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Monday, December 29, 2014


Original Story: detroitnews.com

Takata Corp. Chairman Shigehisa Takada will replace Swiss national Stefan Stocker as president, 18 months after appointing him to strengthen management amid a mounting recall crisis involving its faulty air bags. An Atlanta business lawyer represents clients in cases involving business torts.

Takada, who with his mother controls the Tokyo-based auto-parts supplier through a family holding company, will also take a 50 percent pay cut for four months, the company said in a statement. Takata didn’t specify whether Stocker had resigned his position or was replaced, and Hideyuki Matsumoto, a spokesman, declined to comment beyond the statement.

“This company has done everything wrong and has zero corporate governance, and is one of the worst examples of poor management,” said Edwin Merner, president of Atlantis Investment Research in Tokyo. “Putting all the management back to the family sounds so negative,” he said. “As long as they don’t have new management, this company won’t survive.”

Takata’s air bags have been linked to five deaths after faulty devices exploded with too much force and spewed metal at passengers. Automakers led by Honda Motor Co., its biggest customer, have issued recalls for more than 20 million vehicles globally, even as Takata resisted the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s demand to expand the safety campaign nationally beyond high-humidity areas. Tri Glass offers windshield crack repair kits and scratch repair kits at the lowest prices.

Takata’s shares have declined 56 percent this year, compared with the 9.5 percent gain in the benchmark Topix Index.

As part of the reorganization, three other directors will also take a 20 percent pay cut, Takata said. Stocker, who will continue as a board member, will take a 30 percent reduction.

Takada earned 278 million yen ($2.3 million) last year in compensation and dividends, exceeding the 152 million yen made by Honda President Takanobu Ito.

Stocker joined Takata as an executive officer in February 2013. He began his career at Robert Bosch GmbH in June 1982. At the time of his appointment as president, Takata said the move was part of plans to strengthen the operational structure of the company, which was then facing increasing recalls by its key customer Honda to replace faulty air-bag inflators.

“Stefan brings valuable skills and experience to the table,” Takada said about Stocker’s appointment in his chairman’s message in the 2013 annual report. “We will be working closely together to increase the pace and success of Takata’s globalization,” he wrote. “By delineating responsibilities as CEO and COO, we will be able to give greater and more coordinated attention to strategy and implementation.” A Boston business lawyer has experience representing clients in a wide variety of business disputes.

Stocker, who turned 61 on Wednesday, has declined multiple requests for interviews, as has Takada. Both executives didn’t attend congressional committee hearings held to probe the responses by the supplier and its automaker customers to the escalating recall crisis.

They instead sent Hiroshi Shimizu, a senior vice president in charge of quality assurance, to explain to the committee the steps the company was taking to ensure its products were safe.

Shigehisa and his mother, Akiko Takada, are board members of TKJ, which holds about 52 percent of Takata. They also own individual stakes totaling about 5 percent, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“It’s usually not a good sign when the main person in charge of representing the company in front of the regulators suddenly” steps down without explanation, said Nicholas Benes, head of The Board Director Training Institute of Japan. “Markets and regulators will wonder what is really going on behind the scenes.”


Honda is recalling 1,252 Crosstour vehicles due to a faulty side air bag made by Takata.

The Honda recall is for 2015 model year Crosstours. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says the side air bag may not inflate properly because of a problem with its inflator tube. Crosstour owners will receive a letter in the mail asking them to take their car to a dealer and have the side air bags replaced. An auto glass chip repair kit provides you with everything you need to perform windshield repairs at home.

Honda said no injuries were reported. Takata Corp. declined to comment.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014


Original Story: bloomberg.com

Alstom SA (ALO) executives won several billions of dollars worth of business in Saudi Arabia a decade ago by making at least $49 million in illegal payments in part through middlemen the company called “Mr. Paris” and “Quiet Man.”

The bribes were among those the French power company made in five countries over more than 10 years, prosecutors in Washington said. Alstom pleaded guilty to those charges today and agreed to pay $772 million to end the investigation, representing the largest criminal penalty paid to the Justice Department under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. A Washington DC Foreign Corrupt Practices Act lawyer is reviewing the details of this case.

The prosecutors’ statements, laid out in dozens of pages of charging documents, contained new details about Alstom’s attempts to buy influence in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan and the Bahamas, including one executive’s effort to quiet an employee who questioned the payments. The documents also covered bribery in Indonesia, which had already served as a basis of criminal charges against former Alstom executives and business partner in federal court in Connecticut.

The U.S. corruption case is one of several against Alstom, which General Electric Co. (GE) is buying in its biggest acquisition ever. The Fairfield, Connecticut-based manufacturer agreed in June to buy most of the assets for 12.4 billion euros ($15.2 billion), and the purchase should close next year. An Atlanta RICO lawyer represents clients involved in racketeering cases.

Earlier Monday, Alstom’s London-based power unit and two of its employees were charged by the U.K.’s Serious Fraud Office for alleged bribe payments in Lithuania. Lawyers for the men declined to comment at the hearing. Alstom is also facing a corruption investigation in Brazil.

‘Corruption Scheme’

The documents released by the Justice Department outlined how Alstom paid more than $75 million in bribes between 2000 and 2011 to win $4 billion in projects from state-owned companies, relying on consultants who prosecutors said funneled payments to officials in five countries.

“Alstom’s corruption scheme was sustained over more than a decade and across several continents. It was astounding in its breadth, its brazenness and its worldwide consequences,” U.S. Deputy Attorney General James Cole told reporters in Washington.

“There were a number of problems in the past and we deeply regret that,” Patrick Kron, Alstom’s chief executive officer, said in a statement. The Levallois-Perret-based company has changed its compliance practices, he added. An Atlanta RICO lawyer is following this story closely.

In Saudi Arabia, where Alstom was seeking $3 billion in contracts, company executives spread bribe money among a half a dozen consultants around the turn of the millennium, prosecutors wrote. These people were identified, in company documents, by code names that also included “Mr. Geneva” and “Old Friend.”

‘Action Plan’

Alstom collected details on officials of the country’s state-owned electric company to improve its chances of securing business, prosecutors wrote. They cited a January 2000 “action plan” for an upcoming bid that identified Alstom’s perceptions of decision-makers at the Saudi Electricity Co. (SECO), as well as the “most important concerns” for dealing with each.

“Honest reputation,” the action plan read, referring to one official who it said had a majority voice in awarding contracts. “Son has been known to deal.”

To ensure the official’s support, Alstom turned to one of his close relatives -- who internal company documents referred to as Mr. Paris -- who was paid $4 million to bribe the executive, prosecutors said. An Atlanta Racketeering Litigation Attorney represents both plaintiffs and defendants in cases involving racketeering.

Alstom made $2.2 million in donations to a U.S.-based Islamic education foundation associated with the Saudi official, prosecutors said. They didn’t identify the official.

$800 Million

Several countries have opened probes into Alstom since 2004, when auditors for the Swiss Federal Banking Commission unearthed documents they said showed possible corrupt payments. Since then, the company has paid more than $53 million over claims its employees bribed officials.

The U.S. fine, which eclipsed the $450 million paid by Siemens AG in 2008, would bring Alstom’s tab to above $800 million. Kron said on Dec. 19 that the company will pay the fines connected to its energy businesses as its shareholders voted in favor of their sale to GE.

The U.S. investigation, led by Daniel Kahn of the fraud section and Assistant U.S. Attorney David Novick in Connecticut, included at least 49 hours of recordings made by government cooperators about allegations of bribery in Indonesia, according to federal court records in Connecticut.

Investigators initially had to build their case using informants and charges against former Alstom executives when the company refused to cooperate, prosecutors said.

Indonesia Allegations

The Connecticut prosecution centered on a $118 million contract to provide boiler services at a power plant in Tarahan, on the southern coast of Sumatra. Alstom executives, together with Marubeni Corp. (8002), a Japanese commodity-trading company, used middlemen to funnel hundreds of thousands of dollars to a member of Indonesia’s parliament and officials at Perusahaan Listrik Negara PT, a state-controlled electricity company known as PLN, according to court papers filed by the Justice Department in related cases.

Marubeni pleaded guilty to bribery violations in March and paid an $88 million fine.

On Monday in the Connecticut federal court, Alstom pleaded guilty to two charges related to their activities in the five countries -- one for violating bribery laws by falsifying records and the other for failing to have adequate controls. Alstom’s Swiss subsidiary pleaded guilty to conspiracy. Two U.S. subsidiaries entered into deferred prosecution agreements.

Internal Conflicts

The documents released Monday also pointed to internal conflicts over payments, as Alstom executives allegedly attempted to hide transactions related to the company’s bids for power contracts in Egypt.

In December 2003, an Alstom finance employee said by e-mail that she was rejecting an invoice from one of the company’s consultants in Egypt because there weren’t enough details to justify the payment, according to the documents released Monday.

The finance employee received a phone call from a U.S.- based project manager, who told the official that if she “wanted to have several people put in jail,” she should continue to send e-mail messages questioning payments, according to the prosecutors’ documents. The project manager ordered the finance official to delete all e-mails about the consultant, prosecutors wrote.

Thursday, December 11, 2014


Original Story: espn.go.com

For years, the world's two largest shoe and apparel companies -- Nike and Adidas -- have battled for supremacy, with the competition occasionally leading to a lawsuit over a particular design or material, which one considers proprietary.

But on Monday, Nike took it to the next level, suing three former designers who had left the company, alleging they used Nike's trade secrets to sell themselves to Adidas. A Portland Intellectual Property Lawyer is reviewing the details of this case.

The lawsuit, filed in the county in Oregon where Adidas has its U.S. headquarters, alleges that some of its biggest designers, Denis Dekovic, Marc Dolce and Mark Miner, while still employees of Nike, began to build a blueprint to replicate Nike's famous Innovation Kitchen and stole secrets from inside its walls to take elsewhere. The Kitchen is where Nike's top designers build out shoes years in advance, testing new materials and concepts. Only a select few on Nike's sprawling campus have access to open its doors.

The lawsuit, which asks for more than $10 million in damages, alleges that before the three left Nike, they were already consulting with Adidas. To further sell themselves and capitalize on their position, Nike says Dekovic had the contents of his laptop duplicated, which gave him access to "thousands of proprietary documents relating to Nike's global football (soccer) product lines" where Adidas and Nike most fiercely battle. A Boston Intellectual Property Lawyer have experience representing clients in intellectual property litigation.

Among other things, the documents included specific designs, including models of team uniforms and products for the 2016 European Championships, plans for Nike-sponsored athletes in at least seven countries, unreleased financial information and projections concerning the company's business and information about Nike's planned launches in the marketplace.

"All of this information is among the most important and highly confidential information in Nike's athletic footwear business, particularly its global football business," the lawsuit reads. "Disclosure of any of this information would irreparably harm Nike, by, among other things, enabling a competitor to effectively undermine and counter Nike's performance in the athletic markets for the next three to four years."

Before leaving the company, Nike alleges the three designers erased emails from their computers and text messages on their phones to destroy any incriminating data that would lead back to their scheme.

"We find Nike's allegations hurtful because they are either false or are misleading half-truths," the designers said in a statement provided to the Portland Business Journal by their law firm. "We did not take trade secrets or intellectual property when we departed Nike in September. The athletic footwear industry is fast moving and rapidly changing and, as creative people, we thrive on innovation and freshness. We are looking forward to bringing new and innovative ideas and designs to Adidas when our non-competition agreement expires." An Atlanta Trade Secrets Lawyer is skilled in the development of trade secret protection programs, buying and selling trade secrets, and licensing trade secrets.

Dekovic was the senior design director for Nike football (soccer), Dolce worked on the shoes for LeBron James and Kobe Bryant and managed historic brands such as the Air Force One and the Dunk shoe and Miner was the senior footwear designer for Nike running, one of the company's biggest growth categories.

Nike says the three had signed a noncompete contract that spanned to September 2015. Yet less than two weeks after the three resigned, Adidas announced that it would back a Brooklyn-based design studio managed by Dekovic, Dolce and Miner.

Even though Adidas said at the time that the three wouldn't work for them until 2015, Nike remained concerned about the trade secrets it claims were stolen from them.

The company says it has spent more than $1.5 million in the past three years alone to ensure that its employees keep information confidential, and said in a statement Tuesday night that "Nike is an innovation company and we will continue to vigorously protect our intellectual property."

Adidas officials did not specifically address the allegations.

"Many of our employees have storied careers and rich experiences, but we have no interest in old work or past assignments as we are focused on shaping the future of the sporting goods industry, not looking at what has been done in the past," the statement said.

Nike's world headquarters in Beaverton and Adidas' U.S. headquarters in Portland are located about 13 miles from each other.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014


Original Story: businessinsider.com

The age of the American CEO did not begin until the end of the 19th century. Prior to that time, all the largest businesses in America were run by owners and families acting as proprietors. The best examples of these were in four industries: steel, finance, oil, and railroads.

Although the firms often had general managers, most historians believe that the period in which the CEO dominated large corporations did not begin until Alfred Sloan took the helm of GM in the mid-1930s.

The 24/7 list is based on a review of the Fortune 500 companies back to 1955. In order to perform further analysis, we also consulted the histories of US corporations dating back to the 1880s.

Those selected for the list fall into one of two simple categories – those who ruined the companies completely while they served as sitting CEOs and those who did severe damage from which their firms could never possibly recover. Some will make the argument that many of these CEOs should be excluded because their companies failed as a result of fraud committed by the CEOs. In each of these cases, however, the chief executives ruined the company. It does not change this fact if this occurred because of avarice or mismanagement.

Readers may argue that there are other CEOs who should have been on this list.  However, each of the CEOs on this list ran their companies when they were at or near their peak performance.   Many companies on this list like Pan Am and Eastman Kodak, dominated their industries. That makes these failures all the more colossal and, almost certainly, avoidable.

1. Jonathan Schwartz. By the time Sun Microsystems was bought by Oracle for $7.4 billion, Jonathan Schwartz, the hip, blogging, ponytail wearing CEO, had ruined the firm’s prospects so badly that acquisition was its only option.

In the early 1980s, the company was founded by a small group of engineers and its CEO, Scott McNealy.  During his tenure, Sun Microsystems grew to become one of four dominant players in the server and processor space, which also included Oracle, HP and IBM. Prior to Schwartz’s appointment by McNealy, Sun was a largely profitable and competitive company.

Schwartz’s promotion to CEO in April 2006 was followed by a long series of losses. Despite its strong position, Sun started to fall apart as it lost market share in its main server business to HP and IBM.  The company’s shares fell from almost $27 to under $4 from late in 2007 to late 2008; Sun also later fired nearly 6,000 people, or about 18% of its employees.

In 2008, in an attempt to diversify, Sun bought MySQL AB, the company offering the popular open source database. The acquisition did not work.  As Sun’s share of the server market continued to fall, Schwartz tried to improve market adoption of its Java software, which never brought in much revenue.  Despite some success, the problem was that Java is free and Sun never came up with a realistic model to monetize it.

Sun could have become one of the largest enterprise technology companies in the world. Schwartz blew that chance. Larry Ellison did not.

2.   Ken Lay. Enron grew out of Northern Natural Gas Company and Internorth, both essentially natural gas companies.  Enron reached $101 billion in sales in 2000 despite this humble origin, through a series of acquisitions and expansions into new businesses. Ken Lay became CEO in 1986 and presided over most of the company’s growth which was largely fueled by diversification into energy generation, gas distribution businesses and water based utilities. Lay was so successful at marketing the firm to Wall St. and to the press that it was Fortune’s “America’s Most Innovative Company” for six years in a row, from 1996 to 2001.

It became clear in 2001 that Enron was hiding portions of its liabilities off of its balance sheets. Most of its assets and earnings were doctored. By the end of the year, Enron filed for bankruptcy. An investigation of the scandal found that Lay had an active hand in inflating the company’s financial health. In 2006, Lay was found guilty of securities fraud and other charges. He died July 5, 2006, shortly before his sentencing.

3. Chuck Conway. Chuck Conway was the head of Kmart when it declared bankruptcy.  He was charged with accounting fraud that improved the company’s balance sheet.

Founded in 1899, Kmart, formerly known as S. S. Kresge Co., was one of the preeminent retailers in the US for decades.  By the 1970s, Kmart was the Walmart of its era and controlled a large portion of the “big box” retailer business in the US, Canada, and Australia. At its peak, it had over 1,000 stores.  In the 1980s, despite its slowing growth, the company began to invest in separate business lines, which included Waldenbooks, the Sports Authority, and Office Max.

By 2000, following a string of unsuccessful business decisions, Conway was brought in to turnaround Kmart.   When he joined the company in 2000, it was still a formidable force in the US retail space, despite its lackluster performance over the prior 15 years.  As part of his inaugural address, he said his primary goal was to improve the company’s supply chain and bolster its brand so that the firm could better compete with Walmart, a company that was founded over 60 years after Kmart. He did not carry out any of his goals.

At the time of Kmart’s bankruptcy in 2002, he was charged with defrauding stockholders by covering up details of the firm’s faltering financial position. He was also accused of spending the company’s money on airplanes and houses.

4.   George Shaheen. Shaheen joined Webvan in September 1999 after being the head of Andersen Consulting, later renamed Accenture.

The company, one of the largest start-ups during the Dot-com Bubble, was set up to take grocery orders over the Internet and deliver the orders within 30 minutes. Webvan planned to have operations in 26 cities.  It never got beyond 10, and most of these remained on the West Coast. The company spent $1.5 billion over a year and a half period, beginning in 2000. At one point, Webvan had 4,500 employees and owned a string of warehouses. When it declared Chapter 11 in 2001, it fired 2,000 people.

Webvan doubled down on its strategy to operate an online grocery business by buying HomeGrocer in June 2000. It was an error that increased Webvan’s cash burn rate. The logistics needed to execute its business model were a nightmare. Shaheen failed to understand that all retailers operate on tiny margins and Webvan had no leverage with customers to improve that. Perhaps, worst of all, he authorized issuance of an IPO that raised $375 million – almost none of it was recovered.

Shaheen holds a special place among bad CEOs. He fancied himself as one of the greatest business consultants in the world when he ran Andersen.  Yet, it seems he did nothing to effectively review Webvan’s business model. It appears that he made no attempt to work with his board of directors or management to alter the company’s operations.

5.   Tommy Sopwith. Tommy Sopwith, the founder of The Sopwith Aviation Company, began the storied airplane business in 1912. Contracted by the British government during the First World War, the company built 16,000 aircraft and employed 5,000 people.  It was one of the largest aircraft manufactures of the first two decades of the 20th century.

Sopwith was slow to realize that most airplane manufacturers would need to convert their products to appeal to the commercial market and failed to adjust to the civilian world in time. Sopwith tried to sell slightly modified models of its military planes, but was unsuccessful. Although the company bought ABC Motors Limited, a motorcycle and engine manufacturer, in 1919, it was too late to diversify this business. Sopwith closed the following year.

Sopwith’s problems were compounded by charges that the company made exorbitant earnings on its wartime enterprises, and were eventually punished by punitive anti-profiteering taxes.

6.   John Sculley. John Sculley is on the list for one reason. He fired Steve Jobs from Apple. Similar to the Google board’s decision to hire Eric Schmidt to run the company with its precocious founders, Sculley was hired to be Apple’s CEO in 1983.  Because of his significant business experience and marketing acumen, which included the top job at PepsiCo and introduction of the Pepsi Challenge, the board hoped Sculley would bring a proven management style to Apple.  It also hoped that he would bring a mature business approach to a company that was growing quickly but was run by inexperienced executives, which included its co-founder Steve Jobs.

In 1985, he convinced the board to strip his rival, Jobs, of all managerial responsibility, effectively canning one of the greatest product designers and marketers of all time.

Sculley believed in expensive marketing campaigns. Unfortunately, his marketing heft did not compensate for his insufficient product management skill. At the end of the day, he lacked sufficient technical background to be a product manager for Apple.  During his tenure, he invested heavily in a number of failed ventures, including Apple’s Newton, an early PDA-like device, cameras and CD Players.  And in 1993, Sculley’s lack of knowledge regarding the technical details of the products built by Apple and its competitors cost him his job.

Apple bought the computer company that Jobs had created, NeXT, in 1997, and Jobs became Apple’s CEO that same year.  Like Sculley, the rest is history.

7. Thomas Edison. In 1887, Thomas Edison, the greatest inventor in US history, formed the Edison Phonograph Company – founded to profit from the phonograph technology he created.

Edison himself ran the company through most of the years it operated. Sound was recorded on wax cylinders. Recognizing the commercial appeal of the device, Edison increased adoption of his products by acquiring and offering more entertainment recordings for his machine. However, because the cylinders were difficult to mass produce, sales were limited.

In response to this design flaw, competitors, notably Columbia, designed and sold lighter discs, now called records.  Its superior design allowed for faster production than the wax cylinders.

In 1916, Edison expanded into dictation, a more profitable business. But by that time, Edison had made a fatal decision that would lead to the firm’s eventual failure: he allowed competitors to dominate the business of selling the discs. Around that time, a group of popular artists under the Victor brand did all of their recordings on discs and Edison lost the market for recorded audio that he had created.

Although Edison hedged his bet in 1913 by creating his own disc division, he continued to aggressively market the wax cylinder product, believing it would be the eventual winner in the format wars. He was wrong and The Edison Company, as it had been renamed, shut down in 1929.

8.   Bernard Ebbers. Under Bernard Ebbers’ stewardship, Worldcom became the second largest long distance company in the US, after it bought MCI in 1997 in a transaction valued at $37 billion.

Bernard Ebbers had been CEO of Worldcom’s predecessor firms starting in 1985. Over 15 years, he built the company through a series of acquisitions, culminating with the MCI deal.

In 1999, Ebbers tried to buy Sprint.  Had the merger been completed, the $129 billion deal would have made Worldcom the largest telecom company, placing it ahead of AT&T.  However, the deal was plagued by objections from regulators and eventually fell through.

During the merger, Ebbers began to prop up the Worldcom results with the help of senior financial executives at the company. The tech and telecom downturn of 2001 began to undermine Worldcom’s earnings and over the next two years, the efforts to manipulate the company’s financial results became more aggressive.

On top of this, Ebbers needed to sell large portions of his own Worldcom stock, to support his lavish lifestyle. The Worldcom board, fearing Ebbers’ sales would destroy the firm’s share price, made him a series of loans.

In 2002, internal auditors discovered that Ebbers’ efforts were the cause of a $3.8 billion financial fraud. That same year, Worldcom filed for Chapter 11.

In 2005, Ebbers was convicted of fraud, conspiracy and filing false documents. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

9.   Angelo Mozilo. Mozilo co-founded Countrywide Credit Industries in 1969 as a mortgage lender.

By the mid-1990s, Countrywide had created a system to lay off risk by reselling bundled loans into the secondary market as mortgage-backed securities. Countrywide also expanded its services so that it could make loans, service them via collections, and handle closings with real estate appraisal services. About half of Countrywide’s loans did not conform to the criteria necessary for them to be sold to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. This increased its need to sell securitized loans to institutions.

By the mid-2000s, Countrywide’s core lending business had grown so much that it was estimated to have issued over 15% of all home loans in the US. When housing prices began to falter, the mortgage-derivatives market that CountryWide had helped to create began to collapse. These derivatives had been a major source of revenue for CountryWide and in August 2007 it was near financial collapse. The federal government provided capital to CountryWide but the sums could not salvage it as an independent business.

In July 2008, Bank of America closed a transaction to buy the failed mortgage lender. Subsequent to the events, it was disclosed that Mozilo had sold shares in the company that gave him a profit of nearly $300 million between 2005 and 2007. Shareholder class action suits claim that Mozilo was aware of the company’s problems during much of this period. The company was also sued in several states for misleading customers about the terms of the mortgage agreements, particularly the effects of adjustable rate mortgages on monthly payments. Countrywide was accused of originating loans with little or no due diligence on those receiving the loans. Those loans were then packaged and sold by CountryWide in the secondary market. Friends of Angelo, stock holders were not.

10.   John Rigas. Adelphia Communications, once one of the largest cable companies in the US, filed for bankruptcy in 2002. John Rigas, its founder, is now in prison.

Rigas founded the company in 1952 and built Adelphia into the fifth largest cable TV enterprise in the nation. By the late 1990s, Adelphia had almost 5 million subscribers to its cable TV service and a rapidly expanding high-speed Internet business. It had cable systems in over 30 states.

In 2002, the company filed for bankruptcy, in part because Rigas had siphoned off money to fund other companies owned by his family. He was eventually charged with stealing nearly $100 million. After its bankruptcy most of the Adelphia assets were eventually purchased by Time Warner Cable.

11. Juergen Schrempp. Schrempp was the architect of the 1998 merger of Daimler and Chrysler, which he called a merger of equals. In fact, Schrempp took control of the combined company almost immediately even though he had a co-CEO, Bob Eaton, for part of his tenure.

Schrempp sold the “merger” to shareholders by saying that Chrysler would reap huge savings by using parts and technology from Daimler, which was highly regarded for its engineering prowess. After the merger, however, Chrysler executives resisted the plan, and Schrempp did not push the matter as hard as he claimed he would. Schrempp also failed to accomplish another key point of the merger’s benefits that he touted: Chrysler’s sales foot print in the US would help Mercedes sell more cars in the US and Mercedes presence in Europe would help Chrysler.

Schrempp ignored the management of Chrysler in the US and its marketing and manufacturing operations began to fall apart only a year after the marriage. Within a year of the deal closing, the new company lost more than 50% of its market cap. Shareholder Kirk Kerkorian sued the company for $9 billion, charging the Germans with fraud for failing to do what they claimed they would do with Chrysler.

Schrempp was pushed out by his board in 2005. Cerberus Capital Management, a private equity firm, bought Chrysler from Daimler for $7.4 billion in 2007.

12.  Kay R. Whitmore. Eastman Kodak was founded in 1880 and for much of the 20th Century was the gold standard of the film and camera industries. By 1963, the company was No. 44 on the Fortune 500 with sales of over $1 billion, putting it ahead of industrial giants Alcoa and Dow Chemical. The company thrived for the next decade as its share price rose from $12 to $65.

The company continued to dominate the consumer and enterprise photo world until 1984, when Fuji began selling film similar to Kodak’s for 20% less than Kodak’s price. Kay R. Whitmore, the company’s CEO from 1990 to 1993, assumed that its brand would win out over price, and continued to charge premium rates for its film. He was wrong.

Even though Kodak scientists invented the first digital camera and first mega-pixel camera, Kodak failed to commit the company entirely to the digital world.  Kodak assumed that its high-profit film business would continue to dominate the market.

Kodak tried to bridge the period between the decline of film and digital products with instant cameras, launched in 1987.  This helped the company remain profitable in the film business for another 15 years. Whitmore, it could be argued, had a window from the early 1990s until later in the decade to use the company’s brand and R&D prowess to retain the firm’s lead in the imaging business.

Kodak failed to adapt to the new reality, or rather it adapted in a half-hearted way. In the 1990s, it came out with Photo CD, a quasi-digital quasi-analog bridge product with some impressive technology. The company was in the business of selling digital cameras. With each passing year, the core audience for Kodak’s film, film paper, and the cameras that use them disappeared.

13.  William Seawell. Pan Am was the US flagship carrier overseas from the beginning of the Great Depression until the early 1970s. From early on in its history, it flew to Europe, Asia, and Latin America. The firm pioneered the use of clipper aircraft and was an early adopter of commercial jets and jumbo jets, which helped insure the success of the United States aerospace industry.

Most of the company’s growth came during the leadership of Juan Trippe, still considered by many to be the greatest airline CEO in history. Trippe not only expanded the company. He built, by many measures, the most experienced and professional flight crews and ground crews in the industry. Pan Am also built the predecessor of the modern airline reservation system in a partnership with IBM.

William Seawell was the CEO of Pan Am in 1980 when the company bought National Airlines in a bidding war against Frank Lorenzo, a corporate raider. Seawell believed that Pan Am needed a large domestic airline to feed its international routes. But the price for National was $400 million. And that added to the debt the company had already taken on to buy its fleet of Boeing 747s, which it had purchased to increase the capacity of its international fleet. Pan Am tried to salvage its balance sheet by selling the Pan Am building in New York. In September 1981 Seawell was replaced by C. Edward Acker who came too late to save the airline. After struggling with its debt, the company declared bankruptcy less than a decade later.

14. Raymond W. McDaniel, Jr. Moody’s CEO, Raymond W. McDaniel Jr., has been the head of the company since 2005. Since that time, Moody’s, which was founded in 1900, has gone from being one of the two most respected credit rating  agencies in the world, along with S&P, to being the target of public criticism and law suits by Connecticut State and investigations by Congress of its role in the credit crisis.

The Washington Post recently wrote of the investigations “A probe of the credit-rating industry by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations found that firms used outdated models, were influenced by their clients and waited too long to downgrade investments as the collapse in the housing market intensified in the year before the financial crisis.”

More recently The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission issued a subpoena to Moody’s complaining that the credit rating agency had not complied with its request for documents and e-mails to aid in its investigation. Most recently California subpoenaed Moody’s Investors Service Inc., asking for documents in the state’s investigation of the company’s evaluations of asset-backed securities. There is almost no case to be made that the trouble for Moody’s will not get worse and that its reputation has been effectively ruined. Over the last five years, the DJIA is up slightly and Moody’s is off by over 40%.

During McDaniel’s watch, Moody’s century-long sterling reputation for integrity vanished.  It is almost certain that the value of its brand can never be regained.

15. Eckard Pfeiffer. Eckard Pfeiffer ruined Compaq, one of the original PC companies, and for years one of the most successful.Compaq was started in 1982 with a $3,000 investment from its three founders. That same year, the company released the first commercially available portable computer, the father of the laptop. In 1984, the company released its first desktop, arguably making it the PC company with the broadest product line of any in the world. In 1989, Compaq moved into the low-end server market and pushed IBM and Packard Bell out.By the late 1990s Compaq would have been better off focusing on the PC and server markets. Unfortunately, Eckard Pfeiffer, the company’s CEO from 1991 to 1998, had plans to greatly expand the company’s businesses and sales. In 1997, he bought Tandem, a manufacturer of high-end servers. He then purchased DEC, the leading mid-frame computer company, in 1998. In both Tandem and DEC, Pfeiffer strayed from Compaq’s core business, buying high-end brands that were not only expensive but were in the process of becoming obsolete.  Notably, Pfeiffer was unaware of the value of one of DEC’s assets, Altavista, the original search engine and the predecessor to Google and Yahoo!

As Pfeiffer took that company up-market, competitors like Dell and Gateway stole most of the lower end of the market—the area Compaq had once dominated. After seven years as CEO, Pfieffer was sacked by his board of directors. It was too late for the company to recover critical market share in the fastest growing parts of the PC market. Compaq was sold to HP in 2002.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014


Original Story: thestateofthegulf.com

The Special Master tasked with investigating the Deepwater Horizon settlement process filed a motion this week urging the District Court to order the return of fraudulent payments made to Gill Johnson, Sr., who received over $440,000 from the Deepwater Horizon Economic Claims Center (“DHECC”).  The motion alleges that Johnson’s claims were based on falsified tax returns that were never even filed with the IRS.

In his motion, the Special Master informed the Court that in January 2013, Johnson filed claims seeking compensation for losses associated with his commercial fishing business based on his 2008 and 2009 tax records.  The rub?  Johnson didn’t file or pay taxes with the IRS in either of those years.

The 2008 tax return Johnson provided to the claims facility was undated and unsigned – and false, according to the Special Master’s motion.  The claims facility accepted his return despite the fact that the Settlement Agreement specifically requires claimants to file signed tax returns with their claims.  And the motion also stated that the 2009 tax record he provided to support his claims was prepared in July of 2010 for the sole purpose of allowing Johnson to file his Deepwater Horizon claim.  Johnson, the motion explains, allegedly based his 2009 return not on any source documents, but rather on a verbal summary given by Johnson’s girlfriend to the tax preparer Johnson had hired.

The claims facility accepted Johnson’s misrepresentations and his falsified forms, and awarded him over $440,000.  For their efforts in helping Johnson prepare his claim, his attorneys received over $109,000 – fees that the law firm returned the very same day that the Special Master filed his motion.

This motion, like others filed by the Special Master, underscores a simple fact: settlement funds paid for improper claims should be repaid.  Restitution is important in cases like this, not only so that fraudsters don’t benefit from their fraudulent acts, but also “to safeguard the integrity of an important public institution administering a fund for the benefit of an injured segment of society.”  In addition, the Special Master also urges the Court to enforce a one strike, you’re out policy with regards to Johnson, arguing that allowing claimants who have filed fraudulent claims the opportunity to resubmit their claims using different documentation would only encourage them to take a chance on fraud – knowing that they could submit different data if they got caught.

Of course, this is exactly what the PSC's lead lawyer appears to want: in a recent letter to Judge Freeh and the Court, Steve Herman argues that when fraud is alleged or suspected, the claimant should be notified that the "claim might be fraudulent" and given a chance to withdraw the Claim or otherwise attempt to explain it.  Unfortunately, this process would have the effect of giving unscrupulous claimants a risk-free chance to get their fraudulent claims paid.  In the world he appears to be urging, there's no apparent downside to taking your best shot at free money.  Such attempts at fraud would not be treated so leniently anywhere else in the world - not by employers, not by merchants, and definitely not by the IRS.  The policy at a court-supervised claims facility should reflect that attempts to commit fraud will not be tolerated.

Fraudsters should take note: BP certainly did not agree to pay for claims tainted by fraud or corruption.  The Special Master’s latest motion sends a clear message that attempts to take advantage of the settlement process are being investigated, and that those caught red-handed should expect to answer for their fraud.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014


Original Story: ibtimes.com

Northeastern Pennsylvania could soon see a shale drilling boom along the Utica formation. Royal Dutch Shell PLC (NYSE:RDS.A) this week announced prolific results at two of its discovery wells in Tioga County, an area as yet untapped by most oil companies.

The Utica Shale underlies major parts of Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and New York. So far, operators have mostly focused on Utica’s gas reserves in western Pennsylvania or southeast Ohio, the latter now one of the fastest-growing natural gas production areas in the United States, according to federal energy statistics. A Corpus Christi Mineral Rights Lawyer is following this story closely.

In the northeastern part of the Keystone State, most of the gas drilling has targeted the Marcellus Shale, the formation that lies on top of the deeper Utica Shale. Shell is among the first companies to bet on the Utica play in this area, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette noted.

Shell said its Gee well, in production for nearly a year now, had an initial flowback rate of 11.2 million cubic feet of natural gas per day. The Neal well, which went online in February, observed peak flowback rates of 26.5 million cubic feet daily. The discoveries “extend the sweet spot of the Utica formation” into an area where Shell holds about 430,000 acres, according to the Dutch oil giant. An Austin Energy Lawyer represents clients assist companies in negotiating the terms of domestic and international exploration.

Marvin Odum, Shell’s upstream Americas director, said the Gee and Neal wells are part of the company’s latest shale gas strategy, which concentrates on a smaller number of plays with a certain scale and economic profile. “The Appalachian basin is one of those areas, and these two high-pressure wells both exhibit exceptional reservoir quality,” he said in a statement Wednesday.

Shell’s discovery will likely open a new chapter in deep Utica exploration in Pennsylvania, research analyst Richard Zeits wrote on Seeking Alpha, an online investment platform. “The play may add many years of economically competitive inventory to the region's natural gas resource base.”

Utility companies are betting on a continued production surge in the region. Earlier this week, utilities Duke Energy Corp. (NYSE:DUK) and Dominion Resources Inc. (NYSE:D) announced plans for a $5 billion natural gas pipeline that will cut through the shale formations. A Houston Oil & Gas Lawyer provides expert legal guidance in producing wells, title opinions, mineral rights, output claims, oil and gas production, proceeds and distribution cases.


Original Story: m.stltoday.com

St. Louis coal miner Peabody Energy announced Monday it has entered into a 50-50 joint venture with Swiss miner Glencore that the company says will provide "significant synergies."

The agreement covers Peabody's Wambo Open-Cut Mine and Glencore's United Mine in New South Wales. Glencore will manage mining at its United mine "utilizing Wambo Open-Cut Mine's existing infrastructure." Double-enveloping worm gearing solutions are well suited to the rigorous demands of the mining industry.

Peabody says it expects about 3 million tons of coal per year from the United mine joint venture, consistent with the volume it obtained from the Wambo mine.

The coal industry has struggled with low prices and a supply glut during recent years, spurring producers to cut production.

The project should commence in 2017.

Thursday, November 13, 2014


Original Story: detroitnews.com

Unpaid internships are a bit of a devil’s bargain: Every summer, college students donate their labor and time for experience in a chosen field, the chance to get noticed — and perhaps even hired.

The bad pay package is a given. But my guess is that very few interns also factor in a lack of legal protection: Under the laws of most states, including Michigan, unpaid interns are uniquely vulnerable to sexual harassment or other discriminatory practices. A Memphis Sexual Harassment Lawyer is dedicated to helping victims of sexual harassment, stop the harassment and recover damages for emotional damages and physical injuries that may have occurred.

In a few notorious cases, including Lihuan Wang’s 2013 lawsuit in New York, judges refused to hear cases involving unpaid interns and sexual harassment, ruling that the interns aren’t employees and thus aren’t covered by workplace laws. A Boston Employment Attorney help businesses set up policies and systems to avoid legal problems in labor and employment matters.

Syracuse University graduate student Wang claimed she’d been ushered into a hotel room by her boss, grabbed and forcibly kissed. But she lost her day in court when the judge decided there could be no hostile work environment since she wasn’t an employee.

Even the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission agreed that federal law against sexual harassment doesn’t apply to unpaid interns. A Memphis EEOC Lawyer represents clients facing employment rights violations.

These rulings helped pass protective laws for interns in Washington, D.C., Oregon and New York. They also outraged David Knezek, a Democratic state rep from Dearborn Heights, who was elected to the state Senate last week; and Matthew Marks, who spent last summer as an intern at a Lansing lobbying firm.

Knezek, a 28-year-old former Marine sergeant, introduced a bill. Today Marks, a Michigan State University senior, is organizing a legislative day for college students to “raise awareness” among legislators and Knezek’s bill. He expects more than 30 students to converge on the state Capitol.

“We are bringing in students from all over the state,” says Marks, who created the Michigan Equal Protections for Interns Coalition (www.miepiec.org) last summer. Knezek and staff members from other legislative offices are giving the students a crash course in how to talk to legislative staff members.

“We’re hoping to raise awareness and get the bill moving,” says Marks, a Deerfield, Illinois, native majoring in political theory and constitutional democracy. Marks, who interned for a Lansing lobbying firm last summer, is practicing what he learned. “I had a good situation,” he says, “But I’ve talked to students who say they did experience sexual harassment.”

The bill (HB 5691) amends the Michigan Occupational Health and Safety Act to give equal protection under the law to volunteers and unpaid interns. “Right now, Michigan State and other universities are sending thousands of students into positions where they have no recourse,” Marks says.

Knezek applauds Marks and other students at MiEPIC. “I’ve been so impressed by their commitment. They refuse to allow someone else to make decisions for them. They’ve really become instrumental in this process and are an example for students across the state,” he told me.

Even with a law, of course, students looking for employment are unlikely to challenge their employers’ conduct. But passing a law is one way to tell employers there is no open season on interns: They’re people, too.


Original Story: nytimes.com

Dov Charney was no one’s idea of a button-down executive.

For years, Mr. Charney, the founder of American Apparel, has stood like a tabloid monument to fashion industry excess, a barely restrained id in a fitted black shirt. The stories about his personal life are legion: the accusations of sexual harassment, suggestive emails, nude photos — the list goes on.

But on Wednesday, the company that Mr. Charney founded in 1998 decided enough was enough. Worried that Mr. Charney had become a liability, the board ousted him from his roles as chairman and chief executive in a coup that leaves American Apparel facing an uncertain future.

“The company has grown a lot bigger than just one person and the liabilities Dov brought to the situation began to far outweigh his strengths,” said Allan Mayer, the board’s new co-chairman. A lawyer representing Mr. Charney did not return telephone calls on Thursday.

Exactly what prompted the move was unclear. People with knowledge of the situation said an internal investigation had turned up new details about Mr. Charney’s salacious behavior — only this time, they said, American Apparel could no longer afford the potential cost. Its creditors were growing anxious after years of losses at the company. Even a suggestion of new controversy might frighten stockholders, who have watched their investment plummet in value in recent years.

Mr. Mayer said Mr. Charney’s conduct, not the company’s financial performance, was behind the board’s decision. He said new facts had emerged this year, but declined to elaborate.

“The independent directors became aware of some facts we’d been previously unaware of,” Mr. Mayer said. “The only right and sensible thing to do at that point was to ask Dov to leave.”

Even if Mr. Charney’s conduct was the primary reason for his dismissal, the company’s numbers are unsettling. American Apparel’s share price has plunged more than 80 percent over the last five years. Financial institutions have demanded credit-card-style interest rates of up to 20 percent on its loans, a development that suggests how uneasy creditors are. Other financial companies flatly refused to have anything to do with American Apparel as long as Mr. Charney, 45, was at its helm.

About six weeks ago, the board began to start seriously considering forcing the founder to go.

At the end of the company’s annual meeting on Wednesday, Mr. Charney and five directors had a conference in a glass office tower in Times Square, where the board delivered the news that Mr. Charney was out. According to someone with direct knowledge of the episode, Mr. Charney was shocked.

The six men spent the next nine hours in that room, going around and around on the reasoning, as Mr. Charney made his case that the board was making a mistake. The board was unconvinced.

The company appointed John Luttrell, who has been with the company since 2011, as interim chief executive. David Danziger was appointed co-chairman of the board with Mr. Mayer. Under the terms of his contract, Mr. Charney will be suspended immediately and formally terminated after 30 days. The directors also voted to remove him as chairman.

Mr. Charney still owns 27 percent of the company’s stock.

According to a regulatory filing the company submitted on Wednesday, the decision to fire Mr. Charney comes not just with financial potential, but also with financial risk, because the move may initiate a default on some of the company’s credit facilities. If its lenders refuse to give American Apparel a waiver on the triggers, the filing warned, the effect “would have a material adverse effect on our liquidity, financial condition and results of operations, and could cause us to become bankrupt or insolvent.”

Mr. Charney, who was born in Montreal, moved to Los Angeles in 1997 to start a wholesale business that became American Apparel. Six years later, American Apparel became a retail business and immediately took off.

Early on, Mr. Charney received accolades for making clothing in the United States, even as more and more apparel production moved oversees, and for being vocal about workers’ rights. On Thursday, company executives said that neither the mission of the company — nor its suggestive marketing and advertising strategy, which has been frequently compared to soft-core pornography — would change.

“We are committed to staying true to being made in America, to being sweatshop-free, to being a high-quality basic and fashion product,” Mr. Luttrell said. “The targeted customer demographic will not change, either.”

But Mr. Charney’s penchant for inappropriate behavior has dogged him and the company for years.

In May 2005, three former employees filed two separate sexual harassment lawsuits in Los Angeles County Superior Court accusing Mr. Charney of creating an unsafe environment where women were subject to sexual misconduct and innuendo.

Nearly a year later, in February 2006, another former employee filed a complaint with the Los Angeles office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, saying she was sexually harassed by an unidentified co-worker and was fired as a result of a hostile working environment.

The commission determined in August 2010 that the company not only discriminated against Sylvia Hsu, but also against “women, as a class, on the basis of their female gender, by subjecting them to sexual harassment,” the company’s annual report said.

In early 2011, five more former female employees filed sexual harassment lawsuits against Mr. Charney, including accusations that he had asked some of them to engage in sex acts against their will.

Despite his vocal support for workers’ rights, he was forced to let go of 1,800 workers, more than 30 percent of his factory staff, in 2009 as part of an immigration sweep when a federal investigation turned up irregularities in the identity documents the workers presented when they were hired.

An additional 700 left voluntarily, which company officials said had a devastating effect on American Apparel’s productivity in 2010. His management style, which executives described as controlling and disorganized, was also a problem.

And over the last year or so, current and former executives say that Mr. Charney created disarray by pushing out a large number of employees, including members of upper-level management like the general counsel, Glenn A. Weinman, who left the company in May.

In addition to disappointing earnings in recent quarters — the company’s net losses last year were $106.3 million — the company has struggled with a new distribution center opened last year. The new center had problems with missed shipments and personnel that created extra costs for the company and lost revenue from problems with inventory.

This is a crowded moment to be a retailer searching for a new chief executive, as companies like J. C. Penney and Target are also looking for new leadership. But a company insider said on Thursday that several attractive candidates had already expressed interest in running American Apparel — so long as Mr. Charney was in no way involved.

On Thursday, shares in the company rose nearly 7 percent to close at 68 cents a share.


Original Story: shipandbunker.com

A wider U.S. coalition which also includes shippers has turned to the federal government for intervention over fears that prolonged labour negotiations will lead to a wide-scale shutdown of U.S. West coast ports, JOC reports. A Boston Mediation Lawyer is experienced in resolving matters without the need for trial.

The group is calling for a federally-appointed mediator to help in the discussion between The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and employer representatives Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), who have been in tense bargaining since this summer.

"The sudden change in tone is alarming and suggests that a full shutdown of every West Coast port may be imminent," wrote the coalition in a letter addressed to President Obama.

Officially, the previous labour contract expired July 1, but tensions significantly rose this week after the PMA released a statement condemning the union for potentially having "crippled operations" at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach by withholding labour.

""The ILWU's orchestrated job actions are threatening the West Coast's busiest ports and potentially billions of dollars in commerce," said the PMA. Multi-Carrier Shipping Software can reduce transportation costs for companies.

Mounting congestion has also been a problem in Southern California ports due to factors such as rising cargo volumes, according to the PMA, who used it as ammo for why the union should return to work.

The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach previously went on an eight-day strike in 2012, which cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

Monday, November 10, 2014


Original Story: detroitnews.com

Oklahoma City – — As more states approve the medicinal and recreational use of marijuana, an Oklahoma-based electronic cigarette retailer is looking to build a national franchise.

Marijuana is illegal under federal drug laws. But voters in Oregon, Alaska and Washington, D.C., approved ballot measures Tuesday to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, joining Washington state and Colorado. And in more than a dozen other states, medical marijuana is available.

The growing availability of legal pot opens the door for Tulsa-based Palm Beach Vapors to market a method for producing a cannabis oil product that can be inhaled through a common e-cigarette, according to CEO and co-founder Chip Paul. An Atlanta Intellectual Property Lawyer is experienced in advising clients on intellectual property rights allocation.

“This is a wave that’s kind of sweeping the nation,” said Paul, whose company is looking to patent the method and has already signed licensing deals in California and Colorado for what it calls the M-System. He said he intends to set up franchise locations in other states.

The use of marijuana is currently illegal in Oklahoma, but the market for cannabis products is projected to grow as more states move to legalize it. Advocates plan a big push for legalization initiatives on 2016 ballots in California, Arizona, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada, according to Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance.

Paul was one of the organizers of an Oklahoma initiative petition calling for the legalization of medical marijuana, an effort that ended in August when volunteers failed to gather the needed signatures of more than 155,000 registered voters.

The failed petition sought voter approval of classifying marijuana as an herbal drug that would be regulated by the Oklahoma Department of Health. Doctors would have been authorized to prescribe it for a variety of medical conditions.

Cannabis has a history of medicinal use to treat pain or alleviate symptoms such as nausea and vomiting in chemotherapy patients and people with AIDS. Paul plans to launch another petition drive in August 2015.

But Mark Woodward, spokesman for the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, says the agency is concerned about the inhalation of cannabis oils via e-cigarettes.

E-cigarettes work by heating liquid nicotine into an inhalable mist; cannabis oils and waxes work much the same.

Palm Beach Vapors does not buy, sell or ship marijuana but licenses the preparation method and additive that produces a vegetable glycerin base in which cannabis oils remain evenly distributed, which is key to labeling concentrations, similar to the nicotine measurements in e-cigarettes, Paul said. A Boston Intellectual Property Lawyer assists clients in obtaining patents and registering for trademarks and copyrights.

The company has applied for a patent, and expects the M-System to account for 30-40 percent of its annual revenue by 2018, provided the country continues its march toward wider legalization, Paul said.

Marijuana is still illegal in Indiana, but Nate Renschler, who has a Palm Beach Vapors franchise in Newburgh, Indiana, said that sentiment could change when state officials realize the tax benefits of legalization.

“The whole country is going one way and Indiana is taking two steps back. We’ll be one of the last steps to legalize marijuana,” Renschler said, noting that the e-cigarette product is still viable regardless of what state it is sold in. He uses the Palm Beach Vapors method to sell hemp oil, which he claims is good for a person’s general well-being.

Even though marijuana is not legal in the majority of the United States, Woodward said teens are obtaining e-cigarettes and cannabis oils. “It’s an easier way for people, especially our youth, to disguise their marijuana use,” Woodward said.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014


Original Story: arkansasmatters.com

LITTLE ROCK, AR - The Big Cat Exhibit at the Little Rock Zoo remains closed by order of City Hall following an incident Friday where a small child fell into an enclosure holding two jaguars. A Memphis Personal Injury Lawyer is reviewing the details of this case.

At last report, the injured boy's condition had been upgraded and he was expected to improve.

City Manager Bruce Moore released the following statement today:

Based on the events that occurred last Friday, I've asked Assistant City Manager James Jones to lead an internal review of the Little Rock Zoo’s “Big Cat” exhibit and Zoo emergency response procedures. I expect the review to be completed within two weeks. Until the review is complete, the top-viewing area of the “Big Cat” exhibit will remain closed to the public.

Arkansas Children's Hospital released the following statement today on the condition of the child:

On Friday, Oct. 10, a child was transported to Arkansas Children’s Hospital for treatment of injuries sustained in a fall at the Little Rock Zoo. Today, the child’s condition has been upgraded to stable with significant improvement. We respect the wishes of the child’s guardian who asked that the child’s name and any additional information not be shared at this time. Thank you for respecting the privacy of this family.


Original Story: usatoday.com

A little-noticed development is about to change the education landscape as we know it: Nearly a dozen charter school networks have grown to the size of midsized school districts. Now what? An Atlanta Charter School Lawyer has extensive experience in education law and charter school compliance matters.

This is a clear departure point. Political and philanthropic leaders who encouraged the growth of charters have to take a fresh look at their creations: Are these publicly funded, independently run schools what we had in mind?

Traditional school superintendents and teacher union leaders have to ask: Should they stop stonewalling charter school growth and collaborate instead?

Both answers should be yes.

Even the most high-performing charter networks are far from perfect. Charter schools still don't serve their fair share of special education students and there's no denying they pull money from districts, which struggle to downsize to meet diminished demand.

Even so, charters are more likely than traditional districts to succeed in educating low-income minority students, just what the politicians and philanthropic leaders who backed them had hoped.

Although most traditional school leaders continue to push back against charters, a few enterprising superintendents are pioneering a different approach: collaboration. A Cobb County Charter School Lawyer specializes in K-12 school finance and charter school law.

Green light

Last week, New York City-based Success Academy charter schools got green lighted to open 14 more schools over the next two years, bringing the network to 50 schools serving 16,300 students.

Success Academy is hardly the largest of the high-performing charter network operators. By 2020, KIPP plans to serve 120,000 students in multiple states. Texas-based IDEA charter schools are on track to serve 40,000 students by then. The same year, Houston-based YES Prep anticipates serving over 20,000 students in several states.

Collaborative models

As charters become an accepted and major force in education, farsighted politicians and school leaders see the potential in working with the charters. In Denver, for example, the school system invited several locally developed charters into their buildings, an innovation that led to academic gains for students.

In the Spring Branch district in Houston, a superintendent uses an infusion of KIPP and YES Prep schools as a lever to re-invent the entire way that district operates, benefiting kids in charter schools and in traditional public schools.

Tennessee created an "achievement school district" that welcomes the nation's best charter groups into that state to turn around troubled schools. In New Orleans, nearly all students now attend charter schools, a development that has been bumpy but produces clear academic gains for the students there and gets smoother every year.

Neerav Kingsland, who formerly ran New Schools for New Orleans, argues that the city's model requiring a common application process and common expulsion practices, while national charter groups keep their special classroom culture, should be copied nationally. "You keep the governance local, which is important, but the school operations go national," Kingsland says.

The moment when charter schools turn from isolated experiments to something resembling their own school districts doesn't have to be scary. Charter schools are doing what they were designed to do. And Denver-style collaboration should become the model for the future.

Answering yes-yes means a win-win for kids.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014


Original Story: news.monster.com

Businesses; jobs and the workplaces are changing faster than ever before. Skills which were considered ‘hot’ until yesterday are no longer considered even special today. With the change in business due to competition and customers expectations soaring high; today the employees are evaluated on many additional parameters they aren’t even aware of. Fact is employees are constantly being observed to check if they have the critical yet unwritten ‘virtues’ to fit into the new roles & responsibilities needed for the organizations present success and future growth.

Follows 10… Oh! OK 9 signs that your career is getting ‘killed’ silently and you are gradually loosing the plot at the workplace without your knowledge.

1.If you are considered a Rambo…a one man army

You have won many awards in the past for great performance and have the personal ability to steer any project to success. You have always been a successful lone warrior. You never need anyone’s help and asking for help is a big embarrassment for you.

But you know; today’s work is too complex to be handled with just ‘personal heroism’. Today’s businesses need ‘collective’ efforts & intelligence to succeed. You need to collaborate with your peers; customers & partners every time. Today your success in the organization would depend more on how connected; collaborative & ‘social’ you are and less on how ‘capable’ you are as an individual.

2. If you are always worried about your work-life balance

Your idea of work-life balance is a 9 to 5 job. You haven’t yet discovered that there is nothing like work life balance. Actually life & work are integral to each other. You cannot separate them. You have to build a ‘synergy’ to do justice to both your personal and work lives. They cannot be delimited by time. Fact of the matter is you could never win doing the ‘balancing act’. You have to find ways how both gel well into a holistically rewarding experience for you.

3. If you and your desktop are inseparable

You have always loved your desktop computer. After all; it stores all software and documents you need for your work. You become uncomfortable if someone wants you to work on a ‘cloud’ application from a different computer. Where ever you are; you can start your work only when you are back at your desktop.

4. If for you work means phone calls; emails & face-to-face meetings

Your idea of work is to read/send emails; answer phone calls and if both don’t work have face to face meetings. You know these methods are big time wastes but you still continue with them. You are yet to catch up with the idea of using new communication methods like video chat; social collaboration & mobility at work. Remember, a meeting is an event where ‘minutes’ are taken and hours wasted. ” A conference call = 1 person talking and 26 people continuing to do their email” says Dr. Eddie Obeng a well known business guru.

5. If you find downloading Apps on your phone and using them cumbersome

You have a gleaming smartphone in your pocket but that’s only to attend calls and send emails. You don’t search or download apps in it to make your work easy. You wonder why the millennials in your office often ask you ‘ Why do you do this manually. Don’t you have an app for it?’

6. If you often wonder why some people bother so much about ‘virtual’ badges; levels or points

For you the perfect incentive is only bonuses & cash awards. You are motivated only when you get a salary hike or a promotion. Winning online badges & points doesn’t make sense for you. You are not able to figure out why someone would strive for ‘recognition’ as an ‘expert’ without any monetary rewards.

7. If you keep new ideas too close to your chest

You keep your ideas to yourself waiting for the perfect time to unleash it before the senior most guys. You feel they might get ‘stolen’ by your colleagues if you share them on employee’s internal social network.

8. If you trust on your conventional wisdom only and not on ‘data’.

Old perceptions are fading fast and what we have always considered right is turning out to be big myths. Thanks to the massive data today people easily have access to. No doubt your intuition/gut feelings are important but they need the support of data insights too.

9. Last but not least; if you still aren’t convinced that it could happen in 2015.

Great that you are an optimist! Loosing the job doesn’t necessarily mean you would immediately stop getting the paychecks. But the process could start in any or all of the following ways:

a) You getting isolated within the team

b) You not being included in important projects

c) You being sent on forced sabbatical

d) You not taken to customer meets

e) Millennials stopping interactions with you

f) Your boss & senior management start ignoring you.

If there is evidence of above signs in your work it simply indicates that you are gradually loosing your battle at the workplace and it should be addressed urgently. It makes a lot of sense to get pumped up and be the change agent for your self.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


Original Story: al.com

MOBILE, Alabama - Paul and Mellanie Hildesheim of Gallery Homes have been planning their showcase home for years. "It is literally like our child," said Mellanie.

Since the house was built for the Parade of Homes, the couple has had a few chances to pretend it's theirs, they said. Purchasing Homes in Mobile AL is an excellent investment opportunity.

"We want to buy it ourselves!" Paul enthused, laughing.

He especially likes the outside kitchen and bar area on the back porch. A retractable screen separates it from the back yard, where beyond the lawn are thick woods.

From the porch, a walkway of stone pavers leads to a pergola with several Adirondack chairs arranged around a fire pit. "We've lit the fire pit and sat there for an hour just relaxing," Mellanie said.

"When we found out we'd be building in this showplace subdivision, we wanted it to be a showplace," he said of the home that he describes as open, airy and livable. "I can't say enough what a great job my wife has done. What you see is what our dream was."

Located in the new Alabaster development off Howell's Ferry Road, a mile west of Snow Road, the showcase home will be open to the public as part of the Home Builders Association of Metropolitan Mobile's Parade of Homes on Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 18 and 19, and the following weekend, Oct. 25 and 26, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Parade of Homes is a great way to show off Homes Mobile AL.

The showcase home has four bedrooms, each with its own bathroom, plus a half-bath under the stairs. It has 3,660 square feet of living space, plus front and back porches and a three-car garage, and it lists for $529,000.

Though it has all of the latest amenities any homeowner could want, Paul is perhaps as proud of what Parade of Homes visitors won't see as he is of what they will see. His company is the only local custom builder that's an Energy Star partner, he said. The showcase home has a Home Energy Rating System (HERS) rating of 59, which is almost 50 percent better than the 100 rating required for new homes built to code.

"Energy Star reduces utility bills, makes the air quality better and improves comfort," he said.

The company is also a fortified builder, Mellanie added, which saves homeowners from 30 to 40 percent on their insurance.

"We didn't want to be the same-old, same-old builder," Paul said. "We back it up with a third-party inspection, so there's no doubt about it when we build it."

Are you 'wowable'?

The home has a stunning entry through the seeded-glass door by Jemison Window and Door, with a 20-foot ceiling and a slightly curved staircase leading upstairs, where a barn door on a track slides open to reveal the media room.

"This is one of my favorite things about the house," Paul said. "If it doesn't take your breath, you're not wowable."

Mellanie chose a neutral palette, and she worked with Shawn Cushing and Jackie Callahan of FLC Living in Mobile to furnish and accessorize the home. "They were so easy to work with," said Mellanie. "They did a fantastic job complementing this house."

From the front door, a hallway leads into the open living room/kitchen/breakfast area. The floors in this area are hand-scraped, 7 1/2-inch birch planks. The striking fireplace is made of hand-cut, stacked ledge stone with a mounted TV and a linear LED electric fireplace that puts out heat without the hassle and mess.

An island separates the kitchen from the living room. The brownish-gray cabinets are custom-made by Coast Design Kitchen and Tile, and all the drawers are soft-close. Mellanie chose white subway tiles for the backsplash.

The walk-in pantry, designed by Custom Closets by Kenney-Moise Inc., features baskets for vegetables, slots to hold platters and pull-out drawers for storing just about anything.

Between the kitchen and the dining room is a butler's pantry whose walls are rough-cut cedar. The butler's pantry has cabinets, a sink and an icemaker.

The dining room, at the front of the house, has white wainscoting with Sherwin-Williams' "Porpoise"-colored walls and a custom-designed light fixture over the table. This room is open to the foyer, but the space is separated by two Craftsman-style columns and display shelves that face the entry.

"It's very simple," said Mellanie. "Less is more."

The laundry room and mudroom are also accessible from the kitchen, and the mudroom leads to the three-car garage, where a surprise is in store. On the middle garage door is a screen print of a beach scene, complete with two chairs and palm trees, "so the family can entertain and have a backdrop," Paul said.

Very comforting

On the other side of the living room, the master bedroom and bathroom are tucked away. Mellanie designed the ceiling in the master bedroom, which features knotty pine paneling painted white for a cottage look. She also went with a chandelier instead of a ceiling fan.

"I like vintage flair," she said. "It's very inviting, very comforting."

The focal point of the spacious master bathroom is a freestanding tub by Southern Bath, under a glass tile backsplash. A walk-in shower has a rain shower head and three jets in the wall, as well as a hand-held sprayer. His-and-her vanities are lit by LED lighting under the counters.

The walk-in closet, which has plenty of natural light, was also designed by Custom Closets, with a full-length mirror, ironing board, jewelry drawers and lots of space for storing clothing and shoes, as well as dressing areas.

Downstairs, there's also a guest room with its own full bath. This flexible space could also be an office or playroom.

The walls of the powder room under the stairs were faux-painted by David Walton in a pink dogwood pattern. A vessel sink sits stop a quartz countertop.

Upstairs, those barn doors hide the media room with a 70-inch TV, surround sound, theater lighting and a media closet. There's a dedicated craft room, also designed by Custom Closets, and two bedrooms, each with its own bathroom and walk-in closet.

As custom home builders for the past 10 years, Gallery Homes specializes in listening to clients, Paul said. As the in-house designer, Mellanie "works on every texture and color," he said.

"When you have a passion for something, it's easy," said Mellanie, who has been married to Paul for 25 years and said he is her best friend. "We have worked together every day, every year, and we enjoy what we do."

Monday, October 27, 2014


Original Story: latimes.com

NBCUniversal and a group of former “Saturday Night Live” interns have reached an agreement to settle a class-action lawsuit contending the interns should have been paid for their work. An Atlanta Employment Lawyer is experienced in drafting employment agreements and negotiating employment contracts.

The $6.4-million settlement, subject to court approval, will be shared by thousands of "SNL" interns who worked in New York and California.

In documents filed with New York's Southern District Court, lawyers for the plaintiffs said Comcast-owned NBCUniversal had agreed to special bonuses for the litigants who led the class-action lawsuit, first filed in July 2013.

While those individuals would receive $5,000 to $10,000 each, other unpaid interns who qualify to be included in the settlement may see as little as $500 apiece.

The plaintiffs and their attorneys had contended that the internships involved doing work that would ordinarily be done by paid workers, by "improperly classifying them as non-employee interns exempt from federal and state minimum wage ... requirements." A San Antonio Business Lawyer has experience representing clients in employment disputes.

NBC declined to comment.

The original complaint involved New York interns Jesse Moore and Monet Eliastam, and grew to include plaintiffs from other states.

The interns asserted that the work they did on the late-night comedy paid them "no compensation or compensation at a rate less than the applicable minimum wage law," and that they were doing work for which wages were appropriate. A Houston Employment Lawyer is reviewing the details of this case.

The "SNL" interns lawsuit is one of several that have roiled the entertainment industry in New York and Los Angeles, where unpaid internships have long been a cost-saver for TV networks, movie studios, production companies, music labels and talent agencies -- and also a foot-in-the-door opportunity for ambitious Hollywood hopefuls.

The glamorous-sounding positions might involve assisting a filmmaker or record producer, but typically require the intern to make coffee, photocopy documents, run errands or make travel arrangements for company principals.

In similar court cases, interns have sued the 21st Century Fox subsidiary Fox Searchlight Pictures, Warner Music Group, Atlantic Records and the publishing houses Conde Nast and Hearst Corp.


Original Story: nytimes.com

The chickens are not coming home to roost at Amazon just yet, but they are checking the flight schedule to Seattle.

Three months ago, Amazon was expected to lose 7 cents a share in the third quarter. After the retailer warned that it was investing so heavily in so many things, analysts pushed their loss projections up aggressively to 74 cents a share.

Even that was not enough. After the market closed Thursday, Amazon reported that it lost 95 cents a share. There was other disappointing news, too: Revenue came in $260 million less than analysts’ projections, and the company said it might lose money again in the fourth quarter, which in the old days was when retailers made all their profit for the year.

Even revenue growth, Amazon’s powerhouse, is fading a bit. The company said revenue would rise between 7 percent and 18 percent in the fourth quarter. In the fourth quarter of 2013, revenue rose 20 percent from 2012.

Amazon’s story for several years has been that it is growing furiously, investing heavily and postponing profits until the halcyon days just around the corner when it will sell all things to all people all the time. That took the company stock on a wild ride, pushing it up to $400 a share early this year.

But Wall Street has been questioning those assumptions in recent months, and those questions forcefully surfaced again after the earnings report. The stock fell 10.7 percent to $279.75, shaving about $15 billion off the company’s valuation.

The results also indicated that the company’s take-no-prisoners attitude toward its suppliers might be catching up with it.

During the third quarter, Amazon was engaged in a highly public scrap with Hachette, the fourth-largest book publisher, over pricing of electronic books. Amazon is discouraging sales of Hachette books as a way to gain leverage in the confrontation. That in turn has provoked protests from authors and negative publicity for Amazon.

That unfavorable publicity could be having an effect. One particularly weak segment for Amazon in the third quarter was North America media sales, which means books, movies and music. It increased a mere 4.8 percent from 2013.

That was the slowest growth for the category in more than five years and a sharp slowdown from the 13.4 percent increase in the second quarter, said Colin Gillis, an analyst with BGC Partners.

Amazon’s chief financial officer, Thomas J. Szkutak, said in a conference call with analysts after the earnings were released that a shift to renting textbooks rather than buying them and a strong 2013 quarter were responsible for the drop. But Mr. Gillis was unconvinced.

“This was a violent deceleration in growth,” he said. “The controversy with the publisher likely also contributed to the slowdown.”

During the call, the analysts were a bit more restive than usual, questioning when the long-promised payoff for Amazon’s heavy spending would come true. “When things don’t go as anticipated,” one asked, “what’s the process for determining whether to plow ahead or turn back?”

Mr. Szkutak answered that there were “things that go great, and things that don’t go as well as others.”

Here are some of the things that went well. Amazon’s tablet line was refreshed during the quarter to enthusiastic reviews. The dark comedy series “Transparent,” an original production for the Prime membership club, got good notices. Fire TV, introduced in the spring, has turned into a popular streaming box. The grocery delivery service expanded to Brooklyn. Amazon bought Twitch, a popular streaming site, to bolster its gaming opportunities.

On the other hand, the third quarter was marred by the disastrous reception of the Fire phone, Amazon’s long-awaited and much promoted entry into the smartphone market. A marketing survey of 500 Amazon customers could not find any who reported owning a Fire. A great many of the reviews on Amazon’s own site give the Fire the lowest possible rating.

A $200 price cut last month briefly pushed the phone up on Amazon’s list of top-selling electronic products, but it quickly fell off again. Thousands of employees spent years developing the phone. It is a rare case of Amazon completely misjudging the appeal of a new product.

Mr. Szkutak said Amazon had $83 million worth of inventory of the phone at the end of the quarter. That should last until the sun goes dim.

Michael Pachter of Wedbush Securities was a mild dissenter on Amazon before the earnings came out, citing “a variety of customer experience enhancements” that will soak up potential profits. These enhancements include a streaming music service recently introduced by Amazon. It is free for Amazon Prime members.

Spending on video and music content will total $2 billion this year and $2.5 billion next year, Mr. Pachter wrote.

Mr. Szkutak said the free content was doing its job, with customers who used the streaming video feature renewing at higher rates and buying more physical goods.

But if the executive sounded one theme during the call, it was that even Amazon realizes there are limits.

“We’ve certainly been in several years now what I would call an investment mode,” Mr. Szkutak said. “There is still lots of opportunity in front of us, but we know we have to be very selective about the opportunities we pursue.”

For nearly every retailer, including Amazon, the fourth quarter is the biggest. As usual, Amazon gave a wide range for its guidance, saying it might lose as much as $570 million and make as much as $430 million. In 2013, it made $510 million in the fourth quarter.

“I think that the potential for a loss in the fourth quarter is what is freaking people out,” Mr. Pachter said. “It is inconceivable that Amazon would lose money during the holidays, at least to someone who bought the stock above $300.”

Friday, October 17, 2014


Original Story: cnbc.com

Walgreen's former Chief Financial Officer Wade Miquelon sued the drugstore operator on Thursday, alleging company executives defamed him in news reports that blamed him for errors in its earnings forecast.

Miquelon sued Walgreen in a state court in Chicago claiming that Chief Executive Officer Gregory Wasson and director Stefano Pessina, the company's biggest shareholder, had made "false and disparaging" comments about him in a report by the Wall Street Journal, court documents showed.

The Journal reported in August that Miquelon and another top executive lost their jobs after a $1 billion forecasting error in Walgreen's Medicare-related business. A Memphis Wrongful Termination Lawyer is experienced in legal issues that arise in wrongful termination cases.

A series of articles followed in the newspaper that said Miquelon "bungled" the company's EBIT forecast for fiscal year 2016.

They said his error required the company to cut by $1.1 billion its forecast of $8.5 billion in pharmacy unit earnings for the year ending August 2016, the newspaper said.

The newspaper report said the forecast error also led to the departure of Kermit Crawford, Walgreen's president of pharmacy, health and wellness. A Knoxville Labor and Employment Lawyer is reviewing the details of this case.

Miquelon stepped down as chief financial officer on Aug. 4 after a six-year tenure.

According to court documents, Miquelon's decision to resign was "personal, based on his desire to pursue opportunities outside of Walgreen." A  is reviewing the details of this case.

Miquelon further alleged that he had pressed Pessina to have Walgreen "publicly report the truth" but the drugstore operator had not done so.

In the suit, Miquelon said he was offered a promotion in April by Wasson and was told that if he accepted the offer, he would be in line to succeed Wasson as CEO.

Walgreen's spokesperson Emily Hartwig said the company does not comment on pending litigation.

Thursday, October 16, 2014


Original Story: freep.com

It's hardly news that many travelers are concerned about germs and diseases when they fly these days. But in the airborne petri dish that contemporary aircraft have become, fliers may well be worrying about the wrong things. Here are five myths about germs in aircraft.

1. The most dangerous health hazard in the air is the cabin air itself.

"That's wrong," says Michael Zimring, director of travel medicine at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, and the author of "Healthy Travel." "The cabin air is fine and aircraft are outfitted with HEPA filters to clean it."

The real problems lie on the chair upholstery, the tray table, the armrests and the toilet handle, where bacteria such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and E. coli can live for up to a week on airplanes that aren't properly cleaned. These findings are the result of a two-year study by a team of microbiologists and engineers at Auburn University in Alabama, who presented it at the American Society for Microbiology's annual meeting.

"I can't say I was surprised by the findings," said James Barbaree, professor associate and director of the Auburn University Detection & Food Safety Center and a 20-year veteran of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), who led the study. Tray tables had the highest levels of bacteria, and seat belts and armrests were also singled out as places where bacteria can survive. Barbaree and his researchers tested six types of bacteria and learned that MRSA could last for up to 168 hours on the back pocket of an airplane chair, while E. coli could remain active for 96 hours on the armrest. Although bacteria lived longer on porous surfaces and for shorter periods of time on hard plastic surfaces, those plastic surfaces were the most efficient at transmitting it to the next set of hands. Think of an armrest, the remote control or window shade, as well as the door handles of the bathroom.

2. The bagged airline pillows and blankets are OK to use.

Today's aircraft are short on creature comforts, so it's mighty tempting to grab a blanket and a pillow when boarding, one of the last "free" perks of any flight. But the sage advice is to give them a pass.

"I don't use any of them," says John Gobbels, vice president and COO of Medjet Assist, which arranges air medical transport for its members. "For a long-haul flight, I bring a fleece jacket to stay warm. If I ever use a blanket, it's one sealed in plastic but then only for my lower legs."

As for pillows, "never" is the operative term.

"I see them thrown in the overhead compartments," Gobbels says, "and no one is changing the pillow cases."

Bringing you own neck pillow is a much better idea, but Gobbels cautions that you should use one that can be laundered, because "it can transmit germs as well."

3. Airlines clean the aircraft between flights.

How often and how well an aircraft is actually cleaned is something of a secret. Removing trash and old magazines is one thing, but most industry watchers say that a proper cleaning doesn't occur that often. The FAA doesn't regulate or inspect aircraft cleaning, so frequency and thoroughness are left up to the airlines themselves. Gobbels of MedJet Assist says that as a rule of thumb, an aircraft is supposed to be completely wiped down after every 30 days of service or at 100 flying-hour intervals. But in theory, that means that an aircraft can be used for dozens of flights between deep cleanings.

"There's a lot of cost-cutting among the airlines, and cleaning is one area that gets cut," says Gobbles. "Yes, there are standard operating procedures and certain chemicals that are supposed to be used. But the airlines often use third-party cleaning services and much of the time, the cleaners seem more intent upon a fast turnaround and getting the seat ready for the next passenger to occupy."

How clean is the corner of the airline aisle seats that every passenger grabs on their way back to their seat after using the bathroom? Or the seat headrest? It's anyone's guess. Nor should you expect to see much cleaning during a flight.

"I just came back on a flight from Italy last week," says Zimring. "My advice is that if you need to use the bathroom on a long-haul flight, do it early on. Not after eight hours in the air. They don't clean bathrooms on a long flight."

4. The airlines have taken steps to ensure that passengers can't contract diseases like the Ebola virus in the aircraft.

There have not been any reported cases of the Ebola virus spreading within the confines of an aircraft cabin. Ebola, Zimring points out, is not an airborne virus but is spread through blood and body fluids. But airline passengers should adhere to rigorous hygiene practices to limit exposure to the virus, says Gobbels of MedjetAssist.

"Ebola can be transferred through open wounds and mucus membranes such as the mouth and eye," says Gobbels, "so cover exposed areas of skin and be mindful of the method of transmission. Wash your hands often and use alcohol-based hand cleansers. Refrain from any contact with blood or body fluids and do not handle anything that could have come into contact with infected fluids. If you travel to or with people who may have come from Ebola-infected areas, watch your health for signs and symptoms of Ebola for 21 days after travel and seek immediate medical attention if required."

This is not the first time that the United States has had concerns about the Ebola virus, James Barbaree points out, noting that the CDC has been working on Ebola since an outbreak in Africa in 1976. Hygiene aside, Barbaree says that "there is very little that passengers can do about the Ebola problem except be patient as the new screening procedures and guidelines are put into place. It is unfortunate that our officials did not act promptly and prudently to protect our population."

5. Let's face it, there's not much I can do to protect myself when I'm trapped in an aircraft cabin.

Not true. There are multiple steps that every flier can take to prevent the spread of bacteria when they fly. First, they should travel with and use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. They should also travel with a small pack of disinfectant wipes. Gobbels says that "the first thing I do when I sit down is to wipe down the armrest and tray table because that's where my arms will be. You need to decontaminate where you'll be spending your time and eating."

Staying hydrated also helps, says Zimring. So does using a tissue or a paper towel to open bathroom doorknobs and touch toilet handles. The most vulnerable area may well be your eyes, and medical professionals advise not going anywhere near them with your hands, as tear ducts are a fast route for germs to the nose and throat.

"There are people who now fly with a face mask, gloves and special jacket," Gobbels says. "We're going to see more of that."