Sunday, 20 August 2017

Will Political Correctness Be The Death Of Us All?

The violent events in the U.S. city of Charlottesville - where counter protesters  confronted white nationalists recently - were most unfortunate.
Having said that, it also ought to be pointed out that clearly, it is now obvious to many around the world that political correctness has outlived its usefulness.
Why should we be attacking each other over symbols of the past - because some of us find them offensive today? How absurd.

History's revisionists around the globe do a great disservice to future generations of their own  people. We are who we are today, precisely because of the events of the past that shaped our nations.

The question is: What do we gain if we tear down monuments from that past because we allow ourselves to feel offended by the social narratives of a long gone era that shaped us?

Let us leave the flags, statutes and other monuments of the past alone. They must not annoy us. Neither must they strike fear in our hearts. They are part of our collective history as humans.

Why should flags, statutes and other monuments that serve as signposts of that past and offer meaning to the lives of many in present day society, cause offence to some? That should never be the case.

We must leave political correctness out of our past history if we are to live in harmony today. Surely, that ought to be obvious to all?

The past is a different country in a very real sense. We can only know about it and learn useful lessons from it if we preserve it and don't seek to fit it neatly into today's  societal norms. That serves no purpose whatsoever.

We cannot and must not pretend that the brutalities and barbarism of slavery and colonisation did not occur. They did indeed occur - but that is in the past.

And neither can we pretend that many positive societal changes did not result from the occupation of many nations by a few  once-powerful colonising nations that exploited other peoples. They did - long ago.

Those who seek the revision of the history of nations do a great disservice  to their societies.

If today's white nationalists want to live the kinds of  lives that give meaning to their days on this earth, they have a constitutional right to do so and must be allowed to do so - as long as they do not infringe on the rights of other people in society. Naturally.

Regardless of the hue of our skins, we are all members of the one human race that inhabits this delicate biosphere we share as  our only home in the universe - and is the origin of our common ancestrage.

Let the white nationalists and neo-Nazis of the political spectrum's ultra-right demographic be - wherever in the world they reside. They too deserve their place under the sun. As do the rest of us - a fact that white nationalists need to accept if there is to be harmony in this world.

Above all,  we must also ensure the preservation of the flags and monuments of the past that white nationalists revere. We owe them that. We must ensure their  preservation in order to teach future generations (of all hues) about their past as it actually was.

That is the only way our progeny will be able to see just how far the human race has progressed as social beings during their era.
It is one of the reasons why we must leave the past alone -  so that future generations will be able to know the truth about their own past  histories  too. Do we not owe them that?

Finally, if we are not careful, political correctness will be the death of us all - a catastrophe we must never allow to occur.

Investopedia: What is a 'Preferred Stock'?

Preferred Stock

What is a 'Preferred Stock'

A preferred stock is a class of ownership in a corporation that has a higher claim on its assets and earnings than common stock. Preferred shares generally have a dividend that must be paid out before dividends to common shareholders, and the shares usually do not carry voting rights.

Preferred stock combines features of debt, in that it pays fixed dividends, and equity, in that it has the potential to appreciate in price. The details of each preferred stock depend on the issue.
BREAKING DOWN 'Preferred Stock'

Preferred shareholders have priority over common stockholders when it comes to dividends, which generally yield more than common stock and can be paid monthly or quarterly. These dividends can be fixed or set in terms of a benchmark interest rate like the LIBOR​. Adjustable-rate shares specify certain factors that influence the dividend yield, and participating shares can pay additional dividends that are reckoned in terms of common stock dividends or the company's profits.
Companies in Distress

If a company is struggling and has to suspend its dividend, preferred shareholders may have the right to receive payment in arrears before the dividend can be resumed for common shareholders. Shares that have this arrangement are known as cumulative. If a company has multiple simultaneous issues of preferred stock, these may in turn be ranked in terms of priority: the highest ranking is called prior, followed by first preference, second preference, etc.

Preferred shareholders have prior claim on a company's assets if it is liquidated, though they remain subordinate to bondholders. Preferred shares are equity, but in many ways they are hybrid assets that lie between stock and bonds. They offer more predicable income than common stock and are rated by the major credit rating agencies. Unlike with bondholders, failing to pay a dividend to preferred shareholders does not mean a company is in default. Because preferred shareholders do not enjoy the same guarantees as creditors, the ratings on preferred shares are generally lower than the same issuer's bonds, with the yields being accordingly higher.
Voting Rights, Calling and Convertability

Preferred shares usually do not carry voting rights, although under some agreements these rights may revert to shareholders that have not received their dividend. Preferred shares have less potential to appreciate in price than common stock, and they usually trade within a few dollars of their issue price, most commonly $25. Whether they trade at a discount or premium to the issue price depends on the company's credit-worthiness and the specifics of the issue: for example, whether the shares are cumulative, their priority relative to other issues, and whether they are callable.

If shares are callable, the issuer can purchase them back at par value after a set date. If interest rates fall, for example, and the dividend yield does not have to be as high to be attractive, the company may call its shares and issue another series with a lower yield. Shares can continue to trade past their call date if the company does not exercise this option.

Some preferred stock is convertible, meaning it can be exchanged for a given number of common shares under certain circumstances. The board of directors might vote to convert the stock, the investor might have the option to convert, or the stock might have a specified date at which it automatically converts. Whether this is advantageous to the investor depends on the market price of the common stock.
Typical Buyers of Preferred Stock

Preferred stock comes in a wide variety of forms. The features described above are only the more common examples, and these are frequently combined in a number of ways. A company can issue preferred shares under almost any set of terms, assuming they don't fall foul of laws or regulations. Most preferred issues have no maturity dates or very distant ones.

Due to certain tax advantages that institutions enjoy with preferred shares but individual investors do not, these are the most common buyers. Because these institutions buy in bulk, preferred issues are a relatively simple way to raise large amounts of capital. Private or pre-public companies issue preferreds for this reason.

Preferred stock issuers tend to group near the upper and lower limits of the credit-worthiness spectrum. Some issue preferred shares because regulations prohibit them from taking on any more debt, or because they risk being downgraded. While preferred stock is technically equity, it is similar in many ways to a bond issue; some forms, known as trust preferred stock, can act as debt from a tax perspective and common stock on the balance sheet. On the other hand, several established names like General Electric, Bank of America and Georgia Power issue preferred stock to finance projects.

For more on this interesting hybrid security, read A Primer on Preferred Stocks and Valuation of Preferred Stocks.
Preferred Dividend
Video Definition

A preferred dividend is a dividend that is accrued and paid on a company's preferred shares. In the event that a company is unable to pay all dividends, claims to preferred dividends take precedence over claims to dividends that are paid on common shares. The main benefit of preferred stock is that it typically pays much higher dividend rates than common stock of the same company.
BREAKING DOWN 'Preferred Dividend'

Preferred dividends are issued based on the par value and dividend rate of the preferred stock. While preferred dividends are issued at a fixed rate based on their par value, this may be unfavorable in high inflation periods. his is because the fixed payment is based on a real rate of interest and is typically unadjusted for inflation.
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Tearsheet/Tanaya Macheel: What you need to know about financial services fraud

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Tearsheet termsheet: What  you need to know about financial services fraud

    The ways in which a person can commit fraud is growing so much and so fast the word become kind of vague. We break down what fraud is and how it happens

    There are three distinct patterns of fraud: transaction fraud, application fraud and account takeover fraud

Tanaya Macheel | AUGUST 15, 2017

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In the digital age of digital transactions and other digital engagements, the word fraud gets thrown around a lot. Just see here, here and here.

That’s particularly true in financial services, since gaining access to cash “fraudulently” is harder now. As much as technology has raised the bar for the customer experience, it’s also raised the bar for hackers and fraudsters.

Here’s what we’re really talking about when we talk about “fraud.”

OK, what is fraud?
Fraud happens when someone tries to take money that doesn’t belong to him or her for any number of reasons and has an increasing number of ways in which to do it. That person could find a card in the back seat of a cab and use it for the next meal or somehow know enough of someone else’s personal information to walk into a bank and get a new debit card issued, which is why Chase removed that feature of its card business last week.

In the digital age, however, it can get more complex than that — and so can the consequences for the victim. Creating passwords that meet certain companies’ standards for security is more difficult and people move more quickly in the digital age and have shorter attention spans; it’s led consumers to care more about speed and convenience that security and privacy.

“It’s incredibly hard for people to get stuff done digitally because we’ve made it so hard to prove who you are at the places where you want to share your data,” said Greg Wolfond, CEO of SecureKey, which is partnering with Canadian banks on a solution to that problem.

Are there different types of fraud?
In finance, there are three distinct patterns of fraud: transaction fraud, application fraud and account takeover fraud.

Most people who use plastic cards have experienced transaction fraud. The card or card number is stolen or otherwise obtained by some bad actor and then fraudulent charges begin to appear on your account. In this case it’s pretty likely the you alerted the bank, which reversed the fraudulent transactions and replaced your card, and you moved forward with your life. Card issuers lost $15.72 billion (72 percent) in gross fraud losses in 2015 and merchants and acquirers lost the remaining $6.12 billion (28 percent), according to the Nilson Report.

Application fraud is the fastest-growing type of fraud in financial services and happens when a fraudster actually pretends to be you using actual account credentials to open new lines of credit. We can break it down even further into three types:

    Third party fraud: when someone gets enough of someone’s personal information from a compromised data set to go to a bank and pretend to be that person to apply or a loan or credit card
    First party fraud: when the person coming to the bank (or other service) really is the person he or she claims to be but intends to not pay back the loan or credit card; in instances of first party fraud, the bank or business is the victim, not the customer
    Synthetic fraud: when someone creates a persona using fake or borrowed information, like a social security number, and adds other, made-up elements of personally identifiable information like a name, address or date or birth

Synthetic identity is often confused with traditional identity theft, in which someone impersonates a real person. A synthetic identity is a purely fabricated identity; there’s no real person beyond the social security number. And whereas transaction fraud or third party app fraud is often motivated by a need for quick access to cash, synthetic fraud tends to have links to organized criminal activity, according to Ken Meiser, vp of identity solutions at ID Analytics, which is owned by cybersecurity firm Symantec.

Account takeover fraud is the final type of fraud (for the purposes of this primer, at least). It happens to people when fraudsters obtain their various user IDs and passwords to be able to access other accounts that involve financial transactions.

Did those new chip cards I got help?
Kind of! Account takeover incidents increased 61 percent to $2.3 billion from 2015 to 2016, according to research by Javelin published in February. Victims pay an average of $263 out of pocket and spent 20.7 million hours to resolve it in 2016 – six million hours more than in 2015.

In October 2015, U.S. card issuers began replacing people’s debit and credit magstripe cards with new chip cards and retailers began upgrading their payments terminals to allow customers to insert their chip cards into the devices instead of swiping the stripe. Even though Europe has been using chip-and-pin to pay for years, this finally went down in the U.S. two years ago as part of a push to lower card fraud — by using chips instead of magstripes, it’s harder to clone a card or steal the PII associated with it.

At the same time, it’s become easier for fraudsters to access accounts. Passwords have become kind of a pain in the ass so it’s not uncommon for someone to use the same password for multiple accounts and hope they can actually just log in biometrically. There are many sites one can access if they have Facebook credentials. Day-to-day engagement between people and businesses is generally more digital.

“As more of these activities become non face-to-face, if someone can compromise your credentials… Conceivably your identity lets fraudsters get access to other locations,” Meiser said. “When someone sells a compromised user ID and password, they’re really selling the opportunity to use that somewhere else.”
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Tanaya Macheel | JULY 24, 2017
How JPMorgan is pushing back against fraud in fintech

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    JPMorgan and Wells Fargo are leading the push against screen scraping, the more common way for companies to access customer data

Tanaya Macheel | JULY 12, 2017
5 charts that show where open APIs are taking banks

    53.8 percent of banks believe they'll evolve into platforms; 56.5 percent believe they'll remain the main channel

    As banks still try to execute an omnichannel strategy, consumers may have moved beyond that and gone all digital by this point

Tanaya Macheel | JUNE 23, 2017
The challenge of solving for financial inclusion

    Technology offers a lot of promise and potential for the financially underserved, but it's a bitter truth that the most successful financial apps require linked customer bank accounts

    Financial inclusion was once a hot buzzword in fintech, but focus has shifted to financial health and users that have bank accounts

Tanaya Macheel | JUNE 19, 2017
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New York Times/David Gellesaug: The Moral Voice of Corporate America

Business Day
The Moral Voice of Corporate America


The nation has split into political tribes. The culture wars are back, waged over transgender rights and immigration. White nationalists are on the march.

Amid this turbulence, a surprising group of Americans is testing its moral voice more forcefully than ever: C.E.O.s.

After Nazi-saluting white supremacists rioted in Charlottesville, Va., and President Trump dithered in his response, a chorus of business leaders rose up this past week to condemn hate groups and espouse tolerance and inclusion. And as lawmakers in Texas tried to restrict the rights of transgender people to use public bathrooms, corporate executives joined activists to kill the bill.

These and other actions are part of a broad recasting of the voice of business in the nation’s political and social dialogue, a transformation that has gained momentum in recent years as the country has engaged in fraught debates over everything from climate change to health care.

In recent days, after the Charlottesville bloodshed, the chief executive of General Motors, Mary T. Barra, called on people to “come together as a country and reinforce values and ideals that unite us — tolerance, inclusion and diversity.”
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Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan said, “The equal treatment of all people is one of our nation’s bedrock principles.”

Walmart’s chief executive, Doug McMillon, criticized Mr. Trump by name for his handling of the violence in Charlottesville, and called for healing.

And in a rebuke to the president, who suggested that both the racist groups and the counterprotesters marching in Charlottesville were to blame for the violence there, a wave of chief executives who had agreed to advise Mr. Trump quit his business advisory councils, leading to the dissolution of two groups.

The forthright engagement of these and other executives with one of the most charged political issues in years — the swelling confidence of a torch-bearing, swastika-saluting, whites-first movement — is “a seminal moment in the history of business in America,” said Darren Walker, the president of the Ford Foundation and a board member at PepsiCo.

“In this maelstrom, the most clarifying voice has been the voice of business,” he said. “These C.E.O.s have taken the risk to speak truth to power.”

This transformation didn’t happen overnight. Chief executives face a constellation of pressures, and speaking up can create considerable uncertainty. Customers can be offended, colleagues can feel isolated and relations with lawmakers can suffer. Words and actions can backfire, resulting in public relations disasters. All this as a chief executive is expected to constantly grow sales.

Even this past week, it was easy to discern careful calculations made by executives who chose to speak out against Mr. Trump. Many faced calls to resign from the presidential advisory councils, and the prospect of boycotts if they did not.

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But they also faced notable and new kinds of pressure from within — from employees who expect or encourage their company to stake out positions on numerous controversial social or economic causes, and from board members concerned with reputational issues. In the past week, business leaders have responded with all-staff memos and town-hall meetings.

In short, while companies are naturally designed to be moneymaking enterprises, they are adapting to meet new social and political expectations in sometimes startling ways.

“Not every business decision is an economic one,” said Howard Schultz, the chairman of Starbucks, who was one of the country’s first company leaders to proactively address social issues. “The reason people are speaking up is that we are fighting for what we love and believe in, and that is the idealism and the aspiration of America, the promise of America, the America that we all know and hold so true.”
Looking for Controversy

Companies have reckoned with issues of race, class and gender for generations now.

On Feb. 1, 1960, four black college students sat down at the segregated lunch counter at a Woolworth’s store in Greensboro, N.C. The civil rights sit-in movement was born, and five months later, Woolworth’s desegregated.

Decades later, activists called on American companies to divest from apartheid South Africa. Under pressure, many big companies, including General Motors and Pepsi, pulled out of the country.

But for the most part, companies got political only under duress. Rarely have chief executives gone looking for a controversy. Instead, the prevailing view was one articulated by the economist Milton Friedman in The New York Times in 1970: “the social responsibility of business is to increase its profits.”

By the 1990s, some corporate actors began taking the initiative. Apple, Disney and Xerox extended health care benefits to partners of gay and lesbian employees, helping to pave the way for broader acceptance of gay rights. Still, promoting inclusion and advancing diversity were hardly part of the curriculum for emerging titans of industry.

“When I went to business school, you didn’t see anything like this,” said Marc Benioff, the founder and chief executive of Salesforce. “Nobody talked about taking a stand or adopting a cause.”

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Now, Mr. Benioff is at the vanguard of a group of executives who are more connected — to customers, employees, investors and other business leaders — than ever before, and who are unafraid to use their influence.

In 2015, after Indiana passed a law that would have made it easier for religious conservatives to refuse service to gay people, Mr. Benioff canceled all Salesforce events in the state and threatened to relocate employees away from Indianapolis.

The outcry from Mr. Benioff and other business leaders helped force politicians, including Vice President Mike Pence, then the governor of Indiana, to reverse course. Ultimately, lawmakers passed a watered-down version of the law.

“C.E.O.s wield economic influence,” Mr. Benioff said. “Nobody wanted to lose those jobs in Indiana. But we had to make a statement that we were going to withdraw if they were going to create laws that were going to discriminate against our employees.”

The business community’s triumph in Indiana emboldened progressive executives, and many have become more willing to confront controversial topics unprompted.

Randall Stephenson, the chief executive of AT&T, recently reflected on racial tensions in America at a meeting of 2,000 employees. “Black lives matter,” Mr. Stephenson said, “we should not say, ‘All lives matter,’ to justify ignoring the real need for change.”

Hamdi Ulukaya, the founder and chief executive of the yogurt maker Chobani, has hired hundreds of refugees — drawing the ire of the far right, but making him a cause célèbre for progressives.

And even before the showdown in Indiana, Timothy D. Cook, the chief executive of the world’s largest company, Apple, came out as gay — the most prominent executive to make such an announcement. “I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me,” he wrote.

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None of this is to say that all corporate leaders are now beacons of morality. The Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick was ousted amid a mushrooming sexual abuse scandal at the company, and reports that he had cultivated a frat house culture. Martin Winterkorn, a chief executive of Volkswagen, resigned amid his company’s emissions scandal.

But faced with circumstances they cannot in good conscience accept, more and more chieftains appear unafraid to act. In June, after the president withdrew the United States from the Paris climate accord, Elon Musk, the chief executive of Tesla, and Robert A. Iger, the chief of Disney, resigned from presidential advisory councils, setting the stage for this past week’s revolt.

“The C.E.O.s of big public companies don’t walk out onto the plank of social and political leadership by default,” said Nancy Koehn, a historian at Harvard Business School. “But today, to keep silent is to jeopardize the reputation of the company.”
‘Many Sides,’ One Voice

Last weekend, as white nationalists protested the removal of a statue of the Confederate general Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, chief executives were paying close attention to the president’s response. Among those watching was Kenneth C. Frazier, the chief executive of the drugmaker Merck and one of dozens of executives who had agreed to advise Mr. Trump on economic issues.
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Mr. Frazier disagreed with the president’s stances on immigration and climate change, but he believed it was important to have a seat at the table. Yet for Mr. Frazier, the son of a janitor and the grandson of a man born into slavery, the president’s remarks — in which he blamed the violence on “many sides” — were too much to bear.

On Monday morning, Mr. Frazier said he would step down from Mr. Trump’s manufacturing council. “As C.E.O. of Merck and as a matter of personal conscience, I feel a responsibility to take a stand against intolerance and extremism,” he wrote.

The president took to Twitter, lacerating Mr. Frazier and attacking Merck, bluster that alienated more chief executives. By the end of the day, the chiefs of Under Armour and Intel had dropped off the same advisory group. The following morning, three nonprofit business leaders also quit.

As the manufacturing council fell apart, another presidential advisory group was also tottering. The Strategic and Policy Forum, a group with chief executives of some of the country’s biggest companies, held a conference call and agreed to disband.

The reaction from business leaders extended well beyond the confines of the presidential advisory councils.

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James Murdoch, the chief executive of 21st Century Fox, pledged to donate $1 million to the Anti-Defamation League. The gesture was all the more remarkable because Mr. Murdoch is the son of Rupert Murdoch, a staunch supporter of Mr. Trump, and because his company operates Fox News, known for its favorable coverage of the president.

“What we watched this last week in Charlottesville and the reaction to it by the President of the United States concern all of us as Americans and free people,” the younger Mr. Murdoch wrote in an email to associates. “I can’t even believe I have to write this: standing up to Nazis is essential; there are no good Nazis. Or Klansmen, or terrorists.”

Technology companies severed ties with white supremacist groups. Google and GoDaddy dropped domain registrations for far right publications. Facebook deleted articles that celebrated hate crimes. Spotify took down music by white power rock bands.

And in Seattle, Mr. Schultz held a town-hall meeting for more than 1,000 employees where he condemned bigotry and called for unity. “I could sense the anxiety,” he said. “I felt a need to create a safe and loving environment.”

All week, the business world’s actions went beyond the donations to charity and pledges to plant trees that once defined corporate social responsibility.

“For a long time, corporate social responsibility was a buzzword marketing tool, walled off within an organization,” said Alan Fleischmann, president of Laurel Strategies, an executive advisory firm. “Now it has to be central for the C.E.O., part of their everyday responsibility and leadership.”
The Cost of Speaking Out

Kevin Plank, the founder and chief executive of Under Armour, the athletic apparel maker, built a brand that celebrates diversity, sponsoring athletes like the basketball player Stephen Curry and artists like the ballerina Misty Copeland. Yet when asked to serve on the president’s manufacturing council early this year, Mr. Plank agreed, voicing his optimism about Mr. Trump.

His star sponsors made their displeasure known. “I strongly disagree with Kevin Plank’s recent comments in support of Trump,” Ms. Copeland said. Mr. Curry also expressed his distaste for the president.

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So on Monday night, when Mr. Plank stepped down from his advisory role, he might have thought his troubles were over. Instead, Mr. Trump’s supporters have risen up, calling for a boycott of Under Armour.

“The leaders of corporate America have demonstrated the courage to call out something that is unacceptable,” said Mr. Walker of the Ford Foundation. “But speaking truth to power can come with huge costs.”

Because companies have inherently diverse customers and employees, taking a stand can be a no-win situation for chief executives. For every employee, investor and customer they make happy, they may well make someone else unhappy.

When Pepsi this year released an ad featuring Kendall Jenner offering a police officer a soda in the midst of an apparent Black Lives Matter protest, the condemnation was swift. Two years earlier, Starbucks drew wide ridicule when, as part of an effort by Mr. Schultz to start a national conversation on race relations, baristas were encouraged to write “race together” on coffee cups.

Companies on the conservative end of the ideological spectrum are also increasingly willing to stand up for their principles, and just as likely to face criticism. After it was revealed that the family behind the fast-food chain Chick-fil-A supported groups that opposed same-sex marriage, gay rights protesters targeted the restaurants.

Hobby Lobby, the craft-supply chain run by a conservative Christian family, challenged a provision in the Affordable Care Act that required family-owned corporations to pay for insurance coverage for birth control. Despite drawing the ire of the left, Hobby Lobby took its case to the Supreme Court and won.

Critics of Mr. Plank’s decision cast their net wide, going after all the chief executives who quit the president’s business advisory groups. “This is a remarkable moment in history,” said Lou Dobbs, a Fox Business Network host. “Every one of those C.E.O.s, mark my words, is a coward — and the president is exactly right — a grandstander in the service of the left. And no one should make any mistake: This is a coordinated, orchestrated attack against this president.”

John Carney, a business editor for Breitbart News, the conservative news site, wrote that “corporate America is part of the opposition.”

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“The confederacy of the media institutions, the American left, and Corporate America has aligned itself against the populist uprising that brought Trump to the White House,” Mr. Carney wrote. “The battle lines are clear.”

Those executives who go out on a limb know the risks. “We all recognize that with every decision we make, there is group of people that are not going to agree with us,” Mr. Schultz said. “But you must define you core purpose for being. We stand in the interest of something greater than just making money.”
A Diversity Paradox

Diversity — of opinions, ideologies and religions — is what makes taking a stand on moral issues so treacherous for C.E.O.s. Yet paradoxically, it is also diversity — of races, genders and worldviews, among customers and the work force — that makes many of the executives, when forced to take a stand, come down on the side of inclusion, tolerance and acceptance.

Business leaders looking to the future are accepting that it is unwise to isolate swaths of the population by coming off as racist, sexist or intolerant. Instead, for the sake of the bottom line, it is imperative that they appeal to the widest possible audience. “Business leaders aren’t threatened by an America that is browner, an America that is more diverse; they welcome that,” Mr. Walker said. “Business leaders are bullish on diversity.”

What’s more, some executives have concluded that speaking out on issues of morality can improve more than their reputations — it can benefit recruitment, morale and even sales. “Our employees come here knowing that this is something that is extremely important to us,” said Mr. Benioff of Salesforce. “Business is the greatest platform for affecting change.”

If the voices of business leaders seem amplified, that is perhaps because in such partisan times, few politicians can speak to both sides of the aisle, leaving a vacuum for business leaders to fill. This last week, the executives on Mr. Trump’s business advisory councils piped up, led by Mr. Frazier of Merck.

The black chief executive of a $172 billion company — a multimillionaire who was born in a poor neighborhood, a former lawyer who fought for civil rights and had agreed to advise the president — Mr. Frazier offered remarks that set the tone for the business world at large.

“Our country’s strength stems from its diversity,” he wrote, adding, “America’s leaders must honor our fundamental values by clearly rejecting expressions of hatred, bigotry and group supremacy, which run counter to the American ideal that all people are created equal.”

The C.E.O.s had found their voice.

Follow David Gelles on Twitter @dgelles.

A version of this article appears in print on August 20, 2017, on Page BU1 of the New York edition with the headline: Executive Powers. Order Reprints| Today's Paper|Subscribe
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    Inside the C.E.O. Rebellion Against Trump’s Advisory Councils AUG. 16, 2017
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Dr. Mercola: This Poisoned My Kidneys, Don't Make the Same Mistake

Annual Update on the Minamata Convention on Mercury and the Banning of Amalgam in Dentistry

    August 20, 2017 • 12,496 views


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    Half of the dentists in the U.S. still use dental or “silver” amalgam, 50 percent of which is mercury, not silver. Mercury is the most volatile and toxic of the heavy metals, and the vapors released when chewing or brushing pose a clear and present danger to health, especially your brain and kidneys — and it’s a reproductive toxin
    This month, the Minamata Convention on Mercury takes effect, which means countries that have ratified the treaty must take steps to reduce use of mercury amalgam
    I will match every dollar you give to Consumers for Dental Choice during Mercury Awareness Week (up to a total of $100,000). This offer to double your gift goes through midnight August 27, 2017

By Dr. Mercola

Mercury is a pernicious poison that should never be placed in your mouth. Yet half of the dentists in the U.S. still use dental or “silver” amalgam, 50 percent of which is mercury, not silver. Mercury is the most volatile and toxic of the heavy metals, and the vapors released when chewing or brushing pose a clear and present danger to health — especially your brain and kidneys, as mercury is a neuro- and nephrotoxin. It’s also toxic to your reproductive system.

As such, it’s really shocking that mercury amalgam is still being allowed to be placed mere inches from a child’s developing brain. Charlie Brown, president of Consumers for Dental Choice and the World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry, is a fearless activist for mercury-free dentistry.

He’s spent the last two decades tirelessly advocating for the complete elimination of mercury from dentistry across the world. Consumers for Dental Choice and the World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry have made great headway over the years, but the battle will not be over until mercury is no longer making its way into the mouths of anyone, anywhere.

During our annual Mercury Awareness Week, we encourage you to contribute to this incredibly important cause, which can have profound health benefits for generations to come. As in previous years, I will match your donations, dollar for dollar, up to $100,000.
Great Headway Being Made
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Our annual donation drive on behalf of Consumers for Dental Choice and the World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry has allowed Brown to accomplish a number of remarkable feats. So, please, know that your contributions are really having an enormous impact.

    “What the organization has done has made the difference in us being able to break through as a national and worldwide organization,” Brown says. “Remember, amalgam is now in the Minamata Convention on Mercury … [which] takes effect this month. It becomes legally binding.

    It’s a legal requirement, including the requirement on [phasing out] amalgam … Over 120 countries signed, and now 70 some have ratified. We are going to end the use of manmade mercury in this generation. Some of the steps are slow, but we’re moving forward.”

There are still thousands of dentists in the U.S. and elsewhere who are foolish enough to use amalgam, mainly because it’s a quick and easy way to make a profit. The long-term damage amalgam does to your teeth also ensures repeat clientele. The pro-mercury dentists have the support of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which sadly continues to protect and even promote mercury fillings, despite the multitude of reasons to phase it out. There’s clear and overwhelming evidence against its use.

The good news is that the public is disregarding the FDA and is walking away from the pro-mercury dentists and toward the mercury-free dentists. Consumers for Dental Choice has taken steps to radically shift the playing field in favor of consumers who want mercury-free dentistry. 

Via public education and consumer fact sheets, public awareness of the mercury in amalgam has doubled — which means millions more consumers are demanding mercury-free dentistry. Government support for amalgam is weakening, as it must — the Minamata Convention on Mercury mandates that every government take specific steps to reduce use of amalgam. But the biggest change is the huge number of mercury-free dentists, now available in most communities across the nation.

Two decades ago, when Consumers for Dental Choice began, only 3 percent of dentists were mercury-free. State dental boards enforced a gag rule, taking away licenses of dentists who dared tell patients about amalgam’s mercury. In his hat as attorney, Brown represented dentists coast-to-coast, citing the First Amendment as the weapon to destroy the gag rule and empower dentists to advise, advocate and advertise mercury-free dentistry.
Third-Party Payer System Slows Change

Today, half of U.S. and Canadian dentists have eliminated amalgam from their practice. Now, the other half need to follow suit, and we will not quit until they do. Here is the main barrier today: Private insurance and government programs.  Brown explains:

    “There’s a third party that really screws it up. That third party could be the insurance company. It could be the government. It could be the Medicaid Program; the Indian reservation. Where you have someone else paying the bill, they are much less likely to want to change anything.

    That’s true in Germany, Poland, Costa Rica, Uruguay and Nigeria — wherever we go, the third-party system, the government … does not want to change anything. Frankly, it’s a lot harder to change [the third-party system] than the consumer-dentist relationship, because we are changing that one; we’re winning that one.”

Important Information Regarding Amalgam Removal

For those of you who have mercury fillings, I recommend removal. However, please don’t make the same mistake I did. Acute mercury toxicity is a very real possibility if you have them removed by a dentist who does not have the proper training. When I had my amalgams removed, some 25 years ago, my dentist — who was otherwise competent — took no precautions during removal, and I suffered lasting kidney damage as a result.

As the amalgams are drilled out, mercury vapors are released. These vapors, and the amalgam fragments, must be carefully ventilated and separated to avoid massive mercury exposure. After all, the tissues in your mouth are highly absorbent.

For this reason, I also recommend getting healthy before having your fillings removed. You’ll want to optimize your detoxification mechanisms prior to removal to avoid complications. It would also be wise to take heavy metal binders to absorb any mercury released into your system, on the day of removal and for some time thereafter.

My struggles with my own dental care led me to learn about and embrace biological dentistry, also known as holistic or environmental dentistry. In a nutshell, biological dentistry views your teeth and gums as an integrated part of your entire body, and any medical treatments performed take this into account. The primary aim of holistic dentistry is to resolve your dental problems while working in harmony with the rest of your body.

Biological dentists are well aware of the dangers involved with toxic materials such as mercury fillings. Some things that need to be done to keep you (and your dentist) safe during amalgam removal include:

Providing you with an alternative air source and instructing you not to breathe through your mouth

Using a cold-water spray to minimize mercury vapors

Putting a rubber dam in your mouth so you don't swallow or inhale any toxins

Using a high-volume evacuator near the tooth at all times to evacuate the mercury vapor

Washing your mouth out immediately after the filling has been removed (the dentist should also change gloves after the removal)

Immediately cleaning your protective wear and face once the fillings are removed

Using room air purifiers
How to Find a Mercury-Free Dentist and/or Biological Dentist for Amalgam Removal

The mercury-safe dentist directory by the International Association of Mercury Safe Dentists (IAMSD) is a source that can be useful if you’re looking for a mercury-free dentist. Through this service, you can search for mercury-free dentists (members of IAMSD) in the U.S., Canada and internationally. also has a search feature allowing you to locate a mercury-free dentist in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Italy and the U.K, 

As for removal of amalgams you already have, the following organizations can help you find a biological dentist qualified in the safe removal of mercury fillings in the U.S. and (in some cases) internationally.

    Consumers for Dental Choice
    Holistic Dental Association
    Talk International
    International Academy of Biological Dentistry & Medicine
    Dental Amalgam Mercury Solutions (DAMS)
    Huggins Applied Healing

Unfortunately, the cost of removal can be financially challenging. One alternative is to have your amalgams removed by a biological dentist in a country where costs are lower, such as Mexico. The key consideration is whether the dentist is properly trained in the safe removal of amalgam.

So, shop around, but don’t avoid it, because it’s so important to your health. You can have the best diet, the best exercise and sleep patterns, but if you have a mouthful of mercury, it’s going to adversely affect your health. I would also suggest you take a long, hard look at any dental plan you’re considering.

Make sure they cover mercury-free fillings for ALL teeth. If you’re an employer, consider providing a mercury-free plan, which is what I did. Our company dental plan will not cover amalgams. Many dental plans are the other way around.
Europe Bans Amalgam for Children and Pregnant Women While US Lags Behind

As noted by Brown, Europe has paved the way for the rest of the world by banning the use of amalgam fillings in pregnant or nursing women and children under the age of 15. The rule takes effect on July 1, 2018, and will apply across the entire European Union (EU),1— 28 countries in all, with a population totaling more than half a billion people. It was a tremendous fight to get this through. It took years, but it was well worth it. Millions of European children will never be exposed to dental mercury as a result of this victory.

    “We had to learn the Byzantine nature of the European Union — there’s the European Council, the European Commission and the European Parliament. We had to work all three of them. We had to get all three to agree. But we did that. We asked for a total phase-out of amalgam. We got the first, huge step, which is [a ban for] children, pregnant and breastfeeding women, and a road map from 2018 to 2020 to [reevaluate the use of amalgam in dentistry].

    It is the beacon for the world … Now, where’s the U.S. on this? Where is the FDA? Nowhere to be found. I’m telling you, the pressure is ramping up on FDA, which is standing increasingly alone as a protector of mercury fillings while the rest of the world is taking steps — as the Minamata Convention requires — to phase down their use [of dental mercury].

    We’re starting with protecting the most vulnerable. They’re not protected at all. But [mercury] can affect any of us at any age. It is a virulent neurotoxin. It is a major workplace hazard. Non-mercury-free dentists are putting their employees at risk, particularly the women of childbearing age. It is horrible. It is documented that women’s reproductive functions are harmed by working in a dental office. We had one who took her own life.

    So, go to a mercury-free dentist. I want to salute the 50 percent of dentists in [the U.S.] who have thrown amalgam out the window. It is encouraging. [But] the dental schools we thought would make the change … they simply aren’t doing that.

    The dental schools we thought would be at the forefront are probably the worst … A professor at the University of Connecticut … wrote the major newspaper in Hartford saying there’s no mercury in amalgam! Imagine saying that to the public, the newspaper, and I’m sure [he’s] saying it to his students.”

Demand Your Choice

If the FDA refuses to do the right thing, there’s plan B: Demand mercury-free dental insurance coverage. To do this, the Demand Your Choice program was created. You can make a difference by signing the National Demand Your Choice petition, and/or sending a letter directly to your dental insurance company and state insurance department. On, you’ll find a prewritten draft letter that you can personalize and print out. 

    “Some people are stuck in third-party programs and Medicaid. They may be a soldier, sailor, airman or marine. They may be a prisoner. They may live on an Indian reservation.

    All those people are basically having amalgam forced on them. We’re saying, fight back! Here’s the website to help you push back and say, ‘I don’t want those fillings for my family or me. I want mercury-free dentistry.’ Please go to”

Just as Consumers for Dental Choice dismantled the gag rule that blocked dentists’ choice, the Demand Your Choice campaign seeks to dismantle pro-mercury insurance and pro-mercury government programs.
Support the Fight for Mercury-Free Dentistry

This is now the seventh annual Mercury Awareness Week, and as in previous years, I will match donations given this week, dollar for dollar, up to $100,000. We met our goal of $100,000 last year, and we hope to do it again. I assure you, the money you donate to Consumers for Dental Choice is well spent. Brown is exceptionally frugal, stretching funds to the max.

Anyone who donates to this organization can be confident that not a single penny is going to be wasted. Consumers for Dental Choice has also proven itself to be one of the most effective consumer advocate groups out there, making tremendous headway.

    “We see Europe now banning amalgam for children. We see the Minamata Convention taking legal effect. We see half of the dentists in America being mercury-free. In fact, Oregon had to change its Medicaid Program and bring in mercury-free dentistry because there weren’t enough dentists doing pro-mercury dentistry,” Brown says.

    “We have the challenge we’re mounting right now in Connecticut, working with the Yale Law School and the Connecticut Coalition for Environmental Justice to force compliance with the law on disclosures. We’ve seen not only double or triple the number of dentists who are mercury-free, but also a doubling in public awareness.”

Raising public awareness has been crucial in this fight, as the American Dental Association has a long history of trying to hide the fact that dental amalgam contains mercury. It even implemented a gag rule preventing dentists from informing their patients about this fact.

Well, they can no longer enforce this gag rule, and Consumers for Dental Choice was instrumental in forcing dental boards to change their policy to allow dentists to advertise mercury-free dentistry. There was a time when dentists were not allowed to call themselves “mercury-free,” as this was a tip-off that others did use mercury.
Looking Toward the Future

Among the many goals for this year, Brown is focused on getting the FDA to enforce the Minamata Convention rule on mercury, which means steps must be taken to phase out its use. As it stands, the FDA wants more amalgam use, not less.

By continuing to support amalgam, the agency is ignoring the Minamata Convention on Mercury, public opinion and its duty to the American people. The agency has even admitted they don’t know if amalgam is safe for children under 6, yet it won’t ban it for children under 6.

    “Now, they have the contrast with the European Union. They are rivals. Each one thinks they’re better at device regulation. The chief U.S. device regulator said, ‘We don’t treat patients like guinea pigs. The European Union treats patients like guinea pigs.’ That’s what Dr. Jeff Shuren [FDA’s director for the Center for Devices and Radiological Health] said. He’s the guy who signed the amalgam rule and is enforcing it — that’s truly treating children like guinea pigs!

    It’s time for Shuren and FDA to [be asked], ‘Why don’t you just be half as good as the European Union and quit accusing them of treating patients like guinea pigs when they are banning amalgam for children and you aren’t even ordering that the parents be told that amalgam has mercury?’ … If they’re banning it for children, are our children less important than the European children?”

Practical Action Steps Going Forward

In summary, here are some practical steps you can take to help eliminate mercury from the dental industry:

    Refuse amalgam fillings for yourself and your family, and urge your friends to do the same
    Don’t give a single dollar to pro-mercury dentists — the ones who place amalgam in any person. If a dentist faced the choice of no business or going mercury-free, surely, he or she will see the light!
    If you have mercury fillings, be sure to consult with a biological dentist who is trained in the safe removal of amalgam
    Contact your dental insurance company and state insurance department, and demand coverage for mercury-free dentistry. You can personalize the prewritten draft available on
    Sign the Demand Your Choice petition
    Sign the Consumers for Dental Choice petition to the FDA

Last but not least, help educate others by sharing information about mercury-free dentistry with your social networks. Because of the “silver” fillings deception, many people — quite understandably — don’t yet know that amalgam contains mercury, a heavy metal so toxic it is the subject of an international treaty. Annex A-II of that treaty provides the road map for the transition to mercury-free dentistry. By banning mercury, we will provide a tremendous gift to future generations.

Soon children all over Europe will no longer be exposed to this pernicious poison that must later be mitigated. European children will be protected. But we will not stop until ALL children, everywhere, are protected from this unnecessary mercury exposure. Please help us make this happen by making a donation to Consumers for Dental Choice today.
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Saturday, 19 August 2017

To Rail Against A Thin-Skinned Parliament For Passing 'Stupid' Laws Is Not To Insult The House - As One Is Only Obeying The Constitutional Edict Enjoining All Ghanaians To Expose Corruption

When a very frustrated Sydney Casely-Hayford lost his temper not too long ago, and publicly aired a sentiment  shared by many discerning Ghanaians in private, there was an uproar in Parliament.

Yet, he was actually expressing the national mood in a sense - in as far as some of the rather curious laws  passed over the years by various Parliaments since 1992, represent. Indeed, there are some fed-up Ghanaians who cynically refer in tongue-in-cheek fashion to the passage of such laws as  crimes-against-humanity-legislation because they are full of loopholes for the greedy and powerful folk brutally gang-raping Mother Ghana.

An example is the smuggling into the Office of the Special Public Prosecutor Bill, of Clause 3 (3) and (4) of the bill laid before Parliament which were not part of the original draft Bill submitted earlier in June, the inclusion of which Martin Amidu said  “negates the whole promise that the President made during his campaign and after his assumption of office to fight corruption.”

Thank goodness the Bill was later withdrawn. Every nation full of fence-sitting moral cowards and hypocrites gets the laws its cizens deserve - in our case  laws full of veritable blackholes through which our perfidious vampire-elites manoeuvre and navigate their way out of every conceivable infraction of our benighted nation's many porous laws that they happen to be guilty of.

Unfortunately, it has resulted in many of the members of Ghana's  ruling elites thinking that this is a nation of morons  jam-packed with stupid and foolish  people.

Yet, the opposite is true: As an old wag I know put it succinctly, "Kofi, ordinary Ghanaians aren't fools. It just so happens that ours is a byzantine system underpinned by many 'stupid' laws full of loopholes that enable powerful and greedy high net worth rogues to participate in the brutal gang-rape of Mother Ghana,  and get away with same. Does that not effectively mean that some of those  we elect to represent us in Parliament who pass those 'stupid' laws are in effect aiding and abetting the crimes of the nation-wreckers gang-raping Mother Ghana?"

Perhaps it is unfair for any Ghanain citizen to say so - but it is also hard to overlook the 'stupidity' of dubious laws such as that classic example: the fraudulent sale and purchase agreement for the Volta Aluminium Company Limited (Valco) to a non-existent International Aluminium Partners (IAP), which was railroaded through Parliament under a certificate of urgency, during the golden age of business for Kufuor & Co - despite the loud protestations of the purported IAP joint-venture partners, Norske Hydro of Norway and VALE of Brazi, both of which insisted that they had entered into no such agreement to purchase Valco. Amazing.

So those who rail against the passage of 'stupid' laws do have a point: If truth be told, it is a nefarious practice that is actually ruining our nation.

Finally, one also needs to make the point that if invited by Parliament - as a result of this particular blog post -  I'd be happy to list many of the 'stupid' laws  passed by the geniuses we have elected to represent us in Parliament, over the years.

On the other hand, as someone who despises hypocrisy, depending on my state of health - which is rather poorly at the moment unfortunately - I might opt to simply defy Parliament if invited to justify my remarks: by ignoring any summons to appear before the House and ask them to do their worst. Ghanaians are a free people not the slaves of our nation's ruling elites. Haaba. Ya bremu!

Parliament cannot intimidate a free people in whom soveriegnty resides under our system - by trying to gag all those who dare to criticise them when all that such brave and patriotic citizens are doing amounts to  merely obeying the constitional edict that enjoins all Ghanaians to speak out against corruption.

Passing 'stupid' laws full of sundry loopholes that enable well-connected rogues to dupe our nation and get away with it, does amount to egregious corruption. Full  stop. To rail against that publicly is definitely not insulting  Parliament. We rest our case.

Investopedia/Reem Heakal: What Is The World Trade Organisation?

What Is the World Trade Organization? By Reem Heakal | Updated August 17, 2017 — 1:57 PM EDT

You may remember seeing news footage of the protests at the doors of the World Trade Organization's (WTO) Third Ministerial Conference held in Seattle, Washington, in 1999. Similar demonstrations against the WTO have also occurred in Italy, Spain, Canada and Switzerland. What is the WTO, and why do so many people oppose it? The following article addresses these questions and concerns regarding the world's only international organization that deals with the global rules of trade.
What Is the WTO?

The WTO was born out of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which was established in 1947. A series of trade negotiations, GATT rounds began at the end of World War II and were aimed at reducing tariffs for the facilitation of global trade on goods. The rationale for GATT was based on the Most Favored Nation (MFN) clause, which, when assigned to one country by another, gives the selected country privileged trading rights. As such, GATT aimed to help, all countries obtain MFN-like status so that no single country would be at a trading advantage over others.

The WTO replaced GATT as the world's global trading body in 1995, and the current set of governing rules stems from the Uruguay Round of GATT negotiations, which took place throughout 1986-1994. GATT trading regulations established between 1947 and 1994 (and in particular those negotiated during the Uruguay Round) remain the primary rule book for multilateral trade in goods. Specific sectors such as agriculture have been addressed, as well as issues dealing with anti-dumping.

The Uruguay Round also laid the foundations for regulating trade in services. The General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) is the guideline directing multilateral trade in services. Intellectual property rights were also addressed in the establishment of regulations protecting the trade and investment of ideas, concepts, designs, patents, and so forth.

The purpose of the WTO is to ensure that global trade commences smoothly, freely and predictably. The WTO creates and embodies the legal ground rules for global trade among member nations and thus offers a system for international commerce. The WTO aims to create economic peace and stability in the world through a multilateral system based on consenting member states (currently there are slightly more than 140 members) that have ratified the rules of the WTO in their individual countries as well. This means that WTO rules become a part of a country's domestic legal system. The rules, therefore, apply to local companies and nationals in the conduct of business in the international arena. If a company decides to invest in a foreign country, by, for example, setting up an office in that country, the rules of the WTO (and hence, a country's local laws) will govern how that can be done. Theoretically, if a country is a member of the WTO, its local laws cannot contradict WTO rules and regulations, which currently govern approximately 97% of all world trade.
How It Functions

The current head of the World Trade Organization is Roberto Azevêdo; however, decisions are made by consensus, though a majority vote may also rule (this is very rare). Based in Geneva, Switzerland, the Ministerial Committee, which holds meetings at least every two years, makes the top decisions. There is also a General Council, a Goods Council, Services Council, and an Intellectual Property Rights Council, which all report to the General Council. Finally, there are many working groups and committees.

If a trade dispute occurs, the WTO works to resolve it. If for example, a country erects a trade barrier in the form of a customs duty against a particular country or a particular good, the WTO may issue trade sanctions against the violating country. The WTO will also work to resolve the conflict through negotiations.
Free Trade at What Cost?

The anti-WTO protests we have seen around the world are a response to the consequences of establishing a multilateral trading system. Critics say that the after-effects of WTO policies are undemocratic because of the lack of transparency during negotiations. Opponents also argue that since the WTO functions as a global authority on trade and reserves the right to review a country's domestic trade policies, national sovereignty is compromised. For example, regulations that a country may wish to establish to protect its industry, workers or environment could be considered barriers to the WTO's aim to facilitate free trade. A country may have to sacrifice its own interests to avoid violating WTO agreements. Thus, a country becomes limited in its choices. Moreover, brutal regimes that are pernicious to their own countries may inadvertently be receiving concealed support from foreign governments who continue, in the name of free trade, to do business with these regimes. Unfavorable governments in favor of big business, therefore, remain in power at the cost of a representative government.

One high-profile WTO controversy has to do with intellectual property rights and a government's duty to its citizens versus a global authority. One well-known example is HIV/AIDS treatments and the cost of patented medicines. Poor, very needy countries, such as those in South America and sub-Saharan Africa, simply cannot afford to buy these patented drugs. If they were to buy or manufacture these same drugs under an affordable generic label, which would save thousands of lives, these countries would, as members of the WTO, be in violation of intellectual property rights (TRIPS) agreements and subject to possible trade sanctions.
The Bottom Line

Free trade fosters investment into other countries, which can help boost the economy and eventually the standard of living of all countries involved. As most investment comes from the developed and economically powerful into the developing and less influential economies, there is, however, a tendency for the system to give the investor an advantage. Regulations that facilitate the investment process are in the investor's interest because these regulations help foreign investors maintain an edge over local competition. However, in 2017, as several countries, including the United States strengthen their protectionist stance on trade, the future of the World Trade Organization remains complex and unclear.

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Ghana's PPP Deals Must All Be Self-Funded By The Private-Sector Entities Bidding For Such Contracts

Many discerning Ghanaians will agree that governments of the day ought to protect Ghanaian entrepreneurs from unfair competition from foreign businesses - which is the plea from Mr. Joseph Adjapong the CEO of the Jospong Group:  in reacting to the negative publicity generated by the mandatory annual towing fee levy imposed on vehicle owners.

It is a real pity that Mr. Adjapong did not seem to understand the underlying reason for the public outcry by motorists against the deal between the previous government and his Road Safety Management Services Limited (RSMSL) that resulted in the passage of the Bill imposing that nandatory towing fee levy into law.

What would have been a much better PPP deal would have been one in which broken down vehicles are either repaired by agents of the towing company wherever they develop faults at to enable them resume their journeys again, or towed to the RSMSL's certified agents' repair workshops to be repaired.

Above all, to say that his business model for the RSMSL is similar to the now underfire Uber - a U.S. domiciled company with a  global footprint accused of so many negative management practices some bordering on the criminal - was most unfortunate. No PR professional worth his or her salt would have made such a statement at this moment of what is a potentially existential crisis for RSMSL.

Incidentally, Mr. Adjapong would be wise to leave all such responses to the professionals he employs, to carry out delicate reputational damage limitation tasks, when controversy erupts over the business deals he does with governments of the day.

As a wag I know said to me: "Yes, Mr. Adjapong is right in making the point that he is welcomed outside Ghana. Is he not a perfect crony-capitalist  bankroller for the leaders of those nations where he operates in Africa - whose cowed citizens would never dare challenge any law  passed to enrich their leaders and their crony-crony capitalist bankrolling pals. Ebeeii?"

No doubt some might also say that that it is a harsh  judgement on the nature of Mr. Adjapong's long-term strategy  for winning government contracts. Perhaps, looked at in detail, they might actually be right. Who knows?

However, whatever Mr. Adjaping says, clearly, it is not in the national interest for our leaders to be beholden to their crony-capitalist pals - who as a result of the power and influence they wield in Ghanaian society (because they have so many of our leaders in their very deep pockets), are able to lobby for the passage of legislation that increases their already high net worth yet further into the stratosphere, at the expense of Mother Ghana.

Alas, what Mr. Adjapong succeeded in doing in his public response to the many criticisms  of the mandatory road toll levy, was to paint a picture of a crony capitalist profiting mightily from the socialisation of private risk.

Yet, the plain truth is that our nation does not need such iniquitous  public private partnership (PPP) deals. What Mother Ghana needs are entirely private-sector funded,  win-win PPPs, in which the private-sector bears all the risks in exchange for protected market access opportunities.

As a remedy to cure the clearly defective law that was allegedly passed  because Mr. Adjapong was a crony-capitalist pal of the previous regime - who also apparently bankrolled other individual politicians from across the spectrum - the government must renegotiate the deal with RSMSL so that it is restructured not on the discredited Uber's business model, but that of the UK's Automobile Association (AA) and Royal Automobile Club (RAC), as regards the benefits it offers vehicle owners who pay it.

FinaIly, after the present mandatory PPP towing fee levy deal with RSMSL expires, only widely advertised and transparent self-funded PPP bids from companies across the globe (with Ghanaian partners), ought to be entertained for all PPP deals in Ghana. Enough is enough. Period. Haaba.

Amazons Watch Magazine: From Achitecture To Food Business: The success story of Mac Chung Lynn; CEO Nando’s Malaysia


11 Aug

From Achitecture To Food Business: The success story of Mac Chung Lynn; CEO Nando’s Malaysia

By Amazons Watch Magazine

Born in the year 1978 in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, Mac Chung Lynn is currently the CEO of Nando’s Malaysia.

She had her primary and secondary education in Methodist Primary School, the Garden School, and a boarding school in England. Afterward, she moved to London to study architecture at the University of Wales, in Cardiff.

While studying at Wales, she was a customer of the Nando’s eatery; a South African food chain, she loved their menu and was always there to eat. On one occasion her father visited and they went to the Nando’s for their lunch. Having tasted their meal, he loved the hot peri-peri sauce and requested to speak with the manager.

A few months later Mac got a call from her dad with a proposal to run the Nando’s branch in her home country Malaysia. It sounded strange, she was an architect who just got certified with only a two-year work experience in her field of study. Food business was not the family business line, her father was into constructions and he owned a construction company called Muhibbah Engineering (M) Bhd. Mac wondered what she would do with a food company, but after thinking about it, she decided to take the offer.

At the time in Malaysia, women were not given room for top executive positions coupled with the fact that Mac was 24 years old but she had her mind made up to strive and survive in the business.

She packed her stuff and headed home in 1998 to Malaysia in order to open her country’s version of Nando’s restaurant in Bangsar.

Back in Malaysia, the people loved it, consumers trooped in and out of Nando’s with the desire to eat a good meal. Asides every food they sold, their customers were totally in love with their well-spiced grilled chicken which was not gotten from anywhere else but Nando’s.

The joy of meeting people’s need by making them satisfied and having to add value in the society, filled Mac’s heart that she forgot about architecture and dwelled completely on the food business.

As the consumer demand increase with good testimonies about how they felt with the existence of the eatery, improvements were made in style and routine to meet customer needs.

At some point, the eatery changed from being a quick, self-service restaurant to a casual dining outlet that offers full table service.

Currently, Nando’s Malaysia has become a household name, best amongst others in the country. After gaining grounds in Malaysia with about 69 outlets scattered across the country, they moved to Singapore to start up Nando’s over there.

Becoming an entrepreneur has groomed her to stand in the face of any challenges and tackle it until there is a solution.

Mac is a happily married woman and a mother of three children, she and her family are based in Malaysia.

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Investopedia: What is 'Net Profit Margin'?

Net Profit Margin Margin'

What is 'Net Profit Margin'

Net profit margin is the ratio of net profits to revenues for a company or business segment . Typically expressed as a percentage, net profit margins show how much of each dollar collected by a company as revenue translates into profit. The equation to calculate net profit margin is: net margin = net profit / revenue.
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BREAKING DOWN 'Net Profit Margin'
Net margins vary from company to company, and certain ranges can be expected in certain industries, as similar business constraints exist in each distinct industry. Low profit margins don't necessarily equate to low profits. For example, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has delivered high returns for its shareholders while operating on net margins less than 5% annually. In fact, in the first quarter of 2016, Walmart's profit margin was 2.66%. In contrast, a business with very small operating budget such as an independent contractor working as a freelance writer has a very small overhead and as a result, most of its revenue is tied to profits. However, although freelance writing may have a high profit margin, its annual profits may seem low when compared to a multinational corporation such as Walmart.

Most publicly traded companies report their net margins both quarterly during earnings releases and in their annual reports. Companies that are able to expand their net margins over time are generally rewarded with share price growth, as share price growth leads directly to higher levels of profitability.
How to Calculate Net Profit Margin?

To calculate net profit margin, find the company's revenue, which consists of all the sales, fees or other money the business has collected through the period. To ascertain profits, subtract operating expenses, cost of goods sold (COGS), interest and tax from revenue. If the business pays stock dividends, also subtract those payments from revenue when calculating profit, but do not take common stock dividends into account. Then, simply divide net profit by revenue, and to convert that number into a percent, multiply it by 100.

To illustrate, imagine a business has $100,000 in revenue, but it also has $20,000 in operating costs, $10,000 in COGS and $14,000 in tax liability. Its net profits are $56,000. Profits divided by revenue equals .56 or 56%. A 56% profit margin indicates the company earns 56 cents in profit for every dollar it collects.
The Importance of Net Profit Margins

Net profit margin is one of the most important indicators of a business's financial health. It can give a more accurate view of how profitable a business is than its cash flow, and by tracking increases and decreases in its net profit margin, a business can assess whether or not current practices are working. Additionally, because net profit margin is expressed as a percentage rather than a dollar amount, as net profit is, it makes it possible to compare the profitability of two or more businesses regardless of their differences in size. Finally, a business can use its net profit margin to forecast profits based on revenues.
Profit Margin
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Profit margin is part of a category of profitability ratios calculated as net income divided by revenue, or net profits divided by sales. Net income or net profit may be determined by subtracting all of a company’s expenses, including operating costs, material costs (including raw materials) and tax costs, from its total revenue. Profit margins are expressed as a percentage and, in effect, measure how much out of every dollar of sales a company actually keeps in earnings. A 20% profit margin, then, means the company has a net income of $0.20 for each dollar of total revenue earned.

While there are a few different kinds of profit margins, including “gross profit margin,” “operating margin,” (or "operating profit margin") “pretax profit margin” and “net margin” (or "net profit margin") the term “profit margin” is also often used simply to refer to net margin. The method of calculating profit margin when the term is used in this way can be represented with the following formula:

Profit Margin = Net Income / Net Sales (revenue)

Other types of profit margins have different ways of calculating net income so as to break down a company’s earnings in different ways and for different purposes.

Profit margin is similar but distinct from the term “profit percentage,” which divides net profit on sales by the cost of goods sold to help determine the amount of profit a company makes on selling its goods, rather than the amount of profit a company is making relative to its total expenditures.
BREAKING DOWN 'Profit Margin'

Rarely can a company’s individual numbers (like revenue or expenditures) indicate much about the company’s profitability, and looking at the earnings of a company often doesn't tell the entire story. Increased earnings are good, but an increase does not mean that the profit margin of a company is improving. For example, suppose one year Company A’s revenue is $1 million and its total expenditures are $750,000, making its profit margin 25% ($1M - $0.75M / $1M = $0.25M / $1M = 0.25 = 25%). If during the following year its revenue increases to $1.25 million and its expenditures increase to $1 million, its profit margin is then 20% ($1.25M - $1M / $1.25M = $0.25M / $1.25M = 0.20 = 20%). Even though its revenue has increased, Company A’s profit margin has diminished because expenses have increased at a faster rate than revenue.
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Must We Allow The Balkanization Of Our Homeland Ghana?

Sometimes it is pretty hard to understand the motivation that drives some of the members  of our nation's political class.

Take the New Patriotic Party's (NPP) obsession with dividing up some of Ghana's existing regions, for example. What exactly is  the point of  balkanising our homeland Ghana, so, I ask? Haaba.

In one breath the government in power talks (sensibly) about the need to cut costs in the public-sector - and getting value for money in all government expenditures (a fantastic nation-building idea).

Yet, that selfsame government is also bent on embarking on the creation of yet more regions - a needless and expensive enterprise that will only increase the burden on hapless taxpayers and revive unnecessary ancient tribal rivalries: a threat to the stability of our country if ever there was one. Ebeeii. Why - and to what big-picture  grand-idea-end, precisely, one wonders?

This is the 21st century: It is an initiative that simply doesn't make sense - unless of course it is driven entirely (as some allege) by the same secret  tribal-supremacist agenda that motivated the leadership of the colonial-era pro-Akan political organisation, the murderous National Liberation Movement (NLM) of infamy.

The question is: Why are some NPP members' collective worldview still influenced by that vile and violent colonial-era political grouping whose leaders (and their political progeny since independence in 1957) always sought to dominate  Ghanaian society by stealth - because in their view dominating our nation and lording it over the masses was (and is) their birthright? What perfidy.

Breaking up some of Ghana's regions makes no sense at all from a national cohesion standpoint in the digital age. It is like chasing fool's gold - and the political equivalent of seeing a mirage as the discovery of a new source of water in a parched landscape.

As an old  wag I know said to me a few days ago: "Kofi, in an age when thousands of young Ghanaians take online degree courses from universities located  in faraway places such as the U.S., whiles others too even trade online serving consumers living in nations across the vast expanses of some of the world's oceans,  the curious argument that breaking up some of our ten regions will save ordinary people  from having to cover great distances in order to access public services, makes little sense. No deep thinker will agree with those making that argument. And, furthermore, nothing good will ever come out of it, for sure."

That is a bit extreme perhaps - but he might  have a point.

The time has come for our leaders to leverage cutting-edge solutions to providing public services - such as the use of the free "what3words" app by district planning officers: which will revolutionize the provision of sundry services by District Assemblies across Ghana. It will also empower Ghana Post - and private sector entities such as banks -  to serve the system and Ghanaian society in myriad ways.

The question is: Are those who support the idea of breaking up some of Ghana's existing 10 regions - because in their view it will eliminate the need for ordinary citizens to cover great distances to access public services  there - wrong to support the policy of breaking up those existing regions? Perchance are they  making an egregious error of judgement in so  doing?

Or, worst stilla, is the motivating factor really the furtherance of a secret tribal-supremacist  agenda set by some of those now ruling our country - as some of its more cynical critics allege?

Whatever be the case, surely, we must not allow the  balkanisation of our homeland Ghana by any group of politicians in the united African nation of diverse-ethnicity that President Nkrumah of blessed memory bequeathed to Ghanaians? Food for thought.