Monthly Archives: May 2014

Breaking the bloody links in the smartphone supply chain


A tin buyer from Malaysia Smelting Corporation inspects freshly mined cassiterite, or tin ore, at Kanunka mine, Manono Territory, Katanga Province, Democratic Republic of Congo, on Oct. 26, 2013. Since the mid-1990s, when war broke out in eastern Congo in the aftermath of the genocide in neighboring Rwanda, Congolese minerals have acquired a bad name. Rebels, unscrupulous traders and members of the army helped themselves to tin ore, of which Congo is Africa’s biggest producer, gold and columbite-tantalite, or coltan, an ore used in smart phones and laptops.

Blood diamonds. Blood chocolate. Blood smartphones.

Silicon Valley technology companies are racing to comply with new federal rules that require them to disclose efforts to determine if their products contain materials that fund armed groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

By June 2, companies whose products use tantalum, tin, tungsten or gold — widely used in semiconductors, mobile phones and other electronics — are required by the Securities Exchange Commission to disclose steps taken to trace the origin of those minerals.

Companies must describe their efforts to determine the country of origin of these minerals, collectively known as “3TG.” If they have a reason to believe their minerals come from Congo or bordering countries, they must try to determine the minerals’ complete chain of custody, including the source mine if possible.

The rule is a result of years of pressure from human rights organizations such as the Enough Project, Amnesty International and Global Witness. They hope that increased transparency will pressure companies to make sure their minerals are not funding violence in Congo, where 5.4 million people have died since 1998 due to conflict-related causes according to an International Rescue Committee report.

As of May 29, 60 companies had filed with the SEC, including Intel Inc., considered a pioneer in developing a conflict-free supply chain. The company declared its microprocessors and chipsets “DRC conflict-free” while saying all other products were “DRC conflict undeterminable,” meaning the effort to trace the supply chain went cold at some point.

Thousands more companies are expected to file, including Silicon Valley brand names Apple Inc. and Cisco Systems Inc.

The challenges companies face in complying with the SEC conflict minerals rules: A long supply chain that can thread from Africa to Asia to North America, a lack of information on facilities in that supply chain, vague language in the SEC rule and of course, the cost of compliance.

Another issue? Some say not all companies are trying hard enough.

“One of the biggest frustrations for us is companies that are lazy,” remarked Bruce Calder, a vice president at Claigan Environmental, a firm that advised the SEC on the wording of the conflict minerals rules. His company has advised 30 firms on their disclosures.

He said he has seen companies fail to do basic research such as searching a refiner’s name and “DRC” in Google to find out if their 3TG could come from one of the 10 Central African countries covered by the law.

“There’s a lot of tracing a high schooler can do that a lot of companies say they can’t do,” Calder said.

That said, Calder points out that in his experience, when companies do find out they’re sourcing from a “negative actor, they cut them out.”

Spansion’s point man

One of the people responsible for finding out who the bad actors are is Rick Lattanzio, vice president of environmental health and safety at flash memory maker Spansion Inc., based in Sunnyvale.

When Lattanzio started work on tracing Spansion’s 3TG in late 2010, the complexity of its supply chain made him pessimistic about his chances for complying with the SEC rules, which were spawned by the 2010 Dodd-Frank legislation.

“It almost looked like an impossible task,” he said.

It’s not an unusual predicament for Silicon Valley companies.

Anywhere from three to nine intermediaries usually separate companies from the smelters who refine their minerals, never mind the actual mine it came from, according to accounting firms PwC and KPMG.

Companies have focused on tracing their 3TG back to the choke point of the mineral supply chain: Smelters where the raw mineral ore is refined.

Companies have been surveying their direct suppliers to establish the identity of their smelters.

While Intel wrote that it directly visited 29 of the company’s smelters to review their chain of custody information, many companies like Spansion have relied primarily on a smelter database put together by two industry groups.

The Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC) and the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI) created the Conflict-Free Smelter Program, which lists known smelters as well as those that have been certified as conflict free.

Companies cross-reference their smelters with the database to determine which ones have, or have not, been declared conflict free.

But the database is not yet comprehensive, said Julie Schindall, EICC Director of Communications & Stakeholder Engagement.

A “very rough estimate” of the number of 3TG smelters worldwide is between 450 and 600, Schindall said. Only 300 are listed in the database that companies are working off of.

“It’s very, very difficult if not impossible at this time to say if that information is good,” she said. “That’s an ongoing challenge that we’re working on to try to verify so we know who really is a smelter of these minerals … and who could go through our audit program.”

The smelter program’s website currently lists 87 3TG smelters as conflict-free certified: 43 gold, 28 tantalum, 13 tin, and three tungsten.

Spansion filed its report on May 30, and it listed smelters it sources from that have not been declared conflict-free.

Lattanzio said he’s told customers that Spansion’s goal is to declare its tantalum, tin and gold conflict-free by 2015, but that he can’t make a commitment to tungsten because of a lack of certified smelters.

Incomplete information

Companies also have to contend with incompletely answered surveys from their suppliers.

Bobby Kipp, conflict mineral solution leader at the accounting firm PwC, said a survey his group conducted reported that only 28 percent of companies said they got good responses from 75 percent or more of suppliers they surveyed.

Matt Behan, KPMG leader of conflict minerals practice for the technology sector, said he’s seen suppliers declare themselves conflict free because their smelters are located in China — even though the source of minerals is determined by the location of its mine, not its smelter.

Companies are also not always critically analyzing their supplier’s responses.

“Some companies are just sending out a survey and inspecting what they get back on face-value, which we would not advise,” Kipp said.

Behan, who said KPMG has advised at least 60 companies on the rule, said he’s seen companies misinterpret what due diligence means.

“They think (sending out the) survey (to suppliers) is their due diligence … but it’s not,” he said. “It’s looking at the results that come back from the survey and testing them for reasonableness and following up in various ways … if they feel like they’re not 100 percent correct.”

Vague language has also led to confusion over what companies are actually required to report.

“Believe it or not, even though there are 356 pages in these rules… the rules themselves do not define in detail ‘Well, what exactly is a Reasonable Country of Origin Inquiry,’” said Kipp, referring to a specific step companies must take to determine what country their 3TGs are from.

Contents of filings reflect differing interpretations of what the SEC rules require companies to disclose.

Some filers, such as Hill-Rom Inc., list all known smelters in their supply chains. Affymetrix Inc., on the other, listed only the smelters in their supply chains that are certified “conflict free” by the Conflict Free Smelter program. CAE Inc., which declared its products DRC conflict free, lists none of its smelters.

“Right now it’s a little Wild West,” Lattanzio of Spansion said. “You have some general guidelines and procedures to go with … but they’re not very specific.”


All these difficulties create costs for companies that must comply with the new rules. When the SEC passed the final rule in 2012, its initial estimate for the total cost of compliance to companies was between $3 billion and $4 billion. That averages $500,000 to $667,000 for each of the 6,000 affected companies.

Claigan Environmental initially estimated costs would be much lower, pegging the total at $387 million.

Since then, Claigan has dropped the price and the number of companies that will be affected by the rules. Their most recent estimates put the total cost at $180 million for 2,200 companies, coming out to an average of $82,000 per company.

Claigan’s Calder said projected costs are lower for several reasons: The workload to comply has turned out to be lower than expected. Also, an April 14 court ruling eliminated a requirement for all reports to be independently audited. Other factors? The SEC granted exceptions for retailers, and companies are leveraging off earlier work done by Intel and the EICC.

Lattanzio said he couldn’t give a dollar figure for Spansion’s compliance costs, but he called Claigan’s 2011 estimate of $218,000 for a $1 billion revenue company “not unreasonable.” Spansion posted $972 million in revenue in 2013.


Even before the SEC deadline, some say the ruling has already made a difference.

Lattanzio said he’s seen the number of smelters in Spansion’s supply chain decrease “significantly” from last year, and theorized that it could be because his direct suppliers are moving towards a smaller number of conflict free certified smelters.

“For instance, if we have a supplier, they may (have used) 7 or 8 different smelters,” he said. “And now they may be using for or five.”

Calder pointed to the 2013 defeat of the Congolese rebel group Mouvement du 23 mars, also know as M23, as proof that efforts to clean up conflict minerals have already made a difference on the ground.

According to a January 2014 UN report on the Congo, “The Group found no evidence that M23 was engaged in the minerals trade in 2013.”

The UN report also cites the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development as advancing validation of mining sites and improved adherence to conflict-free standards.

But the report specifically noted that the continued illegal smuggling of 3TG out of the DRC to surrounding countries undermined the credibility of international certification efforts.

While only the 3TGs are singled out by the SEC, the whole minerals industry is paying attention to what’s happening, said analyst Simon Moores.

“It’s the first time that (a Western) government has gotten actively involved in … the minerals industries in such a way,” said Moores, who manages niche mineral research firm Industrial Minerals Data.

Moores focuses on minerals such as graphite and lithium, and 3TG don’t fall into his normal beat. But he said he there’s a “pretty high” probability that eventually the rule will be expanded to cover other countries and minerals.

“It’s not unreasonable when you think of things like blood diamonds, the coffee issues, the chocolate,” he said. “There’s a lot of different materials out there that have issues associated with them, these (the 3TG) just happen to be primarily metals that the electronics industry uses quite a bit.”

Interview transcriptions provided by


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The tyranny of lowest price

bezosby Seth Godin –

Lowering the price is a one-directional, single-axis choice. Either it’s cheaper or it’s not.

At first, the process of lowering your price involves smart efficiencies. It forces hard choices that lead to better outcomes.

Over time, though, in a competitive market, the quest for the bottom leads to brutality. The brutality of harming your suppliers, the brutality of compromising your morals and your mission. Someone else is always willing to go a penny lower than you are, and to compete, your choices get ever more limited.

The problem with the race to the bottom is that you might win. Even worse, you might come in second.

To cut the price a dollar on that ebook or ten dollars on that plane ticket (discounts that few, in the absence of comparison, would notice very much) you have to slash the way things are edited, or people are trained or safety is ensured. You have to scrimp on the culture, on how people are treated. You have to be willing to be less caring or more draconian than the other guy.

Every great brand (even those with low prices) is known for something other than how cheap they are.

Henry Ford earned his early success by using the ideas of mass production and interchangeable parts in a magnificent race to the most efficient car manufacturing system ever. But then, he and his team learned that people didn’t actually want the cheapest car. They wanted a car they could be proud of, they wanted a car that was a bit safer, a bit more stylish, a car built by people who earned a wage that made them contributors to the community.

In the long run, to be the cheapest is a refuge for people who don’t have the flair to design something worth paying for, who don’t have the guts to point to their product or their service and say, “this isn’t the cheapest, but it’s worth it.”


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Are You a Wise General?

By: Corrine Sandler

The wise general understands that to fight and win all of your battles is not supreme excellence. Supreme excellence, rather, is breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.

Business leadership in the past was dominated by managers who ruled from the top down; organizational hierarchies were structured along military lines and people climbed the ranks. But today’s wise general needs to be like Sun Tzu, the ancient philosopher who went on to become one of history’s greatest military commanders.

Twenty-first century leaders are reshaping the best-led global companies. Authentic leaders need to be focused on customers and not on serving short-term shareholders.

If you are a wise general you will come to work to empower your colleagues and your customers. I have a famous saying: “I come to work each day to delight my customers; the result is I make money.”

In the 21st century the most successful leaders focus on creating superior performance by aligning people around a corporate culture and living and breathing that culture while concentrating on wowing customers. In my book, “Wake Up or Die,” (, a comprehensive guide to the use of intelligence in the contemporary business environment, I talk about one of the most important traits for a wise general or leader today: emotional intelligence.

Managing and directing employees involves a great understanding and application of emotional intelligence, which leaders, wise generals and CEOs too often simply ignore or don’t understand.

As a leader deploying your troops, you’ve got to engage them in your vision, connect with them, and assure cohesiveness among them.

The good news is that this distinguishing feature of your personal nature can be strengthened over time. Through experience I have learned the importance of acquiring and using emotional intelligence because of its impact on business success.

Emotional intelligence (EI) — or in casual shorthand, EQ (emotional quotient) — helps define both incoming and outgoing behaviors, either of which can be detrimental to simple relations like customer service and co-worker partnerships. The biggest surprise for me has been the impact of EI in the world of business, particularly in the areas of leadership and employee development.

The Harvard Business Review has hailed emotional intelligence as “a ground-breaking, paradigm-shattering idea,” one of the most influential business ideas of the decade. I believe EI to be so vital to the success of any organization that I have devoted an entire chapter in my book to it.

A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves. —Lao Tzu

About Corrine Sandler

Corrine Sandler is the founder and CEO of Fresh Intelligence Research Corp, a global market research agency; international professional speaker and author of  “Wake Up or Die,” ( a new book that applies lessons from Sun Tzu’s ancient classic, “The Art of War,” to contemporary businesses. Corrine has been on Profit’s top 100 Female Entrepreneurs list two years in a row. With more than 20 years’ experience, she has established a reputation for unparalleled consumer understanding and insight development working with Fortune 500 companies.


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Why Leaving Work On Time May Be Bad For You

BY  –

Drive by some buildings at 5 p.m. and you’ll see people streaming out the doors like the floodgates have burst open and every employee has finally been set free.

It always makes me wonder. What must it be like to work for companies like those? What must it feel like to so badly want to get away from a job that hordes of employees are compelled to make sure they get out the door within seconds of their official quitting time?

I’ve had that kind of job when I was younger, so I know how terrible it feels.

And that’s why you should never leave work on time.

Not because you owe the company more hours and effort… but because you owe yourself to work in a job, and for a company, where you feel engaged, fulfilled, appreciated, and eager to do work you love.

Don’t get me wrong. I love working at HubSpot; it’s the job best job I’ve ever had. (This is not an accident, my co-founder and I designed it to be the best job we’ve ever had). But I do have “off” days where I don’t spend all my time doing things I absolutely love. That’s the reality of work.

But there’s another reality to consider as well. Roughly speaking we will all work well over 10,000 days during our careers. That’s a lot of days to feel disengaged, unfulfilled, and unappreciated. That’s a lot of days to spend watching and waiting for quitting time. That’s a lot of days to spend the last thirty minutes before 5 o’clock (or whenever your “shift” ends) wondering if the hands on the clock will ever, ever move.

Life is too short to spend days willing the clock to move faster towards quitting time.

And that is why you must make a change. Your goal should be to work in a job where you sometimes leave on time but you also often stay a little longer – not because you have to, but because you want to – to help others, to finish what you started, to get one more thing done, to start a new initiative or a side project, to tie up a loose end, to talk to people you didn’t get a chance to see… because your job is part of your life, and you enjoy both. And, you should work in a place where sometimes you leave early, because it’s your daughter’s first dance recital, or you’re heading out for the weekend for your best friend’d wedding.

Remember, not hours are created equal. Some hours matter way more than others. Optimize for overall effectiveness and happiness. Both you and your company will be better off.

But, of course, this is easier said than done though, right?

Maybe not:

Go back to seeing people as people. It’s easy to get bogged down in daily tasks and lose sight of the fact that internal and external customers are people – people withneeds. When you meet the needs of people, you feel better about yourself and about the work you do. No matter what you do or what you’re job you’re in — you’re helpling people somehow. It’s important to remember that.

Plus you build solid relationships; relationships form the true backbone of job satisfaction.

Go back to seeing your manager as a person you work with. It’s also easy to start seeing your manager as a person you work for – and in time that relationship can feel adversarial rather than collaborative.

Take a step back and think about your her targets and goals. How can you help her perform better? How can you help her achieve more? Working as a team rather than as two individuals helps break down hierarchical barriers – and improves the level of trust and respect you both display.

And don’t say it’s your boss’s job to create that kind of professional relationship. While in a perfect world it is, your world probably isn’t perfect, and neither is hers. Fair or unfair, be the one to take the first steps or steps.

Otherwise nothing will change.

Go back to viewing success in terms of fulfillment and gratification.

When you started your job you were excited about the work – about the chance to learn, to develop, to make a difference, to make things happen… and then somewhere along the way your focus shifted to promotions and pay raises.

And when those didn’t come along as often as you hoped (because they never do) then you started to disengage.

Flip it back around. Focus more on making a difference and making things happen. Focus more on helping other people succeed. Focus more on enjoying the satisfaction of a job well done than on the monetary reward you receive.

When you do, two things happen. You’ll feel much more satisfied with what you do every day, and in time your performance will result in the promotions and pay raises you not only deserve but truly earned.

Then you get to be happy twice.

Go back to charting your own course.

When you started your job you were also excited by the possibilities. You had ideas. You had plans. You eagerly dived into new projects. You even created a few of your own.

Then time had its way with you. Now you do what you’re expected to do – and that sense of excitement and empowerment is gone.

Stop waiting to be given something exciting to do; it may never happen. Take advantage of the fact that now you truly know the company: the players, the agendas, the barriers and turf wars. Then take a step back and think about how your company truly creates value. What do your customers really care about? What are their pain points? What can differentiate your service?

Pick something important, learn more than anyone else in the company, and become “that” guy or gal.

“Owning” a subject or skill is not just rewarding – it’s fun. It feels great to be “that” guy.

Plus not only are you respected, you also get to share your knowledge and skills with others – and enjoy the gratification that comes from seeing other people reach their potential.

But What If You’re Still Unhappy?

Unfortunately, your current employer may simply not be the right fit. Another sad reality about work is that all companies are not created equal. No matter how hard you try, your job and your employer may not be right for you.

If that’s the case, you owe it to yourself to make a change.

One option is to find a company you’ll love working for. Another is to start your own business, whether full-time or on the side.

But what is not an option is to stay in a job where your sole focus is on escaping at quitting time.

I’m not saying you need to consistently work longer and later hours. I’m not advocating a terrible work-life balance. (Although I’d argue there’s no such thing: work and life are both aspects of life.)

I am saying life is too short to work in a job where you always leave on time – because that means you’re missing out the gratification, fulfillment, relationships, and sense of self that comes from working in a job you love.

You owe that to yourself. Work hard to find it – and keep it.

And, if you’re looking for more inspiration on work and how it’s changing and how itshould be, I humbly submit the slide deck below. It captures much of my thinking on the topic and is used internally by all 800+ of our employees.


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A new way to preserve food with no browning, tremendous flavor, vitamin, and mineral retention

Welcome to our solar food drying world                                            Website

Our solar food dryers provide a natural and healthy way of preserving foods. No chemicals are used, energy comes from the sun. The color, flavor, vitamin, and mineral retention are superb. And the shelf life of foods dried this way can last for months if not years with no mold growth. The dryers are being used in Russia, The Ukraine, Cameroon, Italy, Croatia, Serbia, Tunisia, Afghanistan, and Syria. We will soon have them in Honduras and possibly Haiti. Fish, meats, vegetables, fruits, coffee beans, edible flowers, herbs and spices can all be processed in this manor.  People have asked me “Why do I need a solar food dryer?” The simple answer is you may not. But many who garden all over the world as part of a sustainable lifestyle will adopt it. Small businesses will see the added value it will bring. NGO’s and nonprofits working with subsistence farmers, many large scale farmers, and many large scale growers will see the benefits of this system both in reduced costs of producing a higher quality dried food as well as the independence from a vulnerable centralized or somtimes nonexistent energy distribution system. (Please see our links page for technical documents)

     For years, the team of Mr. Claudio Menegatti and Mr. Aldo Villagrossi, two men of science, literature, music, and humanitarian concerns have worked diligently to bring solar food drying to remote villages of the world where electrical power is scarce or nonexistent, clean methods for food preservation are lacking, and women, particularly, gather wood for cooking fires miles from their homes. We now have three solar powered models that can change this situation for thousands while also bringing cost effective solar food preservation to backyard gardeners, small scale farmers, as well as commercial scale companies. Our goal is to manufacture the dryers in the US as well as license the technology to others around the world. We will be working with Ecovidaglobal, a nonprofit that works with communities throughout the Americas. They are now gearing up for a new project with a community in a remote part of Honduras.

You will find in our documents on the Links page, research from Italian organizations that overwhelmingly supports the solar food dryers. We are working on a US pilot project that we expect will confirm the Italian findings and lead us to many opportunities in the US. Documenting the impact of the dryer on a Honduran community will also serve as a model for use throughout the undeserved regions of the world. See contact information at bottom.

This model is the Elio. It is perfect for backyard gardeners, small remote villages, even small scale business operations. The components will be factory built. But the Elio will be delivered as a do it yourself kit. You will need basic hand tools to assemble it at your location. Within an hour, it will be ready for solar drying your fruits, vegetables and possibly fish and meats using the power of the sun and our patented solar panel.

Pumpkin varieties are grown throughout the Americas dating back almost 5000 years. One cup of pumpkin contains proteins, carbohydrates, dietary fiber, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassim, Zinc, Selenium, Vitamin C12, Niacin, Folate, Vitamin A, and Vitamin E3. It can be used for pies, cookies, and breads. The seeds are a great snack food. As a dried food the weight is reduced, it can be transported easily, vitamins and minerals remain. 


Some melons can be dried with our system. This is one research topic we will be exploring further.  We do not know of any other food dryer capable of preserving this watery fruit.

We can also sandwhich food together and dry it as a single item. The Strawberry Apple Peach product is ready for eating. I would drizzle some chocolate syrup on top and maybe some cashews, walnuts, almonds, cinnamon. I am not a fan of whipped cream but I can see it on this item and served in a pretty fancy restaurant that follows the slow food movement. 


The Zefiro has our patented solar hot air panels on the sides and roof. There are temperature controls as well to ensure that the foods are not baked but dried. Stainless steel food grade mesh shelving, enough shelving for production by farms, restaurants, and mid range producers make this portable unit (wheels) highly desireable. The Zefiro is working in Syria, Tunisia, Serbia, Croazia, and Italy.





The tunnel model is our largest solar food dyer. It can handle great quantities of food simultaneously. Solar hot air panels are on the roof. We can use solar electricity to power the fans. We also manufacture the cart so food can be prepared and wheeled directly into the drying chamber.  Through our research, we have found the optimal size for large operations like this. Our patented solar hot air panels are key as well as our continuing research, dedication to quality and making sure the techology is shared  with those that need it the most.  We can license the technology so you can build the tunnels with local materials. Our solar panels hold a patent. These are critical to ensuring the quality of the food produced meets or exceeds all safety regulations. People are using the Tunnel in Italy and Georgia (Russia)

North America:

For additional information on our solar dryers please contact Mr. Ronald Friedman our North American representative. 


Skype: Ronjf1



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Conventions and expectations

strange-signs-stop-no-turnsby Seth Godin

When you launch something new, you’re almost certainly placing it into a section of the world that already has expectations about how things like this are supposed to work. A university gives diplomas. Restaurant waiters take tips. Software ought to have a ‘save as’ button.

It can be far more subtle than that. An emergency room waiting area looks very different from the waiting area at the chiropractor’s office, even though both have the same function (waiting). The sound quality and background noise on a personal phone call sounds subtly different from one that’s coming from a call center. A well-published book has chapters that start on the right-hand page.

Challenging conventions is precisely what makes your thing new. Hence unconventional. The difficulty comes when you challenge conventions and defy expectations that you weren’t planning on upsetting. The inadvertent skipping of what we expect causes you to frustrate us, or to appear as an uncaring, unprepared amateur, or both.

Polish comes from domain knowledge, from having an intimate understanding of what people like your customers expect when they encounter something like the thing you just built. Sure, violate those expectations when they serve your needs. The rest of the time, though, it’s smart to play along.


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Hackers got 145 million accounts in the eBay breach


EBay falls in line behind Adobe as having one of the biggest data breaches in history after hackers accessed 145 million user accounts.

The recent cyberattack that compromised eBay Inc. user accounts may go down as the second-biggest information breach in history: 145 million user records were affected, Reuters reported.

The breach is eclipsed only by an attack on software maker Adobe Systems Inc. last October, when data from 152 million accounts was stolen, according to the article. Security experts are advising users to remain alert to fraud situations, especially if the same password is used for multiple accounts.

EBay revealed the breach on Wednesdaywhen it advised users to change their passwords, though the cyberattack actually happened three months ago, between February and March. The company said passwords were encrypted and hackers gained access to records where they copied “a large part” of data. Records contained email addresses, birth dates and physical addresses, along with other personal information.

The company has hired FireEye Inc.’s Mandiant forensics division to investigate the breach


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 Tips for Balancing Business and Family

Family in living room with laptop smiling

Being young and inexperienced can be intimidating for stay-at-home entrepreneurs, but it doesn’t mean you’re making mistakes, says veteran businesswoman Renae Christine.

Fresh out of college at 23, she thought she’d done something wrong when the wholesaler for her stationery company assigned her a personal representative.

“In reality I was doing so much business with them that they wanted to ensure my satisfaction,” says Christine, a serial entrepreneur who has created dozens of successful home-based businesses for herself and others. She shares practical how-to advice in her new book, “Home Business Startup Bible,”

She was the busy mother of a 2-year-old and she’d just returned home – to the mess left in the wake of last-minute packing — when the rep showed up, she says.

“I was mortified when he walked into my home/business and he was shocked, but the experience marked my first success as an official business,” she says. “It was actually the beginning of a great relationship.”

Though it turned out well, Christine says her first years in business would have been much happier if she hadn’t had to deal with her own painful feelings of self-doubt, embarrassment, guilt, etc.

“The good news is – no stay-at-home entrepreneur needs to feel that way,” she says.

She offers these tips for maintaining professionalism in business without sacrificing – or feeling guilty about — family.

•  Don’t apologize for your kids. We need to stop apologizing for our kids’ squawks and energy while we’re on the phone or in meetings. Kids are kids and to them, Mommy is Mommy and their home is their home 24/7. If anything, we can all learn from our children and lighten up during business chats.

•  Don’t pick up the phone when you’re not ready. I used to think I had to say yes to everyone, including the telephone whenever it rang. Don’t answer the phone if you’re not ready to speak; if it’s important, the caller will leave a message. Consider an online chat system for your website; I use a free one via

•  Add a disclosure message to your call-answering service. My disclosure indicates the quickest way to reach me, which is chat or email. Email is quickly becoming everyone’s preferred method of communication anyway, and this way, we all have a digital trail that will help us stay organized.

•  Say no and don’t apologize for it. You can say no to lots of things, like PTA meetings and extra bake sales for your kids’ school. When you say yes to those things, you are saying no to your business. You have to think of your new business as if you are your own boss. Would you ask your boss for a day off so you can sell cupcakes? Probably not.

•  Pick a neutral location. If you need to have business meetings in person, I suggest choosing a neutral place like a coffee shop. Don’t allow them to come to your home and, if you can avoid it, don’t go to their office. If you’re negotiating, this can give them a home-field advantage.

•  Just say it. I continue to attend trade shows. When I tell companies that I work from home, they might give me an indifferent attitude and hastily move on to chat up a brick-and-mortar owner. I simply take my business elsewhere; I know the value of my business, and so will another vendor.

About Renae Christine

Renae Christine is the owner of by Renae Christine, a company that has launched several successful businesses and has helped launch dozens more for others. A journalist, she’s known for her popular YouTube videos (search Rich Mom Business channel), which use humor and pragmatism to advise others who want to launch home-based businesses. She recently published “Home Business Startup Bible,” (, a comprehensive how-to guide. Christine is also the founder of the Rich Mom Business University and has come into popular demand as a speaker


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Feds May Cut Off Water For Legal Marijuana Crops

Some cannabis growers may soon find themselves with a lot less irrigation water if the U.S. government decides to block the use of federal water for state-legal marijuana cultivation.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which oversees management of federal water resources, “is evaluating how the Controlled Substances Act applies in the context of Reclamation project water being used to facilitate marijuana-related activities,” said Peter Soeth, a spokesman for the bureau. He said the evaluation was begun “at the request of various water districts in the West.”

waterLocal water districts in Washington state and Colorado, where recreational marijuana is now legal, contract with federal water projects for supplies. Officials from some of those water districts said they assume the feds are going to turn off the spigots for marijuana growers.

“Certainly every indication we are hearing is that their policy will be that federal water supplies cannot be used to grow marijuana,” said Brian Werner at Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, which handles approximately one-third of all water for northeastern Colorado and is the Bureau of Reclamation’s second-largest user in the number of irrigated acres.

Washington state’s Roza Irrigation District, which supplies federal water to approximately 72,000 acres in Yakima and Benton counties, has already issued a “precautionary message” to water customers that may be involved in state-legal cannabis growing.

“Local irrigation districts operating federal irrigation projects have recently been advised that under Federal Reclamation Law, it is likely project water cannot be delivered and utilized for purposes that are illegal under federal law,” wrote Roza district manager Scott Revell in letters to the Yakima and Benton county commissioners. “Presumably growing marijuana would fall into this category.”

Both Washington and Colorado legalized marijuana for medical use more than a decade ago. Pot remains illegal under federal law. Reclamation’s Soeth said that the issue of cutting off water supplies for marijuana has never come up before.

A Department of Justice official told HuffPost it has no comment on the water issue. The Bureau of Reclamation is likely to announce a decision this month. “We’re going to work with our water districts once that decision is made,” Soeth said.

Marijuana advocates condemned the possibility of a federal water ban for state-legal crops. Mason Tvert, communications director for Marijuana Policy Project and key backer of Amendment 64, which legalized marijuana for recreational use in Colorado, criticized the hypocrisy of a federal government that would prevent water access to some legal businesses and not others.

“If water is so precious and scarce that it can’t be used for state-legal marijuana cultivation, it shouldn’t be used for brewing and distilling more harmful intoxicating substances like beer and liquor,” Tvert said.

The impact on Washington may be more severe, since the state’s marijuana laws allow for outdoor growing and, according to McClatchy, the Bureau of Reclamation controls the water supply of about two-thirds of the state’s irrigated land. In Colorado, marijuana businesses can grow either indoors or outdoors, but some local jurisdictions like Denver require the outdoor grow to be in a fully enclosed and locked space, like a greenhouse.

Growing in Denver, home to the majority of Colorado marijuana dispensaries, likely wouldn’t notice a shortage if the Bureau of Reclamation cuts off federal water.

“Because we are not a federal contractor, we would not be affected,” said Travis Thompson, spokesman for Denver Water, the main water authority for the state’s capital and surrounding suburbs.

But many other regions of the state rely on federal water. In Pueblo, about two hours south of Denver, about 20 percent of regional water is Reclamation-controlled. Although the remaining 80 percent of the region’s water is locally controlled, it passes through the Pueblo Dam, operated under Bureau of Reclamation authority.

“Yes, they come through a federal facility, but the federal facility is required to let those water right to pass,” Pueblo Board of Water Works executive director Terry Book said to southern Colorado’s NBC-affiliate KOAA.

The St. Charles Mesa Water District, another Pueblo-area water facility, has already imposed a moratorium on supplying water to marijuana businesses until the Bureau of Reclamation settles the issue.

The Bureau of Reclamation said its facilities deliver water to 1.25 million acres of land in Colorado and 1.2 million acres in Washington state. About 1.6 million acre-feet of water is delivered to Colorado’s agricultural sector from Reclamation and about 5 million acre-feet is delivered to agriculture in Washington.

As McClatchy reported last month that there are several viable alternatives to using federal water. Small-scale marijuana-growing operations may be able to use city-controlled water sources, or drill a well. Greenhouse growers are allowed to use up to 5,000 gallons of well water per day under state law. Any use beyond that requires a permit from the state. While some marijuana plants can require an average of six gallons of water per day, growing operations in the state are likely to fall well within that limit.

However, in areas of the state where much of the water is controlled by Bureau of Reclamation contracts, these alternatives aren’t as accessible.

The potential water ban has already set off local opposition. The Seattle Times’editorial board urged the Bureau of Reclamation to allow federal water contracts to be used by marijuana farmers.

“The bureau has never had — nor should it have — a stake in what crop is planted. That’s a basic tenet of the 1902 National Reclamation Act, which created the bureau and transformed the arid American west,” read the May 4 editorial. “Yet the federal government is now threatening to forget that history, because some regulators are queasy about Washington and Colorado’s experimentation with marijuana legalization.”

As the Times’ board points out, there is some precedent for the Justice Department to stand down on the water issue. Last August, Attorney General Eric Holder told the governors of Washington and Colorado that the DOJ wouldn’t intervene in the states’ legal pot programs. And earlier this year, federal officials issued guidelines expanding access to financial services for legal marijuana businesses, so long as the business doesn’t violate certain legal prioritiesoutlinedby the Justice Department.

“While we appreciate how the Obama administration has made some administrative concessions to the majority of voters who support legalization by issuing banking guidelines and having the Justice Department largely stand out of the way of state implementation, this water issue highlights the urgent need to actually change federal law,” Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority, told The Huffington Post. “There are bills pending in Congress that would solve this and other state-federal marijuana policy discrepancies, but so far the support from elected officials doesn’t even come close to matching the support from the public. I expect that gap will shrink with each passing election cycle as politicians start to see just how popular this issue is with voters.”


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AT&T to Buy DirecTV for $48.5 Billion in Move to Expand Clout

DirecTV satellite dishes. The company’s acquisition may change little for consumers.
Jonathan Alcorn/ReutersDirecTV satellite dishes. The company’s acquisition may change little for consumers.

AT&T agreed on Sunday to buy the satellite television operator DirecTV for $48.5 billion, trying to tilt the balance of power with media companies as the market for broadband Internet and video shifts.

With the acquisition, AT&T becomes the latest telecommunications giant seeking to establish an even greater reach.

Comcast agreed in February to buy Time Warner Cable for $45 billion, a bid to become the country’s dominant provider of cable TV and high-speed Internet access. And Sprint, which is controlled by the Japanese telecom company SoftBank, has made no secret of its desire to merge with T-Mobile USA, creating a serious rival toVerizon and AT&T.

“The media chessboard is moving more this year than it has in the past decade,” said Richard Greenfield, a media analyst with the brokerage firm BTIG. “You’re seeing major shifts. Everyone is jockeying for position.”

The newest round of consolidation may weigh heavily on the minds of government regulators, who have expressed growing concern that the nation’s television and Internet services are increasingly controlled by just a few corporate behemoths.

For consumers, the acquisition may change little, at least at first, since AT&T and DirecTV share little overlap. AT&T said on Sunday that it planned to bundle its new acquisition’s services with existing offerings like broadband Internet and cellphone service.

To some analysts, AT&T’s latest acquisition seems questionable. The pay television business is considered a mature market whose subscriber growth has slowed sharply in recent years.

Still, the company has been trying to compensate for slowing growth in its own core businesses, including by moving into home security offerings and mobile data for cars.

Randall L. Stephenson, AT&T’s chief executive, said in an interview on Sunday that he had discussed the possibility of buying DirecTV with his counterpart at the satellite TV provider, Mike White, for some time.

By acquiring the country’s biggest satellite television operator, AT&T would gain more clout in negotiating with media companies as it increasingly focuses on video offerings. Through the deal, AT&T would become the country’s second-biggest pay TV provider, behind only Comcast. AT&T has about 5.7 million TV customers through its U-verse service, while the satellite TV operator has about 20.3 million customers in the United States.

The acquisition would also bring to AT&T DirecTV’s existing content at a time when AT&T has made video services a priority. DirecTV’s offerings include the National Football League’s “Sunday Ticket,” and it owns minority stakes in the Game Show Network and MLB Network.

It would also help get AT&T into new markets like video and data services inside airplanes.

“If you think about what we’re trying to accomplish, we’re trying to get way down the road to get content across multiple devices,” Mr. Stephenson said. “The more we peeled the onion back, frankly the better we felt about this.”

DirecTV would also bolster AT&T’s financial resources as it continues to invest in wireless-broadband capabilities, an effort that is expected to include bidding at least $9 billion for wireless network spectrum in a forthcoming government auction. The satellite TV company generated about $2.6 billion in free cash flow last year. Buying DirecTV would also expand AT&T’s presence in Latin America, where the satellite company already has more than 18 million customers and expects to grow substantially as more households subscribe to pay TV services.

Under the agreement’s terms, AT&T would pay $95 a share in stock and cash — roughly 10 percent higher than DirecTV’s closing stock price on Friday and about 30 percent higher than where its shares were trading before word of a potential transaction began to emerge.

Including the assumption of DirecTV’s debt, the deal is worth about $67.1 billion. Existing DirecTV shareholders would own 15 to 16 percent of the combined company after closing, which is expected in a year’s time.

The deal is the biggest in years for AT&T, which has long looked to acquisitions for growth. It is the largest transaction the company has announced since its aborted $39 billion offer for T-Mobile three years ago, a takeover fiercely opposed by antitrust regulators because it would have cut down on the number of wireless phone service providers.

This time, some analysts believe the company will face less heat from the federal government. By their reckoning, regulators are likely to look favorably upon a deal that creates a bulwark against a strengthened Comcast.

“They want wireless to compete with wires,” Mr. Greenfield, the media analyst, said. “The only way to complete that is to allow these deals to occur.”

AT&T has also learned from the botched deal. It will not have to pay DirecTV a breakup fee if the deal does not go through. It had to pay T-Mobile $6 billion.

Mr. Stephenson, the AT&T chief, argued that the deal should be approved since it would not meaningfully reduce competition in the pay TV industry.

“We became very comfortable that this is a deal that should pass regulatory muster,” he said. Referring to Comcast’s bid for Time Warner Cable, he added, “Our deal is a very different deal.”

At the same time, by moving forward with its DirecTV deal now, AT&T will probably complicate regulatory approvals for the cable television merger, according to several investment bankers.

But it is unclear whether investors and others will show enthusiasm for the DirecTV takeover, questioning the strategic fit.

“When I first heard the news, I was scratching my head,” said Jim Nail, an analyst with Forrester Research. “Satellite is kind of a doomed technology. I don’t see it being a long-term proposition.”

AT&T intends to pay for the deal with cash on hand, debt and the sale of some assets. To help ease regulatory concerns in Latin America, the company plans to sell its roughly 8 percent stake inAmérica Móvil, the telecommunications giant controlled by the billionaire Carlos Slim Helú.

The pace of consolidation, meanwhile, may prompt Sprint and SoftBank to proceed with a bid for T-Mobile, a deal that has already faced vocal opposition from several officials at the Federal Communications Commission. In that view, a merger would shrink an already consolidated industry to an unacceptable three major players.

But Sprint and SoftBank have argued that such a deal would create more competition in the fast-growing wireless space, creating a more formidable opponent to Verizon and AT&T.

AT&T’s move also raises questions for the country’s other major satellite television provider, Dish Network. That company’s chief executive, Charles W. Ergen, has made noises about striking acquisitions to become a true broadband service provider, while also hinting that he may be willing to sell.

But AT&T was concerned that buying Dish would invite more regulatory scrutiny because of both its broadband ambitions and its existing trove of wireless spectrum, according to a person briefed on the matter.


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