February 13, 2013

Posted by orrinj at 9:42 PM


Obama injects optimism into trade deal (James Politi and Richard McGregor, 2/13/13, Financial Times)

"Tonight, I am announcing that we will launch talks on a comprehensive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the European Union - because trade that is free and fair across the Atlantic supports millions of good-paying American jobs," Mr Obama said.

The US and the EU already have a huge trade relationship, worth $2.7bn per day in goods and services, but since November 2011 they have been exploring the potential for deepening their ties further amid rising global competition, particularly from China.

The main focus of a trade agreement between the US and EU would be to harmonise standards and tackle the non-tariff barriers that have frequently caused disputes across the Atlantic.

Posted by orrinj at 9:38 PM


Baseball is back (thank goodness) and it's better than ever (really) (Tom Verducci, 2/12/13, SI)

Money doesn't buy championships

Okay, it helps. But the most important "skill" in baseball today is the ability to stay on the field. With steroids and greenies banned, younger players, who tend to be fitter and healthier, are more important than older players. And because service time is a major component of salary, younger players also are cheaper than older players.

I've already demonstrated how young starting pitching is an asset, not a liability. Keep this in mind as well: the average age of position players last year (28.5) dropped to its lowest level since 1993.
The Dodgers, emboldened by a ridiculously lucrative local TV contract that further defines our gluttony for entertainment, are the most intriguing team to watch this year because they have borrowed from an old model to try to win at today's game: overspend on veteran players the way the Yankees, Red Sox and Phillies once did.

Posted by orrinj at 9:19 PM


3 Long-Lasting Sustainable Companies Teach How To Both Thrive And Give Back (Jay Coen Gilbert and Katie Kerr, 2/07/13, Co.Exist)

After nearly 225 years in business, King Arthur Flour knows a thing or two about success. The company's secret: focusing on employees. Based in Norwich, Vermont, this Rockstar (and America's oldest flour company) began as a family-owned business before transitioning towards an employee-ownership model in 1996 and finally becoming 100% employee owned and thriving. The Employee Stock Ownership Plan provides each employee with a stake in the company and therefore a bigger incentive to make it a success--a fact reflected in the company's growth. Revenue and their workforce have been steadily increasing over the last 10 years, both doubling in the years since converting to 100% employee ownership. Last year, KAF had gross sales of over $97 million and an employee count of 283--a huge increase from the six employees in 1990.

As an employee-owned B Corp, KAF has the freedom to emphasize values beyond profit, like environmental responsibility, community engagement, and the wellness and satisfaction of employees. More than 80% of health care premiums are paid for families and both full- and part-time employees receive a living wage. Providing employees with high-quality jobs and a great work environment also enables them to give back. With 40 hours of paid time to volunteer and company-wide service outings, KAF employees donated 1,524 hours of volunteer time in 2011. The company also donates both cash and products to local nonprofit organizations focusing on nutrition education, hunger relief, and environmental sustainability.

The ability to live their values at work is the secret to King Arthur Flour's longevity and success. Thriving for more than 200 years in a competitive and often unpredictable economy is an achievement in itself. Doing so while consistently contributing to a better world is what makes King Arthur Flour a Lifetime Rockstar.
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Posted by orrinj at 5:31 AM


The Arab Spring is great, says leading Israeli analyst (ELHANAN MILLER, February 13, 2013, Times of Israel)

When discussing the series of popular uprisings commonly known as the Arab Spring, pessimism seems to be the prevailing attitude among experts these days. But one observer, who has been monitoring and analyzing the Middle East for decades, is surprisingly upbeat.

"People were warning us about the rise of Islamism, but from day one my attitude was exactly the opposite: I was shining," said Yigal Carmon, founder and president of MEMRI, the Middle East Media Research Institute. Carmon's assessment, as someone who hails from the heart of Israel's security establishment, might bear particular significance.

"It is indeed an Arab Spring," he told The Times of Israel this week, "where people are fighting for freedom, putting their lives on the line every day against dictatorship. There can be no other name for it."

Before the Arab Spring, Carmon said, the Middle East was "a frozen swamp of repression, on every level." But that stagnation, which he said left Arabs and Muslims "outside the world in its progress," is gone, never to return.

"They have begun their long quest to join humanity. This is an honorable journey which I have the utmost respect for," he said.