those of France, actually owned relatively little property. Francois I himself may have worn expensive clothes, but Italian bankers paid for his trips around France. Francois I did not own the media of the time.
What we have now is different. We have an ascending plutocracy that tries to grab the minds ever more. What Putin is doing in Russia is just a particular case, part of a whole.
Hopefully, people will see through this, and get their news from somewhere else than plutocratically owned media, thus bankrupting the MSM (the Internet can support journalists directly: see the successful Mediapart in France).
But I haven’t answered my earlier rhetorical question. “But do you know what really puzzles me?” Implying that a growing number of people sense there is a problem with today’s world.
That question will be answered tomorrow. Do please return.
Drawing seven perpendicular lines. Can’t be that difficult?
(Note: will be especially enjoyed by those who have been exposed to too many hours of ‘management speak’!)
Yes, I know it’s a car advert ….
but I defy you to watch this and not feel all googly inside.
Thank you, Dan!
You all have a great week-end; especially the animals out there!
Reflections on our present world.
Today, and the next two days, I want to offer you three essays under the theme of Trust, truth and community.
As is so often the case, there was a series of outwardly unconnected experiences that seemed, well to my eyes anyway, to speak to a theme. You will have to wait until Friday to judge whether or not you agree with me!
This first essay was motivated by two disparate events: One very local and one as far removed from being local as one could imagine.
But first, what do we mean by trust? Roget’s Thesaurus defines the word (in part):
Absolute certainty in the trustworthiness of another: belief, confidence, dependence, faith, reliance.
You will recall that just over three weeks ago, we welcomed two horses to our pastures; Ranger and Ben. Both horses had previously been treated badly by humans, especially Ben who had been starved and beaten by his ex-owners.
In the early days, Ben was very cautious of any sudden movement by me and would back away from any contact from me other than being offered a food treat.
But in just three weeks, Ben has gone a huge way towards trusting Jean and me.
Now, I don’t know about you, but my guess is that if a human had experienced the degree of cruelty from the hands of another person that these horses had, it would take very much longer than three weeks for that human victim to regain the same level of trust that Ben and Ranger now offer. Indeed, many persons would harbour anger and distrust forever.
That was the local example of trust
Now to the ‘non-local’ example of trust. It involves PayPal.
You must read it in full, especially if you are a PayPal user. Thanks to Wolf, I can offer you his opening paragraphs:
I Just Got PayPal’s New Absolutely-No-Privacy-Ever Policy
TUESDAY, APRIL 1, 2014 AT 1:00AM
Sunday, when people had other things to do and weren’t supposed to pay attention, PayPal sent its account holders an innocuous-sounding email with the artfully bland title, “Notice of Policy Updates.” PayPal didn’t want people to read it – lest they come away thinking that the NSA, which runs the most expansive spying dragnet in history, is by comparison a group of choirboys.
The email started with corporate blah-blah-blah on privacy, that PayPal was “constantly” changing things “to give you more of what you want and improve your experience using us.”
Do read the rest of the essay here. Here’s a comment from a reader of Wolf’s essay, republished with Wolf’s permission:
Concerning: I Just Got PayPal’s New Absolutely-No-Privacy-Ever Policy
I am a retired old geezer living in NY State. About 4 years ago I looked at Ebay’s bidding process to place a bid on an item I wanted. However I discovered that I could not make such a bid without subscribing to pay pal. I provided pay pal with the information it required and made my bid. My bid was exceeded by other bids and I did not get the item. My credit card was not used at that time and I never used Ebay or pay pal after that.
Because I did not respond to ongoing emails from the 2 companies I believed that I had no further connection to either of them and that my single failed bid was the end of our relationship.
Then about 2-3 years ago I received a couple of emails from Best Buy: one thanking me for opening a new account, and the other thanking me for purchasing an expensive electronic item.
When I opened up that new Best Buy account I discovered that my address was stated to be in California in care of a person named Pham Pham and that the credit card that was used was one that had recently expired although the number was still in use on a subsequently issued card. I checked all my credit cards online and found that the charge was not pending. I also took some other measures to protect myself. Within hours I received another email from Best Buy cancelling the order because payment was not made by my credit card company.
This incident took a strange turn a couple of days later. Initially I had no idea as to the source of the credit information leak. But then 2-3 days afterwards I received an email from Pay Pal requesting an update of the credit card information in my Pay Pal account. Pay Pal’s email request for updated credit information so soon after the online theft attempt may be just a coincidence, but in my mind there is an undisclosed connection. Of course I have not complied with Pay Pay’s requests. To this day no company has informed me that their accounts were hacked and that my credit information was stolen.
If, when you have read Wolf’s report in full, you feel, as I do, that the time has come to cut the relationship with PayPal then go for it. Because only a customer base that is ‘voting with their feet’ will deliver the message.
What is that message?
Oh, want to know how to close a PayPal account?
To close your Payflow account:
If your partner is PayPal, VeriSign or CyberCash contact PayPal Merchant support at 1-888-883-9770 or via email at email@example.com. Be sure to include your login ID.
If your partner is with a Payflow partner, reseller, or merchant bank you will need to contact the partner, reseller, or bank directly to close your Payflow account.
For additional information, contact PayPal Merchant support at 1-888-883-9770 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note: Once your Payflow account is terminated, you cannot access the PayPal Manager or any account data. If you need access to this data, you will be charged a fee.
If you are trying to close your PayPal account and not a Payflow account do the following:
Log in to your PayPal account.
Click Profile at the top of the page.
Click Close Account in the Account Information column and follow the steps listed.
My PayPal account was closed at 15:10 PDT yesterday.
Perhaps PayPal should take note of how humans witness trust offered by our dear animals!
But being careful about what our dogs eat is another story!
This is not the first time that I have used this title for a blog post. The previous time was almost eighteen months ago when I highlighted a fascinating talk about the green revolution by Raj Patel, the award-winning writer, activist, and academic.
However, today is a first in that it looks at what our dogs eat. It was inspired by a recent article by Brady Dennis in the Washington Post. Here’s how that article opened:
Mystery of pet deaths related to jerky treats made in China continues to stump FDA
By Brady Dennis, Published: March 28
Andy lost his appetite. Then came the vomiting, the unquenchable thirst, the constant need to urinate. Over several days last year, the spunky 4-year-old West Highland white terrier grew lethargic and lost more than 10 percent of his weight.
“It got bad,” said Andy’s owner, Alfredo Gude, a retiree in Cape Coral, Fla. “I knew that he was in trouble.”
Gude and his wife rushed Andy to their veterinarian, who referred him to a clinic 15 miles away. Doctors there sent a urine sample to a specialized metabolic lab at the University of Pennsylvania. Days later, test results confirmed the diagnosis: Fanconi syndrome, a rare, often fatal illness that affects the kidneys. The suspected cause: chicken jerky pet treats manufactured in China.
The incident is part of a troubling mystery lasting more than seven years, with reports of at least 600 dogs dying and thousands of others sickened. It has outraged unsuspecting pet owners, confounded the Food and Drug Administration and put the pet food industry’s manufacturing practices under a microscope.
A little later on in the article, Brady Dennis writes:
Bernadette Dunham, director of the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine, has called it “one of the most elusive and mysterious outbreaks we’ve encountered,” a sentiment echoed by others at the agency.
“We are frustrated,” said Martine Hartogensis, who oversees the FDA’s ongoing investigation. “It’s been a long, winding, twisting road . . . [But] we haven’t given up.”
The FDA says it has tested more than 1,200 jerky treats in recent years, looking for salmonella, mold, pesticides, toxic metals, outlawed antibiotics, nephrotoxins and other contaminants. Federal officials have inspected factories in China that manufacture chicken jerky products for U.S. companies and sought input from academics, state and university research labs, foreign governments and the pet food industry. The agency even made its own jerky treats to try to duplicate the commercial process.
This is not some minor issue reinforced by the huge increase in dog food imports into the USA from China. Back to Brady:
The long-running investigation has paralleled a striking increase in the amount of pet food China exports to the United States. That volume increased from barely 1 million pounds in 2003 to an estimated 86 million pounds by 2011, according to the FDA.
Pet treats, including the jerky treats at the heart of the current investigation, have made up a fast-growing sliver of the pet food market. Part of the reason many U.S. companies have looked to China to produce chicken jerky treats, industry officials say, is that unlike in America, people in China overwhelmingly prefer dark meat. That leaves a larger supply of the white meat used in pet treats available for exporting.
Then a few paragraphs later, he adds:
“It’s maddening that it has gone on this long,” said Susan Thixton, who runs the Web site TruthAboutPetFood.com, which has repeatedly demanded that the agency do more. “If this were humans dying, and they couldn’t figure out a cause for seven years, members of Congress would be screaming at them.”
The home page of her site displays a clock tracking how long jerky treats from China have been killing and sickening pets. It asks: “When will FDA make this clock stop?” As of Friday, the count stood at 2,643 days.
“My job is to point out that they aren’t doing their job,” Thixton said. “I have a lot of respect for what they have to accomplish. They have huge responsibilities, but this is one of them.”
When I read out the article to Jean what then jumped ‘off the page’ was this paragraph [my emphasis]:
Angry pet owners also have heaped criticism on U.S. companies that continue to manufacture jerky treats with ingredients from China. The backlash includes everything from skepticism over the industry’s assurances that the treats have never posed health risks to lawsuits alleging harm.
As Susan Thixton was reported earlier: “If this were humans dying, and they couldn’t figure out a cause for seven years, members of Congress would be screaming at them.” Quite so!
Luckily, owners are responding as Brady highlights in these paragraphs:
Nina Leigh Krueger, head of the Waggin’ Train brand, said most retailers and customers have welcomed the treats back. “Thousands of consumers have been calling and asking us for Waggin’ Train treats to be back on the market,” she said.
Terry Safranek is not one of them.
“It’s a kick in the gut to see them back on the shelf,” said Safranek, whose 9-year-old fox terrier, Sampson, who had eaten jerky treats, died of kidney failure in 2012. Since then, Safranek has become a plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit against Nestlé Purina and retailers including Target and Wal-Mart. She helped create Animal Parents Against Pet Treats and Food Made in China, a group that has petitioned the FDA to do better in alerting people about the potential dangers of jerky treats produced in Chinese factories.
The link in the last paragraph takes the reader to the Facebook page for that group. Do go there and ‘Like’ the page.
I will close by recommending you read the Washington Post article in full and then spend some time perusing the website Truth about Pet Food. This is not just about ‘Made in America’ but fighting to ensure that animal treats made in the USA are also using ingredients from the USA!
Remember how Brady opened his article? With Alfredo Gude learning that their dog, Andy, had been diagnosed with Fanconi syndrome, a rare and often fatal illness that affects the kidneys of dogs.
Well last words left with Brady Dennis:
For now, on Florida’s west coast, Andy the terrier has returned to normal after months of treatments — about $3,500 worth — to restore his kidney function. “We feel very lucky,” said Gude, who has taken the advice of many vets around the country to steer clear of pet jerky treats altogether. “It could have gone another way.”
Our dogs (and cats) have a right to be fed to the same standards as us humans!
A powerful reminder of ethical business practices.
First the background to today’s post. (You may want to settle down with a glass of something; it’s a bit of a ramble!)
In 1968, I emigrated to Sydney, Australia. In those days, one could get a sponsored one-way flight ticket to Australia for 10 GBP if one intended to make Australia your new home. Once there, I obtained a sales clerking job with the Australian division of the famous British company, ICI (Imperial Chemical Industries). I had previously been working for a UK part of ICI Plastics, British Visqueen Ltd, in Stevenage, Hertfordshire.
Going to Australia came about because in the UK, I had been dating a Finnish woman who, together with her parents and sisters, was living in Sydney. So when Britta returned to Sydney I thought ‘what the hell’ for a ‘tenner’ I can follow her out there. (We subsequently married and Britta is the mother of my son, Alex, and daughter, Maija.)
Via very circuitous circumstances, I ended up as a freelance journalist working for a Finnish magazine KotiPosti. Britta and I spent many months in 1969-1970 driving 30,000 miles all around around Australia finding Finns in the most amazing places doing the most incredible things, and me writing about them. Then I was invited to travel to Helsinki and in 1970, Britta and I decided to go to Finland via the Trans-Siberian Railway, all the way from Nakhodka in Eastern Russia, on the Sea of Japan, to Moscow, thence on to Helsinki. The route being via Vladivostok, Irkutsk (where we took 24 hours out to visit Lake Baikal), Novosibirsk, Moscow, St. Petersburg (Leningrad) and the short hop to Helsinki.
What on earth does this have to do with IBM? Hang on in there! ;-)
We initially travelled from Australia to Japan because in 1970, Expo 70 was being held in Japan, and KotiPosti had asked me to write about the event. One of the most impressive stands at Expo 70 was the IBM stand. Frankly, it blew me away.
So now fast-forward to Britta and me having completed our stuff in Helsinki and on our way home to Sydney, via London of course, because I still had family in England. A couple of evenings after we had arrived at Preston Road, Wembley, where my mother’s house was, I read an advertisement in the daily evening newspaper, The London Evening Standard, (still going strong) that IBM UK Ltd, their office products division, were looking for salesmen. I had been so impressed with IBM at Expo 70 that I seemed unable to resist applying for the job. To my amazement, I won a place in IBM’s sales team and was with IBM for 8 years – we never returned to Australia.
Fast forward all the way to present times.
A while ago, I signed up to the Current and Ex-IBM Employee Group (Unofficial) on Linked-In. Yesterday, a member of that group published, The Original IBM Basic Beliefs for those that have never seen them. They really are worth sharing because how much better would our corporate world be if all businesses subscribed to these beliefs. Here they are:
The Original IBM Basic Beliefs for those that have never seen them.
Respect for the Individual
Our basic belief is respect for the individual, for his rights and dignity. It follows from this principle that IBM should:
1. Help each employee to develop his potential and make the best use of his abilities
2. Pay and promote on merit
3. Maintain two-way communications between manager and employee, with opportunity for a fair hearing and equitable settlement of disagreements.
Service to the Customer
We are dedicated to giving our customers the best possible service. Our products and services bring profits only to the degree that they serve the customer and satisfy his needs. This demands that we:
1. Know our customers’ needs, and help them anticipate future needs
2. Help customers use our products and services in the best possible way.
3. Provide superior equipment maintenance and supporting services
Excellence Must Be a Way of Life
We want IBM to be known for its excellence. Therefore, we believe that every task, in every part of the business, should be performed in a superior manner and to the best of our ability. Nothing should be left to chance in our pursuit of excellence. For example, we must:
1. Lead in new developments
2. Be aware of advanced made by others, better them where we can, or be willing to adopt them whenever they fit our needs.
3. Produce quality products of the most advanced design and at the lowest possible cost
Managers Must Lead Effectively
Our success depends on intelligent and aggressive management which is sensitive to the need for making an enthusiastic partner of every individual in the organization. This requires that managers:
1. Provide the kind of leadership that will motivate employees to do their jobs in a superior way.
2. Meet frequently with all their people.
3. Have the courage to question decisions and policies; have the vision to see the needs of the Company as well as the division and department
4. Plan for the future by keeping an open mind to new ideas, whatever the source
Obligations to stockholders
IBM has obligations to its stockholders whose capital has created our jobs. These require us to:
1. Take care of the property our stockholders have entrusted to us.
2. Provide an attractive return on invested capital
3. Exploit opportunities for continuing profitable growth
Fair Deal for the Supplier
We want to deal fairly and impartially with suppliers of goods and services. We should:
Select suppliers and according to the quality of their products or services, their general reliability and competitiveness of price.
1. Recognize the legitimate interests of both supplier and IBM when negotiating a contract; administer such contracts in good faith
2. Avoid suppliers becoming unduly dependent on IBM
IBM should be a Good Corporate Citizen
We accept our responsibilities as a corporate citizen in community, national and world affairs; we serve our interest best when we serve the public interest. We believe that the immediate and long-term public interest is best served by a system of competing enterprises. Therefore, we believe we should compete vigorously, but in a spirit of fair play, with respect for our competitors, and with respect for the law. In communities where IBM facilities are located, we do our utmost to help create an environment in which people want to work and live. We acknowledge our obligation as a business institution to help improve the quality of the society we are part of. We want to be in the forefront of those companies which are working to make our world a better place.
Thomas J. Watson, Jr.
1969! Coming up to 45-years ago. Sometimes one wonders if society has learnt anything in the last five decades!