Ready, Fire, Aim! - Mihail's Public Blog

Monday, December 17, 2012

Augmented Reality on your Windshield?

While we love our BMW's Head-up Display technology (similar to what fighter jets and planes incorporate) that projects important information on to our windshield such as speed or directions, this story in the Wall Street Journal about "augmented reality" coming to your windshield soon is a little too much -- reminds me of the overlays that so many TV channels now use to interrupt and clutter the television screen with information that has *nothing* to do with what we're watching.  

BMW's Head-up Display from Itmash.com

On television screens it is more irritating than distracting but cars (and their drivers) need less distractions -- in the world of texting and pets and eating in the cars. Of course, the automakers have a nice spin on the subject:

Auto makers have stuffed their vehicles with a dizzying array of technology over the years, from video screens to Bluetooth wireless to air bags. But one part of the car has remained stubbornly resistant to change: the windshield.

Using a technology known as augmented reality, which overlays real world images with digital ones, these windshields could display driving directions, text messages or impending hazards, all without requiring drivers to take their eyes off the road.

"Everyone's working on this," said Tom Seder, GM's chief technologist for human machine interface. "The goal is to reduce head-down time and maybe make driving a more interactive experience."

Texting Turns 20, Pope to start Tweeting

According to this Wall Street Journal blog entry here (thanks to the WSJ CIO Journal highlights):

It was Dec. 3, 1992, when Neil Papworth, a text engineer in London, first texted “Merry Christmas” to Vodafone VOD.LN -1.71% employee Richard Jarvis, who was at a Christmas party across town.

It was possible because the new generation of digital mobile phones incorporated letters on the number pad so that customers could put names of contacts into the phone book on their phones.

One year later Nokia NOK1V.HE +0.61% introduced the first mobile phone that allowed customers to send text messages to others within the same network. Then in 1999, text messages could cross networks for the time. A new fever was born.

From this Reuters story here:

The secret's out. Pope Benedict's new handle on Twitter will be @pontifex, beating out other contenders that had been considered to showcase the thoughts of one of the world's most visible leaders.

Benedict already has 1.2 billion "followers" in the standard sense of the word but next week he will have another type when he enters what for any 85-year old is the brave new world of Twitter.

The Vatican said on Monday that the pope will start tweeting on December 12.

"The handle is a good one. It means 'pope' and it also means 'bridge builder'," said Greg Burke, senior media advisor to the Vatican.

Among the other handles that Vatican officials had reportedly considered was @BenedictusPPXVI, but they opted for something that was linked to the office of the papacy.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Friendster Reboots

I'd forgotten I was still a Friendster member. Here's what showed up in my inbox this morning:

A Personal Message from Friendster's CEO

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Dear fellow Friendster members,

As many of you may know, Friendster announced that it is re-launching itself as a social gaming portal and launched a beta version of the new Friendster a couple of weeks ago. The beta version was well received. I am pleased to announce that the new Friendster is going live thereby enabling all our users to login to the new Friendster using your existing Friendster username and password.

Friendster has touched the lives of many. Since MOL, the company I founded acquired Friendster in early last year; many people have come up to me to tell me how Friendster has changed their lives. Many have told me that they have found their life partners over Friendster. Just last week, a successful Internet entrepreneur in Singapore told me that her success was triggered by promoting her business on Friendster. Friendster pioneered social networking and ignited the social media industry that has created billion dollar companies such as Facebook and Twitter, companies that may not have existed in their present form if not for Friendster's early innovation.

Today, Friendster is in a unique position to take advantage on the growth of social gaming. Through its relationship with MOL, which has a 10 year history in working with gaming companies, Friendster has both the experience and track record to make innovations in this space.

Today, as Friendster reinvents itself as a social gaming destination that enables its users to create multiple avatars, play games and enjoy rewards; I hope that all of you will wish us luck and continue to support us in our new reincarnation. The new Friendster is not perfect and we will continue to add new games and features such as localization and rewards over the next few months. Our team is working hard on adding these features and welcomes your suggestions and comments on how we can better serve your needs as a social gaming and entertainment destination.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you for your support and hope that all of you will enjoy the new Friendster as Friendster continues to innovate to serve and entertain you better.

Yours truly,

Ganesh Kumar Bangah
Chief Executive Officer
ceo@friendster.com

Thursday, June 30, 2011

More Details on MySpace Sale

While complete terms of the deal were not disclosed (and News Corp will continue to own a small stake in the company), Specific Media has brought in JT (Justin Timberlake) as part owner and active player in MySpace's future according to this New York Times story:

The sale closes a complex chapter in the history of the Internet and of the News Corporation, which was widely envied by other media companies when it acquired MySpace in 2005. At that time, MySpace was the world’s fastest-growing social network, with 20 million unique visitors each month in the United States. That figure soon soared to 70 million, but the network could not keep pace with Facebook, which overtook MySpace two years ago.

As users fled MySpace, so, too, did advertisers. The market research firm eMarketer estimates that the site will earn about $183 million in worldwide ad revenue this year, down from $605 million at its peak, when the site introduced many Web users and many advertisers to the concept of social networking.

“It’s a shame that MySpace’s value has diminished so severely since the acquisition; MySpace’s pioneering of social networking (now referred to as social media) will always be revered as igniting a new medium,” Richard Rosenblatt, the chairman of MySpace at the time of the sale to the News Corporation, said in an e-mail.

Instead of envy, the News Corporation’s bet on MySpace now provokes punch lines. Tom Freston, who was fired as the chief executive of Viacom in part for failing to buy MySpace, joked in an interview with CNBC earlier this year that “I’m still waiting for a thank-you note” from the Viacom chairman, Sumner M. Redstone.

Mr. Freston, who was in Iceland on Wednesday and said he was smiling at the news of an impending MySpace sale, declined to comment.

News Corporation executives declined interview requests on Wednesday.

It is not clear whether MySpace itself was profitable for the company. The division that houses MySpace and other digital properties has turned a profit only once in the last six years. An advertising deal with Google helped the company to recoup what it spent on MySpace in the first place, but the site became a burden on the company’s earnings; by last year executives were calling the losses unacceptable. Mr. Nathanson called the site a “headache.”

What doomed the site? Lee Brenner, the former director of MySpace’s Impact section who is now the publisher of HyperVocal, wrote in a blog post Tuesday, “I’m sure most employees (former or current) will argue that it was poor management, or a need to hit revenue targets once News Corp. took over, or a bottleneck in the technology department, or lack of resources given to their division, or a poor public relations effort, etc., that set the course of MySpace’s downfall.

“Any number of these could be true,” he continued. “I suppose we’ll never know for sure. It is most likely a combination of these factors, along with a ‘low attention span’ public. It probably didn’t help to be doing business, and trying to grow, along with all of these issues, in the midst of a global economic crisis.”

MySpace has tried to reboot itself several times, most recently as a social destination for music, movies and other media. It has not been abandoned altogether: it still has 35 million visitors a month in the United States, according to the measurement company comScore. Facebook has 157 million visitors a month in the United States.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Bubble Reminder: Remember MySpace?

So MySpace has finally found a new home. After being acquired by News Corp in 2005 for $580M, when it was the high-flying social networking darling (before Facebook changed the landscape), News Corp was on a tear to sell its acquisition before the end of its financial year according to this Wall Steet Journal story:

Ad-targeting firm Specific Media on Wednesday said it agreed to buy News Corp.'s struggling social-media site Myspace.

Specific Media will pay $35 million in stock and cash for Myspace, according to people familiar with the matter, well below the $100 million News Corp. was seeking for the troubled site. News Corp will retain a stake of less than 5% in the site, the people said.

"There are many synergies between our companies as we are both focused on enhancing digital media experiences by fueling connections with relevance and interest," said Tim Vanderhook, chief executive of Specific Media, in a statement. "We look forward to combining our platforms to drive the next generation of digital innovation."

If you're wondering who Specific Media is? Here's more from this story:

Founded in 1999 by Mr. Vanderhook and his brothers Chris and Russell, Specific Media helps marketers buy digital ads across the Web, online video, mobile and TV.

The company got its start brokering ad space for websites and quickly moved into the fast-growing business of collecting and using Web browsing, demographic, geographic and other profile information about consumers to target ads. The company now ranks among the largest online advertising networks in the country, reaching 170.9 million unique U.S. visitors in May, or about 79% of the U.S. Internet users, according to comScore Inc.

Specific Media, based in Irvine, Calif., has raised more than $110 million in funding, closing a $100 million round of financing from private-equity firm Francisco Partners in 2007. Since then, the company has acquired a couple of digital advertising companies, including online video company Broadband Enterprises and an Amsterdam ad technology company.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Death of Customer Service: Delta Airlines to Silver Medallion: Screw You

So just when I was about to write an update about Delta Airlines to commend them from the changes and improvement in customer service agents, Delta slams its loyal customers -- without warning -- with a new program that screws even those Delta fliers who had Silver Medallion status. And Delta gave its "loyal" customers a two-day notice to implement this new program.

So, suddenly, those people who purchased a Sky Club membership which gave them access to fast security lines were held holding a membership for club rooms that are increasingly full and don't even provide the most important amenity of priority security lines. Delta is starting to look a lot like FlyClear, the now bankrupt service that screwed a lot of travelers, too. And, oh yeah, the few Silver Medallion members who used to be in Zone 1 have now been bumped down to Zone 2. 

When we asked the agent at the Sky Club entrance, even she thought these changes were "ridiculous"! If your customer service folks at the frontlines think you've come up with a program that sucks, maybe you should be rethinking your strategy.

So here's what Delta had to say to one Silver Medallion member (so that they can squeeze more dollars out of each loyal frequent flier -- if you can't reach Gold status with just your flying, come spend money with us via our American Expres credit cards):
We hope you're enjoying all the benefits of your 2010 Silver Medallion® status. As you continue to take advantage of these benefits—including priority check-in and boarding, preferred seats, complimentary upgrades, mileage bonuses, and Rollover Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs)—we'd like to offer you an additional opportunity to enjoy a higher level of travel experience with Delta Sky Priority™, beginning April 15, 2010

Sky Priority is a suite of improved services you could enjoy at key moments during your travel. While your current Silver Medallion benefits do not provide you with automatic access to the expanded services of Sky Priority, these services are available should you upgrade to or purchase a BusinessElite®, First or Business Class ticket. 

Sky Priority services were created to reinforce Delta's commitment to our highest valued customers. Here's how Sky Priority could give you more:
  • Faster Check-In: Access dedicated check-in areas at the airport to help you move through the process faster.
  • Accelerated Security Clearance: Walk through expedited security lines at select airports so you can get on your way as soon as possible.
  • Highest Boarding Priority: Board in Zone 1, so you can enter first to secure the best overhead bin space, or take your seat at your leisure—the choice is yours.
  • Expedited Baggage Service: Have your bags delivered first to the carousel so you can head home or to your next meeting with no delay.
When you reach Gold Medallion status, you can enjoy Sky Priority services no matter what class you fly. You can get closer to Gold Medallion status by earning MQMs or Medallion Qualification Segments when you fly with Delta, take advantage of SkyMiles® partner opportunities or acquire the Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card or the Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express

Friday, March 20, 2009

Death of customer service: Delta Airlines (Part 2)

So what's with Delta selling you tickets without assigning you a seat number? Either Delta has a ticket to sell -- and a seat that goes with it -- or it doesn't. 

Does anyone understand why it is OK for an airline to inconvenience passengers (beyond making us fly them) by not letting passengers print a boarding pass at home (since there's no seat number for them) even 24 hours before their flight?

Instead, they make you print some sort of other document -- which says you have a confirmed reservation but no seat -- which you're then forced to take to the customer "service" desk at the airport (after getting there much earlier than one normally needs to). Invariably, one then has to deal with an unfriendly Delta customer service person who thinks they're doing you a favor -- instead of simply being able to walk thru security and to your gate if you're not checking bags and have already printed your boarding pass.

And, second, what's with all the seats Delta is saving for its most frequent fliers but still selling you a ticket and not letting you actually pick a seat. Again, either you're being sold a ticket and a seat that accompanies it or you're not. Or you're being asked to buy a standby ticket. But to sell you a confirmed ticket without a confirmed seat that goes with it should be against the law. Delta seems to think it can have it both ways while forcing passengers to waste their time. Enough already.

As I've said before, maybe Skywest should take over all of Delta's operation. The Delta service on the small planes run by Skywest is always excellent.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Death of customer service: Delta Airlines

Some Delta's customer service personnel should be fired. In this economy, I'm sure there are may other competent folks out there who'd love to have a job and have at least basic customer service skills. Some of the current employees (especially the ones manning the SFO terminal 1 desk around 2 pm on Sunday, March 15) have obviously become too complacent. Their attitude needs a major readjustment -- if not total replacement.

As we were walking to the terminal we were informed via telephone alerts that our flight from SFO to SLC would be late. Seems like at least the Delta automated system is effective and polite. As is their affiliate of Skywest Airlines. But I can't say the same about the Delta personnel. Maybe Skywest personnel should replace them all?

So here's what happpend. The airport was mostly deserted and the line for Delta had only one person ahead of us checking in with three Delta employees hovering over that one customer. Yes, one could come up with a joke about it -- how may Delta employees does it take to check in one passenger? Three. One to actually do the job and two to waste their time while other passengers look on.

Once they'd made us wait. Quite deliberately because, hey, we needed to be put in our place as customers. One of the guys finally decided to help us with the following question first: "Is it quick?" I'm sorry but did the bozo behind the counter just first check with us whether we'd be wasting his time? Why, because he was 007 in disguse about to head off to fight the enemy? Because he needed to go pee? Actually, not our problem but obnoxious as hell.

And the excuse for the delay? The SFO Air Traffic Control isn't letting their planes land because there's a little bit of fog. SFO is used to fog. And there's not that much fog. Plus, if they knew that the plane was still sitting on the tarmac in Salt Lake City, it would have been nice to let us know about it as soon as they knew about the delay. Rather than making us sit around at SFO for three or four hours...for a one-hour and fifteen minute flight.

Time for a makeover, Delta, if you want to get out of this recession alive...rather than becoming the GM of the airlines.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Death of customer service: Virgin Atlantic

Why has Virgin Atlantic turned its customer service phone system into a convoluted nightmare that makes it impossible to find a live agent at first try?

Virgin Atlantic is/was? considered one of the shining stars when it comes to service as I wrote almost two years ago in this blog entry.

Is Virgin Atlantic going the same way as most mediocre companies? Unless you're flying Upper Class? Is Customer Service now all about class, too?

Try calling Virgin's 1-800 number and you'll understand what I mean. It is straight out of a comedy except that it isn't a movie...it is Virgin's reality. Compare this to Apple Computer's customer service. You get thru to a live agent, if that's what you want, immediately and they're actually helpful and want you to get to a solution. That wasn't my experience with Virgin today as I tried to reconfirm a flight for my mom.

When will businesses realize that making customers frustrated, rather than helping them out, is not the best way to do business. Ever. But especially not in a major economic downturn. In times like these customers don't stop spending money completely...they just focus on the things (and the businesses) that most deserve to get our money. 

So we eat at SantaCafe and not the Compound. We shop at Zegna and not Neiman. We support the nonprofits that treat us best and deserve our contributions. We fly...OK, never mind on that one. It is hard to figure out which airline these days bothers to treat you well unless you're their 1K member or flying first class or the brother of the pilot!

The death of customer service

I'm back. And ready to start talking about a growing issue that I've faced as a customer:

The death of customer service. 

The only silver lining to this economic downturn, combined with the growth of user-generated content such as blogs, is that we as customers finally have power to really make businesses hurt if they treat us unprofessionally. I'm tired of restaurants and stores and airlines thinking that they can continue to get our business -- and refer us to some web page to provide feedback -- rather than listening to us, the customer.

Our experience with these businesses thanks to the democratization of information and the growing importance of the Web as *the* source, thanks to Google, Blogit et al, can now be highlighted.

It is interesting that my last blog entry almost two years ago, titled The Definition of Luxury -- Great Service was about the same topic!

Friday, May 4, 2007

The definition of luxury -- great service

According to this WSJ story (subscription required), Guy Salter, deputy chairman of the British luxury-industry organization Walpole, says that "unless you're in the sweet spot 18-to-34 demographic -- or you're a new-luxury consumer in China or India -- you're probably getting better attention from brands like Apple, J. Crew, Amazon, Virgin Airlines and Starbucks, which are providing innovative new products coupled with great customer service -- the stuff that was once the purview of luxury."

And, "Jim Taylor, vice chairman of Harrison Group marketing consultants, found that the top 5% of the U.S. population in terms of wealth -- people responsible for $1.3 trillion in discretionary spending -- don't even like the word "luxury" anymore, because it suggests something with mass appeal."

In contrast, fellow Santa Feresident and former Guccidesigner, Tom Fordseems to have stumbled big time with his new flagship men's storein NYC. According to this New York Times story(registration required) that completely pans the store and especially the service:

An unintentionally hilarious parody of a pretentious Madison Avenue boutique, the store reeks of arriviste Anglophilic posturing dressed up as aristocratic gentlemanly refinement. For all the preopening ballyhoo about the it’s-all-about-you customization and details like buttons on trouser cuffs so that your butler can brush away the remains of the day — at last! — the reality is more akin to a luxury store in a second-tier market during the mid-’90s.

The review overview also lists prices as "Unapologetically expensive"! But then "the top 5% of the U.S. population in terms of wealth...responsible for $1.3 trillion in discretionary spending."

The Haute in Couture

This falls into the category of I had no idea! This year a mere ten designers still qualify as purveyors of haute couture according to this WSJ story (subscription required).

"The term "haute couture" is protected under law by the French Ministry of Industry, and only those designated by the Chamber as couturiers can use the term -- which translates loosely as "high fashion," though the word couture technically means "sewing." (The legal protection does not extend to the use of the word couture alone.)"

"…the haute couture tradition dates to Charles Frederick Worth, a 19th-century Englishman-turned-Parisian who showed his ideas on live models and enjoyed the patronage of Napoleon III. In 1868, the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture was created to enforce rules involving fabrics, numbers of employees, and numbers of designs for day and evening wear. This was so strict and costly that only the best of the best could qualify. By the mid-20th century, more than 100 haute couture houses competed earnestly for well-heeled clientele by following the stringent set of rules: sewing by hand, with employees who are French, in ateliers that are French, in France."

So, just in case you thought otherwise, Juicy Couture isn't really couture! :)

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Unprofessional Lieberman Research Worldwide at 1-800-GO-FU** yourself?

On Friday, April 6, 2007 we got a call in the evening at our home in the Bay Area from a cold caller who said he was calling from Lieberman Research Worldwide and wanted to ask us some questions related to DVDs.

When I declined and asked him to remove us from his calling list he said he would do that only after we finished the 2 minute questionnaire. When I asked him for the phone number he was calling from -- he responded that the phone number was 1-800-943-GO FU** YOURSELF.

Considering that these cold callers are calling us without our permission, wasting our time and spamming us, is this the kind of behavior Lieberman Research Worldwide promotes for its clients? Do their clients know about this?

I'd emailed them back on April 6 to ask for a response but have yet to get one almost two weeks later. Such companies' clients should be warned that consumers won't put up with such unprofessional conduct.

New 4/7/08: It appears that there are two companies that are named Lieberman Research: Lieberman Research Worldwide and Lieberman Research Group. I recently got an email from Lieberman Research Group's CFO disputing that their contractors or employees had anything to do with this, and that they don't do DVD surveys. If that is the case, then my apologies. I had linked to both websites since it was unclear which company was at fault, or whether the two companies are related.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Gozoof recommendations on getting book published

This Gozoof page has several recommendations from Gozoof users on resources for getting books published including literary agents guides, tips from authors etc.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Star power?

This New York Times story (registration required) evaluates the value of a star, in the aftermath of the Tom Cruise-Sumner Redstone fireworks:

“There is no statistical correlation between stars and success,” said S. Abraham Ravid, a professor of economics and finance at Rutgers University, who, in a 1999 study of almost 200 films released between 1991 and 1993, found that once one considered other factors influencing the success of a film, a star had no impact on its rate of return. Employing a star had virtually no discernible impact on the box office itself. Mr. Cruise would no doubt object to that assertion. And to be fair, there is some theoretical pedigree to the idea that he may be worth every penny. In fact, there is a whole branch of economics that aims to explain how talented people generate so much more money than competitors who are only slightly less good. It’s called “superstar economics.”

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Doing GOOD

According to this WSJ story (subscription required), one heir is trying to do GOOD. I think it's a great idea who's time has come, and if done right, the publication could reach many younger people (rich and not so rich) who want to do good with however much money they have to give.

We're not philanthropists. We're not just wanting to give away money for the sake of giving money, nor for the social or other benefits some giving brings. We want our money put to good use. We want to see change. To see our money make a visible difference...not squandered on reinventing the wheel or competing with other like-minded organizations.

For the first time last year, we pulled a financial commitment to a nonprofit because it wasn't taking advantage of the other organizations that were already in the field doing complementary work. Even though we met with the Managing Director (the ED was too busy to meet) and conveyed our concerns, they were more keen to tell us that they knew what they were doing and how much experience they had running nonprofits. Well they lost us not only as donors but also as supporters, and it appears from the most recent invitation to their LA fundraiser, we weren't the only ones they lost.

Bernie Goldhirsh, the founder of Inc. magazine, amassed his fortune by selling entrepreneurs ideas on how to make money. Now, his son Ben is trying to make money by telling people how to give something back.

...With some of that money, his 26-year-old son plans to launch a magazine in September called GOOD with a dual purpose: build a profitable business and serve as a platform for people looking to do good. Mr. Goldhirsh is funding the initial $2.5 million start-up cost himself, and he has assembled a core group of about 12 employees -- all under 30.

Netflix impasse

Just as I've been thinking of this problem...related to the last film we received, "Good Night, and Good Luck" which has sat on our entertainment center for weeks...while we've paid for and watched a handful of other fluff/commedies. According to this Wall Street Journal story (subscription required):

Netflix Inc., which boasts nearly five million members, often trumpets how its all-you-can-eat rental model is changing the way people are watching movies. But Netflix may also be changing the way people don't watch them. Through its Web site, Netflix makes it easy to comb through a massive catalog of 60,000 films. It offers access to everything from Charlie Chaplin's 1921 silent tramp movie "The Kid" to recent Academy Award-winners like "Crash." And some members admit that when browsing the Netflix backlog, they overestimate their appetite for off-the-beaten-track films. The result: Sometimes DVDs languish for months without being watched.

"It's a paradox of abundance," said Siva Vaidhyanathan, a professor of culture and communication at New York University. If people aren't pressured to see a movie in a specific time frame, he said, viewers tend to put it lower on their priority list. "When you have every choice in front of you, you have less urgency about any particular choice," he added.

Wednesday, June 7, 2006

The long tail of Netflix

According to this New York Times story on Netflix, which has over 1 billion movie ratings in its system (since it doesn't get rid of the movies you rate even when you leave and then return much later) and some five million households with accounts it is the long tail that's important (just as on eBay, Blogit and many other web services...the idea that there's a small market for every kind of item):

Out of the 60,000 titles in Netflix's inventory, I ask, how many do you think are rented at least once on a typical day?

The most common answers have been around 1,000, which sounds reasonable enough. Americans tend to flock to the same small group of movies, just as they flock to the same candy bars and cars, right?

Well, the actual answer is 35,000 to 40,000. That's right: every day, almost two of every three movies ever put onto DVD are rented by a Netflix customer. "Americans' tastes are really broad," says Reed Hastings, Netflix's chief executive. So, while the studios spend their energy promoting bland blockbusters aimed at everyone, Netflix has been catering to what people really want — and helping to keep Hollywood profitable in the process.

Monday, May 8, 2006

Newspaper print readers down, website readers up

Although their online advertising is growing at a rate of 25-30%, newspapers still earn only about 5% of their advertising revenue from online ads. And while the larger newspapers kept or increased their circulation for the most part, newspapers' weekday daily circulation on average is down in the six months ending in March (about the same as the previous six months) according to this AP story in the New York Times (registration required):

The Newspaper Association of America, analyzing data from the Audit Bureau of Circulations, also reported that Sunday circulation fell 3.1 percent at the 610 newspapers reporting those figures. The 2.5 percent decline in average paid weekday circulation was based on data from 770 newspapers reporting to the Audit Bureau.

...The largest newspapers held up relatively well, with Gannett Co.'s USA Today notching a 0.09 percent gain to 2,272,815 copies, remaining the top-selling newspaper in the country. The Wall Street Journal, published by Dow Jones & Co., was second with 2,049,786, down 1 percent, and The New York Times was third, with an increase of 0.5 percent to 1,142,464 copies.

Monday, May 1, 2006

Super wealthy behind estate tax repeal

According to this New York Times story:

THE watchdog group Public Citizen (citizen.org) and the advocacy group United for a Fair Economy (faireconomy.org) issued a report this week [available here] saying that 18 superwealthy families are largely responsible for financing the lobbying campaign aimed at repealing the estate tax; the Senate is scheduled to take up repeal next month.

The families, worth $185.5 billion, have financed and coordinated the campaign and have, until now, managed to hide their participation behind the trade associations and business groups they have formed to represent their interests, Public Citizen reported. The families include those behind some of the nation's biggest and best-known companies, like Wal-Mart, E.& J. Gallo Winery, Nordstrom and Koch Industries.

Of course, gay families will also be impacted favorably by this, and should support it only in principle if the US Religious Right continues to fight gay marriage from becoming legal in every state. Why should gay partners suffer when one dies and cannot leave his or her estate to the other without huge penalties.

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