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Friday, September 23, 2016

MICHIGAN AMONG 21 STATES THAT SUE TO BLOCK EXPANSION OF OVERTIME PAY LAW

Original Story: crainsdetroit.com

LAS VEGAS — Officials from 21 states, including Michigan, sued the U.S. Department of Labor Tuesday over a new rule that would make about 4 million higher-earning workers eligible for overtime pay, slamming the measure as inappropriate federal overreach by the Obama administration.

Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt, a Republican, filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Eastern Texas, urging it to block implementation before the regulation takes effect on Dec. 1. Laxalt, a frequent critic of President Barack Obama's policies, said the rule would burden private and public sectors by straining budgets and forcing layoffs or cuts in working hours. A Little Rock overtime lawyer is reviewing the details of this case.

"This rule, pushed by distant bureaucrats in D.C., tramples on state and local government budgets, forcing states to shift money from other important programs to balance their budgets, including programs intended to protect the very families that purportedly benefit from such federal overreach," he said in a statement.

The lawsuit came the same day that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and more than 50 other business groups filed a legal challenge against the regulation.

U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez said he was confident in the legality of the rule, describing the lawsuits as partisan, obstructionist tactics. He noted that overtime protections have receded over the years: they applied to 62 percent of full-time salaried workers in 1975 and just 7 percent today. An overtime lawyer has experience representing clients in wage dispute claims.

"The overtime rule is designed to restore the intent of the Fair Labor Standards Act, the crown jewel of worker protections in the United States," Perez said in a statement. "I look forward to vigorously defending our efforts to give more hardworking people a meaningful chance to get by."

The measure would shrink the so-called "white collar exemption" that exempts workers who perform "executive, administrative or professional" duties from overtime and minimum wage requirements.

It would more than double the salary threshold under which employers must pay overtime to their white collar workers. Overtime protections would apply to workers who make up to $913 a week, or $47,476 a year, and the threshold would readjust every three years to reflect changes in average wages.

"This long-awaited update will result in a meaningful boost to many workers' wallets, and will go a long way toward realizing President Obama's commitment to ensuring every worker is compensated fairly for their hard work," the Labor Department said in May when it announced the new rule.

Business groups say the changes are too much and too fast, especially as states continue to recover from the recession. A Maine employment lawyer is following this story closely.

“This lawsuit is a slap in the face to working people in Michigan,” said Ron Bieber, president of the Michigan AFL-CIO.

“This new rule is long overdue. Overtime protections have been gutted over the past four decades without a significant adjustment for inflation. The new rule will help protect wages from being eroded by rising costs, and ensure that working people get paid for the work they do.

Other plaintiffs include Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin, and the governors of Iowa, Maine and New Mexico.

The Eastern Texas district where the lawsuit was filed is known as a "rocket docket" court where cases move along quickly.

LIFE AFTER SCIENTOLOGY IS CONTENTIOUS FOR CHURCH LEADER'S FATHER

Original Story: latimes.com

After leaving the Church of Scientology and its secretive international base in the desert, Ronald Miscavige Sr. settled into small-town life in Wisconsin, his 40-year ties to the religion cut once and for all.

Or so he thought, as he spent his time hawking exercise equipment online and playing trumpet with Dixieland bands in the Milwaukee area. His suburban tranquility was shattered in July 2013, when police told him that two private eyes had been watching his every move for months — and that the church, led by his son David Miscavige, was behind it.

“I don’t know if you’ve ever hit your thumb with a hammer, but when it happens you go numb: It takes a little while for the pain to set in,” the elder Miscavige said in an interview. “I thought, ‘You have got to be kidding.’ ”

Miscavige, 80, has chronicled his life before, during and after Scientology in a book, “Ruthless: Scientology, My Son David Miscavige and Me.” It paints an unflattering portrait of his son and the church, and it echoes the views of other disaffected ex-members.

“David runs Scientology with an iron fist and, to my mind, it has become a cult, pure and simple,” he writes.

Miscavige’s book includes no blockbuster revelations, but it has evoked an unusually vehement response from the church, which has mounted an aggressively negative publicity campaign, including a website dedicated to discrediting him.

Dozens of testimonials and blog posts by Scientologists praise David Miscavige and lambaste his father for everything from his musicianship to his morals. He is cast as a liar and an opportunist, on the website and in a church lawyer’s letter to The Times.

“That is a father who is a despicable human being, simply trying to make a buck off of the good name, fame and kindness of his son,” attorney Monique Yingling wrote.

Peter Schless, a longtime Scientologist and composer who worked with Ron Miscavige, used some of the same language in a 12-minute video that castigated him as “vile and disgusting.”

“I know him inside out and that’s all he’s doing is he’s figured out a way to make a buck off of selling out his own family,” Schless said in the video.

Miscavige said he expected the intensely personal criticism posted on the website.

“Clearly, all it is is a character assassination of me,” he said.

Other ex-members say the website is yet another example of the church’s longstanding efforts to dissuade current and former Scientologists from publicly discussing their experiences.

Ron Miscavige has been singled out for particularly harsh treatment because of his relationship to David, said Mike Rinder, once a top church official and now one of its staunchest critics. He said the elder Miscavige also has been targeted by an email campaign and negative online ads.

“This is stuff that is even beyond the normal smear tactics,” Rinder said.

Even if I can’t help myself, maybe I can help hundreds of others forced to disconnect.
— Ronald Miscavige Sr.

Founded in 1954 by science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, Scientology has its own “study technology,” vocabulary and long-held secret story of Xenu, a soul-stealing galactic overlord. The church teaches that spiritual freedom — the state of “clear” — can be reached through one-on-one auditing, a form of counseling aided by a polygraph-like device called an e-meter and expensive training courses.

David Miscavige, 56, became the head of Scientology after Hubbard’s death in 1986. As chairman of the board of the Religious Technology Center, he is the church’s ultimate authority and its ecclesiastical leader. He also is its most controversial living figure.

Ex-members, including Rinder and other top officials who told their stories to the St. Petersburg Times in 2009, have accused him of physical assaults and bizarre behavior — all of which he and the church deny.

His father’s book details the family’s history, some of it fondly remembered, some of it anything but heartwarming. Among other things, he writes about his sometimes abusive relationship with his late first wife, Loretta, the mother of his children.

“It pains me to admit it now, and I regret ever doing it, but there were times when I punched Loretta,” he writes. “I never slapped or hit her in the face but, still, sometimes I did strike her. ... She threw things at me — pots, pans, a pot of boiling water once.”

Miscavige said he regrets that his children witnessed the domestic violence and thinks it might have affected David’s personality.

“When I compare the happy, fun-loving boy I raised to the man he has become, the images of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde spring immediately to mind,” he writes.

David and his three siblings were introduced to Scientology by their father, a musician and cookware salesman. At age 16 he left their home near Philadelphia to join the Sea Organization, Hubbard’s religious order.

Years later, in 1985, Ron Miscavige was accused of an attempted rape. He denied the allegation and, after his son sent lawyers to defend him, the charges eventually were dismissed, according to the memoir and the church website.

Soon after, the elder Miscavige also joined the Sea Organization and he and his wife divorced. He spent 27 years at the sprawling “Gold Base” near Hemet, where Golden Era Productions makes videos, audio recordings and e-meters. Miscavige played trumpet in the Golden Era band.

He and other ex-Scientologists describe long hours and low pay for “Sea Org” members there and demeaning punishments, including stints in “the Hole,” for those who upset David.

“It’s a dark world,” Miscavige said. “It’s a grim existence, buddy.”

In March 2012, Miscavige and his second wife, Becky, drove off the base while pretending to run errands, and eventually wound up in Wisconsin.

Life there was unremarkable until July 2013, when West Allis police arrested private investigator Dwayne Powell on obstruction and prowling charges and found firearms and a homemade silencer in his rented SUV.

For more than a year, Powell told detectives, he and his son had followed Miscavige, eavesdropped on him and spied on his emails. They were paid $10,000 a week through an intermediary, he told police, explaining that David Miscavige was the “main client.”

On one outing, Powell told police, he saw Ron Miscavige clutch his chest while loading his car and thought he was having a heart attack. He called his go-between for instructions, and minutes later a man who identified himself as David Miscavige called back and told him that “if it was Ron’s time to die, to let him die and not intervene in any way,” a police report states.

Scientology attorneys dispute that account and last year said that David Miscavige had never spoken with Powell and had no connection to the surveillance of his father. They noted that they sometimes retained private investigators in “matters related to litigation” and have since acknowledged hiring Powell.

Church attorney Yingling said in her letter to The Times that he was hired to follow the elder Miscavige but that it was for his own well-being and “out of concern that people with hostile intentions toward Scientology” would harass him.

“It would be naive to think that the father of the leader of a worldwide religion would not be at risk of harm from people inimical to Scientology,” she wrote.

Yingling also forwarded a signed declaration from Powell, recanting his statements to police about the phone call from David Miscavige.

“Certain statements I allegedly made to the West Allis Police Department have been misinterpreted,” it read in part.

Police in that Milwaukee suburb stand by their account: “There is no confusion in the statements that were made by Dwayne and Daniel Powell,” Chief Patrick Mitchell said in an email.

Now, in the latest twist in the saga of church-sanctioned surveillance, Powell says he was paid thousands of dollars to sign the declaration after church attorneys summoned him to a meeting last year in Atlanta.

“The whole meeting took less than 10 minutes,” he said. “They said, ‘This is what this is, and this is what it’s for. Goodbye and good luck.’ ”

He furnished no documentation, and Scientology attorneys deny that any such payment was made.

But other records obtained by The Times show that Scientology lawyers, who had publicly sought to distance the church from Powell, kept him on the payroll two years after his arrest — and long after he stopped conducting investigations.

In the spring of 2015, just weeks before Powell signed the declaration, a Scientology attorney paid him at least $16,000 for “security” services in five payments, according to check stubs obtained by The Times. The checks were written on the trust account of Kendrick Moxon, a prominent Scientology attorney in Los Angeles, the records show.

Reached by phone, Powell confirmed the payments but would not comment on them.

But he did say that he had not worked for the church after giving up his Florida private investigator’s license in 2014, when he was indicted on a federal charge of possessing an illegal silencer. It was dismissed when he entered a pretrial diversion program.

Moxon told The Times in a written response that Powell performed “security and research services” for his firm last year.

“The relationship between this firm and any investigators I retain is privileged and confidential,” he wrote. “However, I can categorically state for the record that no payments were made to Mr. Powell for the testimony in his truthful declaration.”

Ron Miscavige spent much of his summer promoting his book. He said he wrote it because his son and the church,  through a form of shunning called “disconnection,” had turned his family against him.

“Someone has to stand their ground and take a position,” he said. “Even if I can’t help myself, maybe I can help hundreds of others forced to disconnect.”

In response, the church has posted a joint statement by his two adult daughters accusing him of “a pattern of physical and emotional abuse” against them and their late mother.

“We know what is right and moral, and what is evil,” they wrote. “Evil is Ronald T. Miscavige. We reject him.”

Miscavige said he was surprised and hurt by their statement. On his 70th birthday, he said, they and David bought him a car; on his 75th they showered him with 75 gifts. Everything was fine, he said, until he spoke out against the church.

“Now all of a sudden I’ve changed into this beast?” he said.

Miscavige said he hopes his story will help “reform” Scientology. He also hopes to someday reconcile with his son.

“I will always hold that hope in my heart,” he said. “Would I put much money on it? No.”

Thursday, September 15, 2016

MICH.’S FARM LABOR SHORTAGE HITS IMMIGRATION POLITICS

Original Story: detroitnews.com

Sodus— Immigration politics are colliding with a growing shortage of farm workers in west Michigan, where farmers have turned to a federal visa program to bring workers from Mexico to harvest the state’s fruit and vegetable crops.

Michigan’s participation in the federal government’s farm labor visa program has grown nearly 14-fold in the past five years. Farmers say they desperately need the foreign workers to get their crops picked on time after years when vegetables were left to rot in fields.

“There’s a real shortage of agriculture harvesting labor in west Michigan,” said Fred Leitz, a fourth-generation tomato, cucumber and apple grower from Sodus in Berrien County. “You can’t go anywhere without farmers talking about how bad the situation is to get crops harvested.”

Farmers in west Michigan say the shortage of labor has resulted from fewer migrant workers coming north, a more secure southern border that has slowed the flow of Mexican immigrants and a Congress at odds over immigration reform. An immigration attorney at Hubbell Law is following this story closely.

“If the border’s tightened, we’ve got a lot less of the undocumented (workers) coming up here to work on the farms,” said Leitz, who has about 150 foreign workers with visas on his farm this year.

Both presidential candidates, Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton, have signaled their willingness to expand the foreign worker visa program to help the agricultural industry. This comes even as Trump has promised to deport an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants if he is elected.

“We’re going to have a very strong border, but our businesses will not suffer,” Trump told The Detroit News during his Sept. 3 visit to Detroit. “We need workers, and we will have all of the workers we need.”

Lorella Praeli, national Latino vote director for the Clinton campaign, said in a statement: “Guest worker and farm labor policies will be addressed as a part of comprehensive immigration reform.”

But some Michigan farmers who depend on workers from Mexico and other countries say neither Clinton nor Trump has laid out a detailed plan for overhauling a visa program that they consider an expensive bureaucratic maze involving at least four government agencies. For information regarding H2A Visas in Traverse City or Leelanau, contact attorney Dan Hubbell.

“We need a workable guest worker program,” said Mike DeGrandchamp, co-owner of a family blueberry and cranberry farm near South Haven. “The H-2A program is cumbersome, expensive, unreliable.

The Michigan Farm Bureau’s political action committee has supported every Republican presidential candidate going back to at least George H.W. Bush in 1988, but hasn’t yet endorsed this year.

Byron Center farmer Dave Miedema, whose family grows sweet corn, cabbage and squash on 1,500 acres in Kent County, said he supports Trump. But the third-generation vegetable farmer said the GOP nominee is trying to balance the needs of the agricultural industry with the conservative wing of his party that is clamoring for a crackdown on illegal immigration.

“I really feel that Trump does understand the problem, but he has to tread softly now because he doesn’t want to be thrown into the amnesty camp,” Miedema said.

Visa program grows

A generation of migrant workers who traveled from Southern and Western states from the 1970s through the early 2000s have become too old to do manual farm work, and their American-born children have pursued careers outside agriculture, farmers said.

“We’re proud to say over the years we’ve had kids who worked here who are now doctors, lawyers, teachers and all kinds of things,” said Leitz, president of the National Council of Agricultural Employers.

The number of foreign workers cleared to travel to Michigan this year to work in fields, orchards and packing houses topped 3,800 — according to the Michigan Farm Bureau. In 2011, 276 workers entered the country legally to work on Michigan farms, according to a U.S. Department of Labor report.

“We’ve got jobs for workers that not a lot of people want to do and who’s doing it is mainly the Hispanic work force,” DeGrandchamp said.

Farmers also are seeing record harvests for certain crops this summer, adding pressures to pick, sort, pack and ship their products quickly.

“With a big crop like this, you need double the workers you’re going to have,” DeGrandchamp said. “There just isn’t that pool of workers willing to do this job.”

Trump and Clinton have vaguely similar policy stands on the foreign worker visa program, but otherwise have starkly different approaches to immigration.

The New York businessman has made sweeping promises to deport immigrants who entered the country illegally and committed crimes. He has said he would deport all 11 million illegal immigrants, but vowed any mass removal would be done “in a very humane fashion.” A Traverse City business lawyer is reviewing the details of this story.

Some of the 11 million illegal immigrants could get work visas if they returned to their home country and then re-entered the U.S. through legal channels, Trump told The Detroit News.

“Businesses will be helped by this, not hurt,” said Trump, whose Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida has reportedly hired foreign workers for years.

By contrast, Clinton supports providing a legal pathway to citizenship for individuals who entered the country illegally and now may have homes, children and established lives.

“Hillary will introduce comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to full and equal citizenship within her first 100 days in office that treats every person with dignity, fixes the family visa backlog, upholds the rule of law, protects our borders and national security and brings millions of hardworking people into the formal economy,” Praeli said in a statement.

Consistent policy sought

Michigan’s labor shortage was most noticeable in 2013 when some migrant workers didn’t return to Michigan after an unusual 2012 early spring warming was followed by frosts that wiped out the tree fruit industry.

Recognizing the growing problem, the Michigan Farm Bureau started a company in 2014 to serve as the recruiting agent for foreign workers called Great Lakes Agricultural Labor Services LLC.

“We were seeing crops rotting in the field,” said Bob Boehm, a manager for Great Lakes Agricultural Labor Services. “They’d have to mow down a crop of asparagus because it was growing too fast.”

The program brought 407 workers to 10 farms last summer and 730 workers to 22 farms this year, Boehm said. Farmers pay their foreign workers a $12.02 minimum hourly wage, though some make more money if they’re more productive, he said.

On northern Kent County’s “fruit ridge,” where the moisture-holding soil and climate are ideal for growing tree fruit, fifth-generation farmer Mark Youngquist bulldozed rows of apples in 2013 “to get it down to what we could manage with less quality help and less quantity of help.”

In 2014, Youngquist Orchards near Kent City became one of the first farms in the state to get foreign workers through Great Lakes Agricultural Labor Services. Youngquist’s farm has 28 workers this fall from Mexico helping pick its apples through the visa program, which requires American farmers to pay the workers’ bus fare, food and lodging expenses.

“It’s a definite skill to pick an apple,” he said. “It’s not just grabbing an apple and throwing it in a bag.”

Youngquist said the next president needs to tread carefully with immigration policy so it doesn’t disrupt the farm workforce.

“Whatever the policy, if it could just be consistent every time the White House changes hands, we’ll work with whatever — just tell us the rules and we’ll follow them,” he said.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

VERIZON ANNOUNCES $4.8 BILLION DEAL FOR YAHOO’S INTERNET BUSINESS

Original Story: nytimes.com

SAN FRANCISCO — Verizon, seeking to build an array of digital businesses that can compete for users and advertising with Google and Facebook, announced on Monday that it was buying Yahoo’s core internet business for $4.83 billion in cash.

The deal, which was reached over the weekend, unites two titans of the early internet, AOL and Yahoo, under the umbrella of one of the nation’s largest telecommunications companies. Verizon bought AOL for $4.4 billion last year. Now it will add Yahoo’s consumer services — search, news, finance, sports, video, email and the Tumblr social network — to a portfolio that includes AOL as well as popular sites like The Huffington Post.

The fate of Yahoo’s chief executive, Marissa Mayer, who came under sharp shareholder criticism for failing to arrest the company’s long downward spiral during her four-year tenure, is unclear.

In an interview, Ms. Mayer said, “I plan to stay. I love Yahoo and I want to see it into its next chapter.” But she and Tim Armstrong, the chief executive of AOL, said it had not yet been decided if she would have a role at the company after the deal closed in early 2017.

If she is terminated, she will be due severance of about $57 million. If she received that payout, her total compensation from Yahoo for her service so far would be about $218 million, according to the compensation research firm Equilar.

Verizon, which has a vast amount of information about its customers’ internet use, hopes the combination will help it create a strong No. 3 challenger to Google and Facebook for digital advertising revenue.

Mr. Armstrong said the acquisition strengthens Verizon’s offerings to advertisers and consumers and gives it much more scale, since Yahoo claims one billion users who visit at least once a month.

“This deal is a leap forward from serving millions of customers to billions,” Mr. Armstrong said in an interview. “Yahoo is one of the most powerful brands on the planet.”

Verizon plans to keep most of Yahoo’s current products, including its still popular email service, and invest in them to make them stronger. “Our strategy is to structure ourselves as a house of brands,” Mr. Armstrong said. However, he said that Verizon has not yet decided what it wants to do in search, an area where Yahoo has waged a losing fight against Google for a decade.

The Yahoo purchase carries risks for Verizon, which is well known for its wireless phone and internet services but has little experience in the cutthroat business of digital content. Analysts say that its purchase of AOL has yet to prove its value, although Mr. Armstrong is a well regarded operator.

Yahoo’s leadership team, led by Ms. Mayer, spent the last four years trying to create a viable stand-alone strategy for the company without much success. Its market share among web users and advertisers had fallen, and Yahoo recently acknowledged that its $1.1 billion acquisition of Tumblr, a blogging network that was supposed to help Yahoo attract younger users, was worth about one-third what it paid.

Ms. Mayer said Verizon would help Yahoo get better distribution for its mobile apps in areas like search, mail, news, weather and sports. Verizon, she said, could promote Yahoo services on its smartphones and in its retail stores. A Los Angeles truck accident lawyer is following this story closely.

Although many on Wall Street have strongly criticized her, Ms. Mayer defended her tenure in an email to employees.

“We set out to transform this company — and we’ve made incredible progress. We counteracted many of the tectonic shifts of declining legacy businesses, and built a Yahoo that is unequivocally stronger, nimbler and more modern,” she wrote.

Verizon agreed to pay an extra $1.1 billion on top of the purchase price to cash out Yahoo employees’ restricted stock upon the close of the deal, Yahoo said. Many employees, particularly the senior executives, are also entitled to large severance packages if they are fired by Verizon.

The sale of Yahoo’s business ends the company’s 22-year run as an independent entity. Founded in a trailer in 1994 by two Stanford graduate students, it was the front door to the web for a generation of internet users but failed to keep up with Google in search technology and then missed the social media and mobile revolutions.

“It does mark the end of a particular time period for the company,” Ms. Mayer said. “That said, there are great opportunities for Yahoo, for the brand, for the services, with Verizon.”

After the close of the deal, Yahoo shareholders will still own shares in what is left of the company, essentially an investment fund with two holdings: a 15 percent stake, worth about $32 billion based on its recent share price, in the Chinese internet company Alibaba; and a 35.5 percent stake, worth about $8.7 billion, in Yahoo Japan.

The sale, which still must be approved by Yahoo shareholders and regulators, also does not include Yahoo’s cash and its noncore patents, which it is trying to sell separately. Augusta Fiberglass Coatings, Inc. designs, engineers, and manufactures custom fiberglass chemical storage tanks.

Yahoo was under pressure from shareholders to find a way to unlock the value of its Asian investments, and the sale of its core operations to Verizon was the first step.

“For investors, this came to the expected conclusion: Verizon was the front-runner very early on,” said Robert Peck, an analyst with SunTrust Robinson Humphrey. “The real question for investors now is what’s next? Will Yahoo have an efficient liquidation of the Asian securities?”

Monday, July 18, 2016

Jury hits U. of C. hospital with $53 million malpractice verdict

Original Story: chicagotribune.com

A Cook County jury has awarded $53 million to a 12-year-old Hickory Hills boy and his mother in a 2013 lawsuit filed against the University of Chicago Medical Center, where he was born with a serious brain injury. A Chicago medical malpractice lawyer said this will help to pay for the boy's future healthcare.

The jury's award to Lisa and Isaiah Ewing includes $28.8 million for future caretaking expenses, according to a copy of the jury verdict form provided by their lawyers, Geoffrey Fieger of suburban Detroit and Jack Beam of Chicago. Isaiah has severe cerebral palsy, is in a wheelchair, and needs his mother to feed and clothe him.

It was the biggest birth injury verdict ever in Cook County, said John Kirkton, editor of Jury Verdict Reporter in Chicago.

Their lawsuit outlined about 20 alleged missteps by doctors and nurses after Ewing arrived about 40 weeks pregnant at the hospital and was experiencing less movement by her baby. The mistakes, the lawsuit alleged, included the failures to carefully monitor mother and baby, perform a timely cesarean section, follow a chain of command, obtain accurate cord blood gases, and be aware of abnormal fetal heart rate patterns that indicated distress to the baby, including hypoxia, or a drop in the supply of oxygen.  "The University of Chicago has been, for the last 12 years, completely unapologetic, and even though the evidence was overwhelming that they caused Isaiah's brain damage, they refused to accept responsibility," Fieger said at the news conference Thursday. Ewing hadn't had any problems during her pregnancy, he added.

Before the case went to the jury, the hospital filed for a mistrial.

Fieger's "closing argument shattered the line between zealous advocacy and improper prejudicial comments, rendering it impossible for defendant to receive a fair trial," the hospital's lawyer said in a court filing. "He also prejudicially argued that the defendant's case was built on a falsehood and proceeded to equate defendant's conduct and testimony of its witnesses with the propaganda techniques notoriously and unmistakably associated with Nazi Germany."

Hospital spokeswoman Lorna Wong said the hospital had "great sympathy" for the family but "strongly" disagrees with the jury's verdict.

"Judge Kirby declined to enter judgment on the verdict, as there are pending motions for mistrial based on assertions of Mr. Fieger's improper conduct," she said, noting that it wouldn't be the first overturned verdict involving Fieger.

She said Isaiah and his mother were treated for infection, which can cause cerebral palsy. "Isaiah was born with normal oxygen blood levels," and the "injury occurred before the care Mr. Fieger criticized."

After the news conference, Fieger said he expected the judge to confirm the verdict. "The jury has spoken," he said. A Chicago Brain Injury Lawyer said this is usually how this procedure occurs.

The jury decided the case in four hours, Fieger said. A list of the damages also includes $7.2 million for future medical expenses. The document was signed by 12 jurors.

Fieger disputed that Isaiah had an infection.

"All of the medical records at the University of Chicago neonatal clinic showed that Isaiah had been suffocated at birth, that he had suffered hypoxia, lack of oxygen, yet the University of Chicago and its lawyers came to court and tried to tell the jury that their own records were false, that their own records were mistaken and that Isaiah really had a phantom infection that infected his brain that they could never have known about," Fieger said during the news conference.

Ewing said at the news conference that she has to bathe Isaiah and help him go to the bathroom. She lives in a two-story town home, so she must carry him up and down the stairs.

She said the verdict will help ensure that Isaiah is taken care of after she dies.


How Pokemon Go is changing the world

Original Story: edition.cnn.com

A woman walks down the street, pausing and backtracking erratically. She clutches her phone in front of her, furiously jabbing at the screen. Suddenly, to her right, another person appears, enacting the same strange dance of connection between his legs, his eyes and his phone.

Across the street, three individuals converge, each holding their phones in front of them. The woman overhears them say, "Charmander." She immediately stops and prepares her Poke Ball for attack. Such is the life of a Pokemon Go player, a new alternate reality experience from Niantic Inc. and the Pokemon Co., a division of Nintendo. The game allows players to hunt for strange hidden creatures, capture them and compete for territory in a digital version of the real world.
Alternate reality games augment and enhance the world around us, allowing players to leverage real world environments to interact with a digital experience. They have existed for years, in a variety of formats, often advertising large intellectual properties such as Halo. And more recently, an expansion in wearable devices, such as the Apple Watch, means we supplement our daily lives with computer-driven data and feedback around where we walk, whom we engage with and what we look at.

But this most recent alternate reality game has inspired a new wave of social commentary. One outlet claims that Pokemon Go is the future of social networking, a success that will revolutionize the world in a mere matter of time. Others decry it as crass commercialization, as a failure of the form to be anything more than a way to merchandise humanity's love of Pokemon.
However, Pokemon Go is neither the crystallized, final form of an alternate reality game, nor is it a harbinger of the apocalypse. Instead, it is a significant, be it flawed, step forward in an emerging medium that will eventually infiltrate the way we all engage with, discover and consume media.

Of course, the game isn't perfect. It has several show-stopping bugs, and its human interface is under-designed, making actual play difficult and frustrating for many potential users. It is not a repeatable design, as it leverages a vast amount of information gathered by Niantic with its first product. All of the physical locations the game uses existed in a database before they built the game. And despite that massive database, those real world locations are minimally employed. Most player time is spent in-app, not in a mixed reality provided by the app enhancing the world around them.
But it is also a glorious success -- proof that a large percentage of the smartphone-wielding audience is interested in an experience that lets them game in the world around them, that integrates with their daily lives and that drives social interactions with fellow travelers across cultural identifiers. It proves that these products can be self-sustaining, not purely marketing spends but actual cultural products that people will use and spend time and money with.
To maintain this audience, to grow it, to keep players returning to the game, Pokemon Go will need to create a method for different types of players to engage with the game. Currently it serves one type of player -- a player who can invest large amounts of time and attention to the game.

Players with more limited time and attention to invest do not have a way to engage lightly and generate in game value that drives them to socialize and engage with other players. Likewise, the hard-core gamer has no deep game to invest strategy, time and social organization. Serving these cultural groups and others will build an audience, keep players engaged and strengthen connections from one person to another.

This pyramid of players and networks between many different cultural groups are the future of alternate reality games and the future of digitized entertainment. In the emerging field of experience design education, we prepare students to tell stories in a world where technology and mediums are important tools, but are just that -- tools that provide a palette, a platform or a unique twist for crafting new experiences for new players
When Pokemon Go finishes maturing, when the creators learn how to serve not just an audience with an abundant amount of free time, but the parents of those players, a community in an old-age home and a group of commuters on a bus, then it will have revolutionized the way we consume media. When developers determine how to leverage properly our world, the digital world and different player motivations across societies, they will change the way we experience and tell stories.
Until then, though, catching Rattata on your walk to work is surprisingly and gratifyingly fun.


Thursday, June 30, 2016

Stopping tank corrosion in the transportation sector

Original Story: energyglobal.com

Thousands of chemicals, petroleum products, and corrosive elements like salt water brine are transported by tanker truck, railcar and distributors, as well as processed in chemical storage tanks at facilities and refineries, every day.
In these venues, carbon steel corrosion can require early tank replacement and maintenance, as well as pose a safety risk in terms of potential leaks, spills, and even fire and explosion, so effective corrosion protection is a must.

“We clean just about any tank hauling product or waste on the road or rail,” said Joe Svehlak, Facility Manager at DFW Tank Cleaning, a Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas-based full service tank cleaning facility that specialises in chemical cleaning. “Protecting against corrosion is vital in such tanks, as it is in our facility flush tanks.”
According to Svehlak, effective corrosion resistance is essential in the chemical holding tanks because they hold the wastewater from the first flushes of tanks that the company cleans, which can include residual chemicals, until it is treated. This amounts to thousands of different residual chemicals held in the flush tanks annually – from petroleum products and salt-water brine to fluoride, caustic soda, and a variety of acids.

Against such tank corrosion challenges, traditional polymer paints and rubber type coatings have long been used as physical barriers to keep corrosion promoters such as water and oxygen away from steel substrates. This works until the paint is scratched, chipped, or breached and corrosion promoters enter the gap between the substrate and coating.
However, truck or rail tankers hauling waste, including sand and sediment, can be particularly prone to scratches, chips, or breaches. Then the coating can act like a greenhouse – trapping water, oxygen and other corrosion promoters – which allows the corrosion to spread. While stainless steel can be used for tanks to resist corrosion, it can be up to six times more costly than carbon steel, as well as challenging to weld, fabricate, and maintain.

Now a new generation of anti-corrosion coating, called Chemically Bonded Phosphate Ceramics, is poised to stop such corrosion, improve safety, and extend tank life in the transportation industry and beyond while minimising maintenance and downtime.

Rugged anti-corrosion protection

“Our corrosion protection for our 10 000 gal. flush tanks has to be particularly rugged because we mix the wastewater so it does not stratify, and sand, rocks, and even metal shavings can be present from the waste trailers we service,” said Svehlak. “The corrosion protection also has to withstand the high-temperature, high pressure water we often work with.”

To control corrosion, the chemical storage tank cleaning facility chose to have Ennis, Texas-based DC Metal Construction, a privately owned company specialising in steel construction and industrial plant building projects, coat the inside of two flush tanks. The flush tanks were coated with a spray applied inorganic coating called EonCoat® from the Raleigh, NC-based company of the same name. EonCoat represents a new category of tough, Chemically Bonded Phosphate Ceramics (CBPCs) that can stop corrosion.

In contrast to traditional polymer coatings that sit on top of the substrate, the corrosion resistant coating bonds through a chemical reaction with the substrate, and slight surface oxidation actually improves the reaction. An alloy layer is formed. This makes it impossible for corrosion promoters like oxygen and humidity to get behind the coating the way they can with ordinary paints. The corrosion barrier is covered by a ceramic shell that resists corrosion, fire, water, abrasion, chemicals, and temperatures up to 400°F.

Although traditional polymer coatings mechanically bond to substrates that have been extensively prepared, if gouged, moisture and oxygen will migrate under the coating’s film from all sides of the gouge.

By contrast, the same damage to the ceramic-coated substrate will not spread corrosion because the carbon steel’s surface is turned into an alloy of stable oxides. Once the steel’s surface is stable (the way noble metals like gold and silver are stable) it will no longer react with the environment and corrode.

Visible in scanning electron microscope photography, EonCoat does not leave a gap between the steel and the coating because the bond is chemical rather than mechanical. Since there is no gap, even if moisture was to get through to the steel due to a gouge, there is nowhere for the moisture to travel. The only spot that can corrode is the scribe line itself, which eliminates the possibility of the corrosion migrating.

“Unlike traditional methods, the corrosion resistant coatings for mild steel have a double layer of protection,” said Bobby Hobbs, a DC Metal Construction job foreman. “The tough, outside ceramic coating will not chip like paint and takes sandblasting to remove. The chemically bonded layer stops corrosion and will not allow corrosion promoters to spread.”

“EonCoat has stood up really well to everything from chemicals and salty brine to abrasion, high-pressure water and heat,” added Svehlak. “I believe it will double the life of our tanks while significantly lowering maintenance costs and downtime.”

According to Svehlak, the coating’s rugged anti-corrosion properties could also benefit a wide range of transportation-related businesses.
“Tanker truck and rail operations can benefit from the anti-corrosion coating’s reliability,” said Svehlak. “Its abrasion resistance would be a big plus to wastewater haulers or super sucker truck operators with vacuum tanks that may encounter metal chips, glass shards, etc. when cleaning out sumps. It would also resist tank corrosion when transporting petroleum products or even used restaurant waste such as oil, fat, or grease.”

For transportation companies looking to reduce costs, there are additional advantages to CBPC coatings beyond corrosion resistance. This includes quick return to service that minimises equipment downtime, as well as no VOCs or HAPs, and a flame spread rating of zero which improves safety.

For corrosion protection projects using typical polymer paints such as polyurethanes or epoxies, the cure time may be days or weeks before the next coat of traditional ‘three part systems’ can be applied, depending on the product. The cure time is necessary to allow each coat to achieve its full properties, even though it may feel dry to the touch.

In contrast, a corrosion resistant coating for carbon steel utilising the ceramic coating in a single coat requires almost no curing time. Return to service can be achieved in as little as one hour. This kind of speed in getting a tank, tanker truck, or railcar operating again can save significantly in reduced downtime.

“After appropriate tank preparation, we found that if we spray EonCoat in the morning the tank can be returned to service the same day because it applies in one coat and dries quickly,” said Hobbs.

EonCoat consists of two, non-hazardous components that do not interact until applied by a plural spray system like those commonly used to apply polyurethane foam or polyurea coatings. Since the coating is inorganic, there are no VOCs, no HAPs and no odour. This means that the coating can be applied safely, even in confined spaces.

“Since the corrosion resistant coating has no VOCs, HAPs or odour we were able to spray during work hours, so work next to the tanks could continue while we coated them,” concludes Hobbs. “For any tank, facility, or transportation-related operation with corrosion issues, it is well worth considering.”

National list ranks Sarasota region’s top homebuilders

Original Story: businessobserverfl.com

SARASOTA — The top 10 home builders in the North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton region made up more than 93% of the area’s total market share in 2015, according to Builder Magazine. Find a custom home builder Tampa to build your dream home.

Builder Magazine released its list of the top 10 local home builders in Sarasota-Manatee. The 10 companies closed 3,570 homes in 2015, according to the list.

Lakewood Ranch-based Neal Communities of Southwest Florida topped the list with 747 closings. Here is the full top 10 list of companies and the number of homes they closed in 2015:

1.    Neal Communities of Southwest Florida: 747 closings
2.    Lennar Corp.: 606 closings
3.    D.R. Horton: 529 closings
4.    PulteGroup: 529 closings
5.    Taylor Morrison: 387 closings
6.    WCI Communities: 317 closings
7.    CalAtlantic Group: 183 closings
8.    Medallion Home: 126 closings
9.    Minto Builders: 74 closings
10.    Ashton Woods Homes: 72 closings

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Water Features Flow Through Sun West’s Macdonald Highlands Home

Original Story: ReviewJournal.com

Sun West Custom Homes’ new showcase sits atop a hillside at 647 Cityview Ridge Drive in MacDonald Highlands, a luxury community in Henderson. Owner Daniel Coletti has created a cool, soothing oasis amid the expansive beauty of the Mojave Desert.

The striking see-through pool that visitors see driving to the home is a big jaw-dropper and the star of the show. In fact, water runs throughout this living space that is a tribute to the elements and indoor-outdoor living. Visit Florida today to so Custom Homes in Tampa.

The 8,000-square-foot home updates and expands on an award-winning design concept Coletti built in The Ridges at Summerlin for the 2009 Parade of Homes. One common thread that runs through Sun West custom home designs is an intimate feeling of closeness to nature. His living spaces blend into the surrounding terrain and climate. Sun West architectural designs combine traditional elements of water, air, earth and fire to suggest deep feelings of hearth and home.

Two ponds of flowing water greet visitors at the front entrance. That’s just a hint of the water theme this home carries. After passing through a large glass door into the great room, another pond leads past the right wall, under a fireplace, to an array of glass pocket doors along the back wall of the room. When opened, the wall disappears and the living space seamlessly continues outward to a patio lounge area where the infinity-edge swimming pool and a panoramic view of the Las Vegas Valley are the main attraction.

The open doors also channel air flow to capture breezes coming off the hills of MacDonald Highlands and route the fresh air through the living spaces of the home on the top and bottom floors. When closed, the pocket doors provide a barrier to prevent harsh weather, heat and cold from entering the inner living spaces.

Evaporative cooling from the water features saves energy and adds moisture to the rooms during hot, dry summer days in Southern Nevada.

Wood, metal and stone are the earth elements in the home that also connect occupants to the landscape surrounding them. The choice of colors, textures, furniture, textiles and flooring all complement desert tones.  Tampa Custom Homes can have any feature that you can dream up.

Fireplaces are featured in the bedrooms, as well as in the great room, the downstairs guest lounge and outside patios near the infinity-edge swimming pool.

The master bedroom and bath are to the right of the great room entrance, overlooking the pool. Glass pocket doors disappear inside the walls of each room to connect the flowing water outside to the living space and occupants inside. A wooden deck extends through the center of the pool to allow residents to walk over the water to its edge and out toward the skyline.

The master bath tub is positioned directly behind motorized pocket doors that can open to connect the bath to the outside elements while the shower has a direct passageway to the swimming pool. A dressing room behind the shower and tub includes a cavernous closet that extends behind the master bedroom and bath.

On the other side of the closet space, a long hallway leads north past the master bedroom. A sailing mural decorates the wall on the left side while the right side of the hallway leads to an office space enclosed in glass.

At the northwest end of the hallway is a second bed, that includes a full bath and closet space. Two more outdoor patios and water features are nearby.

Return south down the long hallway, past the front door and great room, to the dining room and kitchen area.

Wolf cooking stoves, Sub-Zero refrigerators and Kohler water faucets all gleam with polished metal finishes. A warm air hand-dryer in the kitchen replaces the need for paper towels. The kitchen extends into the outdoor area when the pocket doors are open.

The indoor and outdoor kitchens are built with stone countertops, tiled floors and custom cabinetry. Island bars and strategic furniture serve as gathering places that invite guests to mingle and converse.

A stairway leads from the dining room down to the lower floor, past a wine rack made from hanging chains of cable that are suspended from the ceiling. Large metal rings within the parallel chains display an extensive collection of vintage wine bottles. The rack chains descend from the top floor ceiling to below the staircase where a cocktail serving bar sits.

Comfortable couches and chairs are positioned in front of a fireplace and video entertainment center to the right of the staircase, as well as in a submerged lounge, recessed 4 feet below the floor.

The west wall, beneath the infinity-edge swimming pool, supports a glass window that allows guests to interact with underwater swimmers. During the open house presentation, a live mermaid appeared at the window to showcase the water world inside the infinity-edge pool.

An outdoor pond and patio are just beyond another set of pocket glass doors toward the front of the home. The outer cement wall of the pond and patio space functions as a retaining structure that nestles against the hillside.

On the same level of the home are an extra half-bath behind the cocktail bar and lounge. Near the foot of the stairs are a bedroom and full bath, with its own set of pocket doors that lead outside to a golf-putting green. Beyond the bedroom, a four-car garage opens out to a second street below for easy parking and access to the rear of the home. A Tampa Custom Home Builder can make your dream a reality.

A storage closet near the back door of the garage houses rack-mounted computers and an array of signal-processing modules that enable a Crestron control system for this smart home. The electronic modules are always on and always connected to the Internet where a cloud of servers process the data streaming to and from the building. From the cloud, all this digital information is consolidated and sent to the homeowner’s smartphone. Most of the features in the home can be controlled through a single app. The Crestron system also uses touch screens and switch panels mounted on the walls of every room in the home to activate the same control systems. These include security cameras, electronic locks, motion sensors and proximity sensors for the doors and windows. Smoke and safety alarm sensors are also monitored 24/7.

Residents can select on-demand content via 4K ultra-high-definition video streamed from the Internet to multiple video monitors throughout the home. Extensive cabling for audio speakers and music systems has been routed to every room in the home and to the outdoor patios.

The same Crestron app also controls all the LED lighting throughout the home, as well as motorized glass pocket doors and motorized shades that automatically adjust throughout the day to the position of the sun.

Smart thermostats monitor temperature changes in different rooms and enable zoned climate control through the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems.

Miles of low-voltage cables are embedded in the walls of the showcase home alongside the high-voltage AC electric power wiring.

“More of the audio, video, data and control signals have now been combined over the Cat-6 Ethernet cables,” said Kevin Peltier, president of HP Media Group. “We included a second, backup Cat-6 cable in the home wiring bundle for redundancy and future expansion.”

The MacDonald Highlands showcase home highlights many of the design-build lessons learned by Sun West through 38 years of custom project development. It also serves as a laboratory to collect data, in order to evaluate the efficiency of photovoltaic solar panels, energy consumption of the HVAC system, the effectiveness of the sun-tracking shade system, convection air flow, and other new features that may someday be implemented on future design-build projects by the company.

Cynthia Coletti originally founded El Rancho West as a family business with her son, Daniel, in 1978. She passed the exam for a contractor’s license in Florida, then partnered with her son to build their first custom home on a 1-acre parcel of land that they purchased for $10,000. The team built 22 custom homes in Florida, then moved to Colorado, before setting up a business in the Las Vegas Valley as Sun West Custom Homes during 1989.

“God gives us all a little talent, but you don’t know it until you start building something and getting reactions from people,” Cynthia Coletti said. “If you are doing something right, keep doing it and stick with your feelings.”

“The prevailing style of architecture in Las Vegas at that time was Mediterranean, like the Ten Oaks development with its arches and clay-tiled rooftops.” Daniel Coletti said.

During 1998, he traveled to Hawaii and saw how the homes were constructed in the islands to be more open to the outside, as well as inside.

He designed and built the custom Tapestry home for the Seven Hills development in Henderson to include pocket doors that could be hidden in the walls of the building structure to extend the indoor living space. Other innovations in design followed as Coletti developed a desert contemporary style that can be found at The Ridges in Summerlin, MacDonald Highlands and Lake Las Vegas.

The company built six custom homes during 2015 and has two design-build projects ongoing this year.

The “build” part of a Sun West Custom Homes project is led by Carl Martinez, president of residential construction. Martinez and Coletti direct an experienced team that includes a project manager, interior designer, project coordinator and an onsite superintendent who execute the design plans with the help of licensed and insured sub-contractors, many who have worked with the company for more than a decade.

After years of real-world practice, the Sun West team has amassed a quality control checklist that monitors 87 different areas of home construction from “foundation to finish,” Coletti said.

The MacDonald Highlands project began construction in August 2015 and opened is available for public view from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. Just tell the guard you want to see the showcase home.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Lightning Likely Cause of Five North Texas Fires

Original Story: nbcdfw.com

Jacksboro

Firefighters said units responded to a call at a tan farm at Silver Creek Resources in the 1500 block of Farm-to-Market Road 1156 at 12:43 a.m.

Jack County and East Jack County firefighters had to wait until heavy lightning stopped before attacking the fire, according to authorities.

Firefighters said the fire damaged four 300-gallon fiberglass tanks, causing about $100,000 in damage.

No injuries were reported.

Healthcare Cloud Security Concerns Not Impediment to Usage

Original Story: healthitsecurity.com

A recent study found that 77 percent of healthcare organizations plan to increase the use of public cloud services despite significant healthcare cloud security concerns.
Public and private cloud solutions are gaining popularity in the healthcare industry, especially for data storage and network usage, despite issues surrounding healthcare cloud security and PHI data breaches. Secant Healthcare is looking into these options.

Researchers at HyTrust recently published a study that revealed 77 percent of healthcare organizations plan to move more workloads onto a public cloud service even though healthcare data security was a major concern with cloud usage.

“Without much fanfare, this critical technology advance has become woven into the basic fabric of businesses large and small,” said HyTrust President Eric Chiu. “The potential of virtualization and the cloud was always undeniable, but there was genuine concern over security and skepticism regarding the processes required.”

While organizations across all industries reported security challenges with cloud services, many companies are still migrating additional workloads to private and public clouds, added Chui.

The study found that the healthcare industry is no exception to increased cloud usage and virtualization. Approximately 55 percent of healthcare organizations stated that they have already moved mission critical workloads, such as sensitive patient information, to a cloud or software-defined data center.

Healthcare organizations are also virtualizing other aspects of their infrastructure, reported the study. Fifty-two percent of healthcare organizations have migrated test and development server workloads to a cloud service and 61 percent use a cloud product for storage.

Despite increased cloud usage, healthcare-related participants still said that their organization faced significant healthcare cloud security challenges. About 58 percent of respondents admitted that data security and breach concerns were the biggest worry once migration began.

In addition to data breach concerns, other security challenges across all industries included infrastructure-wide security and control as well as effective monitoring and visibility into cloud infrastructure. Secant Health is watching their IT closely for data breaches.

Additionally, previous healthcare data breaches have not discouraged organizations from implementing cloud services. An estimated 29 percent of respondents from healthcare organizations said that they have experienced a personal data breach.

“The large-scale migrations are particularly interesting in light of the many obstacles that have previously impeded planned moves to virtualized infrastructures,” explained the press release. “In fact, the survey reveals that not all concerns have been eliminated.”

To discover more about implementing healthcare cloud security, researchers asked participants in the industry what types of information needed to be secured in public and private clouds.

For public cloud security requirements, healthcare organizations said that all production data should be encrypted (32 percent), the entire workload should be encrypted (16 percent), and only personally identifiable information should be encrypted (13 percent).

In terms of private cloud services, about one-third of healthcare respondents favored encrypting all production data in a workload.

Software defined-data centers and cloud services are becoming staples in the healthcare industry as more providers transition to value-based care models. These models rely on large volumes of data and meaningful health IT use to increase quality of care and reduce healthcare costs.

While cloud products allow healthcare providers are useful to value-based care delivery, HIPAA rules still apply to data in the cloud.

“Cloud computing outsources technical infrastructure to another entity that essentially focuses all its time on maintaining software, platforms, or infrastructure,” The Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) stated in a paper. “But a covered entity… still remains responsible for protecting PHI in accordance with the HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules, even in circumstances where the entity has outsourced the performance of core PHI functions.”

However, healthcare organizations have struggled to maintain comprehensive healthcare cloud security. According to the Fall 2015 Netskope Cloud Report, healthcare cloud data loss prevention violations were the most common data loss prevention offenses across all industries studied, accounting for 76.2 percent of all cloud violations.

The report also discussed how healthcare and life sciences averaged 1,017 cloud applications per organization, which was the second highest number of apps behind the technology and IT sector. Yet, PHI was involved in 68.5 percent of violations in cloud applications.

Securing patient and production data can be more difficult when it is managed up in a cloud, but healthcare providers should be aware of several healthcare cloud security measures.

Healthcare organizations should partner with cloud vendors that design healthcare-specific products and can anticipate unique data security requirements, such as HIPAA and HITECH rules.

Regardless of vendor selection, providers should also develop contextual visibility and auditing capabilities. Healthcare cloud security policies should include monitoring alerts, lock-down capabilities, and geo-fencing of users. Intelligent security tools can be helpful for implementing these policies. Secant Healthcare plans on being careful of their vendor selection.

Technology and healthcare are both evolving quickly, but healthcare cloud security concerns could hold back providers from advancing care if they can’t also secure PHI and production data. While the HyTrust study showed healthcare organizations pushing ahead with cloud services despite security challenges, many of these providers may need to review healthcare cloud security measures.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Masonite Door Business Rides Housing Boom

Original Story: woodworkingnetwork.com

TAMPA, Fla. -  Masonite chose a great time to go public in 2013, as the housing market began heading straight up. The door manufacturer will likely find a warm reception next week when it presents at the Deutsche Bank Basic Materials Conference June 8, 2016 in Chicago. A Custom home builder in Tampa plans on attending the conference.

Frederick J. Lynch, CEO, and Russell T. Tiejema, CFO, will provide a status report and forecast, coming off a 13 percent rise in its latest quarterly results for the period ended April 3.

Net sales for that period increased $54.8 million, up 13 percent compared to the first quarter or 2015, reaching $489.3 million. Net sales would have increased 16 percent aside from exchange rates in Masonite's export markets.

Net income rose $48.9 million to $17.8 million - in other words, reversing a loss from the year ago period. Tampa custom homes are using these products.

Masonite operates 64 manufacturing and distribution facilities in 9 countries in North America, South America, Europe, Africa and Asia, with direct distribution to retail home center customers and direct sales to homebuilders and contractors; and two-step distribution through wholesale distributors. For retail home center customers, Mastonie's Dorfab facilities provide value-added fabrication and logistical services, including pre-finishing and store delivery of pre-hung interior and exterior doors.

North America net sales last year were $1.47 billion, 78.4 percent of the total. Europe, Asia and Latin America amounted to $356.2 million or 19 percent; and Africa 2.6 percent or $48.6 million.

“We were encouraged by the strong market conditions in the first quarter of 2016 during which demand increased across all reportable segments,” said Fred Lynch, President and CEO.  A Tampa custom home builder has My Lynch to thank for his masonite products.

North American residential net sales were $328.7 million, a 20 percent rise first quarter. Architectural net sales were $73.5 million, a 10 percent increase over the first quarter of 2015