Posts Tagged Getty Images
New Book, “Dog on the Roof”, Satirizes the Mitt Romney Dog on Roof Story
Published May 17, 2012
A new book, “Dog on the Roof”, reignites the public’s feelings about the now infamous Mitt Romney dog on roof story.
Did you think that the Mitt Romney dog on roof story would go away? If so, think again.
The story, which has become a thorn in the side of presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, is once again being unearthed despite his efforts to put the issue to rest. Thanks to a new book being put out by Simon & Schuster next month, Romney will likely have to brace himself for yet another wave of animal rights activism and unwelcome negative press.
The book, aptly titled “Dog on the Roof”, is a 64-page satire of the story of Seamus, the Romney family dog who rode in an overhead kennel on a 12-hour trip to Canada in the 1980s. The book describes itself as being the “true–and only mildly embellished” story of what actually happened on the now infamous trip.
While the book is meant to be humorous, some have found it to have a semblance of truth behind it. Many have dubbed the Romney incident as being incredibly cruel, with some citing it as evidence of an inherent “meanness” in the presidential hopeful.
On the flip side, Romney has defended his actions, and has deflected the severity of the situation he put his dog in. Though he has tried to put the issue to rest many times, it continues to come back and haunt him.
The publication of the new Simon & Schuster book, along with the re-inflamed sentiments about the Seamus’ story, serve as a reminder that the story won’t go away anytime soon, and that we’ll likely be hearing of it until Election Day passes in November.
What do you think about the new book “Dog on the Roof”? Will you give it a read? What about the Mitt Romney dog on roof incident as a whole? Is it a character story that should continually be revisited, or does it have no place in the general election? Share your thoughts in a comment!
- Mitt Romney’s dog Seamus inspires new tale (boston.com)
- We Can’t Wait for the Book – Remember Poor Seamus….. (mittismean.org)
- Seamus Romney’s story goes to print – Remember Seamus! (mittismean.org)
- Ann Romney: Seamus ‘loved’ car roof (politico.com)
- Mitt Romney Looking Longingly At People (buzzfeed.com)
- Mitt Romney’s roof-riding dog Seamus will be focus of new super PAC (boston.com)
- Dog On The Roof!: New Book Offers Seamus’ Account Of Riding On Romney’s Roof (mediaite.com)
- Ann Romney To Diane Sawyer On Tying Family Dog To The Car Roof: ‘The Dog Loved It’ (mediaite.com)
- 10 Reasons Why Mitt Romney’s Campaign Bus Taunted Barack Obama’s Rally (listofx.wordpress.com)
- Dogs Against Romney Founder Endorses Mitt Is Mean Super PAC (mittismean.org)
Houston’s Strip Clubs Hit by New ‘Pole Tax’
The city of Houston is turning to an unusual source to help fund rape investigations: strip clubs.
The City Council passed an ordinance Wednesday that requires strip clubs to pay a $5-per-visitor fee to help pay for the analysis of biological evidence collected from rape victims in hopes of identifying their attackers.
Police in Houston, and in many other parts of the U.S., lack the money to promptly analyze evidence such as hair particles and blood specimens, gathered by investigators in packets known as rape kits. Houston estimates it has 6,000 rape kits that have yet to be scrutinized by crime laboratories.
Supporters of the ordinance, which was supported by Mayor Annise Parker and approved on a 14-1 vote, contend that strip clubs should shoulder some of the costs of rape investigations because the establishments can cultivate unhealthy attitudes toward women that can lead to sexual assaults.
“There are negative secondary effects associated with adult-entertainment establishments,” said Ellen Cohen, the council member who championed the ordinance, which could generate up to $3 million in annual revenue.
The fee would also apply to clubs that stage occasional adult entertainment, such as “a wet T-shirt contest or naked sushi contest,” according to the ordinance, which states all the revenue is to go toward processing rape kits.
There are an estimated 30 clubs subject to the tax, according to Ms. Cohen’s chief of staff.
Critics strongly question attempts to tie strip clubs to violence against women, calling the fee unfair. “There is no known correlation between people going to nice, high-end gentlemen’s clubs and rape,” said Albert Van Huff, a Houston lawyer who represents local strip clubs.
A 2009 report by the University of Texas at Austin concluded that no study has “authoritatively linked alcohol, sexually oriented businesses, and the perpetration of violence.”
The Texas legislature last year passed a law requiring police departments to report rape evidence backlogs to the Texas Department of Public Safety, which has so far tallied 15,000 untested kits—a number expected to grow as more departments file their reports. Nationally, the backlog has reached about 400,000, according to a federal bill introduced in Congress last month that would provide greater funding for the testing of kits.
Of the 6,000 Houston kits, police don’t believe they all would yield useful evidence. In some cases, for example, the victim has decided not to press charges.
In Texas, a state law passed in 2007 already imposes a $5-per-customer charge, dubbed the “pole tax,” on strip clubs around the state. A portion of the fee, which has so far generated about $15.7 million in revenue, can be used to pay for testing rape kits.
The Texas Supreme Court last year rejected a claim that the state fee, sponsored by Ms. Cohen as a state lawmaker, violates free-speech rights by infringing on a mode of expression: sexually suggestive dancing.
Deputy Director of the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault, said no one in her field believes that “if you walk into a strip club you become a rapist.” Still, she said, “the environment that goes on at strip clubs fosters a culture that is more tolerant, at the very least, of sexual violence.”
Houston clubs now face a double fee. “You are going to rip the economic rug out from underneath” the clubs, said Angelina Spencer, Executive Director of the Association of Club Executives, a strip-club trade group.
Council member Jack Christie said the strip clubs will survive. “When you look at videos of these clubs and see women putting $5, $10 and $20 dollar bills in their remaining clothing, I don’t think a $5 tax will hurt anybody,” he said.
- Houston strip-club fee passes: $5 per customer for rape kits (khou.com)
- City Council passes strip club fee to test rape kits (click2houston.com)
- D.C. Strip Club Stadium Will Be Part of New Reality Show (complex.com)
- Channing Tatum and Matthew McConaughey Relive Their Night Out at a Male Strip Club! (popsugar.com)
- Illinois Lawmakers Pass Strip Club Tax (stlouis.cbslocal.com)
- Fort Worth Senator Wendy Davis Wants to Use Strip Club Tax to Pay for Untested Rape Kits (blogs.dallasobserver.com)
- First They Came for the Hookers… (maggiemcneill.wordpress.com)
- Sesame Street strip club to serve liquor (local10.com)
- Strip club industry: More than Democrats, GOP conventioneers have been ‘our best customers’ (tampabay.com)
- Strip Club Tax Stripped (stlouis.cbslocal.com)
How To Create A Career Path When Your Job Doesn’t Have One
Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife
Lately I’ve been thinking about my next big career move. I know it’s a little premature. I’ve only been with Forbes on their Audience Development Team for a little over four months now, and I absolutely love it. The people are great, the work is always new and interesting, and I’m passionate about what I do — but I think it’s always good as a young professional to have a long-term vision in mind, to have a bigger goal you keep reaching towards, in order to keep everything in perspective and help you align your personal goals with the business goals of the company – as well as to keep from getting complacent (which is huge).
The problem with this, though, is that many companies today, like Forbes, that are trying to adapt to changing times have no clear career path for their young employees, especially those in newly created tech or online jobs.
This makes answering the question, “Where do I go from here?” very difficult. I may not always like the answer to that question. I may not always stick with the answer to that question. The answer to that question may change or evolve over time — but I must always have one. As a self-proclaimed high-achiever who has many things I want to accomplish in life (and as fast as I can) – I must always have an answer to that question, a singular vision towards something greater.
So I asked myself: what is that vision?
I was talking to one of my co-workers about it the other day who has been with the company for a year now, much longer than I have and perhaps much more deserving of a promotion, about what her next steps are in her career, and especially within the company. Turns out – I wasn’t the only one experiencing frustration. She also was uncertain about where she could possibly fit in at Forbes in the (hopefully not too far) future. The reason for this is because those new jobs, the next steps for me and my co-workers, have just not been created yet.
As the journalism industry begins to change, a new model for journalism is being put in place that I believe Forbes is at the forefront of. This new model includes my position as an Audience Development Associate – where I work to promote Forbes content daily and improve the quality of the site overall — and many of my good friends’ positions as Producers – who guide our contributors and help police and edit the site. Both of these positions have never existed before, especially not in journalism – and because these positions have never existed before, neither do the positions that would naturally or logically follow them.
There is no Audience Development Representative or Audience Development Executive to aspire to, which is the next logical step for many young professionals at entry-level positions in their companies. And gunning for someone else’s job – as say manager of the team or director – isn’t smart either. That kind of thinking becomes adversarial and counterproductive – hoping the person currently in that position fails or leaves, or maybe, just maybe gets promoted. And that boxes your talent in, makes you conform to a set of rules and standards that perhaps aren’t the best fit for your unique skills – but maybe are the best fit for the person currently in the position. It brings you down and leaves the future of your success in someone else’s hands instead of your own. It makes you feel as though you have no control. It’s not a good feeling.
As a result, I believe that it is up to you as the employee to create the job you want, to identify what the company is missing and what the company needs and be that.
The job I will have in the future, say one or two years down the line, doesn’t even exist yet. I’ll have to create it, to be entrepreneurial in my own company, to sell and advocate for myself like no one else (hence the name of this blog: Elevator Pitch – Going up?). And, luckily, that kind of thinking resonates with the Forbes mission of entrepreneurial journalism, which encourages people to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and build their own brand in person, online, or at work.
So, that’s my vision. That’s the position I’m gunning for – not my boss’ job or my boss’ boss’ job. It’s something different entirely, something that suits my interests, my passions and my talents uniquely, something that hasn’t even been created yet, which leads me to my advice for you and other young professionals: always look for the cracks in your company’s infrastructure. Always be thinking about what your company is doing now that could be done better – and, especially, how you can be that person to fix it. It’s there, if you just look hard enough.
Just how do you find it, though?
Look for problems. Focus on problems. Embrace and enjoy problems – because wherever there is a problem, there is a solution close behind.
Read in between the lines. Pay close attention to what your co-workers say, or don’t say. It’s usually the things that they are ignoring that need the most attention.
Think small. It’s about the little, practical things you can do to make you and your company look better. Once you’ve mastered that, look for bigger trends.
Get to know your people. Trust them, and make them trust you. Be very real and candid with them. Form alliances with them. If you do this, they will tell you their problems and the problems within the company – and they will help you to succeed in fixing them. (Producers: Thank you! I love and appreciate your advice, support, and friendship.)
Get to know yourself. What are your strengths and weaknesses? What makes you happy? What do you want? Even if what you want is completely different than what you are doing now, embrace it. There is a way to harness that tension to make you, your job and the company better. The magic is in figuring out what that way is.
And, once you’ve figured out that way, that job that only you are uniquely suited to do, that the company needs, set up a meeting with your boss to talk about it. Tell him what you think needs to be done and why – and especially why you are the best person for the job (and a pay-raise). If your boss disagrees with your conclusion or shows some resistance, don’t get discouraged. Adjust your thinking and try again – or find another company (or person in the company) that supports your mission. Chances are, though, your boss will admire and respect your tenacity – and help you to accomplish other great things in the future. After all, half of the battle to getting what you want is asking for it.
When are you going to ask for yours?
- How To Win In A Dead End Job (forbes.com)
- Congress: You’re Fired! (middlebrickroad.com)
- Is Forbes the model for a digital-first media entity? (gigaom.com)
- 44% Of Employees Are Unsatisfied (bizsugar.com)
- Best – And Worst – Paying Jobs in the United States (bargaineering.com)
- Dear Forbes: 20-Somethings Do Take Themselves Seriously (thedailymuse.com)
- Three Reasons Why Apple’s New Campus Is Ready For Anything – Forbes (nadernazemi.com)
- IT (Information Technology) Career Path Guideline (web-workathome.com)
- In journalism, what’s new is actually old… and ‘that’s the way it is’ (nextlevelofnews.com)
- Roundup: 20 Reads for Women Entrepreneurs, Part II (grasshopper.com)
In Economic Deluge, a World That Can’t Bail Together
By FLOYD NORRIS
Published: June 2, 2012
Less than four years ago, with the world’s financial system in danger of collapsing, major countries managed to come together on a coordinated course that averted a global depression.
Jock Fistick/Bloomberg News
Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany has urged greater austerity.
Thierry Charlier/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Europe’s central bank president, Mario Draghi, has called for a common form of deposit insurance and regulation.
Central banks pumped vast amounts of cash into economies, and banks were bailed out, with vows that they would be subject to stronger regulation.
By early 2009, financial markets had bottomed out and begun strong recoveries. Economies were slower to follow; by last year, slow growth seemed to be the global pattern, spurring hope that the crisis had passed.
But within the last few weeks, much of that hope seems to have faded.
In Europe, the crisis has grown worse, not better, and the disputes among European leaders have intensified as much of the Continent appears to have drifted into a new recession. In China, growth remains robust by Western standards. But concern is rising over the possible end of a property boom that had been fueled in part by local government borrowing and spending.
In the United States, which had been an oasis of relative calm with a growing economy and rising employment, job growth in May, reported Friday, was a puny 69,000. To make the outlook even gloomier, earlier numbers were revised lower. That capped a series of three disappointing monthly reports.
Moreover, there seems to be little willingness — or perhaps lit-tle ability — for the major countries to act together again. Squabbles have grown, some countries are in fiscal distress, and others face daunting domestic problems. The European situation is the most pressing. Banks are under pressure in many countries, for a combination of reasons. They did not raise as much capital as they might have when markets were more buoyant last year. In some cases, they appear to have been slow to recognize their real estate loan losses.
But the most important factor may be that national governments are weak — in every way possible. There is no doubt that some countries could not afford to bail out their banks again; some, in fact, now rely on those same banks for loans to keep the governments functioning at a time when private investors are unsure about their creditworthiness. The president of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, suggested last week some type of common European deposit insurance and bank regulation, but there seems to be no consensus.
Nearly every major government in Europe has been thrown out by unhappy voters when an election rolled around, the latest being France. It is not a matter of left versus right. The only major leader to have been re-elected since 2008 is Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, but recent state elections there have been won by the opposing party, and even the German economy seems to be losing strength.
The most worrying electoral situation is in Greece, which seems to be mired in permanent recession and unable to comply with the rigid demands for austerity made by its European partners. With one election ending in deadlock among a variety of parties, it will try again on June 17. Many fear that the result could be a disorderly exit for Greece from the euro zone. Others think it could lead to the end of the euro altogether.
For governments that need to borrow money, this is either the best or the worst time ever. It is hard to believe just how low rates are for Germany and the United States. The yield on two-year United States Treasury notes is about one quarter of 1 percent. But comparable German notes this week were yielding one one-hundredth of a percent. At that rate, the government could borrow a million euros and pay 100 euros a year in interest.
But other countries have difficulty borrowing money at all, and pay far higher interest rates to get what money they can. It is not that anyone thinks the yields available on German and United States government bonds are attractive. It is that those bonds are deemed safe by fearful investors.
If throwing cash at the problem was the solution to the last crisis, now many deem that the cause of the current problems. Greece spent its way into its predicament while failing to collect the taxes it was owed and hiding the problem from the rest of Europe. But Spain was running budget surpluses before its own real estate bubble burst, leaving the government reeling. Yet all the troubled countries are being told — largely by Germany — to adhere to rigid austerity. With a common currency, it is hard to see how some of the countries can return to international competitiveness.
In the United States, the ease of borrowing has not made it politically easier to increase the pace of spending. Instead, there is the possibility of “Taxmageddon,” the threat that the unwillingness of politicians to compromise could lead to a combination of big automatic spending cuts and tax increases in 2013 that could devastate economic growth. All this is taking place in the midst of an election campaign that is widely expected to be the nastiest ever.
Moreover, the consensus that financial regulation should be strengthened and standardized has evaporated. In Europe and the United States, banks say that institutions across the Atlantic have unfair advantages, and regulators complain that the other continent has not taken the needed steps.
In the United States, a major push by the banks to weaken rules may or may not have been badly damaged by the multibillion-dollar trading loss suffered recently by JPMorgan Chase. But many in Congress, primarily but not exclusively Republicans, have gone back to the old belief that it was excessive government regulation that created the problem.
The widespread pessimism could dissipate as rapidly as it accumulated. Some surprisingly good economic news in the United States and China would help. More important would be for Europe’s leaders to reach agreement on a course of action that offered hope for recovery in the most stricken areas of the Continent while assuring that the common financial system would have the support of common institutions if needed. Europe has previously managed to cobble together something when disaster appeared to loom, and perhaps it could do so again.
Germany — the country that would have to pick up most of the bill to rescue its neighbors — could decide that not spending the money created greater dangers. The United States could find ways to help out despite fiscal pressures and Congressional hostility to foreign aid. A new consensus on common bank regulation could emerge. But, for now at least, the outlook is far darker than it seemed to be only a couple of months ago.
- In Economic Deluge, A World That’s Unable To Bail Together (mysanantonio.com)
- News Analysis: In Economic Deluge, a World That’s Unable to Bail Together (nytimes.com)
- As Soros Starts A Three Month Countdown To D(oom)-Day, Europe Plans A New Master Plan (zerohedge.com)
- A central-bank failure of epic proportions (economist.com)
- ECB may cut rates as eurozone crisis deepens (ekathimerini.com)
- Euro currency setup unsustainable, bank chief warns (ctv.ca)
- Eurozone is ‘unsustainable’ warns Mario Draghi (jhaines6.wordpress.com)
- Mario Draghi Provides the Right Analysis, But the Wrong Solution (txwclp.org)
- Is It (Finally) Crunch Time in Europe? (blogs.the-american-interest.com)
- The Emerging Markets Slowdown Trifecta (247wallst.com)
Leader’s Fall in China Put Allies in Peril
Gilles Sabrie for The New York Times
The Nanshan Lijing Resort in Chongqing, China, where the body of Neil Heywood was found. He was a British businessman with ties to the family of Bo Xilai, whose wife has been tied to Mr. Heywood’s killing.
By EDWARD WONG and JONATHAN ANSFIELD
Published: May 20, 2012
CHONGQING, China — Early this year, as a crisis unfolded in the chambers of power here, three men flew into this fog-wreathed riverside metropolis within a day or two of one another. They were members of the inner court of Bo Xilai, the Communist Party aristocrat who ran the city, and they had come to repair a rupture between the strong-willed Mr. Bo and his equally driven police chief.
Liu Jin/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Wang Lijun, who as police chief of Chongqing confronted Mr. Bo with evidence implicating his wife in the killing.
The New York Times
Chongqing is a fast-growing municipality of 31 million.
Xu Ming, a wealthy businessman and friend of Mr. Bo’s.
Just days earlier, on Jan. 28, the police chief, Wang Lijun, had pressed Mr. Bo over evidence tying Mr. Bo’s wife to the death last fall of a British businessman, prompting Mr. Bo to punch Mr. Wang in the face, Mr. Wang later recounted to others. The three men — two of them powerful businessmen and the other a former intelligence agent — had befriended Mr. Bo and Mr. Wang years ago. They knew both to be controlling and impulsive, and their goal was to broker a peace.
The most famous of the three, Xu Ming, 41, listed by Forbes as China’s eighth-richest person in 2005, had flown in on his private jet. He and the others held separate meetings with Mr. Bo and Mr. Wang. The damage was irreparable. The former intelligence agent, Yu Junshi, rushed home and stuffed a bag with 1.2 million renminbi, or nearly $200,000, to take to a bank with Ma Biao, the other businessman, known for his girth. Then all three fled to Australia within days, fearful of the fallout from a possible investigation of Mr. Bo.
Those figures are now being detained as central suspects or witnesses in the Chinese government’s broad investigation into Mr. Bo’s use of power. His fall from the party’s top echelons has opened a window on how some of his closest allies from his years as a rising official in northeast China became entwined in the social and economic fabric of Chongqing, a fast-growing western municipality of 31 million that Mr. Bo governed for four years. The accounts about those allies, which raise questions about Mr. Bo’s relations with tycoons, are based primarily on interviews with six people associated with the circle, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of facing official scrutiny, and a review of financial documents and company Web sites. Together, they reveal the workings of the shadowy court of one of China’s leaders, and of the panic that set in when these ambitious figures realized their world was about to collapse.
“These are powerful men with their own style,” said one person who has met with Mr. Yu. “It was all very strange, very abnormal, the way they acted at that time.”
On Feb. 6, Mr. Wang drove to the American Consulate in Chengdu and told diplomats about what he said was the murder of the Briton, Neil Heywood, which set in motion one of China’s biggest political scandals in decades: Mr. Bo has been removed from his posts, his allies are under scrutiny and his wife is a suspect in the killing.
The three men who fled to Australia have been held for two months. They left after Mr. Wang’s consulate visit, but returned to China in about 10 days on Mr. Xu’s private jet, thinking that Mr. Bo had avoided serious trouble. They were picked up by the police around the time that Mr. Bo was removed as party chief of Chongqing on March 15, according to several people who knew the men or their friends and families. One with security contacts said almost 60 people had been detained.
All three had much to lose. Mr. Xu, the billionaire, and Mr. Ma, the businessman, in particular had become involved in land deals here, and feared being brought down if Mr. Bo was investigated for corruption, their associates said.
The men could not be reached for comment, and employees at companies where they serve as executives declined to answer questions.
The first to appear on the scene in Chongqing was Mr. Yu, a fixer for the Bo family. He moved here before Mr. Bo arrived in December 2007 for his posting as party chief. Mr. Bo had sent him to gather information and build relations, according to people who have met Mr. Yu, a former intelligence officer for the People’s Liberation Army. Mr. Yu had been posted to Bangkok in the 1990s, but an agent in his network defected, and the members of his group were recalled and punished.
After Mr. Yu left the intelligence service, he returned to his hometown, Dalian, where Mr. Bo was mayor and Mr. Xu was building up his companies. Mr. Yu was investigated by the police over his business activities, and he enlisted the help of Gu Kailai, a lawyer married to Mr. Bo. He soon became friends with Mr. Bo; Mr. Xu, the billionaire; Mr. Ma, the businessman; and Mr. Wang, who was a police officer in the surrounding province of Liaoning, said people familiar with this history.
“Bo Xilai is fascinated by spies, so he likes to make friends with intelligence agents,” said Yang Haipeng, an investigative journalist in Shanghai.
In a microblog post on April 24, Mr. Yang wrote that Mr. Yu was an ex-spy turned “henchman” for the Bo family who had been detained in March. Censors deleted Mr. Yang’s microblog account, and security officials asked him for his source.
Mr. Yu, well read and well mannered, moved in rarefied circles in Chongqing and kept a low profile. He was thrust into the spotlight only once, when two dogs he kept at a home in Olympic Garden Villas, a German shepherd and a pit bull terrier, bit a man to death last July, said one person who has visited Mr. Yu at the home. Mr. Wang, the police chief, persuaded Mr. Yu to put the dogs to sleep. “A dog that has caused so much trouble for you will make trouble again; it will jinx your future,” Mr. Yu recalled Mr. Wang saying, according to the person. The episode was reported in The Chongqing Evening News. Mr. Yu told the reporter he worked in the financial industry.
Business executives seeking to curry favor with Mr. Bo and Mr. Wang sometimes approached Mr. Yu. In 2009, Mr. Bo and Mr. Wang started a crackdown on criminal gangs that was also an offensive against private entrepreneurs and Mr. Bo’s enemies. Fearful of being unfairly ensnared in the crackdown, Yin Mingshan, the founder of Lifan Group, a motorcycle company, arranged a banquet with Mr. Yu, said two friends of the banquet’s organizer. “All the bosses needed protection,” one of them said. Representatives of the company did not answer calls seeking comment.
Right after the campaign began, Mr. Xu and Mr. Ma started real estate projects in Chongqing through a complex web of companies. “Bo Xilai would always give Xu Ming advantages in doing business,” said one person.
In the 1990s, Mr. Xu built up his main conglomerate, Dalian Shide, whose holdings range from home appliances to finance to building materials, by winning contracts from local officials, including a lucrative deal to provide window frames while Mr. Bo was mayor of Dalian. Mr. Xu also received generous loans from state banks, including from China Guangfa Bank, where Mr. Ma was a branch chief.
Mr. Ma left the bank years ago and started an insurance company. After Mr. Bo arrived in Chongqing, Mr. Ma and Mr. Xu set up several companies to develop Chongqing real estate, according to financial records and information from government and company Web sites. Mr. Xu and Mr. Ma have roles in at least three companies founded in 2009: Chongqing Heshengyu Real Estate Development, Chongqing Shenghe Construction and Guanghua Huihuang.
Mr. Xu found ways to keep himself veiled. He sometimes used a Hong Kong company, Golden International Investment, to invest in local companies. Records in Hong Kong list Mr. Xu and three other Dalian Shide executives as the directors of Golden in 2003.
The companies bought at least 123 acres of land in Chongqing, according to Chinese news media reports. Mr. Xu and Mr. Ma often met their allies discreetly in hotels. One sweltering night last summer, Mr. Ma walked with Mr. Yu, the former spy, into the lobby of the Nanshan Lijing Resort, set in misty hills on the city’s outskirts. Mr. Wang, the police chief, greeted them there in a respectful manner, and they dined with Mr. Xu, said one witness.
The resort was known as a rendezvous point for people close to Mr. Bo, and Mr. Heywood’s body was found in a villa there on Nov. 15. Police investigators determined that Mr. Heywood had been poisoned, and suspected Mr. Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai, was involved.
Tensions built between Mr. Bo and Mr. Wang, the police chief, and things fell apart after they had their explosive meeting on Jan. 28. Mr. Xu beseeched Mr. Yu to fly to Chongqing from Beijing. On Jan. 31, Mr. Yu met with Mr. Wang for an entire night in Mr. Wang’s suite at police headquarters. The next day, his driver switched cars; picked up Mr. Ma, the businessman, at the airport; and drove him and Mr. Yu to the Foggy City Hotel, where Mr. Bo sometimes dined and held meetings. Mr. Ma met with Mr. Bo while Mr. Yu waited in the lobby. “When Ma Biao came out, his face looked ashen,” said a friend of Mr. Yu’s.
On Feb. 2, the two made their run to the bank. Mr. Yu told Mr. Ma to take the bag of cash inside by himself so the two would avoid being recorded together on security cameras. Then they flew out of Chongqing. That day, the local government announced that Mr. Wang had been removed from his police chief job.
Mr. Xu flew in on Feb. 3 and met with Mr. Bo. Within a week, he and the other two left for Hong Kong from northern China, and proceeded to Australia. “We thought they weren’t coming back,” one person familiar with them said.
But they returned. Then on March 14, as word quietly spread of Mr. Bo’s purge, Mr. Yu realized that he and his cohorts would be detained. He told his wife and son to go for a stroll that evening outside their Beijing home, so they would not witness the arrival of the police, his wife told a friend. But the police did not arrive until later that night, and the family watched as Mr. Yu was led away.
Edward Wong reported from Chongqing, and Jonathan Ansfield from Beijing. Ian Johnson contributed reporting from Beijing. Shi Da and Mia Li contributed research from Beijing, and Hilda Wang contributed research from Hong Kong.
- China state-run businesses to invest 350 billion yuan in Chongqing (chinadailymail.com)
- Leader’s Fall in China Put Allies in Peril (nytimes.com)
- Neil Heywood: Chinese politician Bo Xilai ‘plotted three ways to kill his own police chief’ (dailymail.co.uk)
- China state-run businesses to invest 350 billion yuan in Chongqing (news.yahoo.com)
- Sources: Briton killed after threat to expose Chinese leader’s wife (worldnews.msnbc.msn.com)
- Bo Xilai’s wife questioned over the murder in China of Neil Heywood (telegraph.co.uk)
- Bo Xilai ‘spied on China leader’ (bbc.co.uk)
- Chinese politician Bo Xilai reportedly approves, then blocks murder probe involving wife (foxnews.com)
- Sources: Briton killed after threat to expose Chinese leader’s wife (worldnews.msnbc.msn.com)
- Chinese leaders urged to reveal wealth after Bo Xilai case (guardian.co.uk)
GSA waste goes much deeper than the Las Vegas junket
Inspector general reports indicate that fraud involving the federal agency’s employers and contractors costs millions of dollars every year.
Brian Miller, inspector general for the General Services Administration, testifies at a Senate hearing. His reports indicate that fraud among employees and contractors costs the agency millions each year. (Alex Wong, Getty Images / April 22, 2012)
By Ian Duncan
April 23, 2012, 1:31 a.m.
WASHINGTON — It was a simple scam: Coleen Newton-White, a government contractor, and her husband would take General Services Administration credit cards from the motor pool at Ft. Monroe, Va., and use them to sell fuel at a discount to cash customers who pulled up to service stations five at a time.
Between 2008 and 2010, the scheme netted the couple almost $300,000, according to court records.
Although the gas scheme is a world away from the nearly $823,000 spent on a lavish Las Vegas-area conference put on by GSA official Jeff Neely — including a mind reader, sushi and in-room parties — it is an example of the fraud that the procurement and property management agency faces regularly.
GSA employees and contractors — including at least one employee with responsibility for the White House — line their pockets to the tune of millions of dollars a year, according to reports by the agency’s inspector general.
With the GSA thrust into the congressional spotlight over the 2010 Vegas conference and travel spending, lawmakers have demanded to know how deep the agency’s problems run. Is there, they asked repeatedly in hearings last week, a culture of corruption?
“GSA handles a lot of money,” Brian Miller, the agency’s inspector general, told a Senate committee Wednesday. “Millions, maybe billions, of dollars flow through GSA. There’s a lot of temptation.”
And from Miller’s most recent report to Congress, it seems more than a few employees and contractors give in to that temptation. The Newton-White case was just one of 64 prosecutions between October 2010 and September 2011 of people who bilked the GSA by inflating costs, or just flat out stole from it.
In October, Miller’s office and the Justice Department wrapped up a five-year investigation that found seven GSA employees had conspired to award government contracts in return for kickbacks.
One employee, James Fisher, had responsibility for White House facilities. In exchange for cash and the installation of new kitchen cabinets and other work at his Suitland, Md., home, Fisher steered work in the direction of a favored contractor, according to court filings. In February 2008, Fisher pleaded guilty to bribery. He was jailed and ordered to pay back $40,000.
Lawyers for Fisher, Newton-White and her ex-husband, Lanaire White, could not be reached for comment. White and Newton-White also went to jail.
The largest cases involve inflated information technology contracts that end up costing the government tens of millions of dollars.
Through convictions and settlements, the inspector general’s office clawed back $376 million in the last fiscal year, but Miller said it was impossible to know for sure how much money the GSA wasted or lost each year.
“Fraud, by its very nature, is hidden,” he told the Senate panel.
The answer to the waste, acting GSA chief Dan Tangherlini told the lawmakers, is to give Washington more power over regional offices and to simplify the GSA’s structure.
But a former senior GSA official, who requested anonymity to discuss the agency’s inner workings, said centralization had already begun under the Obama administration — and it left nobody “watching the store” in the regional offices, causing more abuse.
“I hate to see it all go down the drain because these politicians who’ve never run a candy store say they want to centralize everything,” the former official said.
Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said his panel would ask Miller to investigate all of the GSA’s 11 regions, not just Region 9, which organized the Vegas conference.
“I want to know if there’s abuse in the other regions, particularly when it comes to conferences,” he toldCBS’”Face the Nation” on Sunday.
President Obama’s senior campaign official, David Axelrod, told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday that Obama was “apoplectic” to learn of the GSA spending “because we made a big effort to cut waste, inefficiency, fraud against the government.”
Still, Miller told senators last week, the attention paid to the Las Vegas conference has had at least one upside. With more and more tips coming into the agency’s hot line, “We have more work than ever,” he said.
- GSA Las Vegas – The Tip of the Iceberg (youviewedblog.wordpress.com)
- Warning Sign? GSA Deputy Guilty of Embezzlement (foxnews.com)
- It’s Not Just Waste: Fraud Rampant at GSA (newser.com)
- GSA watchdog says employees are reporting abuse (mercurynews.com)
- Mill Valley couple caught up in GSA scandal (mercurynews.com)
- GSA watchdog: Employees reporting abuse (kshb.com)
- GSA watchdog says employees are reporting abuse (news.yahoo.com)
- GSA watchdog says employees are reporting abuse (newsday.com)
- GSA Watchdog: Employees Reporting Abuse (myfoxphoenix.com)
- GSA Watchdog: Employees Reporting Abuse (myfoxny.com)
In Facebook Deal, Board Was All But Out of Picture
On the morning of Sunday, April 8, Facebook Inc.’s youthful chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, alerted his board of directors that he intended to buy Instagram, the hot photo-sharing service.
By the time Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg brought his board in on the plan to buy hot photo-sharing service Instagram for $1 billion, the deal was all but done. Drew Dowell has details on The News Hub. Photo: Kimihiro Hoshino/AFP/Getty Images
It was the first the board heard of what, later that day, would become Facebook’s largest acquisition ever, according to several people familiar with the matter. Mr. Zuckerberg and his counterpart at Instagram, Kevin Systrom, had already been talking over the deal for three days, these people said.
Negotiating mostly on his own, Mr. Zuckerberg had fielded Mr. Systrom’s opening number, $2 billion, and whittled it down over several meetings at Mr. Zuckerberg’s $7 million five-bedroom home in Palo Alto. Later that Sunday, the two 20-somethings would agree on a sale valued at $1 billion.
It was a remarkably speedy three-day path to a deal for Facebook—a young company taking pains to portray itself as blue-chip ahead of its initial public offering of stock in a few weeks that could value it at up to $100 billion. Companies generally prefer to bring in ranks of lawyers and bankers to scrutinize a deal before proceeding, a process that can eat up days or weeks.
INSTADEAL: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, pictured, largely negotiated the deal over a few days with Instagram’s Kevin Systrom.
Mr. Zuckerberg ditched all that. By the time Facebook’s board was brought in, the deal was all but done. The board, according to one person familiar with the matter, “Was told, not consulted.”
Mr. Zuckerberg owns 28% of Facebook’s stock, and controls 57% of its voting rights, giving him the freedom to act independently if he wants. Mr. Systrom, similarly, owns about 45% of his company. That control means investors must accept the fact that the CEOs can move quickly.
Advocates argue this can be an asset in an industry—online services and social networking—where competitive threats can emerge with lightning speed. In the Instagram deal, one of Mr. Zuckerberg’s concerns was Mr. Systrom might have reacted negatively had he approached him through lawyers, people familiar with the matter said. Facebook’s CEO got a hand from Amin Zoufonoun, Facebook’s director of corporate development, to hammer out details later in the talks, a person familiar with the matter said.
Instagram’s Kevin Systrom.
“You want the board to provide caution to the CEO,” said Ralph A. Walkling, executive director of the Center for Corporate Governance at Drexel University’s business school. “They are the last line of defense for minority shareholders.”
Facebook’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, learned the Thursday before the deal from Mr. Zuckerberg that he intended to push to acquire Instagram, though she wasn’t directly involved in the negotiations, according to a person familiar with the matter. Ms. Sandberg, 42 years old, joined Facebook from Google Inc. in 2008 in part to provide more professional executive support to the company’s CEO. Mr. Zuckerberg’s handling of the Instagram acquisition is a reminder that Facebook is still in some respects a one-man show.
The three-day sprint to the deal started on April 5, when Mr. Zuckerberg picked up the phone and asked Mr. Systrom to meet. At the time, Mr. Systrom was just hours from signing a deal for a $50 million venture-capital investment that would put a $500 million value on his company, which had just 13 employees and no revenue. Mr. Zuckerberg had been interested in acquiring Instagram since the previous summer and had decided it was time to do a deal.
Wall Street’s traditional rules for valuing companies offer little help in putting a number on a company like Instagram. While the start-up, just 18 months old, had no revenue, its fast growth gave Mr. Systrom leverage. His company is strong where Facebook has been weak—on devices like the iPhone—and took aim squarely at Facebook users’ favorite activity, sharing photos.
Instagram makes a smartphone “app” that lets people take photos, dress them up with special effects, and easily share them with friends. In the first three months of this year, its user base nearly doubled, to about 30 million, the company says.
After Instagram released a version of its app for phones powered by Google Inc.’sGOOG -0.35% Android software on April 3, the user base shot up again, to around 35 million at the time of the Facebook deal.
Mr. Zuckerberg was particularly concerned when he saw millions of people signing up for the Android app, people familiar with the matter said. One concern: Facebook was falling behind in mobile as younger start-ups were innovating more quickly.
In the past, Facebook’s acquisitions were primarily about bringing in talented engineers. Once Mr. Zuckerberg identified the people he wanted, he typically let others in the company work out the details.
This time, however, he took the lead himself. “Mark spent the time that weekend,” said Steve Anderson, a founding partner of venture firm Baseline Ventures, Instagram’s first investor. “It was a real statement to Kevin of the importance of why Mark wanted to do it.”
The two CEOs began their talks Thursday night at Mr. Zuckerberg’s remodeled, century-old home, and met there again Friday and Saturday, wrapping up with a 12-hour session on Sunday, people familiar with the matter said. Each night, Mr. Systrom drove back to his house in San Francisco, one of the people said.
Instagram launched on Oct. 6, 2010. On its first day, it garnered around 25,000 users. By May 2011, it hit 3.75 million. That fast growth attracted suitors early on—including an outreach from Twitter Inc. in early 2011 and from Mr. Zuckerberg that summer, people familiar with the matter said. But Mr. Systrom rebuffed them, intent on building his own company.
Now, however, Mr. Systrom found himself in Mr. Zuckerberg’s house asking $2 billion for Instagram. Mr. Zuckerberg suggested looking at the value of Instagram as a percentage of the value of Facebook, people familiar with the matter said.
Mr. Zuckerberg, who planned to pay for Instagram mostly with stock, asked Mr. Systrom what he thought Facebook would be worth, the people said. If he believed Facebook would one day be worth as much as a company like Google at $200 billion or more, then the equivalent of 1% of Facebook would be sufficient to meet his price, Mr. Zuckerberg told Mr. Systrom, the people said.
It was as good an argument as any, considering that traditional ways of valuing a company—by its cash flow, or the sum of its parts—are ineffective when that company makes only one product and gives it away free.
Mr. Zuckerberg also offered Mr. Systrom assurances that Instagram could remain independent under Facebook. On Saturday and Sunday, Facebook’s Mr. Zoufonoun helped hammer out the details at Mr. Zuckerberg’s home. Mr. Zoufonoun declined to comment through a Facebook spokesman.
The arguments were working. Mr. Systrom was on the phone with his investors Sunday as he drove down to Palo Alto around noon for what would be a final day of negotiations, according to a person familiar with the matter. Early that day, Mr. Zuckerberg emailed his board to say a deal was close, people familiar with the matter said.
At around 6 p.m. that evening, Facebook board member Marc Andreessen showed up at Mr. Zuckerberg’s house for a regular meeting. What he didn’t know was that Mr. Systrom was in another room, getting his own board to sign off, people familiar with the matter said.
Mr. Andreessen, whose venture-capital firm was the second to invest in Instagram, cutting a $250,000 check before the service launched, was surprised when Mr. Systrom walked into the room about an hour into his meeting with Mr. Zuckerberg, the people said.
And a day later, Mr. Zuckerberg returned to Instagram, a service he hadn’t used since the previous June, posting a photo on Instagram of his white Hungarian Puli, named Beast, “sleeping off the edge of the bed.”
- Mark Zuckerberg kept Facebook board out of Instagram negotiations, claims WSJ (theverge.com)
- Zuckerberg did Instagram deal by himself, whittled Systrom down from $2 billion (digitaltrends.com)
- Instagram Wanted TWO Billion From Facebook Deal (sfist.com)
- Instagram CEO wanted $2 billion from Facebook (rumor) (zdnet.com)
- Instagram Wanted $2 Billion From Facebook, And Here’s Why (cultofmac.com)
- In Facebook deal for Instagram, board was all but out of picture (nextlevelofnews.com)
- Mark Zuckerberg Bypassed Facebook Board, Bankers & Lawyers During Instagram Deal (marketingland.com)
- Zuckerberg closed Instagram deal without Facebook board approval (arstechnica.com)
- The Facebook-Instagram deal went down in 48 hours – The Washington Post (mbcalyn.com)
- In Facebook Deal, Board Was All but Out of Picture (allthingsd.com)