June 23, 2024

Sketch Guy: When Labeling Yourself Middle Class Can Hold You Back

It seems to me that we really like the idea of what it means to be middle class. And why wouldn’t we? For most of us, we associate it with things like having steady jobs, owning a home and taking regular vacations. It’s the American dream brought to life, and we like it so much that it’s become not only an economical identity but a cultural one, too.

If you think I’m exaggerating, take a look at a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll. The results revealed that what we define as middle class has more to do with how we think of ourselves than any particular number. Not too surprisingly, we tend to compare ourselves against what we know:

■ 48 percent of people earning $40,000 – $50,000 consider an income of $50,000 middle class.

■ 50 percent of people earning $50,000 – $75,000 consider their income middle class.

■ 39 percent of people earning $75,000 – $100,000 consider their income middle class.

Why does this matter? Because labels with strong emotions behind them, like “middle class,” change how we think about ourselves and make decisions, especially financial ones. For instance, when people identify themselves as middle class, I see many of them make a common mistake: they fail to engage in the process of financial planning.

The reasons probably won’t surprise you, but if people call themselves middle class, they probably don’t think in terms of having wealth or assets that can benefit from financial planning. They think in terms of having a mortgage, a 401(k) and maybe a savings account. They’re not wealthy, and only the wealthy need to worry about investing or planning.

That’s wrong on so many levels.

I’m not arguing that we’re all secretly wealthy. I’m suggesting that we’re cheating ourselves out of greater financial security because we’re making an assumption about what the labels mean. The reality is that most of us have good reasons to plan for the future, like buying a home, paying for college and enjoying retirement.

There is no reason we shouldn’t be using every tool available to help us improve the odds we’ll reach those goals. It doesn’t matter that we may not have as many options as those available to an investment banker. We owe it to ourselves to understand the options we do have and then make plans that get us to where we want to go.

We’re making a similar mistake if we assume we won’t find people to help us when we do need more help. The reasons often come down to money. Time after time, people will tell me they aren’t seeking help because they can’t afford it.

The problem with this assumption is that it ignores the professionals — C.P.A.’s, lawyers, advisers — who make it their mission to help people who don’t have seven-figure balance sheets. There are plenty of them out there; we just need to take the time to find one if we need help.

We’ve got to stop making assumptions like this one and others like it. All they lead to is the common mistake of thinking that financial planning doesn’t matter to people who identify with labels like middle class. I don’t know of anyone who can afford the consequences of that particular thinking.

Instead, we need to make smart financial decisions and not limit our options based on how we label ourselves. We need to take the best information available and make the most of it, even if it means doing things we associate only with wealthy people. Regardless of how much, or how little, we think we have, we’re cheating ourselves if we assume that we don’t need a plan to take care of it and make the most of it.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/24/your-money/financial-planners/when-labeling-yourself-middle-class-can-hold-you-back.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

For News From Syrian Battleground, a Reliance on Social Media

Western journalists are struggling to cover what the world has so far seen largely through YouTube. But while some television news crews have been filing reports from Damascus, the dangers of reporters being killed or kidnapped there — as well as visa problems — have kept most journalists outside the country’s borders and heightened the need for third-party images.

“The difficulty of getting into Syria, the shrunken foreign correspondent corps, and the audience gains for social media make it likely this story will be consumed differently by the American public than tensions or conflicts in past years,” said Ann Marie Lipinski, the curator of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard.

The Committee to Protect Journalists calls Syria the deadliest country in the world for reporters. Last year, 28 journalists working there were killed, and 18 have died so far this year, according to the group, a nonprofit based in New York.

Among the few television outlets broadcasting from Damascus are CBS News, the BBC and ITN, a British news provider. A CNN correspondent, Fred Pleitgen, had been reporting from Damascus, but his visa expired this week and he was relocated to Beirut, Lebanon, a spokeswoman for the network said.

The Wall Street Journal has a reporter in Damascus, and Reuters and The Associated Press both said that they had journalists inside Syria.

For many news organizations, though, Beirut or Syria’s borders are the closest they can safely get. Richard Engel, an NBC News correspondent who was held hostage for five days last year in Syria, traveled inside the country earlier this week, but most recently reported from the Turkish-Syrian border.

Reporters from The Washington Post and The New York Times are in Beirut, and this week ABC News reopened its bureau there after two decades.

“It’s risky being in Damascus in the best of times, and when you’ve got U.S. missiles raining down on the city, it adds to the sense of risk,” said Jon Williams, ABC News’s managing editor for international news.

For networks without a Syrian correspondent, partnerships with other organizations supply some video. ABC works with the BBC, for example, and NBC with ITN. But the networks also rely on YouTube and other third-party sources, which have yielded some of the most vivid and disturbing video of the conflict, but has also brought a host of verification problems.

This week, CNN broadcast a film showing what purported to be evidence of mass graves, and said that it came from “an independent filmer who is absolutely trustworthy.” CBS News uses a team of Arabic-speaking employees in London to review third-party videos, according to Christopher Isham, its Washington bureau chief.

ABC News, Reuters and other outlets use Storyful, a company that scours social sites and verifies videos through tests like comparing street scenes to maps and checking an uploader’s affiliated accounts. The New York Times has also worked with Storyful in the past. David Clinch, Storyful’s executive editor, said it first learned of a possible chemical attack last week from videos, and alerted its clients within an hour of the incident.

“This content is often the only content available,” Mr. Clinch wrote in an e-mail, “because news organizations either can’t get to the scene of suspected chemical attacks, don’t have anyone in Syria (some do but most don’t) or their staff cannot go out from Damascus.”

For those still within Syria, the challenge has simply been to stay safe. Mr. Isham said that CBS went to “extreme lengths” to protect its staff there, although he did not elaborate.

“Anytime you go into a combat zone, your folks are at risk,” he said. “You want to reduce that risk as much as possible.”

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/31/business/media/for-news-from-syrian-battleground-a-reliance-on-social-media.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

China Arrests British Adviser Hired by GlaxoSmithKline

The investigator, Peter Humphrey, has been held by the Shanghai police since early July. He is managing director of ChinaWhys, a risk management consulting firm that has done work for GlaxoSmithKline, the British pharmaceutical group that is facing graft and bribery allegations in China, raising speculation that his detention might be linked to that case.

A spokeswoman for the British Embassy, Hannah Oussedik, would say only that he had been formally arrested. “We can confirm the arrest of a British national, Peter Humphrey, in Shanghai, China, on Monday, 19th August,” Ms. Oussedik said in a brief telephone interview. “We are providing consular assistance to the family.”

The Wall Street Journal, which first reported Mr. Humphrey’s arrest, said that his wife, Yu Yingzeng, was also formally arrested in Shanghai, and that they were both accused of illegally buying information about people. Ms. Oussedik said that she could not confirm those details. Ms. Yu is a naturalized American citizen. American officials in Beijing and Shanghai declined to comment.

The formal arrest means the police have more time to pursue their investigation of the couple before deciding to drop the case or seek an indictment.

China’s rough-and-tumble commercial environment, in which laws and rules are often arbitrarily enforced or ignored, can make work in private corporate investigations risky. But Mr. Humphrey, a former journalist for Reuters, had worked in the area for more than a decade. He co-founded ChinaWhys in 2003, and his wife is a co-founder and general manager, according to the company’s Web site.

One acquaintance of Mr. Humphrey who asked not to be identified said he appeared to have been arrested in connection with his work for GlaxoSmithKline.

The government has detained four of Glaxo’s Chinese executives in connection with an investigation of bribery and tax fraud. Glaxo distanced itself from some of the former executives after investigators said the executives had confessed to fraud.

Officials at multinational corporations operating in China have complained in recent weeks that the Chinese government is using law enforcement to weaken international competitors in commercial sectors where Chinese companies are not strong or have spent very little money to develop their own products.

“It’s a hugely political thing,” the acquaintance of Mr. Humphrey said. “They’re just using him as a lever to force the pharmaceutical industry to lower prices.”

The person added that, although Mr. Humphrey had worked for Glaxo, it was not clear whether he was doing so when he was detained last month.

The detention of Mr. Humphrey and his wife is even more politically delicate because his wife is part of a well-connected Chinese family.

Chris Buckley and Keith Bradsher contributed reporting from Hong Kong.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/22/business/global/police-in-china-arrest-british-executive.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Holder May Rein In Prosecutors on Leaks

According to an adviser familiar with the deliberations, Mr. Holder has discussed expanding a requirement for high-level review of proposed subpoenas for reporters’ phone records so that it would include e-mails. He is also examining whether to tighten a standard for when officials may seek such records without giving prior notice to the news organization.

President Obama has given Mr. Holder until July 12 to make his proposals, and Mr. Holder wants to complete an overhaul of department regulations on leak investigations before his tenure is over, said the adviser, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the deliberations are preliminary. Mr. Holder has given no indication that he intends to step down any time soon, however.

The Thursday meeting was intended to seek additional ideas and lay the groundwork for an internal push if prosecutors and intelligence officials balk at giving up some powers in leak investigations, the adviser said. Further meetings with both news organizations and government officials are planned, including another news media session on Friday.

The first news media meeting was off the record, and The New York Times was among several organizations that were invited but did not attend because it objected to that condition. At least two active leak investigations and cases involve Times reporters.

Representatives from The Daily News of New York, The New Yorker, Politico, The Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post did attend, according to several participants. The group gathered in a conference room near the office of the deputy attorney general, James Cole, and met with him, Mr. Holder, and seven other officials. The meeting started after 5 p.m. and lasted more than an hour.

Mr. Holder began, they said, by acknowledging criticism that the Justice Department had tipped too far toward aggressive law enforcement and away from ensuring the free flow of information to the public. He expressed a broad commitment to update internal guidelines, including steps to reflect changes in technology since they were written three decades ago.

Several of the news media representatives, participants said, told the officials that leak investigations have had a chilling effect on both reporters and government officials. They urged more rigorous procedures for internal review of subpoena requests, including the scope of any records sought and whether to provide advance notice, and argued that there needed to be more internal and external checks and balances on prosecutors.

There have been previous efforts to consider revising the investigative guidelines. In 2003, for example, a group of lawyers representing The Associated Press, Gannett, The Washington Post and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press worked with Patrick Kelley, then the acting general counsel of the F.B.I., to develop a proposal.

The media lawyers eventually submitted a draft text and section-by-section analysis to the F.B.I. But after the 2004 election and turnover at the Justice Department, the Bush administration lost interest and dropped it, according to David Schulz, a media lawyer who led the informal project.

The 2004 proposal would in some ways have gone further than what has been initially discussed at the Justice Department. It would have expanded an existing rule that offers some protection from subpoenas for a reporter’s call logs so that it would also to cover other types of investigative tactics, like going through a reporter’s trash or obtaining a reporter’s credit card and travel records. The existing rule requires that before issuing a subpoena for phone records, other ways of obtaining information must be tried first, and the attorney general must sign off.

The 2004 proposal did not, however, contain several other ideas that Mr. Holder has discussed, according to the adviser. One example is a proposal to require prosecutors to have the Justice Department’s public affairs officials review a request for a reporter’s records before seeking the attorney general’s approval for a subpoena.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: June 1, 2013

An article on Friday about a series of meetings Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. has begun holding with leaders of some news media outlets misstated the surname of a media lawyer who led a project to consider revising the guidelines that the Department of Justice uses to investigate journalists. He is David Schulz, not Schultz.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/31/us/politics/holder-may-rein-in-prosecutors-on-leaks.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

News Corporation Board Approves Split of Company

The company is expected to complete its separation on June 28, with publishing assets like The Wall Street Journal, The New York Post and HarperCollins, and a handful of Australian pay television units, forming a company that will retain the name News Corporation.

Fox Broadcasting, Fox News, FX and the Hollywood film and television studio will form an entertainment company to be called 21st Century Fox.

Rupert Murdoch, chairman and chief executive of News Corporation, called the board’s approval of the split a “significant step in creating two independent companies with the world’s leading portfolios of publishing and media and entertainment assets.”

The announcement may do little to dispel criticism that the News Corporation board is too heavily made up of members of the Murdoch family. After the division Mr. Murdoch will serve as chairman of both companies. He will maintain his role as chief executive of 21st Century Fox. Mr. Murdoch’s two sons, James and Lachlan, will be directors of both companies.

But the boards will also include new faces. Robert Thomson, as chief executive of the new News Corporation, will join the publishing company’s board, as will Ana Paula Pessoa, a partner at the public relations firm Brunswick Group; Masroor Siddiqui, managing partner of the investment firm Naya Management; and John Elkann, chairman of Fiat. Joel I. Klein, chief executive of News Corporation’s fledgling Amplify education division, will maintain a role on the company’s board.

Chase Carey, president and chief operating officer of 21st Century Fox, will join several new directors — Delphine Arnault, a French businesswoman and deputy general manager at Christian Dior Couture; Jacques Nasser, a former chief executive of the Ford Motor Company; and Robert S. Silberman, executive chairman of Strayer Education Incorporated — on the entertainment company’s board.

“New blood is always a good thing for a company as it tries to overcome” scandals like the phone hacking crisis in Britain that News Corporation has gone through, said Laura Campos, director of shareholder activities at the Nathan Cummings Foundation, a charitable organization and institutional investor that owns 3,686 shares of News Corporation’s Class B voting shares.

But, Ms. Campos added, “We’re anxious to see how these directors will demonstrate their commitment to all the News Corporation shareholders and not just the Murdoch family.”

News Corporation also said on Friday that it expected to report at least a $1.2 billion pretax, noncash impairment charge related to its publishing division this quarter.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/25/business/media/news-corporation-board-approves-split-of-company.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Bloomberg Pays Tribute to The Financial Times, Reigniting Speculation on a Bid

In a speech for the occasion, Mr. Bloomberg said he was there “to celebrate my second favorite financial news outlet,” which he said has “always been on the cutting edge of financial journalism.”

Mr. Bloomberg has a standard response these days to inquiries about his interest in adding The F.T., currently owned by British company Pearson, to the financial media company that bears his name: “In fact, people are always telling me I should buy the F.T.,” Mr. Bloomberg said. He paused for comic affect, adding: “I buy it everyday.”

The Empire State Building glowed in a pink hue to celebrate the bisque-colored paper that got its start in Britain on May 1, 1888. The TV host Charlie Rose and the British advertising executive Martin Sorrell were among the guests who sipped pink champagne and vodka-spiked pink lemonade in the airy courtyard of the Academy Mansion near Central Park, a live jazz band playing in the background.

On Tuesday, Mr. Bloomberg faulted The New York Times for failing to report on the victims of gun violence while its editorial page criticizes the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk policy. A day later, he seemed somewhat apologetic, fondly recounting The Times’ founding and counting the paper among the “three great newspapers” including The Financial Times and The Wall Street Journal. “You have to read all three and I do,” he said. “And then I read the papers that really matter, The New York Post and The Daily News.” (Also a day later, The Times reported on the crime that the mayor complained the paper had ignored: the shooting death of Alphonza Bryant III, 17, in the South Bronx.)

Mr. Bloomberg has talked to aides about whether he should purchase The Financial Times Group, according to people close to the mayor. One sticking point is that the division includes a half interest in The Economist, which Mr. Bloomberg has long coveted. Under the co-ownership agreement, however, The Financial Times Group, has no editorial control over the magazine.

“Why would you buy it if you can’t control it?” Mr. Bloomberg said at a party in Washington on Saturday. When asked whether he wants to buy The F.T., he said: “What do I know about newspapers?”

Marjorie Scardino, Pearson’s longtime chief executive who once said the paper would be sold “over my dead body,” left the company on Dec. 31. John Fallon, a longtime executive on the education side of Pearson’s global business, took over in January, sparking speculation that the “go-to paper for the respectable broker and honest financier” (in Mr. Bloomberg’s words on Wednesday), would be put on the block. A company spokesman previously said Pearson was not exploring a sale of The F.T.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/03/business/media/bloomberg-pays-tribute-to-the-financial-times-reigniting-speculation-on-a-bid.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

You’re the Boss Blog: This Week in Small Business: Does Yelp Help?


A weekly roundup of small-business developments.

What’s affecting me, my clients and other small-business owners this week.

Economy 1: Turning the Corner

A Wall Street Journal study of small-business chief executives shows some optimism, and economic confidence is up along with a rise in the stock market. A new survey shows a steady, four-year increase in small-business job growth projections, and Rick Newman says small businesses have finally turned the corner. Housing starts (pdf) increased and new building permits are being issued at the fastest pace since 2008. Existing home sales and prices continued to rise in February, but a report says it’s still cheaper to buy than rent in the country’s top 100 metropolitan areas. Even independent bookstores did better than ever in 2012. Recent good data has economists “falling over themselves” to revise first-quarter growth estimates, but if you really want to know how the economy is doing, keep your eyes on a McDonald’s “eggonomic indicator”: drive-thru windows.

Economy 2: However

January’s jobless rate rose in 25 states. FedEx had a disappointing quarter, Caterpillar reported a slowdown in sales, and even though their ad spending increased 4 percent in 2012, restaurants are reeling from their worst three months since 2010. A consumer metrics wizard displays charts that show that this time around the pain (or economic cynicism) seems to be universal. The Federal Reserve holds firm to its stimulus plan, and Scott Grannis says the central bank is not printing money.

Online: Yelp’s Help

Yelp claims small businesses that advertise on its review platform produce an average $23,000 more a year in revenue. But small businesses still are not spending on online ads, and Cynthia Boris wonders why more are not taking advantage of online marketing. On the other hand, half of what online advertisers think they know about their Web visitors may be wrong. Here are 26 tools to enhance your business blog, eight mistakes to avoid when beginning your blog and eight steps to increase online visibility. Dan Norris says you should use Google Analytics to determine if your content is generating leads, and G.B. Oliver identifies a few recent search phrases that have been trending lately on Google.

Your People: Gloomy

Colleen Stanley says you should stop being in a hurry and say “thanks” once in a while. Venessa Wong explains why Mark Zuckerberg (and other C.E.O.’s) are popular with their employees. Gary Shouldis lists five reasons your business needs an employee manual. Most workers are not saving enough to retire, and a survey finds low-wage workers are gloomy about the future. March Madness will cost businesses $134 million but employers don’t seem concerned. Here are 10 March Madness stars to follow on Instagram. The president shares his N.C.A.A. bracket picks (and the kid president shares his). Booz Allen studies the environmental impact of basketball tournaments.

Women: Silicon Valley Discrimination

Sarah Barrett explains how she became an accidental entrepreneur. Sarah McKinney suggests 10 ways women entrepreneurs and leaders should take action now. Jane Harrow provides a quick guide to 360-degree feedback, especially for women. Vivek Wadhwa says Silicon Valley discriminates against women (but there is hope). Peggy Drexler says there are perks from crying at work.

Management: Problems at Quiznos

Joel Libava reports on the latest problems at Quiznos. A new book offers business lessons from Shakespeare. Ron Ashkenas says there are psychological reasons why stopping activities is so hard to do in organizations. A new report finds that although the incidence of fraud has decreased over all from 2011, 61 percent of companies reported they were hit by fraud at least once. And to put things into perspective, here’s how mom-and-pops fought five-and-dimes back in the Depression.

Cash Flow: The Perfect Vehicle

Wells Fargo topped the list for small-business loans in 2012. Lisa Girard has 10 questions to ask yourself before choosing an office, and here is how to pick the perfect vehicle for your business. Katy A. Limbaugh offers tips for organizing your company’s finances, including: “No business can successfully flourish without a proper projection, planning or budget.” A new financial app will track your business’s health.

Start-Up: Free Online Classes

Roya Wolverson suggests the best age to start a business, and Phyllis Korkki reports that budding entrepreneurs can get an “M.B.A. lite.” Eric T. Wagner says that spending a fortune in time and money to build your brainchild product or service is just one of seven steps to start-up failure, and Mark Suster also has thoughts on the biggest mistakes start-ups make. If you’re still up for starting a company, here are eight free online courses. And these are the best cities for start-ups, according to the Kauffman Foundation.

Ideas: Get Cash From Microsoft

Food scooters might be the next big thing. Or how about a restaurant that serves World War II fare? Or a beverage business? Microsoft is now offering cash to anyone who wants to build apps. British Airways introduces an “innovation lab in the sky.” Nike chooses 10 companies to drive digital sport innovation. This entrepreneurial couple turned their passion for arcade-style video games into profits. MillerCoors awards $150,000 in small-business grants. Ramit Sethi decides to give away two round-trip tickets to anywhere in the United States. The National Small Business Association chooses its Small Business Advocate of the Year.

E-Mail: Expand Your List

Hunter Boyle and Corey Post explain how to expand your e-mail list. A new study says that e-mail volume increased 5.4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012 over the same period a year earlier (with open rates the highest on Saturdays and Sundays). A social, e-mail and marketing webinar series is introduced.

Marketing: More Mistakes

Will Stevens explains how to run a content marketing campaign with no budget. John Jantsch says that the best way to guarantee that your new offerings succeed is to develop them with your customers instead of for your customers. Here are three ways that technology can improve customer service, and here are five marketing mistakes that 95 percent of entrepreneurs make.

Health Insurance: Three Years of A.C.A.

The Affordable Care Act has its third anniversary, and all eyes are on Arkansas. Some small businesses have figured out a loophole in the health law. CVS tells employees to reveal personal health information or pay up. A small-business owner wonders if her bakery should offer health insurance. This insanely complicated chart will help you determine if you can get health care. A study finds that the A.C.A. is not causing a big shift to part-time workers.

Taxes: Get Help

Brian Sutter shares five tax-season tips for small-business owners. Deborah Sweeney says that new tax credits and deductions could help small businesses expand this year. A new Internal Revenue Service tax tip explains the home-office deduction.

Around the Country: Flies, Maggots, Rats

A New Jersey poll finds small-business owners oppose a minimum-wage increase. A news anchor reads her own marriage proposal from a teleprompter. A huge oil deposit is found in the Gulf of Mexico. What “Big Ag” does not want you to see: flies, maggots, rats and waste. Stephen Colbert’s sister wins a Congressional primary. Manufacturing improves in the Philadelphia region, and the Philadelphia City Council passes a sick leave bill. A guy who won’t share his ice cream with his girlfriend is analyzed mercilessly.

Around the World: Panic in Cyprus

Cyprus creates a financial panic, but Mike Shedlock believes there is good news for some. Inflation hits a nine-month high in Britain and the government chooses more austerity. The World Start-Up Report provides a 15-minute guide to India’s start-up scene and culture. Jeremy Glass offers a D.I.Y. guide to being a hipster. German investor confidence unexpectedly rose to a three-year high but global steel output fell in February. McDonald’s gives away five million McMuffins in Asia. This kid has a point about tests.

Mobile: Should You Bother With Apps?

The C.E.O. of GetApp.com says that understanding the pricing model is just one thing you need to consider when trying to find the best apps for your small business. But Mariana Simoes believes that most small businesses shouldn’t bother with apps. In a new survey, 63 percent of consumers say they may buy from an e-mail read on a mobile device, while the number who may unsubscribe because of poor mobile display exceeds 30 percent. Fast Company finds the experience of using Square Wallet at Starbucks is “anything but polished.”

Technology: Amazon and the C.I.A.

Anne Czernek sums up the big trends from this year’s SXSW, and here’s how a few smart companies managed to set themselves apart from the crowd. Google introduces a competitor to Evernote, but will it just end up in the company’s graveyard? Microsoft Office “Luddites” explain why they will never give up their DVDs. Amazon may be entering into a deal with the C.I.A. Gerald Dicen has some advice about cyberinsurance for small-business owners. Staples releases an app for small-business owners. Sage sells off its ACT! and SalesLogix businesses. Here are five steps to create a cool, safe place for your data.

Tweet of the Week

@MaxGoldberg – I honestly think my favorite part of owning my own business today is having a landline.

The Week’s Best

Ross Kimbarovsky wonders if you know how to market and sell to squirrels: “The attention span of a human adult, according to BBC News, is nine seconds (The Associated Press reports that in 2012, the average attention span for a human was eight seconds). Nearly one-fifth of all page views in 2012 lasted fewer than four seconds. And to add fuel to the fire, people read only approximately half of the words on a Web page that has fewer than 111 words (and only 28 percent of the words on a Web page that has more than 593 words). If you’re still reading, then you’ve obviously decided that this content had some value and was worth your time.”

This Week’s Question: Do you think Yelp helps?

Gene Marks owns the Marks Group, a Bala Cynwyd, Pa., consulting firm that helps clients with customer relationship management. You can follow him on Twitter.

Article source: http://boss.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/03/25/this-week-in-small-business-does-yelp-help/?partner=rss&emc=rss

Pakistan Arrests Militant Suspected in Daniel Pearl Killing

The militant, Qari Abdul Hayee, a leader of the Islamist militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, was arrested by the paramilitary Rangers force on Sunday in Karachi, the city where Mr. Pearl was held hostage and killed.

“We were after him for the past three weeks,” a senior Rangers official said on the condition of anonymity. “We had information he was in Karachi.”

Mr. Hayee appears to have been arrested as part of a crackdown by the security forces amid widespread criticism after two bombings in Quetta and a third attack in Karachi this month, all of which targeted Shiites and are thought to be the work of Lashkar militants.

The Rangers official said Mr. Hayee had been handed over to the city police’s Crime Investigation Department on Sunday evening. But police sources in Karachi, also speaking on the condition of anonymity, denied that he was in their custody.

Mr. Hayee has been arrested before. In 2003 in Multan, a city in the southern part of Punjab Province, he was held in connection with the death of six Shiites. He was later acquitted and continued to live freely in Punjab Province, where Lashkar-e-Jhangvi has its strongest roots.

Pakistani officials have said Mr. Hayee and other figures in Lashkar-e-Jhangvi are also suspected of being at least partly involved in the abduction of Mr. Pearl, a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, though not in his killing. Mr. Hayee has been described as a “facilitator” who had close ties with other men involved in the kidnapping. When he was arrested in the Shiite killings, which dated to the 1990s, Mr. Hayee was also investigated for his role in the Pearl case, though he has not been charged.

Mr. Hayee, who also goes by the name of Asadullah, was identified as a weapons and explosives expert for Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Pakistan’s most notorious sectarian militant outfit. The group has returned to prominence this year after claiming responsibility for the two bombings in Quetta, which killed about 200 Shiites, mostly from the ethnic Hazara minority.

Pakistani officials declined to share the details of Mr. Hayee’s arrest. He was reported to have been arrested on University Road, which runs through several residential neighborhoods and educational campuses, but it was not clear where he was being held or what charges were being considered. A private security consultant in Karachi speculated that Mr. Hayee might have been visiting madrasas in the Safari Park neighborhood, near University Road.

Mr. Pearl was abducted in January 2002 in Karachi and was beheaded the next month. His killing sent shock waves throughout the world and was one of the first known instances of major collaboration between Al Qaeda and established militant groups in Pakistan. The increasing melding and cooperation among such groups in Pakistan’s tribal belt has helped define the struggle against militants within Pakistan, the war next door in Afghanistan and the global effort against terrorism. Mr. Hayee is one of several militant figures still being sought in Mr. Pearl’s death. The two central figures in that crime are in prison: Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the Qaeda operational mastermind behind the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the one who wielded the knife against Mr. Pearl; and Ahmed Omar Sheikh, a British-born Islamic militant who lured Mr. Pearl to an interview and then kidnapped him.

Mr. Sheikh was convicted and sentenced to death in the Pearl case in July 2002. Seven others were sentenced in absentia, and two were later killed in shootouts with the police. Mr. Sheikh has appealed his sentence.

Although still in prison, Mr. Sheikh continues to make headlines.

In 2008, as tensions mounted between Pakistan and India over an attack on the Indian city of Mumbai by another militant group, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Mr. Sheikh managed to make a hoax call to President Asif Ali Zardari and the army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, in which he pretended to be the Indian foreign minister and threatened Pakistan with an Indian attack.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/20/world/asia/suspect-in-daniel-pearl-killing-is-arrested-in-pakistan.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

The Media Equation: The Inconvenient but Vital Drone Debate

Some think not. In a report released last week by the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy, Tara McKelvey, who has done her share of significant reporting on the issue, suggested that during Mr. Obama’s first term, “the media fell short in its coverage” of the drone program.

She applauded the increased attention to the issue, saying in a survey that coverage in five major media outlets had almost doubled since the start of that term, rising to 625 stories in 2012 from 326 in 2009.

Maybe we are asking the wrong question. Journalists at The Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, Reuters, The New York Times and The New Yorker have done a remarkable job on pulling back the blankets on a covert program overseen by an administration that is very aggressive in protecting secrets.

If the Congress — and perhaps the public — doesn’t know about the drone program, it isn’t for lack of coverage. Perhaps the reason so many people are in the dark is because they want it that way. After all, if the bad guys are on the run without risking legions of boots on the ground, what’s not to like?

For many people, of course, there is plenty not to like. Michael Isikoff of NBC News obtained a 16-page white paper outlining when the government contends that it is legal to kill Americans who join Al Qaeda. His reporting helped make the drone issue part of the confirmation hearings, leading to this statement on Thursday to the Senate Intelligence Committee from Mr. Brennan, which sounded like a parody of Washington doublespeak: “What we need to do is optimize transparency on these issues, but at the same time, optimize secrecy and the protection of our national security.”

Congress, in spite of the pointed questions aimed at Mr. Brennan last week, has been remarkably incurious since the program began.

“Some 3,500 people have died in 420 strikes, and Congress has yet to hold a single public hearing on this issue,” said Micah Zenko, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. “It has happened in the dark because we have allowed it to, and the press has far and away been the lead actor in surfacing this issue.”

Back in 2009, Jane Mayer did a deep dive into the issue. “It’s important,” Ms. Mayer said in a telephone interview. “After scientists working for America split the atom, there was an awesome new technology, and they had to come up with a legal framework to contain it. Drones represent a very big change as well, and there should be a lot of open discussion about defining the rules of its use.”

Most of that discussion has occurred in the press, not in the halls of government. An article by Jo Becker and Scott Shane in The New York Times last May revealed that the administration had a “kill list” of people who were targeted for elimination, often by drones.

Last week, an article in The Times by Robert F. Worth, Mark Mazzetti and Scott Shane pointed out that drones, which are held by the government to be instruments of precision, are often a blunt technology that sometimes takes out the very people the United States needs in places like Yemen.

If some of the news coming out of the hearings last week was a big surprise, it might be because people chose not to pay close attention.

“I think what you saw on Thursday,” Mr. Shane, referring to the Brennan hearings, said in a telephone interview, “is that people are beginning to realize that they have introduced this whole new way of killing people without public debate or pushback and the disaffection with the lack of oversight boiled over.”

The specifics of the drone program have been carefully shielded at every turn. In January a federal judge ruled against The New York Times in its effort to compel the Justice Department to disclose the memo that provided the legal justification for the targeted killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, a United States citizen who died in a drone strike in Yemen in 2011, without any due process of law. (The death of an American at the other end of a drone seemed to prompt a new level of interest and scrutiny by the news media.)

Even though the judge, Colleen McMahon, ruled in the government’s favor, she did not sound very happy about it.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/11/business/media/the-inconvenient-but-vital-drone-debate.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Economix Blog: Simon Johnson: The Legacy of Timothy Geithner

Timothy F. Geithner, who is stepping down as Treasury secretary, with President Obama at the White House last week.Larry Downing/Reuters Timothy F. Geithner, who is stepping down as Treasury secretary, with President Obama at the White House last week.

Simon Johnson, former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, is the Ronald A. Kurtz Professor of Entrepreneurship at the M.I.T. Sloan School of Management and co-author of “White House Burning: The Founding Fathers, Our National Debt, and Why It Matters to You.”

“Too big to fail is too big to continue. The megabanks have too much power in Washington and too much weight within the financial system.” Who said this and when?

Today’s Economist

Perspectives from expert contributors.

The answer is Peggy Noonan, the prominent conservative commentator, writing recently in The Wall Street Journal.

As Timothy F. Geithner prepares to leave the Treasury Department, most assessments focus on how his policies affected the economy. But his lasting legacy may be more political, contributing to the creation of an issue that can now be seized either by the right or the left. What should be done about the too-big-to-fail category of financial institutions?

Mr. Geithner came to Treasury in the middle of a severe financial crisis, a set of problems that he helped to create and then worked hard to prevent from worsening. As president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, starting in 2003, he watched over – and failed to defuse – the buildup of systemic risk. In fact, the New York Fed was relatively on the side of allowing large, seemingly sophisticated financial institutions to fund themselves with more debt relative to their thin levels of equity.

This was a major conceptual mistake for which there still has not been a full accounting. In fact, blank denial continues to be the reaction from the relevant officials.

Mr. Geithner was also in the hot seat as more explicit government support for large financial institutions began in earnest in early 2008. The New York Fed brokered the sale of failing Bear Stearns to relatively healthy JPMorgan Chase, with the Fed providing substantial downside insurance to JPMorgan, against potential losses from assets they were acquiring.

Mr. Geithner also acquiesced to Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, allowing him to remain on the board of the New York Fed even as his bank was suddenly the recipient of very large additional subsidies (the insurance for his acquisition of Bear Stearns). This was the beginning of a deeper public realization that there had come to be too little distance between some parts of the Federal Reserve and the big banks.

For some senior officials within the Federal Reserve System, the appearance of this potential conflict of interest was a cause for grave concern. Unfortunately, their concerns were ignored by the New York Fed and by leadership at the Board of Governors in Washington. The result has been damage to the Fed’s reputation and an unnecessary slip toward undermining its political independence.

From March 2008, when Bear Stearns almost failed, through September 2008, very little was done to reduce the level of risk in the financial system. Again, Mr. Geithner must bear some responsibility.

In fall 2008, Mr. Geithner worked closely with Henry Paulson – Treasury secretary at the time – in an attempt to prevent the problems at Lehman Brothers from spreading. They were unsuccessful, in fairly spectacular fashion. The failure to anticipate the difficulties at American International Group must stand out as one of the biggest lapses ever of financial intelligence – again, a responsibility in part of the New York Fed (although surely other government officials share some blame).

As the problems escalated, Mr. Geithner came to stand for providing large amounts of unconditional support for very big banks – including Citigroup, where Robert Rubin, his mentor, had overseen the dubious hiring of a chief executive and more general mismanagement of risk. (While a director of Citigroup, Mr. Rubin denied responsibility for what went wrong.)

Rather than moving to change management, directors or anything about the big banks’ practices, Mr. Geithner favored more financial assistance – both from the budget (through various versions of the Troubled Asset Relief Program), from the Federal Reserve (through various kinds of cheap loans) and from all other available means, including insurance for private debt issues provided by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

In official discussions, Mr. Geithner consistently stood for more support with weaker (or no) conditions. (See “Bull by the Horns,” by Sheila Bair, former chairwoman of the F.D.I.C., for the most credible account of what happened.)

Mr. Geithner’s appointment as Treasury secretary in January 2009 allowed him to continue to scale up these efforts.

In retrospect, what helped stem the panic was the joint statement of Feb. 23, 2009, issued by the Treasury, the F.D.I.C., the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Office of Thrift Supervision and the Federal Reserve, that included this statement of principle:

The U.S. government stands firmly behind the banking system during this period of financial strain to ensure it will be able to perform its key function of providing credit to households and businesses. The government will ensure that banks have the capital and liquidity they need to provide the credit necessary to restore economic growth. Moreover, we reiterate our determination to preserve the viability of systemically important financial institutions so that they are able to meet their commitments.

Mr. Geithner is often given credit for pushing bank stress tests in spring 2009 as a way to back up this statement, so officials could assess the extent to which particular financial institutions needed more loss-absorbing equity. But such stress tests are standard practice in any financial crisis.

Much less standard is unconditional government support for troubled banks. Usually such banks are “cleaned up” as a condition of official assistance, either by being forced to make management changes or being forced to deal with their bad assets. (This was the approach favored by Ms. Bair when she was at the F.D.I.C.; her book lays out realistic alternatives that were on the table at critical moments. The idea that there was no alternative to Mr. Geithner’s approach simply does not hold water.)

Any fiscally solvent government can stand behind its banks, but providing such guarantees is a recipe for repeated trouble. When Mr. Geithner was at Treasury in the 1990s and Mr. Rubin was Treasury secretary, the advice conveyed to troubled Asian countries – both directly and through American influence at the International Monetary Fund – was quite different: clean up the banks and rein in the powerful people who overborrowed and brought the corporate sector to the brink of financial meltdown.

In Mr. Geithner’s view of the world, the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation fixed the problem of too-big-to-fail banks. Outside of Treasury, it’s hard to find informed observers who share this position. Both Daniel Tarullo (the lead Fed governor for financial regulation) and William Dudley (the current president of the New York Fed) said in recent speeches that the problems of distorted incentives associated with too big to fail were unfortunately alive and well.

Ironically, despite the fact that the Obama administration failed to rein in the megabanks and allowed them to become larger and arguably more powerful, this has not helped the Republicans in electoral terms.

As Ms. Noonan puts it bluntly: “People think the G.O.P. is for the bankers. The G.O.P. should upend this assumption.”

This is a significant opportunity for anyone with clear thinking on the right – someone looking for a Teddy Roosevelt trustbusting or Nixon-goes-to-China moment. Again, Ms. Noonan gets it right: “In this case good policy is good politics. If you are a conservative you’re supposed to be for just treatment of the individual over the demands of concentrated elites.”

Recall that some grass roots conservatives are already there: House Republicans initially voted down TARP, the former presidential candidate Jon Huntsman’s plan to end too big to fail received widespread applause from many Republicans and a number of influential commentators, including George Will and Ms. Noonan, have advocated ending too big to fail.

This would play well in the Republican presidential primaries – and even better in the general election. Watch PBS “Frontline” on Jan. 22 for an articulate presentation of why serious potential financial crimes were not prosecuted during the first Obama administration, and think about how to turn these facts into political messages.

A smart candidate could even mobilize plenty of financial-sector support in favor of breaking up or otherwise restricting the too-big-to-fail financial entities. The megabanks have very few genuine friends.

The lasting legacy of Timothy Geithner is to create the perfect electoral issue for Republicans. Will they seize it?

Article source: http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/17/the-legacy-of-timothy-geithner/?partner=rss&emc=rss