Spring and summer top fashion trends are fabulous for 2013.
Fresh, sophisticated, sexy, and classic. Let’s face it there’s a reason that classic fashions defy time.
Classic fashions are clean understated styles, that can be worn year after year. The Fashion Classics just never go out of style, check out what is on offer in your local Fashion Houses.
Most designers and the well known labels have once again taken inspiration from the classic designs of the 1960s. The era where “Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis” set the trend for classic fashion. In regards to colour, the spring of 2013 will usher in lots of black and solid crisp white fashions, and tons of black and white combinations. Be ready to see lots of soft shades of white, neutrals, as well as all the predictable pastels in the shops this spring. Again this year the colour red will hold its own, paired with navy and white, to give fashions that “all American look”. As for the last four years, stripes remain and were all over the spring collections. One more big trend – lace. Lace is being added to fashions in the most peculiar places. It is being used as never before. It is popping up not only in evening wear and lingerie, but ready to wear – not to mention it’s covering shoes, and handbags, you name it…
Black and white fashions remain the big winner this season, most fashion designers have added articles of clothing in tones of black and white,. Many designers adding just a splash of colour to the black and white combination, red being one of the popular additions, as well as cheery yellow. Let’s face it – you can’t go wrong with the traditional classic black and white outfit, and designers know this little fact, and continue to cash in on it.
So, what’s one of the most popular item of clothing for spring/summer 2013? Think ladylike dresses, and A-line skirts.
However, this season fashion designers have also given us all kind of fun fashions. Fashions that will offer wonderful vivid prints, stripes, and geometric prints – not to mention some great new takes on animal prints. The main theme this spring is somewhat tailored, classic, with a touch of bold, and edgy added into the mix.
Stripes – Stripes seem to hold a place in fashion year after year. This spring be ready to see stripes being worn from head to toe, in the most unlikely match ups.
Trousers – the new waist line falls just below the waist, and is very flattering on most figure types. In regard to trouser style, anything goes, from the very skinny to the very flared leg.
Do your feet long for a bit of comfort? Let’s face it, our feet need a rest from the spiked stiletto heels. Well, this spring the kitten heel has made a comeback. You will also notice that the platform is well on its way out. The kitten heel again is a throwback to the classic 1960s. They are feminine and classic.as well as comfortable.
Internet Freedom enters the final draft of the GOP platform.
The Daily Caller reports that Internet Freedom language has been added to the final draft of the Republican Party platform, which still awaits final approval from party authorities.
The relevant passage in the platform reads: “We will remove regulatory barriers that protect outdated technologies and business plans from innovation and competition, while preventing legacy regulation from interfering with new technologies such as mobile delivery of voice and video data as they become crucial components of the Internet ecosystem. We will resist any effort to shift control away from the successful multi-stakeholder approach of Internet governance and toward governance by international or other intergovernmental organizations. We will ensure that personal data receives full constitutional protection from government overreach and that individuals retain the right to control the use of their data by third parties.”
The Daily Caller notes that this language is modeled on Ron and Rand Paul’s “Technology Revolution” manifesto from their Campaign for Liberty, which declares: “As a matter of principle, we oppose any attempt by government to tax, regulate, monitor, or control the Internet, and we oppose the Internet collectivists who collaborate with the government against Internet freedom.”
As I mentioned when first reporting on the “The Technology Revolution,” it delivered a sharp rebuke to Net Neutrality, a package of government controls designed to regulate the sale and use of Internet bandwidth – an effort bound to produce the elevated prices and reduced quality typical of all price controls. The GOP platform language is also nicely incompatible with Net Neutrality, and echoes the Campaign for Liberty’s assertion that “technology is evolving faster than government’s ability to regulate it.”
These ideals have gained increasing support from many quarters of the libertarian and conservative movements, and prominent figures within the Republican Party. The Daily Caller provides a roll call of Internet Freedom exponents:
“These voices include TechFreedom president Berin Szoka, Mercatus Center senior research fellow Adam Thierer, Associate Director of Technology Studies at the Competitive Enterprise Institute Ryan Radia, and Netcompetition president Scott Cleland.
“It is also modeled off of the efforts of Republican politicians in both chambers of Congress.
“California Republican Representatives Mary Bono Mack and Darrell Issa, Tennessee Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn, Oregon Republican Rep. Greg Walden, Texas Republican Rep. Ron Paul and Michigan Republican Rep. Fred Upton are some of leaders in the House on Internet issues.
“Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, Texas Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul have lead Republican efforts in the Senate.”
The GOP platform also includes practical critiques of the FCC, outmoded telecom legislation, and the Obama Administration’s expense of $7 billion without measurable progress toward increasing broadband infrastructure in the United States. The latter is a matter of particular dismay for consumers and businesses in rural areas.
The GOP platform is, unfortunately but understandably, silent on two of the most contentious Internet issues of the moment: cybersecurity and Internet sales taxes. Platform language is not binding upon candidates, and it certainly doesn’t prevent them from addressing issues the party platform chooses not to discuss in detail, so the Romney-Ryan campaign may yet provide us with specific positions in these areas.
India defends Internet blocking.
India on Friday defended itself against accusations of heavy-handed online censorship, saying it had been successful in blocking content blamed for fuelling ethnic tensions. The government over the past week has ordered Internet service providers to block 309 webpages, images and links on sites including Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia, news channel ABC of Australia and Qatar-based Al-Jazeera.
The orders were an effort to halt the spread of “hateful” material and rumours that Muslims planned to attack students and workers who have migrated from the north-east region to live in Bangalore and other southern cities. “We have met with success. These pages were a threat to India’s national security and we demanded their immediate deletion,” Kuldeep Singh Dhatwalia, a spokesman for India’s home ministry, told AFP.
“Spreading rumours to encourage violence or cause tension will not be tolerated. The idea is not to restrict communication.” The government has blamed Internet activity for fanning fears that resulted in tens of thousands of migrants fleeing back to the north-east last week from Bangalore and elsewhere.
But Twitter users, legal experts and analysts criticised the government’s approach, which appeared to have resulted in only partial blocking of material, much of which was still accessible. “The officials who are trusted with this don’t know the law or modern technology well enough,” Pranesh Prakash, programme manager at the Centre for Internet and Society research group, told AFP.
“I hope that this fiasco shows the folly of excessive censorship and encourages the government to make better use of social networks and technology to reach out to people.” Among the blocked content were photographs by AFP and other news agencies from Myanmar in the British Daily Telegraph, a parody Twitter account pretending to be from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and dozens of YouTube videos.
ABC issued a statement saying it was “surprised by the action” after content on its website about unrest in Myanmar between Muslims and Buddhists was included on the blocking list. India’s Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde insisted in a statement the government was “only taking strict action against those accounts or people which are causing damage or spreading rumours.” Shinde added that the government sought to block the Myanmar online photos because they were “disturbing the atmosphere here in India.”
The government said photographs of clashes in Myanmar were circulating on the Internet with fake captions claiming the scenes were from the north-eastern Indian state of Assam, where 80 people have died in recent ethnic violence. Vivek Sood, senior Supreme Court lawyer and an author on Internet legalisation, called the government’s step “a gross abuse of power.”
“It’s completely illegal under the Indian IT Act,” he told The Economic Times. Indian journalist Kanchan Gupta, who is often critical of the government, had his Twitter account targeted by a government blocking order in a move he called a “political vendetta”. Al Jazeera webpages on the blocking list, including a report on the exodus from Bangalore, appeared unaffected by the government orders, the channel’s Delhi bureau chief Anmol Saxena told AFP.
Ministers earlier complained they had not received co-operation from websites and social network groups. The government on Thursday said Twitter had agreed to remove six fake accounts parodying Prime Minister Singh. The prime minister’s office issued a statement on Friday quoting Twitter that they have “removed the reported profiles from circulation due to violation of our Terms of Service regarding impersonation”. United States State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said as India “seeks to preserve security, we are urging them also to take into account the importance of freedom of expression in the online world”.
More Sri Lankan investments in India – IKEA to invest.
The Union minister of Commerce has decided to redefine small and medium enterprises (SME) to make it possible for investment by the Swedish furniture giant IKEA . Union minister Sharma announced this at the India road show here.
IKEA furniture manufacturer has sought some changes in policy to come in with an investment of over Rs 10,500 crore into India. As per current definition, SME is a unit with $1 million investment that can go in for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). IKEA pointed out that once it started sourcing from SME in India, the growth would be fast and SMEs would have to exceed the investment limit.
Sharma said that the moment SME started selling its products to companies abroad its investment would need to go up and under the present law it would cross the limit given and make it not eligible for FDI. Sharma said that the present law was penalizing SME for doing well.
The government to attract FDI had relaxed the foreign direct investment rules last year to allow 100% FDI in single-brand retail . Earlier it was 51% but imposed numerous conditions such as mandatory local sourcing kept off foreign players.
A few investors such as Skechers, Pavers England, Promod and Tommy Hilfiger did express interest but were deterred by stringent norms in upcoming national manufacturing investment zones (NMIZ).
Sharma announced three additional national manufacturing investment zones (NMIZ) will be
coming up in Andhra Pradesh and two in Karnataka. Work on 12 more zones will start by the end of August. Talking about Sri Lankan companies’ investment , Sharma said Sri Lankan companies especially the textile firm Brandex, MAS textiles and Toray are coming to invest heavily in India.
He said Brandex apparels aims for fourfold increase in its exports from Vizag unit in the coming years. Not only Brandex is very upbeat on increasing its investment in India, every Monday about 50 million lingerie pieces are exported by them to Victoria Secret.
Katy Perry and John Mayer ‘dating’.
Katy Perry and John Mayers were spotted on what looked very much like a date on Thursday night.
The pair had dinner at Pace restaurant in Los Angeles before moving onto favourite celebrity haunt the Chateau Marmont Hotel.
They were first spotted together at Soho House on July 19th where eagle-eyed sources reported that they were “affectionate and cuddling”.
On Thursday, the ‘Hot ‘n’ Cold’ hitmaker met up with the long-haired love machine just hours after landing from Brazil where she’s been promoting her autobiographical film, ‘Part of Me 3D’.
“I’m a woman that who likes to be courted. Strongly. Never say never, I guess you’d say. I’ll let love take the lead on that,” the Mirror quoted her as telling the September issue of US Ele magazine. (ANI)
China’s ZTE Corp, which recently sold Iran’s largest telecommunications firm a powerful surveillance system, later agreed to ship to Iran millions of dollars worth of embargoed U.S. computer equipment, documents show.
The American components were part of an 8 million euro equipment-supply contract, dated June 30, 2011, between ZTE, a Chinese trading firm and a unit of the consortium that controls the Iranian telecom, Telecommunication Co. of Iran, according to documents reviewed by Reuters. ZTE is China’s second-largest telecommunications equipment maker.
The documents shed further light on how Iran obtains sophisticated American tech products despite U.S. sanctions on Iran. China is a major conduit. Reuters in March revealed an earlier deal between ZTE and TCI, which centered on non-American surveillance equipment but also included some U.S. tech goods. The latest deal, though smaller in scale, was much more reliant on U.S. products.
Beijing and Moscow have vetoed Western attempts to strengthen sanctions against Iran over its nuclear-development program. ZTE, based in the city of Shenzhen, is publicly traded but its largest shareholder is a Chinese state-owned enterprise.
According to the contract’s parts list, the equipment to be delivered from China included IBM servers; switches made by Cisco Systems Inc and Brocade Communications Systems Inc; database software from Oracle Corp and a unit of EMC Corp; Symantec back-up and ant-virus software; and a Juniper Networks firewall. The parts were intended for business-support services, including a ZTE billing system.
A spokesman for ZTE said last week in an email that “as far as we know” the company had not yet shipped any of the products. Asked if ZTE intended to do so, he emailed a new statement Monday that said: “We have no intention to implement this contract or ship the products.”
He also said ZTE decided “to abandon” the agreement after “we realized that the contract involved some U.S. embargoed products.”
The contract had made clear the American provenance of the goods: Its accompanying parts list, signed by ZTE, lists more than 20 different computer products from U.S. companies. Washington has banned the sale of such goods to Iran for years.
U.S. companies that responded to requests for comment said they were not aware of the Iranian contract; several said they were investigating the matter.
A spokesman for IBM said: “Our agreements with ZTE specifically prohibit ZTE from the transfer of IBM products to Iran. If any of IBM’s business partners are breaching our export compliance agreements, then IBM will take appropriate actions.”
A Brocade spokesman said the company doesn’t sell any products to Iran “and we certainly have not shipped these products to” ZTE. A spokesman for Greenplum, the EMC unit, said: “We have no knowledge of the contract described, but are actively researching this matter.” A Cisco spokesman said: “We continue to investigate this matter, as any violation of U.S. export controls is a very serious matter.”
According to the U.S. Treasury Dept., a U.S. company would violate sanctions if it shipped products requiring an export license to a third party knowing the goods would end up in Iran.
The United States, Europe and the United Nations have been imposing increasingly tough economic sanctions on Iran to pressure it to refrain from developing nuclear weapons, which Iran denies it is doing. The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council – the U.S., China, Russia, Britain and France – plus Germany are scheduled to hold talks with Iran Saturday in Istanbul over its nuclear program, which it maintains is peaceful.
Reuters reported on March 22 that ZTE had sold Iran’s TCI a surveillance system capable of monitoring landline, mobile and internet communications. The system was part of a 98.6 million euro contract for networking equipment signed in December 2010.
The article reported that despite a longtime U.S. sales ban on tech products to Iran, ZTE’s “Packing List” for the contract, dated July 24, 2011, also included numerous American hardware and software products, although they were not part of the surveillance system.
The U.S. product makers – which included Microsoft Corp, Hewlett-Packard Co and Dell Inc, among others – all said they were not aware of the Iranian contract, and several said they were investigating the matter.
The day after the article was published, a ZTE spokesman said the company would “curtail” its business in Iran. The company later issued a statement saying, “ZTE no longer seeks new customers in Iran and limits business activities with existing customers.”
China’s ZTE planned to sell embargoed U.S. computer to Iran.
Three other telecommunications equipment makers – Ericsson, Nokia Siemens Networks and China-based Huawei Technologies – previously have said they would reduce their business in Iran. Huawei and ZTE have emerged as the largest equipment suppliers to Iran, according to people involved with the country’s telecom industry.
The parts list for the June 2011 contract was much more dominated by U.S. products than the earlier equipment contract. The earlier pact was between TCI, ZTE and a Chinese trading company called Beijing 8-Star International Co. The latest contract was between ZTE, Beijing 8-Star and an Iranian company called Aryacell.
Aryacell is a unit of Iran Mobin Electronic Development Co., part of a consortium that controls TCI. According to the contract, Beijing 8-Star was required to provide “third-party equipments,” while ZTE was responsible for supplying equipment and collecting payment. The contract was to last until December 31, 2015.
Officials at Aryacell and TCI did not respond to requests for comment. A representative of Beijing 8-Star, reached in China, declined to answer questions, saying: “Concerning my business matters, it’s not necessary for me to tell you anything.”
The contract’s parts list included products made by manufacturers from several countries. But most were from the U.S., with IBM items accounting for the bulk of them. The IBM parts included 30 servers and other computer equipment with a total cost of more than 6.8 million euros, minus about a 30 percent discount.
Several of the IBM server models, though new, were discontinued shortly before the contract was signed. It called for a 12-month warranty on all equipment.
It is not clear how ZTE will get out of the contract. According to the terms, the contract only can be terminated if Aryacell breaches it, becomes bankrupt or can’t pay its debts.
Business joins forces to kill clean energy fund.
BIG business has warned that energy prices will soar further as Labor’s $10 billion clean energy fund pushes up the cost of cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
In an escalation of the backlash against a key plank of Julia Gillard’s clean energy plans, a coalition of Australia’s top 100 companies is urging the government to dump its plans for a Clean Energy Finance Corporation.
Rather than it being technology neutral, a CEFC would pump taxpayer funds into green projects, they argue.
The move by the Business Council of Australia is significant, as it represents a widening of the rearguard action by business against the CEFC, which until now has been largely opposed by heavy industry, coal firms and coal electricity generators.
In a new submission to the government’s draft energy white paper, the BCA warns that the fund will be directed at projects that are likely to be “less economic than available alternatives”.
“This will distort market outcomes and increase the overall cost of reducing greenhouse emissions,” the submission states.
“The CEFC also fills a role already adequately covered by banks and other financial institutions and places the government in the undesirable position of being a last resort.”
Other groups, including the Australian Industry Greenhouse Network, which represents heavy industry, have also warned the body could distort markets.
The BCA says if the CEFC is retained it should include carbon capture and storage, which the multi-party climate change committee had excluded from funding because of pressure from the Greens.
Business has also hit out at complex rules that are hindering coal-seam gas projects, which have “the potential to make an important contribution to Australia’s energy mix”.
“However, to date exploration for CSG has been slowed and hampered by lengthy approvals and consultation processes,” the BCA says.
“Unclear and inconsistent regulatory frameworks are currently preventing CSG from being brought to market at least cost with a subsequent cost impact on energy end users.”
Also on the costs front, the group has warned that the renewable energy target continues to impose costs on energy users, and that if the scheme is not wound up then the Climate Change Authority being established as an advisory group to the government should be looking to find ways to reduce the costs from the RET.
China business confidence index rebounds in Q1.
The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) revised business confidence index, which measures sentinment across industries, rose to 123 in the first quarter, from 120.9 three months earlier, the NBS said in a statement on its website www.stats.gov.cn.
Despite the recovery, confidence in the first quarter was still lower than a year ago, when the index stood at 138.9.
The statistics agency said it had revised the confidence index to include two sub-indexes that measure business sentiment in the present and future periods. It did not disclose readings for the sub-indexes.
It said its business climate index, another measure of firms’ expectations of growth, inched lower to 127.3 in the first quarter, from 127.8 in the previous quarter.
The indexes are based on surveys of almost 20,000 Chinese firms of different sizes in sectors including construction, transport, retail, software and catering.
A reading above 100 implies improving operating conditions for Chinese companies and rising confidence about the future.
China will release a flood of March data this week which is expected to show the economy is cooling, not crashing as some market watchers have feared.
On Tuesday, China surprised markets by returning to an export-led trade surplus, raising the prospect that a rebound in the global economy is lifting overseas orders just in time to compensate for a slowdown in domestic demand.
But the relatively slack pace of export growth may still fuel investors’ concerns about the outlook for Chinese companies, which saw new orders and profit margins slump through 2011.
With the Economy Bouncing Back, Start a Buoyant New Business with Happy Jump.
As economic recovery begins making its way to potential small business owners, a bounce house rental is a smart choice.
Now that jobless claims are on the decline, and America’s coffers aren’t completely drained of extra cash, it’s time to start thinking about that small business endeavor again. There are plenty of fields to go into with varying rates of success. Opening the restaurant you’ve always dreamed of may seem tempting, but having learned a lesson or two from the economic downturn, you might be too smart to take on something so risky. But the really smart money, when the entrepreneurial spirit seizes you, is on a bounce house business. Not only can you begin a stable new business for yourself, you can also be a job creator by hiring a delivery and maintenance crew, and bring delight to the kids in your community.
One great thing about bounce house rental: There is no monopoly on your local market. Get your name out there, and the business will come pouring in. Parents are also benefitting from the bright spot in the economy. Over the next couple of years as your business grows, you’ll find that families in your town are ever more eager to shell out a few bucks for a great kids’ party. Even if there’s already a bounce house rental in your area – the market is rarely saturated – owners of businesses that rent out moonwalks from Happy Jump, Inc. report enormous profits even in highly populous cities.
There’s also the added benefit to your community that comes from hiring workers. There are a number of functions that must be performed. Although the workload is relatively light (thankfully, for the small businessperson) as your business expands, cleaning and maintenance, as well as transportation can be performed by a team of professionals hired by your company. You’ll be benefitting your community by reducing local unemployment in addition to netting a profit.
Lastly, the greatest gain to your community is all the fun to be had jumping in your inflatables. Happy Jump, maker and distributor of great inflatables for sale like bounce houses and other products of this nature. These are not only fun, but some of the safest moon bounces and inflatable water slides on the market. The huge variety available at Happy Jump, Inc. means your business will have a diverse selection of fun moon bounces and bounce castles for all the kids in your community to enjoy.
ICT business mission to New Zealand come May in the works.
“Discussions focused on preparations for the 2nd Philippine ICT Partnership Opportunity Mission to New Zealand on May 26 to 28,” the Department of Foreign Affairs said.
French Business Confidence Stalls, Factory Output Drops: Economy.
French business confidence stagnated and factory output dropped, underlining the challenge the victor in the country’s presidential election will face in reviving economic growth.
A gauge of sentiment among factory executives was unchanged at 95 in March after dropping in February, the Bank of France said today. Manufacturing production fell 1.2 percent in February, a third month of declines, the national statistics office, Insee, said in Paris.
The data show how Europe’s second-largest economy is struggling to grow in the face of the region’s sovereign debt crisis, reducing the room for maneuver of President Nicolas Sarkozy and his Socialist challenger, Francois Hollande, as they seek to woo voters in the final weeks of the election campaign. The Bank of France said its surveys suggest that gross domestic product didn’t expand in the first quarter.
“The general message is this: the French economy is practically stalled,” said Michel Martinez, an economist at Societe Generale SA in Paris. “France doesn’t have the problems of its southern neighbors, but its industry remains in recession and we remain very far from a classic recovery scenario.”
The lack of growth at least partly reflects the impact on demand of budget cuts in neighboring Italy and Spain, as well as deficit-reduction efforts in France.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is stepping up efforts to reassure investors he can bring the country’s deficit under control and prevent Spain from becoming the fourth euro-area country to require a bailout. Rajoy met with his health and education ministers yesterday to discuss cuts of more than 10 billion ($13 billion) as the government reiterated its pledge to trim borrowing to 3 percent of GDP next year.
European stocks fell to a two-month low and Asian equities retreated on concern growth is slowing after China’s imports missed economists’ forecasts. The Stoxx Europe 600 Index (SXXP) decreased 1 percent as of 10:14 a.m. in London as trading resumed after most European markets were closed yesterday. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index lost 0.3 percent. Gold climbed 0.5 percent.
China reported an unexpected trade surplus last month as import growth trailed forecasts, highlighting the risk of a deeper slowdown in the world’s second-largest economy.
Inbound shipments rose 5.3 percent, the customs bureau said today, below the 9 percent median estimate in a Bloomberg News survey. Exports increased 8.9 percent from a year earlier, more than forecast, leaving a trade surplus of $5.35 billion, compared with a median projection for a $3.15 billion trade deficit.
In Europe, Germany also reported an unexpected increase in exports driven by overseas demand. Exports rose 1.6 percent from January, when they gained 3.4 percent, the Federal Statistics Office in Wiesbaden said today. The figures are seasonally adjusted.
The German performance represents a model that Sarkozy has repeatedly held out as an example for France, while using the fate of Spain as an example of what could happen if the country doesn’t pursue economic reforms such as his proposal to cut social charges on payrolls by raising sales tax.
“It’s worked wonderfully in Germany,” he said on April 5. At the same time, “Spain is today in the midst of a crisis of confidence,” he said.
Hollande responded by saying that Sarkozy was in no position to give lessons on the crisis at the end of a five-year mandate in which jobless claims have jumped to a 12-year high and France’s debt load has increased.
French voters will choose between 10 candidates in the first round of the election April 22, and the two front runners will face off on May 6.
Business leaders more upbeat about economy: report.
Business leaders are increasingly optimistic about U.S. economic prospects in the year ahead and more than half plan to hire more workers, according to a survey conducted by Chase Commercial Banking.
The survey comes amid mixed news for the U.S. economy, which has staged a slow comeback from the depths of the recession. Worse-than-expected jobs data on Friday sent stocks tumbling early this week, and were seen as a sign of lingering uncertainty in the nation’s recovery.
Around 49% of business leaders surveyed said they were optimistic about the national economy, up from 39% of participants in a similar survey last year.
They were even more optimistic about their own companies’ prospects, with 79% expressing confidence about future performance.
Reflecting that view, 55% said they planned to hire in the next year, while just 4% said they would cut jobs.
At the same time, 63% of the participants saw an increase in workers’ wages in 2012.
Chase didn’t give comparisons with participants’ perspectives on their own companies last year.
The regulatory environment remains a concern for 66% of participants–the same amount as last year–who said it would make it harder to add workers.
Chase surveyed executives at 1,000 U.S. companies with annual revenues ranging between $10 million and $500 million. It is unclear how many of those executives actually participated.
Best Buy’s silver lining: Its mobile business.
The big-box retailer’s saving grace has been its still humming mobile-devices business. But is it enough to save the company?
At least Best Buys still has its cell phone business.
On the heels of a disappointing quarterly report and today’s resignation of CEO Brian Dunn, it’s easy to think the entire company is doomed to follow in the steps of fallen electronic chains Circuit City and CompUSA. Yet its mobile devices business — cell phones in particular– has been impressively resilient during its recent troubles.
The cell phone business, which Best Buy has spent time and money building up, represents one of the rare bright spots in the company. Over time, Best Buy will likely be more heavily weighted towards the mobile business. Unfortunately, it may not be enough to save the entire company and offset the big declines in its other businesses.
When Best Buy reported its fiscal fourth-quarter results last month, most of its segments saw revenue declines, particularly a steep one in the entertainment category, as DVDs and Blu-ray discs took a big hit. But the computing and mobile phones segment posted growth of 7.6 percent in same-store sales over the previous month. By itself, the mobile phones business likely would have grown even faster.
That’s important because that unit makes up nearly 40 percent of the company’s total revenue for the month. The appliances business, which was the only other segment to show growth, only represents 5 percent of total revenue.
For a company — and an industry — that has seen little go right, the cell phone business continues to hum along. While a vast majority of consumers still shop for phones directly with the carriers, Best Buy has been able to carve out a healthy chunk of business for itself. With the smartphone world rapidly evolving and new devices coming out all the time, Best Buy has created a role for itself as an impartial consultant for consumers.
Best Buy has spent the past few years building up the mobile phone business, both by creating specifically designated areas within its stores, as well as opening mobile-centric stores. Employees in this segment receive special training to better answer customer questions. Over the past few years, the company has negotiated for some exclusive products, including the HTC Flyer tablet.
While Best Buy’s ads have often run during the Super Bowl, this year marked the first time the company specifically focused on smartphones with its spot.
“We want to use the Super Bowl as an opportunity to awaken recognition of Best Buy as a mobile source,” said Scott Moore, vice president of marketing for Best Buy’s connectivity business group, ahead of the game.
With nearly half of all consumers still using a basic cell phone, Best Buy, like all of the carriers, sees the opportunity in getting people to upgrade.
Best Buy gets paid a bounty by the carrier for each customer it signs up. But the incentive structure is flat, so salespeople aren’t biased toward one phone or the other. That’s the store’s biggest appeal: it isn’t trying to push one product over another, and offers virtually all of the products from each of the major carriers. It will also often bundle in additional discounts or freebies, such as a Best Buy gift card or free video game.
Even as it closes big-box stores, Best Buy plans to open 100 standalone Best Buy Mobile stores. That could very likely be the start of a broader migration toward a more mobile-centric offering.
Still, the continued interest in smartphones may not be enough to get Best Buy through its recent struggles. The closing of 50 big-box stores this year fiscal year portends the same kind of troubles CompUSA and Circuit City faced before they declared bankruptcy and disappeared.
Meanwhile, Best Buy’s sales declines in its other segments continue, with languishing demand for consumer electronic products. The 21 percent month-over-month decline in the entertainment category is particularly stark.
More importantly, Best Buy is losing the e-commerce battle to the likes of Amazon, which has grown into the de-facto place for consumers to buy their goods.
But fortunately for Best Buy, handsets remain a place where consumers want advice and touch and feel and actual device before making a purchasing decision, something they can’t do with a Web site.
So how Best Buy looks in a few years — or whether it survives — remains an uncertainty. But it could very well end up as a mobile device-centric chain, rather than the one-stop shop for all things electronic.
Dodger Stadium opens for business, but will the fans return?
Fans will descend upon the storied Chavez Ravine ballpark Tuesday for the sold-out home opener featuring a celebration to mark the stadium’s 50th anniversary. But what happens the next day?
The gates at Dodger Stadium open Tuesday at 10 a.m. and fans will descend upon the storied Chavez Ravine ballpark for the sold-out home opener. There will be a celebration to mark the stadium’s 50th anniversary. The Beach Boys will play.
And then what happens the next day?
The organization, the team, and all of baseball are wondering if the fans will return this season, now that Frank McCourt has agreed to sell the franchise.
Will all be easily forgiven? Will the new Magic Johnson-led ownership group mean the automatic return of the faithful?
The Dodgers have historically had some of the best and most loyal fans in baseball. Nine of the top 22 single-season crowds in National League history belong to the Dodgers. They hold the Major League Baseball record for most years (25) with over 3 million in attendance.
Only last year attendance plummeted. Officially, attendance was down 18%, but it was actually much more severe. MLB attendance figures are for tickets sold, not fans in attendance. And last season the number of no-shows was stunning to the point of embarrassment.
Maybe some stayed away because of the economy or because they were frightened after the Bryan Stow beating on opening day or put off by the strong police presence afterward.
But there is little doubt the vast majority stayed away because they were simply fed up with McCourt’s ownership. Without any actual organization, they boycotted in jaw-dropping numbers. There were some games at which there appeared to be fewer than 10,000 in actual attendance.
Now that Guggenheim Baseball Management is scheduled to take over the team, will fans automatically queue up in traditional numbers? Or will some stay away through April until McCourt is gone? Or will some continue to boycott because he retained half ownership in the parking lots? Or will some simply have fallen out of the habit of going to a Dodger game?
Certainly, attendance will rise, but to what degree is uncertain. McCourt attempted to encourage a return to more typical Dodgers attendance numbers by slashing ticket prices this season. According to Team Marketing Report, the Dodgers have cut the average ticket price by 24%.
An early prediction: Attendance will return to respectable numbers, but still fall far short of their glory years. If the Dodgers contend, however, there will be the typical bump.
Attendance is the biggest question of the season for the Dodgers. And, like everything else associated with McCourt and the Dodgers, little about it is simple. Wounds heal, but how quickly?
Business climate: Hopes pinned on a new economic model
If attracting outside investment can be difficult during a recession, tempting foreign capital into a country that has received an international bailout is a gruelling task.
At present, Portugal would not appear likely to attract a queue of investors. Anyone pondering whether the country’s current business climate may present a contrarian opportunity must at the same time consider a series of alarming data.
Unemployment, while lower than Spain’s, stands at 15 per cent and gross domestic product is expected to shrink by 3.4 per cent this year.
Meanwhile the yield on 10-year government debt still hovers above 11 per cent, following Standard & Poor’s decision in January to cut Portugal’s credit rating to junk.
Such an environment is hitting many businesses hard, as consumers retrench and credit remains difficult to come by, as the banking system hoards funds so as to meet higher capital requirements.
John Duggan, a former partner with PwC in Portugal, says: “It is going to be difficult to get the economy working properly until we see credit come back.
“When you speak to people you hear that trading conditions are difficult in service industries. Demand is there, but pricing is under pressure and people are working twice as hard for half the money. Many retailers also had a terrible Christmas, with sales starting early.”
Ernst & Young expects a fall in consumer spending of 6.2 per cent this year, followed by a further contraction of 3.1 per cent in 2013, while investment in the non-financial corporate sector fell 19 per cent year-on-year in the fourth quarter of 2011.
The recent opening of a flagship store by Gucci on Lisbon’s Avenida da Liberdade may be of little consolation to those who are struggling to make ends meet, but it is one of a small group of companies expanding into the country during its difficulties.
Other encouraging examples include Yo! Sushi, the British restaurant company, which opened in Lisbon last year, while Klépierre, the French shopping centre operator, opened its fifth site in the Algarve last April.
More recently, there has been some encouraging progress in reducing the deficit, and in the health of the banking sector, with the loan exposure of its eight largest banks being assessed as better than expected by troika inspectors in a report released at the end of last year.
At the end of March, Portugal reported that its 2011 general government deficit had come in at 4.2 per cent of GDP, lower than the 5.9 per cent projected by the troika in December, and down from 9.8 per cent in 2010.
While fewer investors are willing to commit themselves to the country against the backdrop of the European debt crisis, and with foreign direct investment plunging by 46 per cent in 2010 compared with the previous year to €1.1bn, this fall does not look as gruesome when viewed against the fortunes of some non-eurozone countries. In the same period, the UK saw FDI fall 53 per cent.
“The new economic model of Portugal and the way out of this situation will be through the openness of our economy,” he says. “By that I mean both the attractiveness for foreign investment and the internationalisation of our companies”.
Privatisations will bring in foreign investment, with partners likely to be selected not only for the price they will pay but also for their ability to attract subsequent investment.
The sell-off of the state’s 21 per cent stake in Energias de Portugal (EDP), the utility, to China’s Three Gorges for €2.7bn in December was contingent on further Chinese investment.
Reform of the labour laws, regarded as among the most inflexible in the European Union, will relax rules on hiring and firing workers and reduce the costs of extra hours.
This, says João Alves, country managing partner at Ernst & Young, will help market the relatively young and educated workforce better.
“There are many qualified young professionals working abroad, and many Portuguese are very comfortable working in the English language,” he says.
Cultural ties to Brazil, Angola and Mozambique can also provide its companies with a unique selling point to foreign investors looking to enter those fast growing markets.
“Portugal no longer stops at the borders of Europe,’ says Mr Reis.
“It is well positioned, historically, culturally, economically, logistically, to have an important role in the new global economy,” he adds.
The Business Finance Store Highlights Upcoming Opportunities for Women Entrepreneurs.
Venture-Capital firms raised $4.88 billion in funding in the first quarter of 2012, the National Venture Capital Association and Bloomberg reported. The amount is the highest raised since the second quarter of 2009. With these large amounts of funds raised, it makes some wonder whether these investments went to businesses run predominantly by men or women. Interestingly enough, when looking at the top entrepreneurs and small business owners, men significantly outnumber women. However, opportunities for women entrepreneurs do exist. In the recent blog post “Calling all Women Entrepreneurs- Apply by April 30!” The Business Finance Store discusses a funding opportunity for women entrepreneurs from Ernst & Young.
Many of the great businesses in America today were started by men, but that doesn’t have to be the case in the future. Ernst & Young wants to promote the development of women entrepreneurs through their 5th annual Ernst & Young Entrepreneurial Winning Women Program. Read more about funding and business opportunities for women entrepreneurs at The Business Finance Store Blog.
The Business Finance Store is a business financing and consulting firm that offers customized Business Financial Solutions. Seasoned professionals offer assistance in a variety of financial solutions to help small businesses succeed such as: Business Financial Solutions, Legal Solutions, and Accounting Solutions.
The staff at The Business Finance Store understands that starting and growing a business is an exciting time. They keep it exciting by taking care of some of the most difficult aspects, by providing legal advice, helping with vital responsibilities like accounting & bookkeeping, and by obtaining business finance. They can quickly and easily guide entrepreneurs through many different complicated processes and put them on the path to success.
For 10 years The Business Finance Store has been helping startups and other small businesses legally structure their companies, find the right franchises, get the funding they need, and achieve the American Dream of owning their own successful business. Since expanding nationwide in 2007, they have helped thousands of companies and have funded over $60 Million in business credit lines, not including SBA loans. The Business Finance Store sees limitless potential in the current climate, and looks forward to many strong years of growth to come. Take some time to review their services, and give them a call.
ME business confidence declines.
Middle East business confidence has slumped nine index points to 125 since September 2011 amid eurozone crisis and uncertain economic climate as emerging economies of Brazil and India topped the confidence index, Regus, the world’s largest provider of flexible workplace solutions, said in a report.
Companies in the Middle East that reported revenue growth fell to 49 per cent compared to 55 per cent six months ago, although companies reporting profit growth remained stable at 45 per cent, the report said.
“Mindful of the need to contain costs in the quest for sustainable growth businesses identify more sales through third parties, increasing use of pay-as-you-go business services and a shorter supply chain and as the most effective cost cutting measures for the coming months,” the report said. Joanne Bushell, Regus vice president for the Middle East and Africa, said Middle Eastern business confidence has suffered a dip possibly affected by the Eurozone crisis and a slight slowdown in BRIC growth economies.
According to the latest bi-annual Regus Business Confidence Index report which tracks the opinions of over 16,000 business managers and owners from 86 countries, business confidence in Brazil has reached 148 points in March followed by India 143 points.
Middle Eastern firms identify paying for unnecessary office space (63 per cent) as the main reason for corporate distress during the downturn, followed by difficult access to cost effective capital (52 per cent).
Respondents identify more sales through third parties (50 per cent), increasing use of pay-as-you-go business services (44 per cent) and a shorter supply chain (40 per cent) as the areas where companies could best make savings without damaging growth prospects, the report said.
Companies in the region report that a wider distribution of customers (47 per cent) and more flexible workspace (39 per cent) would make the greatest contribution to enhancing future business stability as a platform for growth. Globally, the Business Confidence Index rating is lower for small businesses (107) than for large firms (124).
Bushell said although companies reporting profit growth remains table, there is a slight squeeze in those reporting revenues, “therefore it is not surprising that in order to grasp growth opportunities in a sustainable way, businesses are still looking to cut overheads without damaging their growth prospects.”
“In particular, a significant proportion of businesses believe that unnecessary office space, one of the major burdens borne through the global economic downturn alongside the well documented bank lending and capital squeeze, is an area where businesses may focus their cost-cutting efforts successfully,” said Bushell.
Business Travel to Ramp Up in 2012 Despite Setbacks.
Business travel has stabilized and is on track to meet pre-recession levels by the middle of this year, according to a new quarterly outlook from a travel industry group.
But the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) said international outbound travel continues to be soft on ongoing economic uncertainty in Europe, rising oil prices and chronic unemployment.
International travel climbed 8.5% in 2011 but is expected to slow to 3% in 2012 due to weaker demand in Europe and Asia. Michael McCormick, GBTA chief operating officer, called the outlook “troubling,” noting it may cause companies to reroute travelers.
While the U.S. has made some economic strides, weaknesses abroad have led the GBTA to predict just “moderate growth with occasional setbacks” over the next eight quarters.
Yet, the GBTA doesn’t expect any drastic changes because of this, outside of a decline in the frequency of transatlantic business trips. McCormick noted things “still look much better than they did 12 months ago.”
Business travel is on track to experience measured growth throughout the remainder of the year, he said. Spending by businesses on travel is expected to grow by 4.6%.
Visa (V: 116.74, -2.76, -2.31%), which sponsored the GBTA quarterly outlook, said account holders spent 14% more year-over-year, or a total of $235 billion, on both personal and business travel-related purchases in 2011.
Total spending on U.S.-initiated business travel grew about 7% to $251 million, the GBTA said, notable given travel’s relation to the U.S. economy. Business travel has long been considered an economic indicator, with spending increasing as the economy booms and falling as profit margins are pressured.
“The continued stability of business travel bodes well for the economy as a whole and for continued recovery in the employment market,” McCormick said.
The number of business trips taken has declined since 2000, but the amount spent per trip has improved – and that’s not just a reflection of inflation, the GBTA said. At the turn of the century, more than 576 million trips were taken and $242.9 billion spent. Last year, just 445 million trips were taken, down about 23%, but spending grew 3.3% to $251 billion.
The group said that trend is set to continue this year with trips dropping 1% but spending rising 3.6%. Inflation accounts for 64% of the increase, the GBTA said.
McCormick said it’s a reflection of road warriors taking fewer trips, but making the most out of the ones they take by stopping at more places and upping their spending on the road.
Small Business Confidence May Mean Bad News for Jobs.
Business owners’ wavering confidence in the economy may signal more trouble ahead for the job market.
Small business optimism declined last month after six months of gains, according to today’s report from the National Federation of Independent Business. The net percentage of businesses that planned to increase their workforces dropped to zero, the lowest level since May 2011, and down from 4 percent the month before.
Small businesses create 65 percent of net new jobs, with most of that coming from a relatively small group of fast-growing companies, according to the Small Business Administration. After last week’s Department of Labor report showed the U.S. added just 120,000 new jobs in March, below expectations, how worried should we be?
“Next month, if we see the same data and it tracks March, then we expect the unemployment rate will add half a point” in the second quarter, says Holly Wade, the NFIB’s senior policy analyst who co-authored their report. “Over the last few decades, they’ve matched up pretty well,” she says. U.S. unemployment, at a seasonally adjusted 8.2 percent, has declined from 9.1 percent last summer.
Other data point to a brighter employment picture. In March, small employers boosted payrolls by the most in two years, according to the Intuit Small Business Employment Index, which aggregates data for companies with fewer than 20 workers that use Intuit’s online payroll software. “Our numbers are the best numbers I’ve seen since the expansion began,” says Susan Woodward of Sand Hill Econometrics, who worked with Intuit (INTU) to create the index.
Woodward notes that the businesses in the NFIB’s survey may include larger companies, including manufacturers and exporters, that are more directly affected by the European debt crisis or slowing growth in China. The Intuit numbers reflect “really small businesses, and there are no enterprises among them,” she says.
The NFIB’s report, based on responses from 757 of the group’s members surveyed in March, reveals confidence among these firms is still at levels typical of a recession. The reversal in the gauge shows business owners still doubt the strength of the recovery, Wade says. “It’s hard to see consistency in the economy as a whole for owners and to know what the next month will look like,” she says. “At this stage, you would think we would be on some sort of trajectory that has a pattern to it, and the pattern seems to be hills and valleys.”
Canadian business leaders are warming to the idea of a sustained recovery.
Optimism over future sales growth is at a two-year high. At the same time, companies are looking to invest more and intend to pick up the pace of hiring over the next 12 months.
According to a Bank of Canada survey, more than half – 58 per cent – of firms in this country expect to see a faster pace of sales growth in the coming year, “reflecting a more widespread view that sales will increase at a greater rate over the next 12 months than over the past 12 months.”
Another 23 per cent thought sales growth would decline, while 19 per cent expect little change, the central bank said Monday in its quarterly Business Outlook Survey.
That put the spring survey’s “balance of opinion” at 35 points, the highest since the first quarter of 2010.
“With modestly improved expectations for near-term U.S. economic growth and fewer concerns about the global economic and financial situation, some of the dampening effects on sales expectations have subdued, and more firms report that recent indicators of future sales activity, such as order books and new contracts, have improved compared with a year ago,” the bank said.
“The strength of commodity prices and the resulting spillover effects on domestic activity, along with some firms’ efforts to reposition themselves to gain market share in highly competitive markets, are also supporting expectations for higher sales growth over the next 12 months.”
The balance of opinion for employment in the coming year was basically unchanged from the Bank of Canada’s previous survey. But of those surveyed in the first quarter, 55 per cent of business leaders said they planned to add staff, while 12 per cent expected to reduce jobs and 33 per cent forecast no change.
“Most firms expecting to expand their workforces cited the need to support current or expected sales growth, which, in some cases, was related to strategies to increase market share,” the bank said.
The survey also shows that most companies see inflation within the Bank of Canada’s target range of one to three per cent over the next two years.
“Nevertheless, more firms expect inflation to be in the upper half of this range, often citing the recent strength in oil prices as a factor driving their expectations,”the bank said.
On the question of investment in machines and equipment, 46 per cent said they expect to make purchases, another 22 per cent planned to reduce spending and 31 per cent had no plans.
“Many firms reported that their investment spending remains focused on ways to reduce costs and raise productivity,”the bank said.
Just last week, Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney urged companies to look beyond domestic demand for growth and to “refocus, retool and retrain” to compete in emerging markets, such as China and India.
The survey of 100 businesses, conducted between Feb. 21 and March 15, also showed companies reporting an easing in credit conditions over the past three months,
The survey results are “consistent with the more optimistic mood on financial markets that has prevailed since Christmas,” said Leslie Preston, at TD Economics.
“While business sentiment has rebounded sharply from the darkest days of last year, the external risks haven’t evaporated, and now there is the drag from elevated energy prices to add in to the equation,” Preston said. “It is worth noting when talking about a year ago, we are comparing to the immediate aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, as well as the early days of the Arab spring.”
Still, during the latter part of the survey period, the Canadian economy was churning out a surprisingly large number of jobs. Slightly more than 82,000 new positions were added in March – thanks mostly to full-time, private-sector hires. It was the biggest single-month jump in employment since September 2008, and pushed the jobless rate down to 7.2 per cent – for the first time since September 2011 – from 7.4 per cent in February.
The central bank, which has left its key interest rate at a near-record low of one per cent since September 2010, will announce its next rate decision on April 17,
Online Dating Without the Ick Factor
Paypalwmz.com just appeals to me because I’m as single as the shot of espresso in my soy latte, but I think this startup may be the most exciting new company I’ve seen in a long time.
Paypalwmz.com might be best described as YanikaDate.com meets The Sartorialist meets Gilt Groupe meets a group of Yentas. It’s bespoke online dating with a side of highbrow editorial. Simple, innovative and filling a need in society.
The company has been in development since the summer and launched about two weeks ago, on Dec. 4, 2011, in New York City.
The founder, who’s big in the New York City fashion scene and wants to remain anonymous for the time being, is herself married. But she got the idea for the company after chatting with a friend who kept having really disappointing online dating experiences.
They realized that the problem with online dating now is that there are so many guys on these sites that sorting through them all to find a decent one was almost a fulltime job. Since the women who rely on online dating the most seem to be the career-focused ones who have intense fulltime jobs, this is quite a dilemma.
Focus groups confirmed that, yes, it would be really cool if there were a way to cut through all the clutter and help women find just one really great guy. Turns out it’s pretty hard for a woman to find a man who is successful, handsome, charming and most importantly — commitment-oriented (no kidding!).
I don’t mean to be all on my feminist high horse. I’m sure there is an equivalent problem for guys and Blackbook365 takes that into consideration. They will start featuring women in early 2012. And while the company launched in NYC, they have big plans to roll out in 26 cities next year. Dallas and Chicago are coming next and San Francisco and Los Angeles will follow soon after.
So how exactly does it work? It costs about $240 to be featured for one day on the website (price will vary with location). When compared with the monthly subscription fees for other online dating sites, the price is actually quite reasonable. Considering the Paypalwmz.com team spends about an hour with each featured individual and a professional photo shoot is part of the deal, it’s quite the steal… especially if matches are made.
And hopefully matches will be made! It’s a personalized matchmaking service, after all. Interested women sign up for the website and create a profile free of charge. They then have the option to contact the featured guy with a calling card that contains a personal message.
Once all the cards are collected, the Paypalwmz.com team puts together a list of the best matches based on the guy’s wants. It’s on the guy to start corresponding, but Paypalwmz.com is there to hold his hand. They have connections to all the hot new spots in the city and can help him set up a date and get exclusive reservations.
Soon Paypalwmz.com will start hosting cocktail parties and dinners. The team meets enough savvy singles that they can start to say, “Oh, she’d be great for him” and vice versa.
If it all sounds a bit like Fiddler on the Roof, be warned. There are actually plans to create a J Blackbook section of the website for Jewish singles as the company grows (hence the Yenta reference).
It’s only been running for two weeks, so it’s still too early to know if any matches have been made. But so far there are 60 guys lined up to be featured and about 40 calling cards sent in each day. This without any marketing efforts.
I was assured that Paypalwmz.com isn’t trying to marry people off, just focusing on men who are ready to settle down. Sounds one and the same to me. But I’m intrigued and eagerly awaiting Paypalwmz.com arrival to San Francisco.
B.C. woman arrested for 18-year-old Ontario child abduction case
It’s the longest outstanding unsolved parental abduction case that Christy Dzikowicz, the director of missing children’s services at the Canadian Centre for Child Protection, knows of in Canada.
Astounded neighbours and provincial government colleagues knew O’Byrne as Pamela Whelan, a public information officer for the provincial government at several ministries, a friendly neighbour and an active member of her daughter’s school community.
Sigourney Teresa Chisholm, the child her father Joe last saw when she was 20 months old, was known to all as Thea Whelan, valedictorian of her 2009 graduating class from Victoria High School, honour student and well-liked athlete.
On Thursday, she was told her father had been looking for her for 18 years. It’s not known what her mother had told her about her father. The couple lived in Toronto, had separated, and had joint custody of their baby when the mother and daughter disappeared.
At the same time her mother was being arrested at the tidy bungalow she bought in 2005, Thea Whelan was being told about her family situation by Toronto police and counsellors from the Canadian Centre for Child Protection, Victoria police deputy chief John Ducker said.
Thea has lived in Ontario for the past year, neighbours say, and is believed to be attending university, although they didn’t know where.
“I cannot begin to comprehend the magnitude of what this young woman has just learned,” Ducker said.
Neither can her father, Joe Chisholm, even though he has “been dreaming of this day for 18 years.” Chisholm, a Toronto musician and financial adviser, said Friday that he will wait for his daughter to contact him when she is ready.
“I’m thrilled we’ve found her safe but I don’t think we’re at a Hollywood ending,” Chisholm said. “My daughter’s mother has been arrested. My daughter has a lot to take in and we’ll wait until she’s ready. It’s not about my needs, it’s about hers.”
He has little interest in the criminal charge of abduction in contravention of a custody order that Whelan will face Monday in Toronto’s College Park courthouse.
“I’m not invested in that. I don’t see how it benefits my daughter.”
Dzikowicz said it is completely Thea Whelan’s choice when or if she has contact with her large family in Ontario.
“She’ll have supports around her but she will make her own decision,” Dzikowicz said. “We are obviously happy when there’s a resolution to a case, but it’s hard to be joyful when we know how much impact this has on everybody.”
There was nothing out of the ordinary about the Whelans, say neighbours who swapped house keys with them, mowed lawns and had barbecues.
“I feel sorry for everyone involved,” said neighbour Debbie Kennell. “I’d like Thea and Pam to know that we’re here for you, no matter what’s happened.”
B.C. women online hunt for spiritual purity
“Confessions of a 29-year-old virgin.” That’s the title of the emotionally revealing blog of four virgins from British Columbia’s Fraser Valley who are looking for some good men for marriage and “holy” sex.
The Abbotsford, B.C., women online “virgin diaries” have suddenly made them media stars. Their quest for guys led to a video about them appearing Wednesday on the popular show of Ellen DeGeneres, who proceeded to get in some virgin jokes.
The virginal British Columbians, all of whom are 29 or 30 and evangelical Christians, were also set to be videotaped Wednesday night for an upcoming appearance on HLN’s Dr. Drew Show.
And this Sunday evening three of the four young B.C. women online will be starring on a pilot program called The Virgin Diaries on the TLC network. The program includes video of the young women online dating eligible men, all of whom also happen to be virgins.
The extroverted B.C. women online, all members of a small church in Abbotsford called The River, began their blog four months ago because they were tired of being stereotyped as defective for being virgins (actually one confesses to being a “born-again” virgin who wants to start over). They are fighting back against a sex-saturated culture, and looking for guys, in the name of spiritual “purity.”
“We’re in a culture filled with sex, where sex sells. And it’s sold every day. And we believe it shouldn’t be sold,” said photographer Lisa Marziali, the online ringleader for the virgins. Marziali notes that sex is “God’s idea” and should be held for marriage.
Marziali and her friends want to be “cheerleaders” for virgins. They say it’s sometimes difficult to be among so many friends who are married.
The four young women online crusade for virginity before marriage goes against the grain of North American culture, where a poll released this week by online polling system SodaHead suggested 70 per cent of North Americans think cohabitation before marriage is a good thing.
Unlike religious right leaders in the U.S. who have turned sexual abstinence into a wedge issue against liberals, Marziali said her crew of virgins is not pushing their views on anyone.
“We just want to tell our stories.”
Marziali’s story, according to her online diary, is that she is one of four “great-looking” siblings. “I am 29, I have never had a boyfriend. I have shared one kiss in 29 years. Yes, I’m a virgin and no, I don’t plan on being the old, grumpy, crazy spinster that never ends up married.”
Tamara Larson’s story is that she currently works with street people. She was an aspiring basketball player who crashed. It led to “self-hatred, striving excessively, cutting, bulimia and abusive men.” Tamara is the one who says she’s a “born-again virgin,” who believes sex should be “pure, holy and good.”
Danielle Michaud as a youngster endured frequent foster homes and “the shadow of abuse.” She is now a nurse who loves Jesus Christ and who has had one serious relationship, “which taught me a lot.”
The last member of the virgin quartet, Amy Schmidt, is in Uganda working for a church mission program. The daughter of Fraser Valley pastors says she is “just a young woman on a quest to find what true love, true beauty, and true intimacy really are.”
Even though Marziali is finding this week’s flurry of media attention “exciting,” she said she was unaware until the last month that many U.S. evangelical churches have advocated sexual abstinence outside marriage for more than a decade.
It’s led to hot political controversies in the U.S, over whether sex education programs in public schools should promote only abstinence, while censoring information about birth control.
But the goals of Canada’s increasingly famous four virgins are much more intimate.
“We’re beautiful, confident, successful women” who are open to serious approaches by men, Marziali said.
For her part, Marziali is looking for a man whom she’s already nicknamed “The Rock Star.” She wants him to be “strong in character, a leader and have Jesus as his centre.”
Marziali insists she and her sexually inexperienced friends are not romantic dreamers seeking the ideal, non-existent “perfect” man.
“No. No. We’re just looking for a guy who has a heart after God, and who is man enough to pursue us.”
A lot of young Canadian men, especially in B.C., are insecure about making the first moves, Marziali believes. So she and her virgin friends are getting out the message they’re ready and willing.
“We are here,” she said. “We are waiting to give our hearts away. We want to be pursued.”
Breaking news: Branson girls volleyball team wins third consecutive state title
With the favorites’ label firmly attached, the Branson School girls volleyball team knew there were expectations on them to succeed Saturday in the Division V state championship match at Concordia University.
Despite the pressure, the unflappable Bulls delivered.
With KathleenWallace claiming MVP honors for the second consecutive year after recording 27 kills – including six in an 8-0 run by the Bulls to close out the match – Branson beat Tri-City Christian of Vista to claim its third consecutive state championship, this one by a 25-12, 25-15, 25-21 score.
So, coach Michelle Brazil, how do you celebrate such a feat?
“We’re going to Disneyland, we actually are,” the Branson coach said. “I kind of lied for a minute and said, oh , only if we win we’re going to Disneyland. But I felt bad so I let it go.”
Even if Brazil had been serious about her plan to only award her team a trip with a win, Branson was never really in jeopardy of losing its chance to head to Anaheim.
The Bulls (40-1) jumped to a 10-2 lead in Game 1 and had an early 11-3 lead in Game 2. Tri-City Christian finally got some momentum in Game 3, but it was too little and too late.
“I think we were a little nervy,” Tri-City Christian coach Kristen Wright said. “They were a fast team and we started to adjust in Game 3. We had an idea of what was coming at us, but we were a little slow to start. I think we adjusted. They’re a very good, team, though.”
Though the Eagles (27-14) did take
their first lead of the match and still held a 21-17 edge as Game 3 neared its end, Branson was undaunted. Having a weapon like Wallace for the closing run was more than Tri-City Christian could handle.
“I think we got a little tentative when Wallace got I the front row,” Wright said. “She played out of her mind. Good for her. She’s one of the best (that we faced this season). Definitely I mean, 27 kills in three games is pretty incredible.”
Wallace’s effort “was pretty awesome,” Brazil agreed.
But Wallace said her heroics were a byproduct of teamwork.
“At that moment, I just felt this was the time to get it done,” said Wallace, who plans to play at Harvard next year. “But I couldn’t really do it without my teammates. I feel like sometimes they support me more than I support them. At that moment, I wanted it for the team. I wanted it for all the hard work we put in this year. This was our senior year I really wanted it for us.” Teammate Lauren Alper said Wallace’s humble outlook was something that made her such a special player.
“She’s obviously an amazing player and MVP twice in a row, but I don’t think anyone understands how humble and how good of a teammate that she is,” Alper said. “That she can be that ‘rock star,’ that awesome, and then be such a good teammate, so kind and so supportive It’s really cool that she can help us end the game and be that great of a teammate.”
Brazil acknowledged her confidence in Wallace, but added that she also believes in the rest of her teammates.
“The truth is I’m confident in every single person on this team,” said Brazil, whose teams now own 75 percent of the state titles won by Marin teams (Marin Academy in 2004 is the only other state champ from the county).
“Regardless of who was in the front row, who was serving, who was in the back row, I know they’re all capable of doing what we need to do to win.”
That team feeling is one that leaves a lasting feeling, the players said.
Setter Meghan Wentzel, who will play at Bucknell University next year, said Branson’s three-year run will be tough to top.
“Going off to play college volleyball is going to be very exciting,” Wentzel said. “But I’m never going to have a team this great. This is like family.”
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