Minimum Wage Stalls in Senate

Well it shouldn’t be a surprise but the U.S. Senate can not come to a compromise. This time it’s minimum wage. Currently the lowest possible wage an employer can legally pay their employees $7.25/hr. The goal had been to raise it to $10.10, though it most likely will not happen. Supporters of the bill lacked just six of the 60 votes they needed for it to pass. It failed with the vote at 54-42 with all but one republican voting against it.

One of the major oppositions of the bill is that the raise is too much. They also argue that business would be forced to downsize in order to maintain the profit margins that they expect. The last time the minimum wage was raised was in 1968. To put this in perspective, $7.25 had the same buying power then as $49.84 does today. Working full-time at minimum wage equates to a yearly average of $15,000. Hardly enough to get by in most parts of the country. Meanwhile the average net worth of members of congress is around $1 million. These are the people who are suppose to have our best interests at heart. But with securities ranging in the millions there’s no way they can relate to the general population.

Republicans viewed the bill as a mean to appeal to democratic voters rather than a serious attempt to raise wages. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, was reported as saying, “Today’s vote is an attempt to score a political point.” The democrats are going to have a tough time keeping their seats in the senate in the upcoming midterm elections. Maybe the republicans have a point but we sure hope not. Anyone who’s had to rely on minimum wage can attest to the fact that even the best budgeting can not make those dollars stretch far enough. We don’t think that everyone should be turned into a millionaire but they should be able to put food on the table every day.

Donald Sterling Banned for Life from NBA!

Adam Silver, the new and recently named Commissioner of the NBA had a tough decision on one of his first days on the job. After a recording of Donald Sterling the owner of the NBA Los Angeles Clippers making extremely racist remarks like this one “”You can sleep with [black people]. You can bring them in, you can do whatever you want. The little I ask you is not to promote it on that … and not to bring them to my games” to his girlfriend V. Stiviano recently surfaced on TMZ and backlash immediately ensued.

Everyone from media outlets to activists to the individual NBA players had a response to the audio tape and the remarks. Now that a decision has been made by Adam Silver and a monumental one it was. Donald Sterling received a lifetime ban from the NBA and was fined $2.5M dollars, the maximum amount allowed under the NBA’s constitution. Adam silver in his press conference stated that “Mr. Sterling may not attend any games or practices, hey may not be present at any Clippers facility, and he may not participate in any business or player personnel decisions involving the team. He will also be barred from attending NBA Board of Governors meetings or participating in any other league activity.” “I will urge the Board of Governors to exercise its authority to force a sale of the team”

Support for the decision of a lifetime ban for Donald Sterling was immediately supported by everyone around the NBA. The LA Clippers posted “WE ARE ONE” on their webpage, and Chris Paul who is the Clippers All-Star point guard and president of the players’ union stated “In response to today’s ruling by the NBA and Commissioner Adam Silver, my teammates and I are in agreement with his decision. We appreciate the strong leadership from Commissioner Silver and he has our full support.”

Other people involved in the NBA like Earvin Magic Johnson and the Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban have taken to Twitter to voice their opinions, and it seems like everyone is in full support of the decision. So the question now is not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when Donald Sterling will be giving up ownership and selling the team.

2014 Time 100 Gala: #1 was a no show!

This year Time magazine again had its annual Time 100 Gala. Where 100 of the world’s most influential people are invited to attend and just talk and joke and laugh amongst themselves for a brief time. Beyoncé was named Time’s most influential person on the year, but was a no show at the ceremony.

Among the people that did show up for the star studded event were Seth Myers, Amy Adams, Jenji Kohan who is the creator and writer of “Orange is the new Black” on Netflix. Barbara Walters, Martha Stewart and Neil deGrasse Tyson, who is an astrophysicist and currently hosts “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey.”

Performing was Pharrell Williams and Seth Myers who jokingly said that after looking at the list of the Top 100 “he is at best mid to high 90’s on the list.” Seth Myers also joked that “Dr. John Kovac is here tonight, that’s right, you and I are on the same list buddy. The guy who discovered gravitational waves in space and proved the Big Bang Theory to be true and the guy who makes Rob Ford jokes in the middle of the night.” While pointing to himself.

You can catch a 2 minute video recap of this spectacular event here!

Samsung Galaxy S5 – The new even better thing is here!

Samsung’s newest smartphone the Galaxy S5 has hit the store shelves at a price of around $650 with no contract, or on most major carriers for $199 with a 2 year service agreement. The new phone is an upgrade from the previous versions of the Galaxy S3, and the S4 models. It is on par and a direct competitor to Apple’s iPhone 5s, and the HTC One M8.

The new S5 features a multitude of new additions and improved hardware and software options. It now boasts a whopping 5.1” FHD Super AMOLED display, also with an upgraded camera which now has 16MP and a new HDR Rich Tone feature that lets you brighten and clear shaded pictures as you take them, while the selective focus feature allows you to focus on an object and blur the rest of the picture, giving a clear and crisp view of the exact item you are snapping.

The new phone runs on Androids new 4.4.2 Kitkat OS, with either a 16GB or 32GB memory option. What is truly unique about this new phone are the extras, first time features. It has an Ultra Power Saving Mode where according to Samsung “this innovative feature changes your screen to black and white and shuts down all unnecessary features to dramatically minimize battery consumption.” Also that it is dust and water resistant and has an IP67 certification. “With an IP67 certification, Galaxy S5 is resistant to sweat, rain, liquids, sand and dust, so your phone is protected for any activity and situation.” But you shouldn’t be going swimming with it any time soon just to be safe. The new Fingerprint scanner can help you unlock your phone instead of the old pattern and pin options, so it’s another cool gadget feature that you might use. However the coolest thing about the phone and an industry first is the Heart Rate Sensor. “Galaxy S5 is the first smart phone with a built-in Heart Rate Sensor which enables you to measure your heart rate directly on your phone.” You just place your finger on the back of the Galaxy S5 and measure your heart rate.

The Galaxy S5 not only uses the newest technology available at its disposal, but also created a new category and trend of smartphones, or in this case ultra-phones. This could be your new one piece of mobile gear that has everything you’d want and need. Not only in a phone but with any piece of technology. Sooner or later the phone will most likely be able to operate and replace most of our readily used items. Most likely sooner though.

A Year Later and Bangladesh Factories Still looking for Answers

It has been a year since the horrific travesty in Bangladesh, but sadly things do not seem to be getting better. Out of the 5000 factories located in Bangladesh, less than 300 of them have successfully been able to form unions. Amirul Haque Amin, president of the country’s National Garment Workers’ Federation, has stated “I think it is really hard to say that an ethical factory exists in Bangladesh at present. As a trade union we cannot say that. We can simply say that factories are moving towards better conditions.” He continued on by explaining that his union has doubled the factories where it is present to 42 within the past 12 months. While this is indeed an improvement, it is not nearly enough in the grand scheme of things. We need to remember that these are people who risk their lives to make only a few dollars a day. The minimum wage has been increased since last year by 77% and while that percentage might sound impressive, the average monthly salary of a factory worker is still barely $68.14. The majority of the factory buildings still have not complied with basic safety standards. There were 1,100 workers who lost their lives in the factory collapse last year. There were an additional 2000 workers who were injured. Yet, there are still international companies who are fine being complacent with such unsafe and unfair workplace practices. Companies such as Benetton’s Olimpias freely admit that they continue to employee factories with less than ideal business and safety practices. One representative was quoted as saying “None of the buildings here have outside fire exits. It’s not my fault.” While another came to the defense of child labor by saying “At least they are not on the streets.” These kind of statements, especially released on the behalf of a company are revolting. Factory circumstances will not get better from the inside, it has to come from their employers. Employers such as Olimpias who apparently do not care about the lives of others as long as they continue to make outstanding profits.

How quickly do you think conditions would change if these international companies refused to continue business unless standards were met? The answer is immediately.It is these multibillion dollar companies that are ultimately responsible for allowing these abhorrent factory conditions to continue. This is almost wishful thinking though. When clothes are made for pennies on the dollar and then turned around and sold for 1000% of what they cost there is not much motive for change. Instead of placing sanctions on Russia, maybe the U.S. should be placing sanctions on any factory violators and anyone who affiliates with them.

Apple announces 7-for-1 Stock Split

Apple announced another stock split that will occur on June 2nd 2014, and begin trading at the lower split adjusted price on June 9th. This one is a little different than before. Not in any financial way, just that this time it will be a 7-for-1 split. This will not have any direct impact on the company’s financials, it will simply dilute the shares and ownership percentages while making it easier monetarily for the average investor to purchase a share of the stock. At the closing price of $594.09 as of 4/28/14 it would be a little more difficult for the average investor to purchase that one share of Apple Inc. However, after the stock split, one share would then only cost $84.87. The number of authorized Apple common shares will increase from 1.8 billion to 12.6 billion as a result of the split. The major difference is that one share gets one voting right, but now that same share would still get the same one voting right, just there would be seven times the shares out in the market, so your percentage of company ownership which each share of stock entitles you to have is minimized proportionally.

On the Apple Investor Relations page website when asked “Why have you decided to split Apple’s stock?” The reply was “We want Apple stock to be more accessible to a larger number of investors.” This will be Apple’s fourth stock split since going public. Apple’s common stock split on a 2-for-1 basis on May 15, 1987, on June 21, 2000 and also on February 18, 2005.

How this affects the investor. If you ever wanted to buy a share of Apple stock, but had the mindset that it was too expensive for you to afford, now that will change. You will be able to buy a share at 1/7th of the current price, so getting a share at under $100 will be very possible and likely as of June 9th 2014. You should consult with your financial adviser before jumping into any stock, but if you always wanted shares in Apple, but the price was always too high, this will be your chance to jump in.

Netflix talks price increase

Netflix just announced that it will be soon raising the price of its online streaming service an extra $1-$2 per month from the current $7.99 monthly rate. The exact rate increase is still being discussed and decided on by the Netflix corporate executives. This is only for their DVD-less streaming Netflix service. Netflix states that the way the program works is that “For only $7.99 a month, you get unlimited movies & TV episodes instantly over the Internet to your TV or computer. There are no commercials, and you can pause, rewind, fast forward or rewatch as often as you like. It’s really that easy!” We have thousands of movies & TV episodes available to watch instantly right on your TV via a PS3, Wii, Xbox 360 or any other device that streams from Netflix, or to watch instantly on your computer.”

This price increase was previously tested in Ireland when Netflix earlier this year raised prices in Ireland by one Euro, current members though were locked into the €6.99 rate for two years. Netflix has learned a lesson or two about how to communicate pricing changes to customers. In 2011, when the company last announced a price hike, subscribers fled, the stock price sank and Reed Hastings, the company’s CEO, had to apologize to members. So now they are approaching this extremely sensitive topic in another way. According to their statement to shareholders “Our current view is to do a one or two dollar increase, depending on the country, later this quarter for new members only. Existing members would stay at current pricing (e.g. $7.99 in the U.S.) for a generous time period. These changes will enable us to acquire more content and deliver an even better streaming experience.” “We are approaching 50 million global members, but that is far short of HBO’s 130 million. We are eager to close the gap.”

This new rate hike would still keep the price of Netflix under the magic $10 mark, which is sort of the cutoff point for monthly subscriptions. I guess we will just have to see the exact increase when it happens soon. But for now, if you’ve been on the subscription fence about Netflix, maybe it’s time to sign up quickly to see if you can lock in the lower $7.99 monthly rate before the price hike happens.

Magnises! The new exclusive members-only perks card you’ve been waiting for!

Magnises, the next best thing for exclusive members-only perks! It’s another new black card that is supposedly being used to gain great and exclusive rewards that Magnises itself offers to its clients. It’s a metallic card so it feels more expensive and exclusive than the basic plastic card you probably currently carry.

The way the card works is that you fill out an online membership application, and if accepted into the club, you will get your own personalized metal Magnises card. Then your next step is to stop by their townhouse located at Abington Square to activate the card by connecting/linking it with your current card. The way that happens is by extending the magnetic signature of your personal card to your new Magnises card. Once that happens, you are ready to use their new metal card, the same way you use your regular everyday card. By linking the cards together you do not lose or change anything that currently exists on your accounts. The bill stays the same, your current rewards stay the same, but now you will receive the added exclusive perks that you otherwise wouldn’t have.

According to the Magnises website, these ultra-exclusive perks include “securing reservations and receiving top-tier treatment at restaurants throughout the city. Shop and experience special unveilings and service at some of NYC’s best luxury boutiques. Get automatic upgrades and premium service at top hotels around town. Ride in style with our hand-picked drivers. Receive access and recommendations to many of the most fun venues across the city, and attend cocktail parties, dinners, concerts, art openings, and other unique events hosted by Magnises.”

All these perks do not come free, there is a $250 annual fee if given membership. Much like great rewards and exclusivity cards that include AMEX, and the Visa Black Card, in the end, much like everything else in life “you get what you pay for.” The important question and decision is whether the perks justify the price?

Barneys Launches New iPad App – for all you shopaholics!

Barneys just launched their new online shopping platform for the iPad, a new shopping app. Its online shopping, but on the go, part of the progressive mobile technology. You don’t have to sit by a computer anymore to search the items you like. Barneys now comes with you wherever you may be heading.

You can do almost anything you would do at the brick and mortar luxury retailer. You want to search for shoes, you can get shoes, dresses, you can get dresses, and you could also search the most bought items to see what fashions are trending. It can also show you related items, things which would fit with what you already want to buy (placed in your cart). So no more asking the salesperson “what top do you think would go good with these shoes? The app can show you that with one click.

But for shoppers that prefer the personalized treatment that a Barneys Personal Shopper offers, the recommendations and the one-on-one individualized attention to your own sense of style. The Barneys iPad App lets you book an appointment with a personal shopper, tell them what you are looking for and when you are coming in. It takes the hassle out of looking for a salesperson at the store, or trying to reach someone to get that desperately needed appointment. Just choose the person, the date and the time and it’s all set. No labor intensive work needed. It’s shopping and retail for the modern age. Online, and on the go, but with a personal touch too.

 

Google’s The New Tax Man

Google to the rescue!  Well that is if you’re the tax man.  The tax authorities of Lithuania have a new reason to be thankful for google.  The fine people of the Google street view team who man cars armed with cameras are helping this poor country catch tax evaders.  After the global financial crisis began in 2008, the country was forced to fire a quarter of its taxation department’s employees.  This lead to the department being severely understaffed, but thanks to google they are still able to collect on the money thats due.

Two recent cases netted $130,000 in taxes and penalties after investigators found houses photographed by Google that weren’t on official maps.  The department’s city office located 10 miles away, were able to detect that contrary to official records, the house with the hammock existed and that, in one photograph, three cars were parked in the driveway.  Lithuania is not the only country in the European Union to do so, with cash strapped countries such as Greece following suit.

Even wealthy countries such as Great Britain are taking advantage of the free spying. According to the UK’s Daily Mail, HM Revenue & Customs believes that there is still an estimated £35 million that should have been collected in taxes but hasn’t.  In addition, they have been using social media sites such as Facebook in order to monitor discrepancies in what people claim they have versus the reality.

With all the recent attention the IRS has received in the past year, it’s not so crazy to think that they have already adopted this practice in the U.S. But does this violate our rights to privacy? Unfortunately we probably won’t know until someone takes the IRS to court.

 

2014 NYC Auto Show – The New and Hot Cars!

At the 2014 NY INTERNATIONAL AUTO SHOW we get to experience the thrills of the road and the cars that will occupy them. All models are on display, for every budget. And future cars that will roam the roads soon to come. While every company showed off their top of the line models that most people could not afford, all the major brands had their entire model lines on display. Infiniti showed off their new Q70L, a new upgraded model of their flagship Q line of cars that competes with the other luxury high end auto makers. BMW features its new X5 e-Drive concept SUV. Now giving the ability to plug it in to charge instead of paying for gas. Also showing off their brand new X4 crossover, which is a smaller version of their X6 model. Mercedes-Benz of course blows away the competition with the premier of their S63 AMG Coupe. Because why limit luxury to always having four doors, when you can have everything with just two? Another first is Mercedes-Benz’s Apple “CarPlay” debuting with their upcoming 2015 C-Class models. According to the press release by Mercedes, “Now the company has announced the official completion and release of the iPhone-based solution under the name “CarPlay” which gives iPhone users an incredibly intuitive way to make calls, use maps, listen to music and access messages with just a word or a touch. Fret not, not only Mercedes Benz has advance to this level of technology and collaboration with Apple, Volvo Cars among few others too are advancing their future concept series with this must experience smart technology.

You can walk around, sit inside and get to experience first-hand what it would feel like to own, even if it is for a couple of moments. Just don’t take them for a test drive, or you will get a one way ride to a NYC jail cell. While seeing the latest models is always interesting to say the least, the most unique experience is seeing the exotic cars and the future concept that will be available soon. There are plenty of those from companies like Dodge with their new SRT Viper to the Bentley’s , Bugatti’s, koenigsegg’s, and the Rolls Royce’s.  It’s like being around automotive royalty. You can be so close with proximity and yet be so far financially at the same time. But the best part about the 2014 NY Auto Show is that there is always something for everyone. For the new car shopper that is looking to see next years and future models for when their current lease is up. For the mogul who is looking for the new hottest and best car on the market, and for the kid who just wants to see awesome cars that they see on TV and at the movies. It’s an experience for all, the buyer, the child and your chance to bond with both family and machine.  While we were privileged to have previewed  as VIPs, you too can catch a glimpse of the New York International Auto Show showing from April 18th-27th, 2014.  Certainly, you will be inspired and perhaps be perplexed and anxious [ all at the same time] as to which would be your next ride.