The Thrilling Demise of Groupon

Posted on August 20, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , |


August 19, 2012

Farhad Manjoo

A year ago, Rakesh Agrawal, an analyst and journalist who spent many years working in the local advertising business, wrote a series of devastating articles about Groupon.

At the time, the digital coupon firm was regarded as one of the most brilliant internet advertising companies to come along since Google.

In fact, Groupon was so hot that Google itself offered $6 billion to buy it – but Groupon decided it didn’t want the search company’s billions and instead prepared to raise many billions more in a stock offering. Now, just before the IPO, Agrawal was calling Groupon’s entire business model into question.

“Groupon is not an internet marketing business so much as it is the equivalent of a loan sharking business,” Agrawal wrote, and the critique got more scathing from there.

To you and me, Groupon seems like an easy way to save money on spas, auto detailers, chiropractors and lots and lots of people who want to remove hair from your nether regions using wax or lasers. And to many investors, Groupon seemed like a sure thing. In 2008, its first year of operations, the company booked $94,000 in revenue; by 2011, it was collecting $644 million per quarter, leading some to call it the fastest-growing company of all time.

But as Agrawal described it, Groupon was riding high because its most important constituency – the small businesses who slashed their prices to entice Groupon’s customers – was getting ripped off.

When Groupon runs a deal with a local business, it demands very unfavourable terms.

First, the merchant is asked to substantially reduce his prices. Then he has to agree to give Groupon a huge split – often 50 per cent – of the tiny amount that he does make from each Groupon sale.

For instance, if my fast-food shack normally sells a burger-and-shake combo for $10, Groupon will want me to offer it for $5, and then take half of the $5 sale – so I’ve just sold $10 of merchandise for $2.50.

Why would any right-thinking business owner take this lopsided deal? Because, as Agrawal noted, Groupon dangled a very attractive carrot in front of them – it would offer to pay their cut immediately.

If 1000 people purchased that $5 combo deal at my restaurant, Groupon would pay me my share – $2.50 for each customer, or $2,500 – in three payments over two months, with the first payment arriving within a week of the deal’s launch.

Its sweet-talking sales staff would also promise that I’d get long-term benefits from the deal. All those Groupon customers would likely spend more than their Groupon amount, and if they liked my food, they’d keep coming back even without a deal.

Many cash-poor businesses apparently didn’t consider the other possibility – than in exchange for taking a lump sum now, they were signing up to give heavily discounted stuff away to deal-hungry customers who would never step into their stores ever again.

If that happened, my $2500 in immediate Groupon cash might cost me $7500 in lost revenue over time – “a very, very expensive loan,” as Agrawal put it.

Now, after a spectacular debut on the Nasdaq, Groupon is a public company. Last week, it reported its second-quarter earnings results. The numbers were dismal. They paint an unmistakable picture of the future of Groupon and other similar sites: The daily deals industry is drying up.

Groupon reported that its customer growth slowed substantially over the second quarter; the amount of money that each customer spends on the site tanked; and the company’s “guidance” for the current quarter suggests that things are going to get a lot worse.

The spin from Groupon’s executives was not very encouraging. In a conference call with analysts, the firm’s CEO Andrew Mason kept talking up Groupon Goods, a service in which Groupon sells discounted merchandise to customers – in other words, something completely different from the coupons that earned the firm its IPO.

The fact that even Groupon is no longer banking on Groupons is fantastic news for everyone, especially all of us who are sick of morning email deal spam.

But the biggest beneficiaries of Groupon’s problems are the world’s small-business owners, people who will no longer be taken in by its terrible deals.

Last week, Groupon’s stock was down nearly 30 per cent. Its demise may not be imminent, but it seems assured. Let’s all rejoice.

Manjoo is Slate’s technology reporter.




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The 10 Best Things You’re Already Doing With Your Finances

Posted on March 21, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , |

We know, we know — at LearnVest, we tell you a lot of things you should do, like:

  • Save for retirement
  • Pay off any debt you have
  • Reevaluate your budget (because you already have a budget, right?)
  • Stress out about all the aforementioned to-dos

We tell you because they’re all good for you, financially speaking… well, all but that last one.

But sometimes, with all the worrying we do, it’s easy to forget to take a time out and give ourselves a pat on the back. And we bet there are already a lot of things you’re doing exactly right with your money.

Read on to find out how many of these 10 excellent financial habits you’ve already adopted, then sit back and feel super-proud of yourself.

1. You Always Shop on Sale
According to industry research, 62 percent of U.S. consumers say they rarely pay full price for clothing. So it sounds like you already know the art of scoring the best deal possible (just don’t let yourself get suckered in by the secret ways stores seduce us into buying). Keep up the good work!

2. You’re Creative About Cutting Your Costs
And, we know this one is true! Time after time, LearnVest members have told us stories about their innovative ways to save, from clipping coupons, to DIYing just about everything. You understand the value of a dollar… and get that even nickels can add up. For a creative way to save your spare change, check out our five dollar jar idea. And for crafty do-it-yourself tips for everything from homemade sorbet to hand-mixed hair conditioner, check this out.

3. You’re Resilient
In one study, people were grouped into “resilient” and “overwhelmed” personalities: When faced with adversity, the overwhelmed group felt like the situation ganged up on them and there was nothing to be done. When faced with similar circumstances, the resilient group’s instinct was to pick back up and start over. Upon examining these traits from an emotional perspective, researchers found that those who were resilient had higher levels of wealth.

4. You Give a Damn
In the same study of personality traits and wealth, people who are too distracted to even deal with their finances were statistically shown to do a worse job of managing their money (which is pretty intuitive). For that reason, the fact that you’re on LearnVest and reading this story means that you care about your financial future, and that simple caring puts you ahead of the curve.

5. You Have a Budget
Whether or not you occasionally give in to impulse buying, you’re ahead of the game for simply having a budget. Knowing how much you have to spend each month, and how much your basic expenses cost, is the single best way to not go overboard. Your budget could take the form of a basic ledger… or a custom breakdown courtesy of the LearnVest My Money Center, which pulls in data from all of your accounts to show your spending, saving and investments in one place.

6. You Don’t Hide From the Future
Since the recession, 80 percent of people are showing more caution with their finances than they used to, including saving more and investing for retirement. That’s good news, because studies have shown that people who have backup plans — which can be as simple as building up your fund — tend to have a higher degree of wealth in general.

7. You Go to the Gym
In one study, women who were fit (OK, let’s say it: thin) made as much as $16,000 more per year than the norm. But, before you go on a flash diet, know that you don’t need to be supermodel skinny to reap these financial rewards! Simply working out may do the trick: Runners and serious athletes are better money managers because they cultivate mental traits that help them maintain focus. For some tips on cultivating those mental traits without being a total gym rat, check this out.

8. You’re Confident in Yourself
Those who aren’t swayed by the crowd are better at taking control of their finances. That’s because friends and family can often steer you astray. In fact, they can affect everything from whether you buy that sweater you don’t really need (meet “The Enabler — and seven other types of friends who are bad for your finances”) to whether you make a bad investment. See how the concept of “social proof” can actively hurt your portfolio.

9. You Save Your Change
You understand that little things add up over time, and every day you make money decisions that will help you in the long run. For example, instead of letting your change pile up, you’re actually putting it somewhere you won’t lose it — and that adds up. Collecting just 25 cents a day would add up to nearly $100 after a year!

10. You Pay Your Bills on Time
One of the most basic — and most powerful — ways to stay on top of your spending is to simply pay all your bills on time (and in full, wherever possible). Avoiding just a few bills now and again will cost you in interest payments. And that doesn’t even mention the hit your credit score will take for missing payments. For a sense of just how important your credit score is, and how much money you can save by having a good one, play with our interactive tool.

Ready to take the next step in your financial life? Make the leap from what you are doing to where you want to be by seeing all your spending in one place with the LearnVest My Money Center.

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A Case of Supply v. Demand

Posted on November 1, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Yale law school

Yale law school

Law schools are

manufacturing more lawyers than America needs, and law students aren’t happy about it.

By Annie Lowrey


During the recession, the logic was ubiquitous: The economy is terrible—better to wait it out! It is a three-year fast track to a remunerative, respectable career! It’s not just learning a subject—it’s learning how to think! Law school, always the safe choice, became a more popular choice. Between 2007 and 2009, the number of LSAT takers climbed 20.5 percent. Law school applications increased in turn.


But now a number of recent or current law students are saying—or screaming—that they made a mistake. They went to law school, they say, and now they’re underemployed or jobless, in debt, and three years older. And statistics show that the evidence is more than anecdotal.

One Boston College Law School third-year—miraculously, still anonymous—begged for his tuition back in exchange for a promise to drop out without a degree, in an open letter to his dean published earlier this month. “This will benefit both of us,” he argues. “On the one hand, I will be free to return to the teaching career I left to come here. I’ll be able to provide for my family without the crushing weight of my law school loans. On the other hand, this will help BC Law go up in the rankings, since you will not have to report my unemployment at graduation to US News. This will present no loss to me, only gain: in today’s job market, a J.D. seems to be more of a liability than an asset.”

He is one of dozens of law students who have gone public, very public, to chastise the schools they elected to attend for leaving them older and poorer. One popular medium is the “scam blog,” where indebted, unemployed attorneys accuse law schools of being little better than tuition-sucking diploma mills. (Sample blog title: Shilling Me Softly.) The author of one popular, if histrionic, such blog describes his law school as a Ponzi scheme.

Others have taken, perhaps inevitably, to the courts. Kenneth Desornes, for instance, named his law school in his bankruptcy filing. He asks the school to “[a]dmit that your business knew or should have known that Plaintiff would be in no position to repay those loans.”

The students might be litigious—no surprise there—and overwrought. But they’ve got a point. The demand for lawyers has fallen off a cliff, both due to the short-term crisis of the recession and long-term changes to the industry, and is only starting to rebound. The lawyers that do have jobs are making less than they used to. At the same time, universities seeking revenue have tacked on law schools, minting more lawyers every year.

That has caused some concern among lawyers who think the accrediting organization, the American Bar Association, is doing the profession a disservice by approving so many new schools. (Contrast that with medical schools. They come with much higher startup costs and tend not to be money-makers. Relatively few students get medical degrees every year, and demand far outstrips supply.)

The job market for lawyers is terrible, full stop—and that hits young lawyers, without professional track records and in need of training, worst. Though the National Association for Law Placement, an industry nonprofit group, reports that employment for the class of 2009 was 88.3 percent, about a quarter of those jobs were temporary gigs, without the salaries needed by most new lawyers to pay off crushing debts. Another 10 percent were part-time. And thousands of jobs were actually fellowships or grants provided by the new lawyers’ law schools.

The big firms that make up about 28 percent of recent grads’ employment slashed their associate programs in 2009 and 2010, rescinding offers to thousands and deferring the start dates of thousands more. Worse, the profession as a whole shrunk: The number of people employed in legal services hit an all-time high of 1.196 million in June 2007. It currently stands at 1.103 million. That means the number of law jobs has dwindled by about 7.8 percent. In comparison, the total number of jobs has fallen about 5.4 percent over the same period.

At the same time, the law schools—the supply side of the equation—have not stopped growing. Law schools awarded 43,588 J.D.s last year, up 11.5 percent since 2000, though there was technically negative demand for lawyers. And the American Bar Association’s list of approved law schools now numbers 200, an increase of 9 percent in the last decade. Those newer law schools have a much shakier track record of helping new lawyers get work, but they don’t necessarily cost less than their older, more established counterparts.

But what of those high salaries for the lawyers who do get jobs? After all, big law schools report that the average graduate is still making in the high five figures for entry-level work. The problem is those statistics are what lawyers might call hearsay. For one, law schools report their own salary-at-graduation data to organizations like NALP and magazines like U.S. News and World Report, collecting it from student surveys. But, NALP notes, there is an obvious bias problem. Students don’t bother telling their law school what they are making unless they are making a lot. So the figure is probably too high, and either way is not a scientific measure.

Another point is that prospective law students usually look at average pay at graduation. But the average hides substantial inequality: There are the jobs at white-shoe firms that pay about $160,000 per year to recent graduates, and then there are the rest of jobs, which generally pay between $45,000 and $60,000. Almost no salaries are near the median or the average. They are clustered at the bottom, with fewer high earners, many of whom come from a handful of super-elite law schools, up at the top. That means that most students do not meet the break-even salary—the starting salary that would make law school tuition a good investment, estimated at around $65,000.

Students simply “cannot earn enough income after graduation to support the debt they incur,” wrote Richard Matasar, the dean of New York Law School, in 2005. “Even those making the highest salaries find that the debt that they have accumulated while in school may tax them for years.”

Still, the harsh realities of being a young lawyer have not stopped thousands from enrolling in law school during the recession. Veritas Prep, a graduate school admissions consulting firm, found in a recent survey that four in five prospective applicants still plan to apply to law school even if “a significant number of law school graduates were unable to find jobs in their desired fields.” Only 4 percent were dissuaded.

So does that just mean a continued oversupply of lawyers, dragging down their own median salaries and dealing with their heavy debt burdens while a few lucky associates make it to the corporate big leagues? Not necessarily.

David McGowan of University of San Diego and Bernard Burk of the Center for Corporate Governance at Stanford argue that trend cannot continue. Prospective students will recognize that law school can be a bad deal, and one way or another is not a sure thing. Applications will slowly drop off. The marquee law schools will be fine. But some of the newer, lower-ranked law schools will end up shutting down—meaning fewer lawyers, and the vindication, if not the employment, of all of those scam-blog authors.

Like Slate on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

Annie Lowrey reports on economics and business for Slate. Previously, she worked as a staff writer for the Washington Independent and on the editorial staffs of Foreign Policy and The New Yorker. Her e-mail is

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How to Eat When Travelling

Posted on September 29, 2010. Filed under: Health | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Template for Template:Food safety

Image via Wikipedia

Travelling is exciting. New sights, new sounds, new smells, new tastes are always around the next corner. That is part of the experience. But new foods don’t always agree with old stomachs.

Diarrhea affects 2–50% of all travelers. Other diseases that affect travelers include typhoid and paratyphoid fevers, polio, viral hepatitis A, and a variety of parasitic infections. It pays to be cautious.
Preparing For The Trip:

Pack safely, use a cooler if traveling by car, camping or boating. Keep raw foods separate from other foods. Never bring meat or poultry products without a cold source to keep them safe. Bring disposable wipes or biodegradable soap for hand and dishwashing.

Household pets and even some pet treats carry harmful bacteria, so keep them away from foods. Also be sure you wash your hands after petting your animals or handling their food.

When backpacking or hiking, the foods to bring are peanut butter in plastic jars, concentrated juice boxes, canned tuna, ham, chicken and beef, dried noodles, soups, dried nuts, fruits, powdered milk and fruit drinks, powdered mixes for biscuits or pancakes, dried pasta, powdered sauce mixes, and rice. Take only the amount you need. Pack foods in the frozen state with a cold source.

If traveling by car, for perishables use an ice chest or insulated cooler with sufficient ice, or gel packs to keep the food at 40 F. Pack food directly from the fridge or freezer into it. Why? Bacteria grow and multiply rapidly in the danger zone between 40 F and 140 F [out of the refrigerator or before food begins to cook]. So, food transported without an ice source or left out in the sun at a picnic won’t stay safe long.

Put in air-conditioned passenger section, not in the trunk. At the camp site, insulate the cooler with a blanket or tarp and keep it in the shade. Keep the lid closed and avoid repeated openings. Replenish the ice if it melts. Once gel packs and their cold sources melt and cannot be replaced, perishables are not safe—discard them.
Vacation Home or RV:

If a vacation home or a recreational vehicle has not been used for a while, check leftover canned food from last year. The Meat and Poultry Hotline recommends that canned foods that may have been exposed to freezing and thawing temperatures over the winter be discarded. Also, check the refrigerator. If unplugged from last year, thoroughly clean it before using. Make sure all food preparation areas in the vacation home or in the recreational vehicle are thoroughly cleaned.
Things to be cautious about on the trip

When traveling you may not always be able to safely eat when, where and what you wish. Take a look at your servers! Are they clean looking? Most importantly, do their hands and fingernails look clean? Do they keep their hands away from their faces and hair? Foodborne illness can be passed person-to-person or from the bathroom by unwashed hands. Burns and cuts that may be infected are also a plentiful source of harmful bacteria. If you can, try to get a glimpse of the person who is fixing your food. You decide from there.

Plates, glasses and utensils should be clean and spot free. If they have dried-on food, finger prints, or lipstick on glasses, then the dishwasher is likely on the blink. Ask for clean replacements or better yet, move on down the road.

Fresh foods such as fruits and vegetables should appear fresh and have a fresh aroma. Wilted salads may be an indication that the product is old or has not been properly handled.

See any bugs?

If you have to share your table with roaches, it’s time to leave.

What is the general condition of the restaurant environment? Sure, you don’t eat off the floor, but how the manager keeps the place up may be an indication of the amount of pride they take in preparing your food.

And remember, don’t drink the water!
Shopping For Food:

Plan ahead, decide what you are going to eat and how you are going to cook it—then plan what equipment you will need. Buy your food from a reputable supplier. Examples of foods to avoid are custards, egg salad, potato salad, chicken salad, macaroni salad, ham, salami, most cheese, cooked poultry and dressing, and smoked fish.

More foods that my be dangerous are home-made mayonnaise, some sauces [e.g. hollandaise] and some desserts, such as mousses. Ice cream is frequently contaminated if it comes from an unreliable source.

Be especially wary of unpasteurized milk, non-bottled drinks [they are likely to be contaminated and possibly unsafe]. Boil uncooked food and unpasteurized milk before drinking.

Fruit and vegetables that YOU can peel or shell are okay.

Ensure that even cooked food has been thoroughly and freshly cooked and is piping hot. Cooked food that has set at a mildly warm room temperature for more than two hours holds one of the greatest risks of food-borne disease because bacteria may multiply in it. If room temperature is hotter, 90 F or more, leave out no longer than one hour.

Various species of fish and shellfish contain poisonous biotoxins at certain times of the year. So check with the local population.

Buy only hard cheeses marked “aged 60 days” [or longer]. With purchased or delicatessen cold food, eat or refrigerate immediately.

Take care with perishable foods before you get them home. Purchase them at your last stop, especially in hot weather, get them home and into the fridge quickly. Do not thaw frozen food at room temperature, keep in fridge ’till defrosted.

Wash hands with soap and warm water before preparing, serving or eating your food. Avoid using your hands to mix foods when clean utensils can be used. Keep your hands away from your mouth, nose and hair.
General Rules for Outdoor Food Safety:

Items which don’t require refrigeration include fruits, vegetables, hard cheese, canned meat or fish, chips, bread, crackers, peanut butter, jelly, mustard, and pickles. You don’t need to pack them in a cooler. Carry bottled water for drinking. Otherwise, boil the water before use, or use water purification tablets. Don’t even use untreated water to clean your contact lenses but use only what is manufactured solely for that use.

Don’t leave trash in the wild — and don’t throw it off your boat or out the window.

If using a cooler, leftover food is safe only if the cooler still has ice in it. Otherwise, discard leftover food.

Whether on land or sea, protect yourself and wash your hands before and after you eat.

When cooking meat use a meat thermometer for beef patties. Cook until 160 Fahrenheit. Heat hot dogs to 165 F. Chicken breasts to 170 F and legs and thighs to 180 F. Be sure to clean the thermometer between uses.

When Fishing:

With finfish, scale, gut and clean fish as soon as they’re caught. Live fish can be kept on stringers or in live wells, as long as they have enough water and enough room to move and breathe.

Wrap fish, both whole and cleaned, in water-tight plastic and store on ice. Keep 3 to 4 inches of ice on the bottom of the cooler. Alternate layers of fish and ice. Store the cooler out of the sun and cover with a blanket.

Once home, eat fresh fish within 1 to 2 days or freeze them. For top quality, use frozen fish within 3 to 6 months.

Crabs, lobsters and other shellfish must be kept alive until cooked. Store in live wells or out of water in a bushel or laundry basket under wet burlap or seaweed.

Live mussels and clams should be cooked within 4 to 5 days.

Crabs and lobsters are best eaten the day they’re caught. Live oysters should be cooked within 7 to 10 days.

Eating raw shellfish is extremely dangerous. People with liver disorders or weakened immune systems are expecially at risk.

Cleanup on the boat is similar to cleanup in the wild. Bring disposable wipes for handwashing, and bag all your trash to dispose of when you return to shore.

It’s perfectly safe to store uncooked patties as well as raw steaks, ribs, chops and raw poultry in the refrigerator for a day or so until ready to pack the cooler. If marinating meat and poultry, store in the refrigerator—not on the counter. If you plan to use some of the marinade as a sauce, reserve a portion before putting raw meat in it. Don’t reuse the marinade, throw it out!

Perishables must be kept cold or cooked and chilled. Food should not be out of the refrigerator or oven longer than 2 hours. If cooking foods beforehand—such as turkey, ham, chicken, and vegetable or pasta salads—prepare them in plenty of time to thoroughly chill in the refrigerator. Divide large amounts of food into small containers for fast chilling and easier use. Keep cooked foods refrigerated until time to leave home.
Purchasing Take-Out Foods:

If you’re planning on purchasing take-out foods such as fried chicken or barbecued beef, eat them within two hours of pickup. Otherwise, buy ahead of time to chill before packing them into the cooler.
Serving Food:

Except when served, the food should be stored in a cooler. As the refrigerator at home when the power is off, the more times you open a cooler, the more cold air will escape. Once the ice melts, the cooler won’t be able to keep food safe. Keep cold drinks in a separate cooler to avoid constantly opening the one containing perishable foods.

If you’ve packed cooked foods in several small containers, you can serve one and keep the others cold for second helpings. Leave raw meat in the cooler, too. When cooking it, remove from the cooler only the amount that will fit on the grill.
Grilling Safety for Safety and Quality:

The coals should be very hot before cooking food. For optimal heat, burn them 20 to 30 minutes or until they are lightly coated with ash. The USDA recommends against eating raw or undercooked ground beef since harmful bacteria could be present. To be sure bacteria are destroyed, cook hamburgers to 160 F on a meat thermometer. Large cuts of beef such as roasts may be cooked to 145 F for medium rare or to 160 F for medium. Cook ground poultry to 165 F and poultry parts to 180 F. Reheat pre-cooked meats until steaming hot. When taking foods off the grill, don’t put the cooked items on the same platter which held the raw meat. Raw meat juices can contain bacteria that could cross-contaminate safely cooked foods. Do not partially grill extra hamburgers to use later. Once you begin cooking hamburgers by any method, cook them until completely done to assure that bacteria are destroyed.
Keeping Leftovers Safe:

Place leftover foods in the cooler promptly after grilling or serving. Any left outside for more than an hour should be discarded. For the return trip, the cooler should again travel in the air-conditioned part of the car. If you were gone not more than 4 or 5 hours and your perishables were kept on ice except when cooked and served, you should be able to use the leftovers.

Check the cooler when you get home. If there is still ice in the cooler and the food is “refrigerator cool” to the touch, the leftovers should be safe to eat.

Remember: cook it, peel it, or leave it—and don’t drink the water!

Be Careful what you eat.

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Supplements under attack

Posted on August 29, 2010. Filed under: Health | Tags: |

Consumer Reports wants you to believe that common supplements are poorly regulated and dangerous.

The magazine went as far as to issue dire warnings about kidney and liver damage, heart problems and even a cancer risk from some ingredients.

You’d think they were talking about the millions of prescription drugs people take every day!

But unlike those common and dangerous meds, the supplement ingredients that have Consumer Reports up in arms are actually, for the most part, rare and unusual. Most people have never heard of–much less taken–bitter orange, greater celandine, or coltsfoot, yet Consumer Reports singled them out on its list and distributed it to millions of readers in its magazine and through the media.

Their report inspired frightening headlines like “Report: Dietary supplements pose health risks” ( and “Many dietary supplements are contaminated” (

Really? Many? From Coltsfoot?

This isn’t reporting for consumers. This is fear mongering, plain and simple. But at least it got them the attention they were looking for.

Of course, while all of the supplements on the list are somewhat unusual, not all of them are as uncommon as greater celandine. And in those cases, the magazine offers misinformation and lazy research.

For example, Consumer Reports warns against using colloidal silver. They say it’ll make you turn blue–which is true if you’re careless and use way too much of it.

But the fact of the matter is natural healers have successfully worked with colloidal silver for generations without creating a race of Smurfs. Dr. Jonathan Wright, one of the leaders in the field, says he uses it to treat infections. He even believes that colloidal silver may hold the key to defeating the drug-resistant superbugs created by our overreliance on prescription antibiotics. You can read more about that here.

Consumer Reports also warns of the supposed dangers of the natural relaxant kava, which should come as a surprise to the Pacific islanders who use it regularly. Never mind that kava is far safer when it comes to relieving anxiety and stress than the prescription drugs being given out every single day.

If you suffer from liver problems, kava may not be for you. But if you’re otherwise healthy and need some help dealing with anxiety, talk to your doctor about it–because it might be just what you need.

Consumer Reports also put comfrey root on its risk list– but if you read the fine print, the magazine says it’s only dangerous if you swallow it, and that “comfrey seems to be safe for most people when applied to unbroken skin for less than 10 days in small amounts.”

Guess how most people use comfrey? They rub it on the skin in small amounts to get some pain relief.

The best way to make sure you get what you need–with no surprises–is to choose supplements from a trusted source. And, of course, everyone who takes them should do their own careful research and work closely with a naturopathic physician.

But whatever you do, don’t be afraid to take your vitamins… no matter what Consumer Reports tries to suggest.

On a mission for your health,

Ed Martin
Editor, House Calls


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150,000 College Students to Save $12 Million Using Flat World Knowledge Open Textbooks for 2010/2011 Academic Year

Posted on August 23, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , |

Aug 23, 2010 07:48 ET

Transformative New Publishing Model Gaining Traction With Faculty, Students, Authors

IRVINGTON, NY–(Marketwire – August 23, 2010) –  Flat World Knowledge, the leading publisher of commercial, openly-licensed college textbooks, today announced another dramatic increase in the number of colleges and classrooms adopting its textbooks. This fall semester, more than 800 colleges will utilize Flat World textbooks, up from 400 in the fall 2009 and up from 30 colleges in the spring 2009.

With Flat World’s textbooks saving the average student $80 per class, the company is on track to save 150,000 students $12 million or more in textbook expenses for the 2010/2011 academic year which begins this month.

Flat World’s year-over-year growth is fueled by the company’s innovative “free and open” textbook publishing model that allows students to acquire complete, high-quality, peer-reviewed textbooks at prices ranging from FREE for online access to only $30 for a softcover print book. Other formats include PDF downloads, audio and e-reader versions for the iPad and Kindle, as well as digital study aids.

“It’s gratifying to see the tremendous response to our textbooks and publishing model across a wide range of academic institutions,” said Jeff Shelstad, Flat World Knowledge CEO and co-founder. “By preserving what works from traditional publishing and changing everything that’s broken, our open textbook publishing model is providing substantial benefits to students, faculty and authors.”

For the 2010 fall semester, more than 1,300 educators representing 800 major state and private research universities and community college systems have adopted Flat World textbooks, including the University of Maryland, University of Texas, Carnegie Mellon University, multiple California State University campuses, the Foothill DeAnza Community College District in Calif., as well as institutions in Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

With a growing roster of top authors and more than 24 published titles and 50 more in the pipeline, Flat World expects to publish textbooks for the 125 highest-enrollment college courses in the next few years. New subjects in the immediate pipeline include algebra, psychology, chemistry, statistics and English composition.

Textbook Pricing Crisis Threatens College Affordability, Graduation Rates

Many students cannot afford to spend $1,000 or more on textbooks each year; a new college business textbook can cost $200. Prompted by concern that textbook costs were rendering higher education unaffordable to students, Congress enacted legislation that went into effect in July as part of the Higher Education Opportunity Act.

In a Public Agenda research report published by The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, 60 percent of students surveyed said the cost of textbooks and other fees contributed to their decision to drop out of college. If students do stay in school and don’t buy textbooks due to costs, they are at a learning disadvantage.

With fewer students buying new texts, publishers have responded by raising prices and bringing out new editions faster to combat used books. This leads to more sticker shock for students and more work for instructors to rewrite syllabuses.

Flat World Knowledge’s business model and online publishing platform stand in stark contrast to the practices of traditional higher education textbook publishers who’ve fueled the textbook affordability crisis. By eliminating high textbook prices as a major financial barrier to college, Flat World’s unique business model has attracted a growing number of students and faculty converts who have grown frustrated by spiraling textbook prices.

Breaking the Rules to Build a Better Publishing Model

Flat World’s approach begins by keeping what works in traditional publishing. The company signs top scholars and successful authors to write exclusive, high-quality textbooks using industry-tested product development best practices.

But instead of adopting the industry-standard “all rights reserved” copyright license, Flat World publishes under an open Creative Commons license. The open license, combined with a highly-automated publishing platform that keeps costs low, transforms a static text into a dynamic learning resource that is automatically available in multiple low cost formats.

Students Free to Choose Price, Format

“The future is about creating better value, not making it more cumbersome and expensive for students,” said Kyle Blake, a returning business student at Minnesota State University Moorhead. “Flat World understands that students want to be treated as consumers who deserve really good books in any format they wish.”

While many students take advantage of the free online option, more than 50 percent purchase a physical book or other format that fits their individual learning style. To date, the most popular choice is a black-and-white softcover book for $30 — significantly less than most textbooks. Online and interactive digital study aids are also top-sellers at $1.99 per chapter or $14.95 for a subscription.

Softcover books are printed on demand and sold directly to students or through their campus bookstore, minimizing conventional manufacturing and inventory costs.

Flat World has agreements with Barnes & Noble College Booksellers, Follett Higher Education Group, and NACS Media Solutions to distribute their open textbooks to more than 3,000 college stores across the US.

The company anticipates that more of its sales will transition from print to various digital formats over the next few years.

Faculty Free to Make the “Perfect Book”

Since publishing its first commercially available books in 2009, Flat World reports that one third of its faculty adopters have used the online platform and customization tools to modify their textbooks to reflect their individual approach to their subject — something they can’t do with a conventional text. The open license approach gives them freedom to reuse, revise, remix and redistribute the book — the 4 R’s that define open — so long as they attribute the author and publisher and don’t engage in commercial activity.

Flat Word anticipates that 50 percent or more of faculty will customize their textbooks by the fall 2011 semester. This growth in faculty customization will follow the release of enhanced customization tools later this year. Faculty will be able to edit at the sentence level, creating the potential for a richer learning experience for both students and educators.

This semester, Dr. Scott Hunt, professor of economics at Columbus State Community College, and his colleagues created their own version of Principles of Macroeconomics by rearranging content and writing new sections.

“In all the years I’ve been a professor, we’ve never had the perfect book,” said Dr. Scott Hunt, professor. “Now we do, and it’s affordable.”

Why would authors give their books away for free?

Authors have been hurt by the textbook industry’s broken business model. Royalties are dwindling from fewer new book sales. And non-royalty-paying used book sales, book rentals and online piracy sites take a greater share of the market. Authors also face internal competition with titles in their discipline from the same publisher. And many authors are kept on a treadmill of minor revisions for new editions that are coming out at a faster rate.

Flat World is attracting top scholars and best-selling authors by offering a different experience: a new model that allows for faster market entry and a better royalty rate for a bigger return over time combined with a rigorous editorial development process and sales and marketing support. Flat World authors earn 20 percent royalties (the standard is 12 to 15 percent) on all revenue generated around their work, in all channels, sold anywhere in the world. In the open model, authors can benefit from a consistent revenue stream over time since sales don’t drop off dramatically after the first year due to used books sales and rentals.

“I have full confidence in this model because it makes so much sense for students, faculty and authors,” says Steve Barkan, professor of sociology at the University of Maine and author of Sociology: Understanding & Changing the Social World, soon-to-be published by Flat World. “Students, many of whom work part-time jobs, can finally get low-cost access to knowledge. As an author, I feel good about ‘doing the right thing’ and I stand to be well-compensated for years to come.”

A sustainable model for the future of publishing

While the textbook publishing industry struggles to adapt to the Internet’s impact on the way learning materials are consumed, Flat World has seized on the opportunity to bridge the value gap with a sustainable and profitable revenue model for publishing in the 21st century.

“The future of textbooks is all about choice,” said CEO Shelstad. “By giving educators and students high-quality, affordable choices, Flat World Knowledge is helping thousands of students gain access to the education and knowledge they need to realize their potential and succeed in the global economy.”

About Flat World Knowledge, Inc.
Founded in 2007 by senior textbook industry executives, privately-held Flat World Knowledge is a leading publisher of commercial, openly-licensed college textbooks. Written by the world’s top scholars, Flat World books are peer reviewed and professionally edited and developed. Educators have the freedom to use the books as-is, or they can customize them to suit their course requirements. Students can access the books for free online, or purchase low-cost softcover print books, PDF downloads, audio and e-reader versions, as well as study aids at a fraction of the cost of traditional textbooks. More information is available at:

Media Contact:
Carole Walters
Flat World Knowledge
Email Contact



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McDonalds Beef – Important Read

Posted on August 1, 2010. Filed under: Health | Tags: , |

Must read..CANADIAN Beef



I’m sure those of you who aren’t in the cattle business don’t
understand the issues here. But to those of us whose living depends on
the cattle market, selling cattle, raising the best beef possible…
This is frustrating.

This will keep us from ever stopping there again, even for a drink.

The original message is from the Alberta Cattle Feeders Association

Canadian cattle producers are very passionate about this.

McDonald’s claims that there is not enough beef in Canada to support
their restaurants. Well, we know that is not so. Our opinion is they
are looking to save money at our expense. The sad thing of it is that
the people of
Canada are the ones who made McDonald’s successful in
the first place, but we are not good enough to provide beef.

We personally are no longer eating at McDonald’s, which I am sure does
not make an impact, but if we pass this around maybe there will be an
impact felt.

Please pass it on. Just to add a note:

All Canadians that sell cattle at a livestock auction barn have to
sign a paper stating that we do NOT EVER feed our cattle any part of
another animal. South Americans are not required to do this as of yet.

McDonald’s has announced that they are going to start importing much
of their beef from South America . The problem is that South
Americans aren’t under the same regulations as Canadian beef
producers, and the regulations they have are loosely controlled.

They can spray numerous pesticides on their pastures that have been
banned here at home because of residues found in the beef. They can
also use various hormones and growth regulators that we can’t. The
Canadian public needs to be aware of this problem and that they may be
putting themselves at risk from now on by eating at good old

Canadian ranchers raise the highest quality beef in the world and this
is what Canadians deserve to eat. Not beef from countries where
quality is loosely controlled. Therefore, I am proposing a boycott of
McDonald’s until they see the light.

I’m sorry but everything is not always about the bottom line, and when
it comes to jeopardizing my family’s health, that is where I draw the

I am sending this note to about thirty people. If each of you send it
to at least ten more (30 x 10 = 300) … and those 300 send it to at l
east ten more (300 x 10 = 3,000) … and so on, by the time the
message reaches the sixth generation of people, we will have reached
over THREE MILLION consumers!

I’ll bet you didn’t think you and I had that much potential, did you?
Acting together we can make a difference. If this makes sense to you,
please pass this message on.

Larry Latam
Sylvia Van Oene R.N.
Occupational Health Services (HSD)
XL Foods Inc.
Lakeside Packers Brooks , AB.


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What Chief Executives Really Want

Posted on July 25, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , |

A survey from IBM’s Institute for Business Value shows that CEOs value one leadership competency above all others. Can you guess what it is?

What do chief executive officers really want? The answer bears important consequences for management as well as companies’ customers and shareholders. The qualities that a CEO values most in the company team set a standard that affects everything from product development and sales to the long-term success of an enterprise.

There is compelling new evidence that CEOs’ priorities in this area are changing in important ways. According to a new survey of 1,500 chief executives conducted by IBM’s Institute for Business Value (NYSE: IBM – News), CEOs identify “creativity” as the most important leadership competency for the successful enterprise of the future.

That’s creativity—not operational effectiveness, influence, or even dedication. Coming out of the worst economic downturn in their professional lifetimes, when managerial discipline and rigor ruled the day, this indicates a remarkable shift in attitude. It is consistent with the study’s other major finding: Global complexity is the foremost issue confronting these CEOs and their enterprises. The chief executives see a large gap between the level of complexity coming at them and their confidence that their enterprises are equipped to deal with it.

Until now creativity has generally been viewed as fuel for the engines of research or product development, not the essential leadership asset that must permeate an enterprise.

Much has happened in the past two years to shake the historical assumptions held by the women and men who are in charge. In addition to global recession, the century’s first decade heightened awareness of the issues surrounding global climate change and the interplay between natural events and our supply chains for materials, food, and even talent. In short, CEOs have experienced the realities of global integration. The world is massively interconnected—economically, socially, and politically—and operating as a system of systems. So what does this look like at the level of customer relationships? For too many enterprises, the answer is that their customers are increasingly connected, but not to them.

Against that backdrop of interconnection, interdependency, and complexity, business leaders around the world are declaring that success requires fresh thinking and continuous innovation at all levels of the organization. As they step back and reassess, CEOs have seized upon creativity as the necessary element for enterprises that must reinvent their customer relationships and achieve greater operational dexterity. In face-to-face interviews with our consultants, they said creative leaders do the following:

Disrupt the Status Quo. Every company has legacy products that are both cash—and sacred—cows. Often the need to perpetuate the success of these products restricts innovation within the enterprise, creating a window for competitors to advance competing innovations. As CEOs tell us that fully one-fifth of revenues will have to come from new sources, they are recognizing the requirement to break with existing assumptions, methods, and best practices.

Disrupt Existing Business Models. CEOs who select creativity as a leading competency are far more likely to pursue innovation through business model change. In keeping with their view of accelerating complexity, they are breaking with traditional strategy-planning cycles in favor of continuous, rapid-fire shifts and adjustments to their business models.

Disrupt Organizational Paralysis. Creative leaders fight the institutional urge to wait for completeness, clarity, and stability before making decisions. To do this takes a combination of deeply held values, vision, and conviction—combined with the application of such tools as analytics to the historic explosion of information. These drive decision-making that is faster, more precise, and even more predictable.

Taken together, these recommendations describe a shift toward corporate cultures that are far more transparent and entrepreneurial. They are cultures imbued with the belief that complexity poses an opportunity, rather than a threat. They hold that risk is to be managed, not avoided, and that leaders will be rewarded for their ability to build creative enterprises with fluid business models, not absolute ones.

Something significant is afoot in the corporate world. In response to powerful external pressures and the opportunities that accompany them, CEOs are signaling a new direction. They are telling us that a world of increasing complexity will give rise to a new generation of leaders that make creativity the path forward for successful enterprises.

Have a nice week …

This newsletter has been written by moderator Sedat ESER of the group “Mind Sports”.

Visit the group here:


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