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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Sales for Robot Auto-Mowers Surge

Europe’s backyards have become the latest front in the robot wars.

With a quarter of lawn owners saying they dislike mowing the grass, sales of machines that will do the job for them are taking off, especially in Europe where landscaping services are more expensive than in the U.S.

That has spurred a legion of manufacturers to challenge market leader Husqvarna AB. (HUSQB) Robert Bosch GmbH, Deere & Co. (DE) and Global Garden Products Italy SpA this year started offering robotic mowers, which Husqvarna sells for as much as 5,000 euros ($6,487). Honda Motor Co. (7267) plans to enter the fray in 2013.

 Thomas Olsson, head of Swedish operations at privately owned Global Garden Products said they had to get on board.

The market for hands-free mowers, which expanded by more than 30 percent last year, offers a rare bright spot in Europe’s consumer climate. The European market may grow as much as 20 percent annually over the next five years, Olsson said. Most of the customers are in Sweden, Germany, France and Switzerland -- countries that have so far proven resilient to the debt crisis.

Demand for the garden robots has exploded the last couple of years, said Mats Gustafsson, owner of Moheda Jarnhandels AB, a hardware store in the southern Swedish town of Moheda. Gustafsson said he’s sold almost 60 robomowers this year, compared with fewer than 10 five years ago.

European Boom

Henric Andersson, head of product management and development at Husqvarna said robotic auto-mowers are still a niche market in Europe but growing incredibly fast in other markets, and that with time may be as big or bigger than regular mowers in some countries.

Six percent of all mowers sold in Germany are now robotic, and the country’s automatic mower market is growing in “double digits,” according to research company GfK Retail and Technology GmbH.

Husqvarna, the former Electrolux AB unit that produced the first robotic mower in 1995, has six models that can care for lawns ranging from 400 square meters (4,306 square feet) to 6,000 square meters. Outside of Europe, it mainly sells the mowers in Australia and New Zealand.

New Entrants

The Swedish company brought the product to North America in 2001, only to retreat a year later after concluding the market wasn’t ready. In addition to the greater use of landscaping services by U.S. homeowners, North American grass, especially in the southern U.S., is generally tougher than European varieties, making it difficult for the machine’s fine blades to work effectively, according to Husqvarna.

Bosch, the world’s largest supplier of car parts, entered the robotic mower market last month when it started selling its Indego machine in Scandinavia. Deere, based in Moline, Illinois, joined the rivalry earlier in the year with the John Deere Tango E5, which it sells in Austria, Belgium, Luxembourg, Norway and Switzerland.

Global Garden Products, based in Castelfranco Veneto, Italy, bought its way into the $170 million market in January when it acquired LiCo srl’s Lizard mower marque, and rebranded those machines under its Stiga brand.

Andersson declined to discuss Husqvarna’s market share.

Sensor Technology

The mowers use sensor technology to stay within a defined area of the yard, and are typically able to avoid obstacles such as trees and lawn furniture. Some of the mowers, including those made by Husqvarna, move around in random patterns, while others such as Bosch machines follow distinct lines. Unlike traditional mowers, they don’t collect the cut grass, as the clippings are so small they break down fast and act as fertilizer; instead the rechargable mowers are used frequently, often daily.

The price of robotic mowers may be barrier to their success. Husqvarna’s models start at 1,700 euros. Most electric walk-behind mowers sell for 300 euros to 900 euros.

Prices will come down, and when they’re inexpensive enough the market will become mainstream, according to Husqvarna’s Andersson. About 1,000 euros may be “a magical line for the customer,” he said.

Robots aren’t only gardening, they’re also cleaning the house. Sensor-loaded machines have grabbed a 6.1 percent share of the European vacuum-cleaner market, according to GfK. The market has grown about seven times over the last three years and is now worth about 205 million euros in the region, the researcher reports.

Robotic Vacuums

Their success also offers a cautionary tale for pricing. Electrolux AB, (ELUXB) the world’s second-biggest appliance maker, was first to introduce the robot vacuum cleaner in 2001 and after reaping little success stopped making the product in 2009.

Electrolux spokesman Erik Zsiga said the development costs kept the retail prices too high.

Companies that still make robot vacuums include Siemens AG, (SIE) Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. and iRobot Corp., which raised its earnings forecast in July after sales beat estimates. An Electrolux Trilobite vacuum cleaner retailed for more than $1,500 before it got pulled from the market, while an iRobot Roomba can be bought on Amazon today for as little as $300.

Electrolux’s limited success with robotic appliances isn’t discouraging Honda from betting on auto mowers. The Tokyo-based company said in August it will start selling a machine called the Miimo in Europe next year.

Johan Dahl, an analyst at Erik Penser Bankaktiebolag in Stockholm, who has a hold recommendation on Husqvarna’s shares said even though the competition is getting stiff, there is room for more players to compete profitably.

Friday, October 19, 2012

New Business Startups Face Greater Challenges in Bay Area

story first appeared on mercurynews.com

Relatively expensive housing, coupled with the high cost of living and doing business in the Bay Area, has made the nine-county region less hospitable to new companies than other big urban centers in California, according to a study released Thursday that urges improvements in what it describes as this area's burdensome regulatory climate.

Some businesses, like convenience stores and party stores have fared relatively well. Many of these type of businesses have a beer cave display cooler that meets their customers' needs in a special way.

Jon Haveman, chief economist with the Bay Area Council's Economic Institute, which produced the report said regulations need to be eased when trying to start a new venture.

The Bay Area lags major rivals such as Los Angeles and San Diego in jobs created by startup companies, the study determined.

The strengths of the region are reflected in household income and other factors, the report stated. The region has increasingly specialized in high-value industries such as professional, scientific and technical services, along with information services and products.

The report also determined that the migration of businesses into -- or the defection from -- the Bay Area has relatively little impact on the region's job market.

On average, only 2.3 percent of new jobs created in the Bay Area in a given year is the result of companies that came from other parts of California, other states or other countries. Similarly, only 3.7 percent of the jobs that vanish in a year are the result of firms defecting from the Bay Area.

Instead, 55 percent of the new jobs created in the Bay Area every year result from companies that were already located in the Bay Area. And 66 percent of the job losses in a typical year come from companies that were already operating in the nine-county region.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Sugary Drinks Law Suit

Story first appeared on usatoday.com.

Soda makers, restaurateurs and other businesses sued Friday to try to block the city's unprecedented move to restrict sales of super-sized, sugary drinks, an effort the city called a coup for public health but the businesses view as wrong-minded meddling.

"For the first time, they're telling New Yorkers how much of certain safe and lawful beverages they can drink. … It's unfair, it's inequitable and it's illegal," said a spokeswoman for the plaintiffs. They include the American Beverage Association, the National Restaurant Association, a soft drink workers union and groups representing interests ranging from movie theater owners to Korean-American grocers.

A spokesman for Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the regulation's chief champion, called the lawsuit a groundless effort to stop a groundbreaking policy.

"This predictable, yet baseless, lawsuit fortunately will help put an even greater spotlight on the obesity epidemic," said a spokesman, who noted that the city also won fights over outlawing smoking in bars and offices and forcing fast-food restaurants to list calorie counts on their menus.

The beverage industry hinted it was considering a suit as soon as the city Board of Health approved the regulation last month. The rule would stop restaurants, cafeterias and concession stands from selling soda and other high-calorie drinks in containers larger than 16 ounces. It's set to take effect in March.

Bloomberg has called it a reasonable way to fight an obesity problem that takes a toll on many New Yorkers' health and city hospitals' budgets.

The measure keeps people from drinking extra calories without thinking, he says. For someone who drinks a soda every day, for example, downing a 16-ounce Coke instead of a 20-ounce one trims 14,600 calories a year, or the equivalent of 70 Hershey bars.

The mayor said that nobody is banning anything when the plan passed, noting that someone who wanted a second soda could get one.

The soda makers and sellers say the city is being a nanny-like nag to consumers and imposing an unfair, uneven burden on businesses. Manufacturers will have to get new bottles, and eateries will lose sales to competitors that aren't covered by the rule, they say. A customer who couldn't buy a 20-ounce soda at a pizzeria would be able to get a Big Gulp at a 7-Eleven, for instance, as convenience stores are under different regulations.

The suit says (The rule) unfairly harms small businesses at a time when we can ill afford it.

It also says the unelected health board shouldn't dictate the size of soft drinks. Ten City Council members signed onto a July measure calling on the health board not to approve the rule; a New York Times poll in August showed that six in 10 New Yorkers opposed it.

The city says the board, made up of physicians and other health experts, is exactly the panel to make such decisions.

Tax Break for Solyndra

Story first appeared on the wsj.com.

Perhaps you thought the Solyndra scandal amounted to a $535 million government loan that will never be repaid. No such luck. In the latest twist, Solyndra's investors could be rewarded for their failure, thanks to a tax benefit the Administration handed out in a bid to evade political accountability.

The Internal Revenue Service exposed this double Solyndra debacle last week in the U.S. bankruptcy court for the district of Delaware, which is unwinding the defunct solar-panel maker. The IRS formally objected to Solyndra's Chapter 11 reorganization plan, claiming its principal purpose is tax avoidance. If you are a company in need of an expert Indianapolis Bankruptcy Lawyer, consider Ayres Carr & Sullivan.

Having sold off its manufacturing plant, fired nearly 1,000 workers and proven the non-viability of its business model, Solyndra's only real assets are what the IRS calls "tax attributes." These are between $875 million and $975 million in net operating losses that can reduce future taxable income, which the IRS values as high as $350 million. Before it went toes up, Solyndra also accumulated $12 million in solar tax credits that can reduce tax liabilities dollar for dollar.

Tax-loss carry-forwards are routine but worthless if a company can't turn profits to pay taxes on. So Solyndra's owners are asking the court to liquidate the rest of the business and contribute a net $6.7 million to pay off creditors for pennies on the dollar. A holding corporation will then emerge from Chapter 11 that won't make products or employ workers, but it will get the Solyndra tax offsets.

The dummy company is owned by Argonaut Ventures I LLC, Solyndra's largest shareholder and the primary investment arm of the George Kaiser Family Foundation. Mr. Kaiser is a Tulsa oil billionaire who bundled campaign checks for Mr. Obama in 2008. The other owner is Madrone Partners LP, a California venture outfit.

Solyndra's Energy Department loan closed in September 2009, and a year later it was back asking for more as it bled cash. To stave off bankruptcy, the company asked Energy to release the loan's remaining $95 million immediately, instead of in monthly drawdowns, and to restructure the terms (it had already technically defaulted). The emails that follow are from the negotiations that began in December 2010 and are either exhibits in the IRS objection or come from the 300,000 pages of documents the House Energy and Commerce Committee uncovered in its investigation.

Argonaut and Madrone were prepared to commit a new $25 million but needed the government either to take a haircut or subordinate taxpayer repayment rights to new senior debt. Solyndra's private financing rounds were failing because new investors were coming in behind the government's $535 million.

Steve Mitchell, an Argonaut managing director, wrote to Mr. Kaiser on December 7, 2010 that The DOE really thinks politically before it thinks economically. The Department of Energy gnomes demanded $75 million and refused to invite the political blowback that signing away taxpayer claims to private financiers would invite, but Mr. Mitchell wouldn't go above $25 million. So he wrote that he politely moved the conversation toward how we should use the time to start discussing the bankruptcy process . . . To me it was clear that the Department of Energy folks were somewhat caught off guard that we weren't going to bail out the company, especially their Wind Energy divisions, including Wind Turbine Repair Services Nationwide.

Argonaut and Madrone could walk away in part because they had so little skin in the game. Solyndra had 73% debt to 27% equity, not the 65%-35% split that the Treasury Department wanted before Energy boxed it out of a 2009 due-diligence review in the push to get stimulus dollars out the door. Realizing that Argonaut-Madrone would rather liquidate than throw good money after bad, Energy eventually gave in.

Meanwhile, Mr. Kaiser's mind was on the net operating losses (NOLs). He mused to Mr. Mitchell that hewould go a long way to preserve the NOLs, and he suggested that the final decision to ante up to $75 million could be subject to their better understanding of whether the NOLs can conceivably be preserved in a semi-liquidation (that is, somehow maintaining the line of business and avoiding change of control).

In February 2011, Energy signed off on a deal that would subordinate its repayment interests to a new $75 million loan to Solyndra from Argonaut and Madrone. The two owners would open this tranche of senior debt to other investors for equity warrants. But under the Energy term sheet, those warrants would then bounce back to the Argonaut-Madrone holding company if Solyndra became defunct. That gave Argonaut-Madrone 99.9% control of the net operating losses.

Solyndra went bust in September 2011, but Mr. Kaiser referred in August emails to the consolation prize NOL and wrote that they could get the same benefit out of a new entity in there without absorbing the costs of resuscitating this one. In other words, the holding company will merge with another profitable Argonaut business that can use the tax breaks.

The irony is that the law that created the loan program specifically bars the Energy Department from taking a junior debt position. So Energy simply produced a novel legal analysis claiming that this prohibition applies only when a loan originates, not when it is modified.

One staffer at the White House budget office wrote at the time that they think they have stretched this definition beyond its limits and noted in particular that the government is better off liquidating the assets today than restructuring under DOE's proposal. Fly-speckers at the Treasury agreed.

Under the bankruptcy plan, taxpayers will recoup $27 million at most on Mr. Obama's $535 million "investment." The IRS and Energy Department are now asking the courts to reject the deal, because bankruptcy is designed to give a business a second chance, not goose a tax return.
 Many North Carolina businesses are turning to Raleigh Bankruptcy Lawyer advocates at Smith Debnam Law
But this is little more than an ex post facto double-cross. Energy created the tax avoidance problem in the first place by gifting Argonaut and Madrone the net operating losses to delay the Solyndra crack-up that was fast becoming inevitable. That left taxpayers worse off than if they simply let Solyndra fail.

This raises a question or two for the President who once called Solyndra a testament to American ingenuity and dynamism and who keeps accusing Mitt Romney of supporting tax breaks for outsourcing and corporate jets, which he doesn't. Here one of Mr. Obama's own billionaire pals is trying to sidestep a federal tax bill amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars as a result of an epic crony capitalist fiasco.

The larger problem is Mr. Obama's economic model that seeks to picks winners and losers and misallocates capital. That's bad enough. But does he have to stick it to taxpayers twice for the same failed investment?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Everyone Can Improve With Practice

As a child, you probably heard your parents say more than once that practice makes perfect — especially when it came time to work on your trombone skills or free throws.
Many of us abandon the idea of practice being important as we get older. After all, who wants to admit they don't know everything and need to become better at something?
But that unwillingness to admit we need improvement may be holding us back from career success.
Even those who are really good at something can improve with practice. To understand their point, just look at superstars like Michael Jordan and Itzkak Perlman, both dedicated practicers even as they reached career pinnacles.

So how does practice translate into the everyday workplace? It's not like you're working on jump shots or mastering complicated violin solos, right?
But some things need improvement at work, and that's where practice comes in.
One person admits that he needs to improve his focus on work instead of being constantly distracted by checking his email. He says he knows he needs to practice staying on task and hopes to avoid the inbox for longer and longer periods as he practices such discipline.
Still, he also stresses that you can't practice any way you want and get desired results. Unless you commit to practicing correctly, you are destined to do a task in a subpar way over and over.
Say a boss gives you feedback on the way you complete a task. You get suggestions on how to do the task better, and you nod your head and say, "Sure, I'll think about it."
But you don't.
He says that is a classic example of practicing avoidance. Instead of trying to work the boss' way and seeking additional help to improve, you continue to do something wrong or in a way that keeps you from excelling.
In that case,  the boss should say, "You can reflect on the feedback later, but for right now I want you to try it."
The first obligation, is to at least honor the person by trying the feedback immediately.
In their book, the authors make a number of suggestions on how individuals can embrace practicing to improve their performance on the job. Among them:
• Find the real deal. Look for someone who is doing similar work in a similar context.
Don't just observe this person doing a job but look at what the person does to get better — the practice he or she does to perform the job well.
Don't just watch someone give a great presentation. Ask to observe as the person goes about preparing a PowerPoint, doing research, practicing with notes, warming up, etc.
• Use practice to get creative. The more tasks you master and commit to muscle memory, the more time and energy you free up for generating creative ideas.
Many people say they come up with creative ideas while showering or walking the dog because they're able to think of other things while doing such tasks automatically. The more tasks you practice, the more automatic they will become, and the more time your brain will be free to wander.
Don't just consider practicing fundamental tasks. Look for complex skills you can practice until you do them automatically without thinking.
• Push yourself. Don't be willing to accept a certain proficiency that means you never make a mistake.
Be willing to push yourself out of your comfort zone and take some calculated risks. That may mean practicing a difficult conversation with your boss about your career development or completing a task a bit faster every time you practice.
Once you know you're pushing yourself into making a mistake, then be prepared to make corrections to learn from the error.
While your parents may have advocated that practice makes perfect, the authors argue that what practice really does is make things permanent.
The more you practice correctly and with an eye on getting better, the greater the chances that greatness at your job will become ingrained.

The Bike Pub or is it the Pub Bike?

Story first appeared on wsj.com

One partier thought she had everything she needed for a recent bachelorette-party weekend here: a wad of cash, a dress for evening, makeup and hairspray.

But about an hour into the first activity, the 30-year-old merchandising assistant realized she'd made the wrong shoe choice.

The pub crawl is getting a modern exercise-conscious update.  On the rise... pedal pubs, a roving structure that lets as many as 16 people bike together between pubs.

One woman and her friends were taking a spin on a giant, four-wheeled bike with a fake beer-barrel on the front and room for 16 passengers. Variously known as a PedalPub, Party Bike or a Bar Hopper, the slow-moving behemoths are powered by 10 pedalers, who sit on stools on either side of a long, wooden bar. Most of the bikes in the U.S. are imported from the Netherlands, but U.S. competitors have gotten into the market. In the past few years, the bikes have spread to more than two dozen U.S. cities—from Minneapolis to Austin, and Portland, Ore., to Charlotte, N.C.

The bikes combine the growing interest in urban cycling with some people's unquenchable thirst for new experiences—and bar hopping. Some cities allow imbibing on the bikes, but most, including Chicago, limit alcohol consumption to a series of stops at bars along the route. A company-provided driver steers, applies the brakes and directs the riders to "Pedal! Pedal! Pedal!" when pulling through an intersection.

A 30-year-old bride-to-be said she like it as she commented, between sips of water on the 2,300-pound bike that caused people to cheer and wave, snap photos or just stare slack-jawed along the route. You can hang out like at a bar with your friends, but you're pedaling. It's totally weird.

As the group reached its first stop, some of the early smiles had begun to fade and the women's carefully made-up faces were glistening.

One woman commented that in the beginning, with all the enthusiasm and adrenaline, it was like, "Yeah, let's go," but when we got on our first hill, it was "Oh my gosh, are you kidding me?"  She said it was a lot of fun, but she definitely didn't think it was going to be that hard.

Tracy Sanchez, owner of the Party Pedaler, which, unlike the Dutch bikes has an electric motor-assist, says guests needn't have worked so hard. You actually don't have to pedal at all for it to go.

Al Boyce, a 55-year-old former software engineer in Minneapolis, first saw one of the bikes at the bottom of a humorous email about six years ago. As a leader of the Minnesota Homebrewers Association, he forwarded the image to other members. "I said we should all pitch in and buy one," he says.

A few weeks later, Eric Olson, a business professor and fellow member of the group, called Mr. Boyce suggesting they start a business based on the bike.

Now, the pair, along with Mr. Boyce's wife, own PedalPub LLC, which runs a dozen bikes in the Twin Cities and has smaller operations in Honolulu, Chicago and St. Petersburg, Fla.

They also act as an importer of the Dutch-made bikes and have signed up licensees in 21 cities since 2010. Tours in the Twin Cities are $160 to $190 an hour depending on the day of the week.

So far, a few people have stumbled or fallen off the PedalPubs, but there have been no serious injuries, Mr. Boyce says.

Last October, a group of teenagers swarmed onto a bike in Minneapolis during a night ride and made off with the cellphone of one rider. The phone was recovered nearby.

PedalPubs, which cost $38,000 including licensing fees and are solely people-powered, have attracted several competitors. Jon Pyland, owner of a metal fabricator called Atek Customs, which is relocating to Kingman, Ariz., has sold seven Party Bikes, which he modeled after a 1920s-era San Francisco streetcar. They cost about $45,000, in part because they include an electric motor.

A 43-year-old laborer in Minneapolis, decided to build his own version after seeing several PedalPubs around town. "I was like, 'What the hell is that?'" he says.

He and a welder buddy went to work in the friend's shop about three years ago. Their first creation, made of old bicycle parts, wasn't sturdy enough, he says, but he had better luck with his second model, which he dubbed "The Bar Hopper."

He says he had a pretty good business last summer in Detroit Lakes, Minn., where he has a vacation home.

The only trouble is, some of the bars in the area are five miles apart, so he had to add a gasoline engine. "They would cheer when people heard that come on," he says.

This summer, the bike sat in his back yard because the insurance ran out. Now he's planning to build a third model.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Obama Gets Sued By Chinese Firm For Blocking Bid To Build Wind Farms near Drone Training Site.

original article appeared in the Chicago Tribune

Barack Obama has been sued by a small Chinese firm for squashing their bid to build wind farms close to a naval training site. PSI-Repair specializes in Wind Turbine Repair services. Experts claim that the suit is a long shot for the firm that greatly underestimated U.S. suspicions about Chinese intentions.

Ralls Corp, which is owned by two Chinese nationals, was installing wind turbines close to the training site in Oregon, which, according to the facility's web site, is used to test unmanned drones - a highly sensitive and prized U.S. technology.

The U.S. Navy says the training site's airspace is also the only restricted area in western United States where fighter jets conduct training maneuvers at high speed and very low altitudes.

Obama put the brakes on the project last week and ordered Ralls to sell off the four planned wind farms due to national security risks, the first time since 1990 that a U.S. president has formally blocked a business transaction or required a sale on such grounds. Ralls Corp has until December 27 to comply.

In its suit, made public on Tuesday, Ralls Corp alleges Obama exceeded his power by dictating the terms of the sale, by allowing the government to inspect all aspects of its operations, and by not treating the firm equally as required by law.

The lawsuit comes in the final weeks of the U.S. presidential campaign, during which Obama's Republican rival, Mitt Romney, has accused the president of not pushing back against China's trade and investment practices.

Obama's order followed a recommendation from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), an inter-agency group headed up by the Treasury secretary that evaluates the national security risks of foreign investments in U.S. companies or operations.

Ralls Corp initially sued CFIUS in September for ordering the company to halt operations temporarily while the committee completed its probe and made its recommendation to Obama.

Its chances of winning the suit are slim given the president's broad authority on national security matters and the fact that courts do not often second guess the executive branch on security issues, experts say.

A partner with Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, who is in charge of the firm's CFIUS practice said that it is a very, very difficult case.

A Treasury spokeswoman said the administration believes the lawsuit has no merit and would defend its case vigorously.

In issuing the rare presidential order, Obama said there was credible evidence that led him to believe that Ralls Corp and the Chinese Sany Group executives who own the company might take actions that posed a risk to U.S. security.

The statement did not get into the specifics of the risk, but experts have said that the government was likely to have been wary of any potential for espionage.

Ralls Corp said the government had not provided any evidence or explanation.


CFIUS experts said the deal was likely doomed from the start. They said Ralls Corp miscalculated by not asking CFIUS to review its plans to acquire wind-farm projects before closing the deal and embarking on plans to install turbines made in China by the closely held Sany Group.

It is unclear whether Ralls Corp studied previous cases in which CFIUS forced other Chinese companies to kill development plans because of their location or for failing to get CFIUS approval before closing a deal.

Benjamin Powell, a former general counsel to the director of national intelligence and now a partner at the WilmerHale law firm, said companies could face a more difficult review process if they did not notify CFIUS of a transaction that might raise national security issues.

In 2009, CFIUS forced the Chinese-owned Nonferrous International Investment Company to backtrack on a proposal to buy Nevada-based Firstgold, whose properties were close to a naval air station.

And in 2011, Chinese telecom maker Huawei had to relinquish plans to buy some assets from U.S. server technology firm 3Leaf after CFIUS ordered Huawei to give up some parts of the deal.

Huawei did not file paperwork with CFIUS on the deal, even though a few years earlier the panel had rejected another of its proposed deals because of national security concerns.

Ralls Corp has also been slow to bring in U.S. firepower.

It hired two high-profile lawyers - the George W. Bush administration's top lawyer Paul Clement and former U.S. assistant attorney general Viet Dinh - only after CFIUS ordered the company to cease activity in August and months after the Navy expressed concerns that one of Ralls Corp's wind-farm projects was located within restricted airspace.

The company's three other wind-farm projects are located close to the training facility.

According to court documents, the Navy said the company should be obliged to move the wind farm located in the restricted airspace to another spot, even though it had no authority to require the move.

According to maps included in the court documents biled by Ralls Corp, hundreds of wind turbines are already in close proximity to the Oregon training site. A handful of these turbines are already operating within the restricted airspace, as shown on the maps.

Real Life Horrible Bosses

Story first appeared on WSJ.com.

When real life employees have to deal with horrible bosses, it isn't something to laugh at like the hit movie "Horrible Bosses."

But unlike the film, where three disgruntled employees get the better of their nasty bosses, real life bosses often enjoy the last laugh, resulting in de-motivated employees and strained relationships at work.

Here is the information from four such employees about their most difficult boss.

Here are a few excerpts:

The Control Freak

Imagine being answerable in minute detail to your boss for every hour spent at work. Suffocating, right? That’s exactly how 31-year-old  former public relations manager in Mumbai, felt.

She says her boss demanded mandatory hourly updates on anything and everything. These included things like the number of press releases she had emailed and details of follow-up calls subsequently made.

The boss’s controlling demeanor was not just limited to work. Her boss imposed a ban on any non-work related phone calls at work, she says. She says she was once told tolearn to talk to her husband post 6 p.m.

Also, getting time off was tough. Once, the boss didn’t grant leave to a team member whose daughter underwent major surgery.

The six-member team grew increasingly frustrated with the boss’s controlling behavior, resulting in a fall in productivity and high employee absenteeism, she says. They complained to top management and the boss’s promotion was temporary stalled. The employee quit her job early this year after having worked with that boss for three years.

To be sure, quitting should be your last resort, say human resources experts. Here are some tips on dealing with a boss who’s a control freak.

The Bully

Three years ago, when a man joined a bank as a sales executive, his boss proudly introduced him as his “right-hand man” in a note to employees.

During his two-month stint as a sales executive, his boss bullied him into doing odd jobs: Depositing school fees for his eight-year-old daughter, purchasing groceries for his household and servicing his car at a workshop, and others.
The “highlight” of his job was when the boss asked him to fetch an anniversary gift for his wife. The closest he got to doing some real work was getting few office documents stamped at the tax office.

When he tried to put his foot down, the boss responded by saying that to get to the top, you have to start the rough way.
The employee quit after two months, but reported his boss’s behavior to human resources. The boss was also eventually fired.

Another man said he considers himself very lucky with his current boss as a Michigan Child Protective Services defense attorney, because earlier in life he endured some incredibly controlling "freak" bosses while working his way through law school.

The Insecure Boss

Ever heard of bosses who won’t let you succeed?

One woman, who works at a consultancy in Mumbai, had her work praised by senior managers, but that rankled her new boss who had joined the company six months after she was recruited.

The boss, who was just a few years older than her, started pulling her down in front of seniors and claimed sole credit for her work.
She shares an incident where she worked overtime for days to finish a report. Rather than applauding her for the effort, her boss, who only copy-edited a few lines, sent an email to staff claiming he had compiled the entire study and that the employee had “assisted” in research.

Over the next few months, the boss took charge of her clients and left her to deal with “monotonous paperwork (like) filling excel sheets, tallying profit and loss figures and cross-checking client accounts.

When she complained about the repetitive tasks, her boss told his managers that she was slacking off and becoming indifferent at work.

On one occasion, the insecure boss even went as far to say: “I know you’re eyeing my job and there’s no way I’d let you have it.". That was the last straw. A few days later, she requested (and was subsequently granted) a transfer to another department in the same company.

The insecure boss eventually resigned after other employees gave negative feedback about him to top management, she says.

The Pessimist

On one man's first day at work at a Bangalore information-technology firm, his colleagues warned him about “the parasite” — aka his boss.

After working with the boss for a short while the employee  realized what had earned the boss this nickname.

She had a negative attitude on everything, which brought down the morale of the entire team. In the boss’ view, most of her team was “always underperforming,” her fellow co-workers were too “whiny,” and her superiors “too demanding."

She routinely complained about everything from the quality of food in the office cafeteria to sulking about the lack of perks at work.

Most employees made a conscious effort to avoid her at work, he says. At company functions and dinners, however, the team felt alienated because other employees didn’t want to be around them.

Though the team never complained about her negative attitude (at least not to Mr. Patel’s knowledge) the boss was recently transferred. She currently leads a team of two people compared with eight at in the previous role.