Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Behind the Budget: Dr. Julian Harris, OMB Associate Director for Health

In Uncategorized on January 30, 2015 at 7:50 am

“Behind the Budget” is a series of posts featuring audio stories from staffers from across the Office of Management and Budget, discussing aspects of the budget process that most Americans don’t get to see.

In some ways, it’s always budget season for the OMB health policy team: At any point in the year, they’re likely to be either developing, negotiating, or implementing two or three fiscal year budgets at a time. This year’s budget in particular includes a range of proposals, from those that make efficient improvements to health care acess and quality, to those with broader public health implications. That means, for instance, programs that invest in preparedness and disease prevention, efforts to combat antimicrobial resistance, and the NIH-lead effort to accelerate advances in the field of precision medicine.

Meet Dr. Julian Harris, OMB Associate Director for Health.

“Even though OMB is a part of the Executive Office of the President, the majority of the staff at the agency are career civil servants who have worked tirelessly and skillfully to help presidents of both parties deliver on their commitments to the American people.”

The President’s Fiscal Year 2016 Budget will be released on Monday, February 2. You should also check out:

Article source:

"A True American Patriot" — President Obama Pays Tribute to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel

In Uncategorized on January 30, 2015 at 7:49 am

President Obama, Vice President Biden and Gen. Martin Dempsey participate in an Armed Forces farewell in honor of Secretary Hagel

President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff participate in an Armed Forces farewell in honor of Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, left, at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall in Fort Myer, Va., Jan. 28, 2015.

(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

The President traveled to Fort Myer, Virginia yesterday for the Armed Forces farewell ceremony in honor of our 24th Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel.

In his remarks, the President acknowledged Secretary Hagel’s courageous work during his lifelong service as a decorated veteran and Secretary:

[T]oday is a celebration of a quintessentially American life — a man from the heartland who devoted his life to America. Just imagine, in your mind’s eye, the defining moments of his life. The kid from Nebraska who, as Marty said, volunteered to go to Vietnam. The soldier outside Saigon, rushing to pull his own brother from a burning APC. The deputy at the VA who stood up for his fellow Vietnam vets who were exposed to Agent Orange. The senator who helped lead the fight for the Post 9/11 GI Bill, to give this generation of heroes the same opportunities that he had.

I asked Chuck to lead this department at a moment of profound transition. And today we express our gratitude for the progress under his watch.

Under Secretary Hagel’s direction, our combat mission in Afghanistan has come to an end after more than 13 years. American troops are supporting Afghan forces, leading the coalition to degrade and destroy ISIL, and leading the global fight against Ebola.

And as the President noted, Secretary Hagel has also helped prepare our nation for the future:

In Europe, a stronger NATO is reassuring our allies.  In the Asia Pacific — one of my foreign policy priorities — Chuck helped modernize our alliances, strengthen partnerships, bolster defense posture, improve communication between the United States and Chinese militaries — all of which helps to ensure that the United States remains a strong Pacific power. 

Because Chuck helped build new trust, we’ll expand our defense cooperation with India.  I just demonstrated during my visit there the degree to which that partnership is moving in a new direction.  That’s partly attributable to work that Chuck did.

And the reforms he launched will help make this department more efficient and innovative for years to come.

“Thanks to Secretary Hagel’s guiding hand, this institution is better positioned for the future.”

President Obama delivers remarks during an Armed Forces farewell in honor of Secretary Hagel

President Barack Obama delivers remarks during an Armed Forces farewell in honor of Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall in Fort Myer, Va., Jan. 28, 2015.

(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Before he closed, President Obama expressed his personal admiration for Secretary Hagel’s character, explaining how his personal experiences have helped him connect with the troops like no other Secretary:

Chuck, I want to suggest today that perhaps your greatest impact — a legacy that will be felt for decades to come — has been your own example. It’s not simply that you’ve been the first enlisted combat veteran and the first Vietnam veteran to serve as Secretary of Defense. It’s how your life experience — being down in the mud, feeling the bullets fly overhead — has allowed you to connect with our troops like no other Secretary before you.

You’ve welcomed our junior enlisted personnel to lunch in your office and made them feel at home, and they told you what was really on their minds. When you spoke to our newest sergeant majors about the true meaning of leadership and responsibility, they knew they were learning from one of their own. And in those quiet moments, when you’ve pinned a Purple Heart on a wounded warrior, you were there not just as a Secretary of Defense, but as an old Army sergeant who knows the wages of war and still carries the shrapnel in your chest.

“From sergeant to Secretary, you’ve always been guided by one interest: what you believe is best for America.”

President Obama hugs Secretary Hagel following remarks during an Armed Forces farewell

President Barack Obama hugs Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel following remarks during an Armed Forces farewell in honor of Secretary Hagel at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall in Fort Myer, Va., Jan. 28, 2015.

(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Read the President’s full remarks here, or watch below:

Watch on YouTube

Article source:

Only 5 black CEOs at 500 biggest companies

In Uncategorized on January 30, 2015 at 7:49 am

McDonald's CEO retires as sales dip 

The highest echelon of Corporate America just became even more white.

The Wednesday announcement that Don Thompson will retire as CEO of McDonald’s leaves just two CEOs who are African-American in the elite Dow 30.

don thompson Don Thompson, McDonald’s outgoing CEO.

A broader sample shows an even more dismal diversity picture. A mere five CEOs are black at the nation’s 500 largest companies, according to a pro-diversity advocacy group.

“Our numbers are going south on us,” said Ronald Parker, CEO of The Executive Leadership Council, an organization that works to boost diversity in corporate America.

That’s no better than two years ago when Thompson took the helm at McDonald’s (MCD). He became the sixth African-American CEO in the Fortune 500. That number peaked in 2007 at seven, according to Richard Zweigenhaft, a Guilford College professor who wrote a book on the subject.

The numbers are especially startling, given that 13.2% of the U.S. population is African American, according to the Census Bureau.

black ceos
Thompson’s retirement leaves just five CEOs who are African-American in the Fortune 500. From left to right, Kenneth Chenault of American Express, Delphi’s Rodney O’Neal, Merck’s Kenneth Frazier, Carnival’s Arnold W. Donald and Ursula Burns of Xerox.

Corporate America’s diversity problems are well-documented. Silicon Valley has been roundly criticized for being mainly white and male, and data show Wall Street hires mostly white and male bankers.

Corporate boards, too, lack racial diversity and are overwhelmingly white. That needs to change, too, Parker said, and boards need to be “very, very intentional and methodical in succession planning.”

“They need to make sure that there are individuals (in the pipeline) who are getting the proper career experiences that will allow them to have the global perspective” to lead multinational companies, he said.

Intel made a splash this month when it unveiled a five-year, $300 million diversity program to build a workforce that mirrors the level of diversity among tech graduates. CEO Brian Krzanich said the company is “missing opportunities” because its workforce doesn’t represent the population.

That’s what Thompson has said. Shortly after his promotion, he said diversity not only boosts the company’s bottom line, but “helps with the menu, too” by bringing new ideas to the table.

Related: How to break into the white male private equity club

Related: Wall Street hires mostly white and male

Related: Apple: mostly men, mostly white

Related: McDead? More lousy results from McDonald’s

Article source:

Feds take down revenge porn king

In Uncategorized on January 30, 2015 at 7:49 am
revenge porn

He made money by posting naked pictures of women online. And then he took money from those women to take them down.

The scheme netted Craig Brittain $12,000, but now the federal government has banned him from posting any more nude videos or photographs of people without their consent.

Brittain’s now defunct website,, was up and running from 2011 until 2013. During that time he posted 1,000 intimate photos of women, and often included their personal information.

“This behavior is not only illegal but reprehensible,” said Jessica Rich, director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection.

Brittain allegedly used a number of sleazy methods to get the naked photos he posted.

Related: Sex, drugs and Silicon Valley

He solicited pictures from men who hoped to get revenge on an ex. Men could submit the images anonymously, but Brittain required that they include personal information about the subject, including names, ages, locations, phone numbers and links to Facebook profiles.

He also solicited nude photos from women on Craigslist under false pretenses.

He then allegedly victimized some of the women a second time, by pretending to be run different companies called “Takedown Hammer” and “Takedown Lawyer.” He allegedly charged women $200 to $500 to remove the pictures from his own site.

Brittain settled with the FTC, so he hasn’t admit to or denied the allegations. He is required to destroy all the images and contact information he collected while operating the site, according to the agreement.

Related: Feds fine dating site for making fake profiles

Article source:

‘Shark Week’ becomes ‘Summer of the Shark’

In Uncategorized on January 30, 2015 at 7:49 am
shark week
“Shark Week” is one of Discovery’s most reliable ratings events.

Just when you thought it was safe to watch the Discovery channel in the summer…

In a clever promotional gambit, the channel announced on Thursday that “Shark Week,” one of its biggest yearly events, will be getting a bit of an expansion in 2015.

This year’s “Shark Week” will kick off earlier than ever before — on July 5.

“This event is so synonymous with summer, I thought why not kick off true summer, which is July 4th, with this blockbuster,” Rich Ross, the newly-installed president of Discovery, said in a statement.

Most of the programming will be shown July 5 through 12. But the channel will also premiere all-new shark-oriented programming during a special weekend in August.

Discovery says this will add up to be the highest number of hours of programming in “Shark Week” history, thus earning the “Summer of the Shark” title.

'Shark Week' isn't what's driving Discovery 

This year’s telecast will also include the event’s first expedition to Cuba, various sequels to some of the event’s most popular specials, and programming featuring 10-year-old shark conservation activist Sean Lesniak.

(The young Lesniak actually helped to get a law passed last year that banned the possession and sale of shark fins in Massachusetts.)

The expansion of “Shark Week” makes sense, considering that the event is one of the channel’s most reliable rating attractions.

Last year’s 27th annual week pulled in the highest ratings in “Shark Week” history.

Here’s hoping that all this extra shark coverage this year won’t cause the event to, well, jump the shark.

Article source:

Google’s ad revenue continues to struggle

In Uncategorized on January 30, 2015 at 7:49 am

5 stunning stats about Google 

Google remains obsessed with doing everything — from developing phones to making self-driving cars to building high-speed Internet cables — but it’s still struggling with one of the most basic ways it makes money: online advertising.

The company’s earnings on Thursday revealed Google’s ongoing ad revenue conundrum.

While more people are clicking on ads, advertisers are less willing to pay much for each of those clicks, afraid to spend a lot of money in unfamiliar territory. Clicks on Google ads rose 14% in the last quarter, but the amount advertisers paid for each click fell 3%, the company reported.

That’s been a trend for the past couple years for Google.

The problem: It’s competitive out there. Google (GOOG), Facebook (FB, Tech30), Twitter (TWTR, Tech30) and others are fighting for your eyeballs on laptops, tablets, phones… and now watches too.

Despite the tough business landscape, Google is making the bulk of its money from its traditional websites, like and The company’s traditional websites, and are bringing in 69% of its revenue.

Google said its sales jumped 15% to $18.1 billion. Its quarterly profit rose 41% over last year to $4.76 billion. That amounts to $6.91 per share.

Both figures fell short of Wall Street’s expectations (analysts polled by Thomson Reuters predicted $7.11 per share) and the stock briefly dipped after the bell. But it later rose nearly 2%.

On the company’s earnings call, executives didn’t just blame ad clicks. Google CFO Patrick Pichette said the strong U.S. dollar really hurt the company. He said comparatively weaker currencies in Europe, Japan and elsewhere affected how much people could buy from Google Play, which streams movies in 102 countries and offers other services, like music.

Overall, the strong U.S. dollar cost Google $616 million dollars, he said. Luckily, the company’s smart accounting had hedged heavily against that and reversed most of the damage, he said.

Going forward, Google plans to continue its adventures investing in robots, home automation devices and artificial intelligence. The company is confident its results are “a license to continue investing smartly,” Pichette said.

Related: Google Fiber expands to four more cities

Related: NFL officially comes to YouTube

Article source:

Amazon stock soars after earnings beat

In Uncategorized on January 30, 2015 at 7:49 am

5 stunning stats on Amazon 

The holidays were kind to Amazon.

The online retail giant reported earnings Thursday that beat Wall Street’s expectations, sending its stock jumping 8% after the closing bell.

Amazon (AMZN, Tech30) earned $214 million, or 45 cents per share, in the fourth quarter. While that’s a decline from the previous year, it was a lot more than the 18 cents that Wall Street analysts were expecting.

A strong online holiday shopping season helped Amazon report positive earnings, breaking a streak of losses that it reported in the previous two quarters.

Sales increased 15% to $29.3 billion, a hair below expectations.

Related: Woody Allen to create his first television series for Amazon

CEO Jeff Bezos said membership in Amazon Prime, which gives customers free shipping and other perks, increased 53% last year even though the price was hiked to $99 a year.

Amazon ran special promotions for Prime members during the fourth-quarter holiday shopping spree, including free last-minute shipping.

For the full year, Amazon brought in a whopping $89 billion in revenue, but reported a loss of $241 million in 2014.

Amazon is no stranger to red ink. It routinely posts quarterly losses or declining profits despite generating billions of dollars in sales.

The company’s strategy is to make long-term investments at the expense of short-term profits. But investors seem to be losing patience. The stock fell more than 20% last year, but it bounced back a bit in January.

In general, Amazon’s losses stem from its various new ventures, some of which have been more successful than others.

Related: Amazon wins Golden Globes for ‘Transparent’

Just this month, Amazon signed a deal with Woody Allen to produce the director’s first television series. That came after Amazon won two Golden Globes for its online streaming TV show “Transparent.”

Amazon is also investing in new technology, including a drone delivery system and a 3-D printed products store. It introduced updates to its tablets Kindle e-reader tablets and launched an expanded grocery delivery service this year as well.

Not all of Amazon’s bets have paid off. The Fire Phone, which Amazon unveiled with great fanfare last year, has been a flop.

Article source:

Visa is making a killing on fees

In Uncategorized on January 30, 2015 at 7:49 am
visa credit card swipe

Visa is surging, and that’s likely a good sign for the economy.

The credit card company reported an 11% jump in payment volume. Over $1 trillion worth of transactions were made on Visa (V) cards from October 1 to December 31. That’s not too far off from the size of the total Australian economy, and that was only one quarter for the company.

Visa also announced a stock split. On March 19, investors who hold one share in the company will receive four shares. It’s a common move by companies when their stock price gets too high. Visa currently trades for about $250 a share, which will make shares about $63 apiece after the split.

Fees continue to juice Visa’s bottom line. Visa charges a fee on all international transactions, regardless of whether there is a currency conversion involved. Those international fees grew 9% over the prior year to $970 million. Visa also continues to expand its data processing revenue at a nearly double-digit rate.

Related: Jobless claims lowest since 2000, but…

On the flip side, there’s evidence that credit card users are milking the reward points that many cards now offer. Visa has similar arrangements with a variety of banks to get them to use Visa products. The company reported $713 million of “client incentives,” and said it expects that to grow slightly in 2015.

Investors gave a thumbs up to the news by sending the stock over 4% higher in after-hours trading.

Overall, the company solidly beat Wall Street expectations for revenues and earnings per share.

Experts often use Visa, MasterCard (MA) and American Express (AXP) financial reports as a rough gauge of how much people are spending. Investors are likely to view the transaction growth as another good “gut check” on America’s improving economy.

“Want the holy grail of indicators for trading? You can find it here: $BA $V $AAPL,” wrote ClayTrader25 on Stocktwits, referring to the excellent earnings from Apple, Boeing and Visa.

The stock split means that Visa will have less of an influence on the Dow, the index that tracks 30 major U.S. companies, since the Dow is weighted by the price of the stocks.

While Visa still predicts growth for the year, it did echo other companies in warning that the strong U.S. dollar will likely be a drag on revenues.

Related: Middle class families are on financial thin ice

Article source:

The Bible proves to be a big seller for Newsweek

In Uncategorized on January 30, 2015 at 7:49 am
newsweek christian themed
Newsweek’s much-discussed Bible issue was its best seller of 2014.

Controversy sells and Newsweek seems to be really good at it.

The magazine’s provocative cover story this week — “What Silicon Valley Thinks of Women” — has prompted an avalanche of online criticism.

Sound familiar?

Flash back to just one month ago, when the publication sparked an uproar with a critical cover story on the Christian holy text.

“The Bible,” reads the cover headline. “So misunderstood it’s a sin.” The story, written by the journalist Kurt Eichenwald, inspired a series of rebuttals from Biblical scholars and devout Christians alike.

It turns out the bestselling book of all-time also helped the magazine sell a lot of issues.

Newsweek’s editor-in-chief Jim Impoco confirmed to CNNMoney that “early” and “conservative” estimates show that the Bible issue will end up as the magazine’s bestselling cover of 2014.

He said the number of copies sold compared with the number of copies distributed on the news stand has been an “astounding” 40% thus far.

That’s “more than double the average,” according to Impoco. For good measure, he said the story also racked up 500,000 hits online.

Striking covers like that are nothing new for Newsweek (neither are Christianity-focused covers, for that matter). They were a hallmark of Tina Brown’s reign as editor, such as its 2012 cover titled “Muslim Rage.”

This week’s controversial cover story examines sexism in America’s tech hub. The cover shows a faceless woman holding a laptop while her red skirt is lifted up by a mouse cursor.

The cover image and accompanying story has been met with considerable derision in many corners of the Internet, but the issue itself hasn’t even hit newsstands. The criticism began rolling in almost immediately after the cover surfaced on Twitter this week.

Impoco said that Newsweek aims to get people talking by employing a “one-two punch with social [media] leading the way.”

“There is nothing we want more than to start a national conversation about important topics,” Impoco said. “The Silicon Valley and Bible covers are good examples. In the old days, Newsweek would often ‘validate’ the news, but that role is gone. Today, we have to create our own weather but also remain topical.”

“We don’t do controversy just for the sake of controversy,” he added.

Article source:

Shake Shack set to shake up Wall Street

In Uncategorized on January 30, 2015 at 7:49 am
Shake Shack burger

Shake Shack is already immensely popular with foodies in Manhattan and Brooklyn. And now it’s about to take another part of New York by storm: Wall Street.

The upscale burger joint priced its initial public offering at $21 a share Thursday evening. That’s above the price range Shake Shack set earlier this week, which it had already raised due to strong demand.

At $21 a share, Shake Shack is raising $105 million, making the company worth $745.5 million.

Shake Shack (SHAK) is set to debut on the New York Stock Exchange Friday morning.

To celebrate its first day as a public company, Shake Shack said it will turn the New York Stock Exchange into the New York SHACK Exchange. In other words, it plans to park a Shake Shack food truck in front of the exchange and dish up free food.

Restaurateur Danny Meyer, who is chairman of Shake Shack and founder of the Union Square Hospitality Group that started Shake Shack, owns a 21% stake in the company. His share is now worth $156.2 million.

Shake Shack, which started in 2001 as a hot dog cart in New York’s Madison Square Park, has quickly become a Big Apple icon.

Expanding … but not too quickly. The company currently operates just 63 restaurants worldwide — but 16 of them are in the metropolitan New York City area.

And Shake Shack has already planted outposts in several global markets, such as London, Moscow, Kuwait, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.

Shake Shack has said that it wants to expand relatively slowly. It is targeting 10 new locations in the U.S. a year as well as more international locations.

Related: 8 of the world’s craziest fast foods

The strategy has been extremely successful so far. Shake Shack reported revenue of $83.8 million in the first three quarters of last year, an increase of more than 40% from the same period in 2013.

Shake Shack is also profitable. But net income fell in the first nine months of 2014, primarily due to higher costs for paper, food and labor as the company opened more locations.

Profiting from the problems at Mickey D’s? So will the stock be a big hit? Aren’t consumers backing away from unhealthy burgers and fries? McDonald’s (MCD) just announced its CEO is retiring after a period of weak sales.

That’s true. But Shake Shack and other gourmet burger companies appear to be doing well at the expense of McDonald’s.

Related: McDead? More lousy results from McDonald’s

Shake Shack bills itself as a “fine casual” dining chain, a play on the fast casual term popularized by Chipotle (CMG) and Panera (PNRA).

In addition to having the backing of star chef Meyer, Shake Shack says in its IPO filing that it prides itself on using “sustainable ingredients, such as all-natural, hormone and antibiotic-free beef.”

The proof is in the prices. A typical burger at Shake Shack can cost twice as much as a Big Mac.

Related: $7.54 for a Big Mac? Only in Switzerland

Shake Shack also differentiates itself from other burger restaurants by selling hot dogs, beer, wine and — of course — frozen custard shakes.

And investors are clearly hungry for restaurant IPOs.

El Pollo Loco (LOCO), Potbelly (PBPB), Noodles (NDLS) and Zoe’s Kitchen (ZOES) are just a few chains that have gone public in the past two years that have soared on their first day of trading.

There is a lot of competition in the burger wars. But those four stocks are now well off their highs.

So is Habit (HABT), a popular California burger chain that went public last November and more than doubled in its debut.

Habit may not be as well-known to New Yorkers as Shake Shack. But its burgers were voted best in America by readers of Consumer Reports last year.

To that end, competition could prove to be the biggest risk for Shake Shack.

Related: White Castle now serving veggie burgers

Even though its burgers are delicious, so are ones made by privately held Five Guys, Smashburger, Bareburger, In-N-Out and many other regional and national upstarts.

Heck, Sonic (SONC)is doing really well lately thanks to strong demand for its burgers.

So Shake Shack may soar on Friday like other restaurant IPOs have done lately.

But the challenge is going to be staying at those lofty levels. The company now has to satisfy the fickle tastes of Wall Street as well as the palates of hipster burger gourmands.

CNNMoney’s Ben Rooney contributed to this report.

Article source: