Qualcomm says China comment will not revive NXP deal

(Reuters) – U.S. chipmaker Qualcomm Inc (QCOM.O) said on Monday it was not looking to revive its abandoned $44 billion acquisition of Dutch peer NXP Semiconductors NV (NXPI.O), a day after the White House said China would reconsider clearing a deal if it was attempted again.

Qualcomm, the world’s biggest smartphone-chip maker, walked away from its agreement to buy NXP in July, after failing to secure Chinese regulatory approval. The planned deal was first agreed between the two companies in October 2016.

Qualcomm, headquartered in San Diego, California, and NXP, based in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, needed China’s blessing for their deal because of their presence in that country.

After high-stakes talks on Saturday between U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Argentina, the White House said in a statement that China was “open to approving the previously unapproved” deal for Qualcomm to acquire NXP “should it again be presented”.

But Qualcomm said there was no prospect for the acquisition to be revived.

“While we were grateful to learn of President Trump and President Xi’s comments about Qualcomm’s previously proposed acquisition of NXP, the deadline for that transaction has expired, which terminated the contemplated deal,” a Qualcomm representative said via email.

“Qualcomm considers the matter closed.”

NXP declined to comment.

On Monday, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow told reporters that President Trump put the issue of the acquisition on the table in the talks with the Chinese president.

Kudlow added that the Chinese president’s openness to the deal was a sign of further cooperation on multiple issues, including corporate mergers. Xi’s reported comment could embolden some potential acquirers in the semiconductor space to explore transactions, corporate dealmakers said.

“Although that acquisition cannot be resuscitated, Xi’s comment reveals in plain sight that Chinese antitrust policy is inherently politicized,” said Scott Kennedy, a China expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in a blog post.

FILE PHOTO: A sign on the Qualcomm campus is seen, as chip maker Broadcom Ltd announced an unsolicited bid to buy peer Qualcomm Inc for $103 billion, in San Diego, California, U.S. November 6, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake

Qualcomm shares closed up 1.5 percent at $59.14 in New York on Monday, while NXP shares ended up 2.75 percent at $85.67.

Qualcomm and NXP did not lobby for the Trump administration to bring up the abandoned deal in its meeting with Xi and other Chinese officials on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Buenos Aires on Saturday, which was dominated by negotiations over trade tariffs, according to sources close to the companies.

The two companies were surprised to see that the terminated deal resurfaced as an issue, the sources added, requesting anonymity to discuss confidential deliberations. Qualcomm was given just an hour’s notice by the Trump administration about Xi’s comment on the NXP deal, and its inclusion in the White House statement, according to two of the sources.

The Trump administration had unsuccessfully lobbied the Chinese government earlier this year to give its blessing to the deal.

China’s foreign ministry declined to comment on Qualcomm during a regular media briefing on Monday.

Qualcomm had sought to purchase NXP because of its market position as a dominant supplier to the automotive market, as car makers add more chips to vehicles each year. Qualcomm is now focused on developing its own chips for the automotive market, according to one of the sources.

Qualcomm had to pay NXP a $2 billion fee to terminate the deal. To appease its shareholders, Qualcomm has also embarked on a $30 billion stock repurchase plan to return to them most of the money that would have been used for the NXP deal. It has spent more than $20 billion in share buybacks in the last 12 months. NXP has also announced its own $5 billion share buyback program.

DEALS ABANDONED

Several deals by semiconductor companies were put on ice after the Qualcomm/NXP deal fell through, simply because they had a footprint in China and required regulatory approval there. Now, chip companies may be more optimistic about their regulatory chances in China.

One example could be Xilinx Inc (XLNX.O), a U.S. provider of chips used in communications network gear and consumer electronics that has a big presence in China. Xilinx is currently vying to acquire Israeli chip maker Mellanox Technologies Ltd (MLNX.O) after it decided to run an auction to sell itself, according to people familiar with the matter. A successful acquisition of Mellanox could prove an important test of China’s appetite to approve such deals. A representative for Xilinx declined to comment. Mellanox did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

A more near-term test being watched by dealmakers is KLA-Tencor Corp (KLAC.O) pending acquisition of fellow semiconductor equipment maker, Israel’s Orbotech Ltd (ORBK.O). The $3.4 billion deal, announced in March, is still awaiting Chinese regulatory approval. KLA-Tencor’s CEO said on the company’s last earnings call that he expects the deal to close by year end.

Thus far, other high-profile mergers and acquisitions involving U.S. companies in other sectors have received Chinese approval. Last month, China approved United Technologies Corp’s (UTX.N) $30 billion purchase of aircraft parts maker Rockwell Collins Inc and Walt Disney Co’s (DIS.N) $71.3 billion deal to buy most of Twenty-First Century Fox’s (FOXA.O) entertainment assets.

Acquisitions of U.S. companies by Chinese companies, on the other hand, have been few and far between in the last year, after the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), a government panel that scrutinizes deals for potential national security risks, shot down more of these deals, such as Ant Financial’s plan to acquire U.S. money transfer company MoneyGram International Inc (MGI.O). U.S. lawmakers also passed reforms earlier this year that increased CFIUS’ scrutiny of deals.

Reporting by Liana B. Baker in New York and Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; Aditional reporting by Greg Roumeliotis in New York, Michael Martina in Beijing and Jeff Mason in Washington, D.C.; editing by Diane Craft

U.S. indicts Iranian hackers responsible for deploying 'SamSam' ransomware

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States on Wednesday indicted two Iranians for launching a major ransomware cyber attack known as “SamSam” and sanctioned two others for helping exchange the ransom payments from Bitcoin digital currency into rials.

The 34-month long hacking scheme wreaked havoc on hospitals, schools, companies and government agencies, including the cities of Atlanta, Georgia, and Newark, New Jersey, causing over $30 million in losses to victims and allowing the alleged hackers to collect over $6 million in ransom payments.

The deployment of the SamSam ransomware represented some of the most high-profile cyber attacks that have occurred on U.S. soil, including one in 2016 that forced Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital in Los Angeles to turn away patients and one last year that shut down Atlanta courts and much of its city government.

The six-count indictment, unsealed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, charges Iran-based Faramarz Shahi Savandi, 34, and Mohammad Mehdi Shah Mansouri, 27 with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit fraud related to computers, and other counts accusing them of intentionally damaging protected computers and illegally transmitting demands related to protected computers.

The Treasury Department, meanwhile, said it had sanctioned Ali Khorashadizadeh and Mohammad Ghorbaniyan for exchanging digital ransomware payments into rials.

Neither Khorashadizadeh nor Ghorbaniyan were named in the indictment, though the indictment appeared to reference their activities.

“The allegations in the indictment unsealed today—the first of its kind—outline an Iran-based international computer hacking and extortion scheme that engaged in 21st-century digital blackmail,” said Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski, in announcing the criminal charges on Wednesday.

Reuters could not immediately locate the four Iranians named by the U.S. government, and it will likely be difficult to hold them accountable in a federal court because the United States does not have an extradition treaty with Iran.

However, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told reporters at a press conference that he remains confident they might one day be brought to justice.

“These defendants are now fugitives from American justice,” Rosenstein said. “American justice has a long arm and we will wait and eventually, we are confident that we will take these perpetrators into custody.”

According to the Treasury, the SamSam ransomware scheme targeted more than 200 victims.

In addition to Atlanta and Newark, other victims cited by the Justice Department included healthcare companies such as Laboratory Corporation of American Holdings, the Colorado Department of Transportation, Medstar Health, the port of San Diego and the Nebraska Orthopedic Hospital.

Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Additional reporting by Lisa Lambert, Makini Brice and Timothy Ahmann in Washington, Jim Finkle in New York and Babak Dehghanpisheh in Geneva; Editing by Susan Thomas

Can Innovative Technology Fill Your Jewelry Box?

Self-proclaimed serial entrepreneur and tech disruptor Pamela Norton put together a handful of innovative tech things most people know nothing about, to build a business prepped for the modern world of luxury coupled with crypto, nano, and securitization. Before I profile her unique launch, let’s take a quick walk down memory lane.

Jump Back 10 (or 30) Years

There’s a reason cryptocurrency and the blockchain is catching so much attention now. Point blank, that reason is trust… or a lack thereof. Curious and brave types have been dabbling in encryption and crypto potentials since the 1980’s. Bitcoin has actually been around since 2009, so it didn’t just pop on the scene, and today, there are over 1,600 cryptocurrencies out there.  And if entrepreneurs have learned anything from then until now it’s that funding is a huge hurdle, and partnering with funds you can trust isn’t guaranteed.

Checks + Balances + Control

This lack of trust has created an absolute gap in the marketplace. Usually the gaps we see are more product geared and less financial, but this time it’s different. This time, this gap, has everything to do with the missing connection between security, transparency, and financial sustainability. That’s why Pamela Norton’s business is so unusual. Borsetta.io is a secure supply-chain platform that makes it easy to inventory and authenticate high-value, mission critical assets with unique, tamper-proof signatures. The short of it: they protect physical assets using blockchain and nanotechnology.

Criminals Are Getting Smarter

If there’s something good to steal, you can bet someone out there is trying to steal it. In the case of luxury items and funds, it’s usually a lot of thieves. According to Norton and Borsetta, counterfeit is the largest criminal enterprise in the world- $1.7 Trillion and growing to $4.2 Trillion by 2022. Security and protection are huge concerns, and it isn’t only big businesses who are looking to protect their assets.

Smart Contracts, Securitization & Luxury Items

A patented decentralized security protocol to protect, secure, tokenize, and transact physical assets is a solution that includes nanotechnology, hardware, software, a patented protocol layer and even a developer toolkit. The Borsetta platform can also connect with Ethereum, Hyperledger, Hedera, and other blockchain solutions while supporting QR, RFID, and other third-party applications and unique signatures.

What’s Jewelry Got To Do With It?

Luxury, eco-conscious jewelry and lab cultivated diamonds got Norton questioning why there wasn’t transparency in the market that dominates around $30 billion in profits every year. When she entered the business, she was shocked at all the holes, gaps, and lack of transparency in such a massive market. She found herself wondering how she could connect the physical assets to the digital titles on the blockchain? How could she  validate these luxury or high value items? How could she protect them? And how could she put our assets to work for us? How could she revolutionize the value in our lives?

These Are Smart, But So Are You

Don’t let the terms fool you. These are just smart technologies, allowing transactions to take place that protect everyone involved, from start to finish. The marketplace now allows for too much corruption, counterfeits, theft, rip-offs, dishonesty, and unsustainable methods. Norton wants to be part of the movement to minimize those things, to give the value to the creators, to protect assets, and to ensure transparency.

Get On Board

As we wait around for the blockchain technology to take off, and the digital infrastructure to show up, we can dream about a future full of protection, securitization, smart contracts, and the real-life applications just over the horizon. The next industrial revolution is upon us, and we must adopt to adapt, or be left behind

Try Landing InSight on Mars (Without Exploding)

NASA just parked its InSight lander on Mars. Yes, Mars. This is a pretty big deal since quite a few Mars missions didn’t make it. It’s no wonder I get super excited about missions to Mars.

For this particular mission, the lander, protected by a heat shield, used the Mars atmosphere to slow down. After that, it deployed a high-speed parachute to further decrease the speed. Finally, the lander detached from the parachute and traveled the last part of the journey using rockets to control its descent.

Now for the real question, though: Could you be in charge of the InSight landing? What if you did a manual landing, would the robot survive? Let’s find out.

Before getting into the game, let’s go over the basic physics. Too keep this manageable, I’m focusing on the rocket-powered landing portion of this mission. During the spacecraft’s descent, there are basically two forces acting on it. There is the downward gravitational force and an upward force from the spacecraft’s rockets. The gravitational force just depends on the local gravitational field and the mass of the spacecraft. On Mars, this gravitational field is a bit lower than on Earth, with a value of around 3.71 Newtons per kilogram (compared to 9.8 N/kg on Earth). This gravitational field is essentially constant in strength as long as you are close to the surface of Mars.

Although the gravitational field is constant, the mass of the spacecraft is not. As it uses its rockets, it loses mass (because the rocket engine works by shooting out fuel). This means that the gravitational force also changes a little bit—but of course the whole spacecraft isn’t made of fuel. The total mass of the fuel is only about 16 percent of the total mass.

The changing mass of the spacecraft also has an impact on its motion. According to the momentum principle, the total force (gravitational plus rocket) is equal to the time rate of change of the momentum. However, the momentum is defined as the product of mass and velocity. So, a constant net force on the spacecraft will mean a momentum that changes at a non-constant rate since the mass is changing. Yes, it gets tricky.

OK, let’s jump into the game. Here’s how it works.

  • Start with the spacecraft fully fueled and 50 meters above the ground.
  • You get to adjust the rocket thrust.
  • The change in rocket velocity depends on the amount of thrust.
  • The change in fuel mass also depends on the amount of rocket thrust.
  • You want to get the rocket to reach the ground while traveling less than 1 m/s (it should actually be even slower).

That’s it. Click “run” to start and then adjust the slider at the bottom for the rocket thrust. The program also displays the vertical velocity and the amount of fuel you have left. This is essentially a dimensional version of the classic video game—Lunar Lander.

This is more difficult that it seems. The problem is that we often think of a direct connection between force and motion such that a greater force makes it move faster. Aha! Not so fast. Actually, a greater force makes a greater CHANGE in motion. As the lander is moving down, you need to increase the force to prevent it from speeding up as it falls. But if you give it too much thrust, the lander slows down so much that it actually starts to speed up in the opposite direction. That’s not landing—that’s taking off.

Now for some homework. See if you can get the lander to the ground (safely) in the least amount of time. Now try creating an algorithm for the magnitude of the thrust (not user-controlled) that makes the shortest time landing. It will be fun.


More Great WIRED Stories

To Find Passion In Your Work You Need To Find This First

What do Cody Bellinger, center fielder for the Los Angeles Dodgers, and a low-level cleric with the propensity for healing have in common? Both are positions I would hold today if I had held out and pursued my “passions” as a youth. 

All our lives, we are told to focus on activities or ideals that bring passion to our work, with the idea that passion is at the root of a successful career or profession. That is all fine, but the problem for me was that I could never effectively hit a curve ball and seating up with a table full of D&D characters hardly paid my bills. 

So how do we square our passions with finding meaningful work that still provides a means of sustenance? 

Recently, I had the opportunity to be part of a leadership institute that promotes a strengths finding program called CliftonStrengths. It is a practice of identifying core strengths and understanding how to apply them to find a career for which we are best suited. 

CliftonStrengths is an assessment developed by Don Clifton, the former chairman of Gallup, an organization that uses data and insights to help organizations better understand and utilize their human resources. After conducting a survey and collecting data on millions of professionals, the assessment ranks strengths on 34 themes of talent, which can then be used to organize, understand and lead teams and “maximize human potential by developing people to become great at what they’re naturally good at,” according to the Gallup website. 

After doing the assessment myself, I did not see center fielder or magic in my rankings, but I did walk away with a much better understanding of my strengths, which turned out to be very suited to my passions. 

Although taking the survey requires a fee and at least 30 minutes of uninterrupted time, it is incredibly useful in guiding you to organize and interpret your strengths. You can start for free, however, by at considering the four individual characteristics Gallup uses to describe how people and teams best use their talents.  

Strategic Thinking 

These are the types of people who absorb and synthesize large amounts of information well. They find connections between ideas and data points and can effectively analyze large amounts of information and apply the results to making better business decisions. 

Executing 

This talent relates to the type of people who are very effective at getting things done. These individuals are dependable and able to act with certainty and quickness, especially when an important action and deadline is looming.  

Influencing 

Individuals with this talent are great communicators and able to simplify complex information or abstract ideas and turn them into meaningful actions. These are the people you depend on to motivate and inspire a team to achieve goals, even when the vision or strategy is not clear. 

Relationship Building 

Team members who prioritize the inclusion of others and get satisfaction from reducing conflict, motivating and encouraging colleagues fall into this group. These are typically the people who are nurturing and supportive and hold a team together. 

From reading these descriptions, you can probably determine which category you fall into. Of course, the temptation might be to include yourself into all of them, but after years of collecting data, it has been shown that we are strongest in one or two. In these cases, you should focus on goals and actions that fit to your strengths, which will ultimately help you find work that you are passionate about — because you will be great at it. 

For me, my leaning toward “strategic thinking” may not fit into my dream of becoming a demigorgon-fighting center fielder for the Dodgers, but it has definitely helped me focus my goals on finding projects and work that I excel in and, as it turns out, I am passionate about. 

Where do you fall into these categories? Share your thoughts and insights with me on Twitter

Should Investors Be Concerned Over Altria's Cigarette Volume Declines?

Introduction

I doubt there is any industry in history that has, or possibly ever will, create such vast amounts of wealth for their shareholders whilst facing a near constant onslaught as the tobacco industry. Even though smoking rates have been declining for decades, the strong price inelasticity of their products has allowed tobacco companies to continuously increase prices to offset lower volumes. Since they’re operating in an industry facing a secular decline, it’s critical to ensure their volume declines are remaining steady and thus able to be offset by price increases.

Earlier this year when Altria (MO) released their second quarter results, I was rather alarmed to see a year-on-year volume decline of 10.8%. Whilst this was largely a result of significant trade inventory movements, it prompted me to collect and analyse their historical cigarette volumes to provide context and ensure their recent volumes are within an expected steady secular decline rate.

Methodology

My methodology was quite simple, albeit time-consuming and involved collecting Altria’s quarterly domestic cigarette volume data dating back to 1994 from their SEC filings, linked further down. Whilst this date may appear rather arbitrary, it was the earliest date I was able to access and still provides ample data to analyse. I also collected the retail United States market share of their flagship Marlboro brand cigarettes, which have been the world’s top-selling brand since 1972.

After graphing this data, I was able to derive an exponential trend line, which should represent the expected secular decline rate for their cigarette volumes going forward. The R-squared value indicates the percentage of observations explained by the trend line, with a higher value being viewed favorably and allowing for more accurate judgments regarding their current and future volumes. If the secular decline in their cigarette volumes has been steady and predictable thus far, the R-squared value for the trend line should be quite high. A value of one is technically the maximum, however, this would be practically impossible to obtain.

Similar to all models, there are limitations with my model stemming from its reliance on historical data that may not necessarily be indicative of the future. Even though the trend line currently fits quite well, the future is unknown and various events could affect the accuracy of any projections. There are currently two events on the horizon that could materially affect Altria: the FDA’s proposed plans to lower nicotine levels and ban menthol cigarettes.

Whether either of these proposals will be legislated remains to be seen, however, in the case of the menthol ban, I feel the current fears are unjustified. I outline my thoughts on this topic in my recent article and whilst it centers on British American Tobacco (BTI), the same principals apply to Altria.

Results And Discussion

Altria Cigarette Volumes 1

Image Source: Author.

I initially began the model using Altria’s quarterly domestic cigarette volumes which are quite volatile, see above. It can be seen that despite the weakness earlier this year, their volumes never deviated from the trend line anymore significantly than during the past decades. Since more quarters of data have now been released, it can be seen their volumes have recovered and appear to be still tracking the expected secular decline rate. Finally, the R-squared value of 0.9067 indicates the trend line is explaining 90.67% of the observations and whilst I would consider this adequate, given the volatile data, I felt it could be improved.

Altria Cigarette Volumes 2

Image Source: Author.

To improve the accuracy of the model, I changed to using Altria’s annual domestic cigarette volumes, which removed a significant portion of the volatility and noticeably improved the R-squared value to 0.9503. Despite what appeared to be weak volumes earlier in the year, their annual volumes are very closely tracking the expected secular decline rate.

When calculating the annual volumes for 2018, I combined the first nine months with the previous model’s expected value for the fourth quarter. Since the first nine months was known, estimating the remaining three months has a minimal effect on accuracy. After reviewing this data, I noticed that from 1994 to 1997, their volumes were climbing year on year, which negatively affected the accuracy of the trend line.

Altria Cigarette Volumes 3

Image Source: Author.

The final step taken to improve the accuracy of the model was to remove the first three years and begin in 1997 when their cigarette volumes peaked. This improved the R-squared value even further to 0.9747 and indicates the vast amount of observations can now be explained by the trend line and thus future projections should prove accurate.

Aside from further supporting the notion their current volumes are still following the expected secular decline rate, it can now be observed their current volumes are actually slightly higher than expected. This implies their recent ‘weak’ volumes were a case of them returning to the expected results, rather than falling into the abyss. When evaluating their results in future reporting periods, I’ll continue using this model.

Based on the forecast provided by this model, it appears during 2030 Altria should still be selling approximately 71.9 million cigarettes annually. This represents an average yearly decline of 3.7% from my estimated 2018 volumes. Whether this will be adequate to support their current earnings remains unknowable, however, I believe this will be the case given their track history and the inelastic nature of their products. Since 1997, their domestic tobacco operating profit has increased 4.78% annually to 2017, despite their volumes declining 3.45% annually.

Altria Cigarette Volumes 4

Image Source: Author.

A final aspect I find interesting to review is the market share of their flagship Marlboro brand cigarettes in the United States market. Despite the recent stagnation, they have clearly grown in popularity over the long term and amassed an impressive market share of 43.2%. Even though they have occasionally taken a hit in the past, such as earlier this decade and the early 2000s, they have always bounced back.

Given their strong track history, I’m confident the managers running Altria will continue to maintain and hopefully grow their market share over the coming decade. Notes: Unless specified otherwise, all figures in this article were taken from Altria’s SEC filings contained in the following two links (1) (2) and all calculated figures were performed by the author.

Conclusion

To briefly summarize, I see no reason to be concerned about Altria’s cigarette volumes as thus far they are still in line with what I expect based on their historical secular decline trend. I will be concerned if their volumes begin consistently falling below this expected trend, however, there is no evidence of this occurring to date. Obviously, future events could upset this trend and whilst no one knows the outcome of the FDA’s recent proposals, I believe Altria will be capable of traversing any rough waters as they have consistently in the past.

Disclosure: I am/we are long MO, BTI.

I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

Apple CEO Tim Cook Just Revealed What He Does at 4 In the Morning. Here's Why More Business Leaders Should Do It

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

A stagger to the bathroom, a quick shower and a wander to Starbucks?

That doesn’t seem to be quite Tim Cook‘s routine.

He gets up, he said, just before 4 a.m.

How can anyone do this on a regular basis? If I have to get up at four, it’s usually to catch a plane. It’s usually accompanied by a grisly mood and a desperate need for coffee.

It’s definitely not accompanied by an enthusiasm for work. Or even for thinking.

Cook, though, told Axios: 

I like to take the first hour and go through user comments and things like this that sort of focus on the external people that are so important to us.

Or how Cupertino only provides 5GB of cloud storage.

Would you enjoy starting your day listening to several thousand humans gripe into your ears, even if there are also a few praising your latest phones to the heavens?

Yet, if Cook is to be believed, he’s addressing the simplest core idea of running a business. 

If you don’t know what your customers are thinking about your product, how can you hope to please them?

No, I can’t believe he spends hours doing it. I do believe, however, that there are a lot of CEOs who rely on others in their company to tell them what customers think.

You might imagine that those others could be tempted to, well, edit the truth. Or, worse, to merely commission market research that’s riven with biases. 

As CEO, though, you can’t afford to let that happen. You can’t afford to distance yourself from your customers.

I can’t help, in this context, thinking about American Airlines CEO Doug Parker. 

Worse, he couldn’t believe why it would bother anyone that he hadn’t.

He left the impression that profits are the only thing he cares about. While many stared wide-eyed at his blindness toward humanity, Parker was steadfast.

Indeed, it was many months before he bothered to get on the MAX. His review was, well, tepid. He said it was:

In line with U.S. carrier main cabin products with a couple of pleasant surprises.

It was the same as the others, he felt, which meant he was happy.

It’s not as if Cook isn’t profit-oriented. Several people who regularly do business with Apple tell me he enjoys an extreme keenness on the money side of things.

However, he understands that his business depends on real people staying emotionally committed to his brand.

So he tries to make sure he’s aware of their feelings.

Even if the best time to do it is 4 a.m.

A Driver Returned to His Car to Find a Note and An Incredible Lesson on Doing the Right Thing. The Note Was From a 6th Grader

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

A grasp of ethics is becoming slightly more popular in business these days.

Well, we can thank the Valley’s abject disregard for ethics, one that’s finally caught up with many of its companies. Why, even Stanford has begun to discover the concept.

Still, when you run a business you don’t always — often? ever? — expect people to do the right thing.

Which is, perhaps, why the story of Andrew Sipowicz and his car has moved so many this week.

He returned to his car last Monday, parked in Buffalo, New York, to experience a sinking feeling. 

He also experienced something he never expected.

His car, you see, had endured a substantial dent in its front left side. It seemed as if there had been a hit and a run. 

Yet perched inside his windshield wiper was a note. A very detailed note, as it happened, from a 6th grader.

The spelling wasn’t perfect. The sentiment certainly was.

It read: 

If your wondering what happen to your car.

Bus: 449 hit your car It stops here everyday to drop me off.

At 5:00pm.

What happened? She was trying to pull off and hit the car. She hit and run. She tried to vear over and squeeze threw but couldn’t. She actually squeezed threw. She made a dent and I saw what happened.

-Sorry

-Driver seat left door

-A lady in the bus driver seat 499.

-Buffalo Public School bus

-A 6th grader at Houghten Academy

It sets a good example for a lot of students. Not just students, but just people in general.

What resulted is that the bus company is covering the cost of repairs and giving Sipowicz a loaner car. The bus driver, reports CNN, will be fired.

We get wrapped up in the bad deeds of companies because they appear to have such large consequences.

At heart, though, the bad deeds of companies are merely the bad deeds of individuals, written in capital letters and involving large amounts of capital.

Yet simple stories of goodwill also spread around the web, as this one has. 

It’s almost as if people want to be reassured that, in the midst of a world that seems to bathe delightedly in corruption, there still are good people. 

That story led to unexpected consequences and national attention. 

These days, we watch as so many who could say something, end up saying nothing.

We’re told that kids don’t bother with anything but themselves, buried as they are in their phones. 

Here, though, is a simple lesson of a 6th-grader who stopped, looked around and did the right thing. A generous thing.

Perhaps we should all do that a little more often.

Google reveals new policy for election ads ahead of EU vote: Bloomberg

An illuminated Google logo is seen inside an office building in Zurich September 5, 2018. REUTERS/Arnd WIegmann

(Reuters) – Alphabet Inc’s Google said it will roll out new policies in Europe to provide more transparency around political ads, ahead of European Union elections in the spring, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday, citing a blog post.

According to the report, Google said it would require advertisers to submit an application and receive verification before they can pay for political ads.

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The European Commission said in September that Facebook Inc, Google and other tech firms had agreed a code of conduct to do more to tackle the spread of fake news, over concerns it can influence elections.

Google also said it would publish an EU transparency report, along with a searchable ad library, to provide more information about who is purchasing election ads, for how much, and to whom they are targeted, Bloomberg reported.

Public databases that shine a light on online political ads – launched by Facebook and Google before U.S. elections – offer the public the first broad view of how quickly the companies yank advertisements that break their rules.

Reporting by Akanksha Rana in Bengaluru; Editing by Leslie Adler

7 Ways You Need to Organize Your Desktop (and Your Life)

If your computer is cluttered with disorganized files and unnecessary apps, it’s tough to get any work done. Not only will you find it harder to find the content you need when you need it, but you’ll also feel additional stress, and may also be more easily distracted.

Still, most people find it challenging to organize their computer desktop in a meaningful, intuitive way.

You can start by acknowledging the main challenges that get in the way of an organized desktop:

  • Choosing a standard. If you don’t have an idea how to organize your files, you’ll never get started. The analysis paralysis on deciding on an organizational method can kill some efforts before they even begin.
  • Clearing the clutter. Clutter has a powerful effect on your stress and emotional wellbeing, but it’s hard to delete files if you think there’s a chance you’ll use them again in the future. It’s very easy for a computer to become cluttered with unnecessary items.
  • Finding the time. It’s almost impossible to automate the process of organizing your desktop, which means you’ll need to make time to do it manually–time many workers feel they don’t have.
  • Staying consistent. Once you decide on an organizational standard, you’ll need to stay consistent in applying that standard in the future. This is where most people fail.

Now let’s focus on strategies you can use to get–and stay–organized:

1. Consolidate your most important apps.

First, take inventory of the apps that are most important for your position. You might have three or four that you use on a daily basis, or a subscription suite of software programs that provide you with most of the functionality you need. For example, you might be able to merge functions from multiple apps with a single, comprehensive solution, or use a single suite of apps to replace the hodgepodge collection you accumulated over time.

2. Delete or tuck away what you don’t use at least weekly.

Next, start decluttering whatever you can. If you can’t remember the last time you used an app, uninstall it. If you can’t imagine a scenario when you’ll need a specific file, delete it. If you’re struggling with the decision, but it seems like it might be unnecessary, create a folder where you can store these rarely accessed files and apps–then tuck that folder out of the way.

3. Decide on a file naming convention.

Next, decide on a naming convention for your files that you can use consistently. For example, you might code each file with the date, so they’re listed in chronological order, then include the name of the client each file pertains to, so you can quickly search by client. Start renaming any files that don’t already adhere to this convention, and make notes so you can use it consistently in the future.

4. Create a system of folders and subfolders.

Try to keep every file on your computer or in your cloud storage account in a strictly organized system of folders and subfolders. You should have a handful of “main” folders (like Documents, Artwork, or Templates), and several subfolders within those main folders based on clients or the specific types of files contained within. There may be some files that belong in multiple categories; for these, you’ll need to make an individual judgment call, and remember, you can always run a search if there’s something you can’t find.

5. Customize your background.

If you want your desktop to be even more intuitively organized, consider creating a custom background, divided into clear sections. For example, you might designate the left side of your screen for your “most used apps” and the middle for “frequently accessed files.”

6. Take the extra time to sort new content.

It’s tempting to dump new files onto your desktop haphazardly when you’re in a rush, but if you want to stay organized, you’ll need to commit to making the time to keep all new files and apps in the proper order (and with the proper naming conventions). It takes a few minutes at most, so it shouldn’t be much of a commitment.

7. Schedule a recurring cleaning session.

As long as your calendar isn’t already packed with reminders and to-dos, schedule a recurring session to re-clean your desktop to keep it from overflowing. Scheduling something once a week, or even once a month, can prevent your desktop from becoming cluttered again.

Once your desktop is sufficiently organized, you’ll find it much easier to find what you’re looking for, you’ll feel revitalized, and you might even find yourself in a better mood throughout the workday. It might take an investment of time to get organized, but the end results are worth it.