Baahubali 2: The Conclusion is perhaps the biggest film event of this year. Now that the film is finally in theatres and is running to packed houses, let’s move on to other big releases in Tamil cinema. Yes! Thala Ajith Kumar’s Vivegam is the most anticipated film of 2017. Last seen in the blockbuster film Vedalam, Ajith Kumar has been out of action for quite sometime now. However, when the first look poster of Vivegam was out, it took everyone by surprise, as the Ultimate Star showed off his chiselled torso, sporting a six-pack abs. The audiences are excited for Vivegam for several reasons. After teasing us with kickass pictures of Ajith Kumar on the sets of film, Siruthai Siva will finally unveil Vivegam teaser on May 11. So, here are five things to look forward to in the film.Ajith Kumar:He’s a demigod for his fans. People are dying to catch a glimpse of him. He rarely attends award shows. He doesn’t give interviews. He doesn’t even own fan clubs. Yet he has one of the largest fan bases in Tamil. The name is Ajith Kumar. Ever since the blockbuster success of Vedalam, fans have been waiting madly for Vivegam. One of the major highlights of the film is obviously Thala’s mind-blowing physical transformation for the film. Tipped to be a spy thriller, Vivegam has already hit the right chords. Considering the unprecedented craze it has on the audience, Vivegam is likely to become Ajith Kumar’s highest grossing film.Ajith Kumar + Siruthai Siva:advertisementSiva is an intelligent director. He’s intelligent in the sense that most of his films are profitable at the box office. Siva, who shot to fame after Siruthai, was supposed to direct a film with superstar Rajinikanth. And Thalaivar isn’t someone who gives his call sheets to mediocre filmmaker. After Veeram and Vedalam, Siva is collaborating with Ajith for the third time. Veeram was a well-made commercial film. Despite opening to mixed reviews, Vedalam became one of the highest grossing Tamil films that year. While fans look forward to Siva-Thala combination, it’d only be interesting to see if Vivegam lives up to its hype.Vivek Oberoi, Kajal Aggarwal, Akshara Haasan:Apart from Ajith Kumar, Vivegam is impressive in terms of its supporting cast, which has Bollywood actor Vivek Oberoi playing the prime antagonist, while Kajal Agarwal will play Ajith’s wife. Kamal Haasan’s second daughter Akshara Haasan has been roped in to play a pivotal role in Vivegam. A film’s success partly goes to its supporting actors. One hopes that the teaser shows us a glimpse of all the characters.Vivegam’s plot:The film is being made on a lavish budget and the makers have shot it in exotic locations from across the world. Going by reports, Vivegam tells the story of an Interpol officer, who is in charge of a crime that happens in Chennai. His subsequent interrogations leads him to different parts of the world. Which brings us to the villain, Vivek Oberoi.Anirudh Ravichandran’s music: Anirudh Ravichandran is the Kollywood sensation who has given some chart busting albums. But his Aluma Doluma became a smash hit that even Russian girls shook a leg to the song. If not for his music, Anirudh Ravichander will be more remembered for his background music. Reports suggested that Anirudh has already composed a peppy theme for Ajith. With Vivegam, the Ajith-Anirudh combination is likely to repeat magic once again.ALSO READ: After Baahubali 2’s success, Prabhas to charge Rs 30 crore per film?ALSO READ: Loved Baahubali 2? Here are 5 other SS Rajamouli films you need to watchALSO READ: Tamannaah on tiff with SS Rajamouli- I am proud to be part of Baahubali 2
About the authorPaul VegasShare the loveHave your say Chelsea defender Luiz: Sarri philosophy produced Crystal Palace winnerby Paul Vegas10 months agoSend to a friendShare the loveChelsea defender David Luiz says N’Golo Kante’s winner at Crystal Palace came via manager Maurizio Sarri’s “philosophy”.The Brazil defender spotted Kante’s run and found him with a lofted pass, which the France midfielder chested down and shot left-footed under Palace goalkeeper Vicente Guaita.Luiz said, “It is never easy to play here or control it here especially when they play long balls but we did well.”We could have scored early but they also did a great match defensively which is why it was so difficult.”[The goal was about] the connection, about training every day and understanding the philosophy.”I just tried to put the ball in and time it for his run.”
Some of the most active companies traded Thursday on the Toronto Stock Exchange:Toronto Stock Exchange (15,269.27, up 11.37 points)Neovasc Inc. (TSX:NVC). Medical devices. Unchanged at 6.5 cents on 10.8 million shares.Aurora Cannabis Inc. (TSX:ACB). Healthcare. Up 11 cents, or 1.39 per cent, to $8.04 on 6.6 million shares.Trinidad Drilling Ltd. (TSX:TDG). Oil and gas. Up 12 cents, or 6.52 per cent, to $1.96 on 6.2 million shares.Encana Corp. (TSX:ECA). Oil and gas. Down one cent, or 0.07 per cent, to $14.72 on 5.6 million shares.Cenovus Energy Inc. (TSX:CVE). Oil and gas. Down five cents, or 0.40 per cent, to $12.44 on 4.1 million shares.Shaw Communications Inc. (TSX:SJR.B). Telecommunications and media. Up $2.25, or 9.31 per cent, to $26.42 on 3.8 million shares. Strong operational performance by its main business units offset concerns about $417 million in restructuring-related costs booked in its second quarter. Shaw reported a $164-million loss, mostly because of a previously announced restructuring that will affect one-quarter of its workforce.Companies reporting major news:Second Cup Ltd. (TSX:SCU). Restaurants. Up 79 cents, or 28.73 per cent, to $3.54 on 1.4 million shares. The company wants to convert some of its coffee shops in western Canada into cannabis dispensaries and, when legal, pot lounges. It has signed an agreement with marijuana clinic operator National Access Cannabis to develop and operate a network of recreational pot stores. However, neither currently has a licence to sell marijuana, so the deal is contingent on approval from the government, as well as from franchisees and landlords.
Ohio State field hockey junior goalkeeper Sarah Lemieux.Credit: Courtesy of OSU Athletic DepartmentSarah Lemieux never thought she would get another chance to play field hockey after having to transfer back home prior to her third year of college.Lemieux, a Columbus native, was forced to leave Division II Indiana University of Pennsylvania and come back to Dublin, Ohio, to be with her family. She never expected she would be lucky enough to wear her goalkeeper gear again, let alone be part of the Ohio State field hockey team.“I had to come home for like financial, like family issues,” Lemieux said. “I didn’t even think I was going to get to play at all anymore.”However, Lemieux’s passion for the game never faltered, and when she heard OSU needed a goalkeeper, she decided to reach out to the coaches.“I didn’t even think I was going to get to play at all anymore and then I heard they needed a goalie, so I was like, ‘I guess I will email them,’ and I did, and they were like, ‘oh my God, like we really need a goalie,’” Lemieux said.The junior was a big part of the team during her time at IUP, but was not sure what her playing time would look like when she came to Columbus. She felt confident in her knowledge of the sport, but was shocked to see how much of a difference just one division made.“I was a starter. I played every game,” Lemieux said. “I had game experience, but it’s a completely different game. Like, it’s a lot quicker, like skill level’s a lot higher, so it’s different but it’s cool.”Coach Anne Wilkinson said Lemieux is a “very mature player” and has already made huge contributions this season.“She came in with some experience,” Wilkinson said. “She is confident, but she’s not over confident and I think she really plays an outstanding role on this team.”When OSU upset then-No. 20 ranked New Hampshire in its second game of the season, Lemieux claimed the Big Ten Player of the Week award in what was her first career start. The game went into double overtime, ending in a shootout. Lemieux denied UNH three times to preserve the victory.So far this season, Lemieux has tallied 28 saves, and Wilkinson said she has great talent as a goalkeeper and understands what is happening when the ball is coming her way.“She can come out so well on the ball,” Wilkinson said. “Her timing is really very good, and she reads the play. She anticipates well, she can handle a scramble, she can handle a lot of people in front of her, in front of the net, she can get down and she can stay focused on the ball. She is able to fight and if she can get to it, she will.”Wilkinson credits her goalkeeper’s strong mindset as a main proponent of her ability to keep her composure, even when things get rough.“She is just so even-keel,” Wilkinson said. “Whether she has a bad game or a good game, I just think she is mentally very strong.”Lemieux not only helps her teammates, but she has a passion for helping children as well. In the past, she has been a nanny to children and enjoys being part of their lives. She still keeps in contact with them and loves when she sees them in the stands at every home game.Lemieux said she was also a nanny for two children with autism a few years ago and babysits a child who has Down syndrome regularly. Her work with children is something she looks to continue after she finishes at OSU.“I am actually going into physical therapy to work with kids with special needs,” Lemieux said. “It was either occupational therapy or physical therapy. I don’t really know yet, but basically just working on everyday tasks in general with special needs kids is something I’ve always been interested in.”While Lemieux loves to spend her time with children, she also enjoys the time she has spent with her teammates at OSU. She said the team’s enthusiasm about the game is great and fun to be around.“Here it’s like everyone (gives) 100 percent like all the time and it’s a lot of fun to play with,” she said.Lemieux and the Buckeyes head to East Lansing, Mich., Saturday to take on Michigan State. Game time is scheduled for 1 p.m.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has confirmed reports that Sadio Mane is currently struggling with an injury issue and is set to undertake further medical assessments before their match against Stoke City on SaturdayThe Senegalese forward was absent from a club training session on Thursday after scoring in Liverpool’s 5-2 win against AS Roma on Tuesday’s first leg for the semi-finals of the Champions League.Speaking ahead of their encounter against Stoke in the Premier League, Klopp reported that the issue that Mane has is “not that serious”.Report: Origi cause Klopp injury concerns George Patchias – September 14, 2019 Divock Origi injury in today’s game against Newcastle is a cause for concern for Jurgen Klopp.Perhaps with one eye on Tuesday’s trip to Italy…“Of course there is something. We will see,” said Klopp, according to the club website.“It is not that serious; there is a chance for tomorrow. If we use that chance or not… it is quite early in the day.“In these times, you always have to use each second and minute, speak to the player, speak to the Doc, speak to the physiotherapists and all that stuff. At the end, you have to make a decision and I will make a decision.
Diogo Dalot is eager to work hard in training to impress Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho and earn a first team spot.Diogo Dalot was signed by Jose Mourinho this summer for £20million from FC Porto.Dalot was injured when he initially joined United this summer but has worked very hard to regain match fitness and made his debut for United’s Under-23 side last week.The Portuguese defender has now set his sights on earning selection to United’s first team this season.“If the manager thinks I’m ready and he wants me to play, I will play, for sure,” he told ESPN, via Team Talk.Vidic: “Ronaldo is the most professional footballer I’ve seen” Andrew Smyth – September 14, 2019 Nemanja Vidic opened up on how a 21-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo’s professionalism left him stunned at Manchester United.“I’m going to prepare myself for that and as soon as he wants me, I’ll be ready.“For sure, I’m going to become a better player here. The team have already helped me a lot and I’ve learned a lot in a short space of time from Antonio [Valencia], Matteo [Darmian], Ashley [Young] and Luke [Shaw].“I’m looking forward to learning more. I think I can get better. We always think we can do better and I have to keep improving.”
The Reds footballer believes his team can have a perfect English Premier League season and lift the trophy in the summerLiverpool is currently sitting in the top of the English Premier League table with 54 points.The team has won 17 matches, drawing three times and has yet to lose a single game.They are the only EPL club which has remained undefeated.And for Reds footballer Dejan Lovren, his team can do what it takes to have a perfect season.Jose Mourinho is sold on Lampard succeeding at Chelsea Tomás Pavel Ibarra Meda – September 14, 2019 Jose Mourinho wanted to give his two cents on Frank Lampard’s odds as the new Chelsea FC manager, he thinks he will succeed.There really…“It’s not only December, I would say, it’s all the period we have played well,” he told the club’s official website.“Even sometimes when we didn’t play well, [like] against Everton, we had the luck, we had the belief and it came back to us again.”“The key, like I have said many times, is the defensive moments when we don’t have the ball and everyone is working so hard, up front especially,” he explained.“They are the first defenders and we are the last defenders. That’s the key for us.”
Manjinder Singh SirsaIANSDisgusted that his state Punjab was derided by Bollywood as a drugs haven in the film “Udta Punjab”, Akali Dal MLA Manjinder S. Sirsa on Wednesday refused to backtrack from his diatribe against B-town actors, including Deepika Padukone and Shahid Kapoor, for flaunting their “drugged state” at a party.Filmmaker Karan Johar recently shared a video of the party that was attended by top stars including Deepika, Ranbir Kapoor, Vicky Kaushal, Arjun Kapoor and Shahid, captioning it “Saturday Night Vibes”.Sharing the video with a reference to the Shahid-starrer “Udta Punjab”, which dealt with drug abuse, Sirsa tweeted: “#UDTABollywood – Fiction Vs Reality. Watch how the high and mighty of Bollywood proudly flaunt their drugged state. I raise my voice against #DrugAbuse by these stars. RT if you too feel disgusted @shahidkapoor @deepikapadukone @arjunk2@Varun_dvn @karanjohar @vickykaushal09.”#UDTABollywood – Fiction Vs RealityWatch how the high and mighty of Bollywood proudly flaunt their drugged state!! I raise my voice against #DrugAbuse by these stars. RT if you too feel disgusted @shahidkapoor @deepikapadukone @arjunk26 @Varun_dvn @karanjohar @vickykaushal09 pic.twitter.com/aBiRxwgQx9— Manjinder S Sirsa (@mssirsa) July 30, 2019With the Twitterati going berserk over his tweet, the Akali Dal leader said the youth look upon the celebrities who should feel ashamed for defaming Punjab when they themselves indulged in drugs related activities.”Nobody in the whole world can force me to apologise to drug addicts. I will stand by what I said. These people were doing drugs, they are drug addicts. They are ruining the society and jail is the right place for them, not society. Those who are asking me to apologise need to go and see who all are indulging in drugs,” Sirsa said.The actors were yet to comment on the issue but politician Milind Deora refuted Sirsa’s claims.”My wife was also present that evening (and is in the video). Nobody was in a ‘drugged state’, so stop spreading lies and defaming people you don’t know! I hope you will show the courage to tender an unconditional apology,” he tweeted.Neither I know @milinddeora; nor his family. I didn’t share this video to harass anyone but to expose Bollywood stars who are themselves into drugs yet defamed our youth calling them drug addict!! I would never apologise to these drug addicts.@ANI @TimesNow @ZeeNews https://t.co/GRB4x5OICC pic.twitter.com/MIn0iPh2x0— Manjinder S Sirsa (@mssirsa) July 31, 2019Sirsa also said that he didn’t know that Deora’s wife was in the video.”But I want to say this with conviction that Bollywood stars are indulging in drugs in the video,” Sirsa responded.The Twitterati too criticised Sirsa for his reaction. “Let them be stoned or drunk. Why does it bother you?” tweeted Ishita Yadav, who is Parliamentary Secretary to Pilibhit MP Varun Gandhi.Sirsa replied: “They are public figures!! They are called ‘stars’ & they enjoy many privileges. Don’t they lecture us on every issue from their verified Twitter handles? So today they are answerable to every Indian for their drug-effected stoned look as visible in this video.”Yadav hit back: “Were you there? Was someone you know there? You can’t go around attacking people based on conjecture.”However, Sirsa refused to pause: “Since @IshitaYadav is so furiously defending the celebs & advocating their innocence in drugs… Let us all request @karanjohar @shahidkapoor @Varun_dvn @arjunk26 @deepikapadukone to get DOPE TEST done & share reports on Twitter. Pls prove me wrong by dope test report Ishita Ji.”
Map of RajshahiThe village has been virtually cut off. After the 30 December national parliamentary polls, buses no more pass through the village, auto-rickshaws cannot leave the vicinity and cable television has been disconnected.The villagers have been isolated because the candidate from the opposition political camp secured more votes than the ruling AL candidate contesting in the national polls.Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) candidate Aminul Haque got 1,249 votes while the Awami League candidate Omar Faruk Chowdhury got only 653 votes from the village.This village is Kolma in Tanore upazila of Rajshahi. It is located 50 kilometres away from Rajshahi city and is under the Rajshahi-1 (Tanore-Godagari) constituency. Voters of this village voted at the Kolma Government Primary School centre.On condition of anonymity, the villagers said their only ‘fault’ was that more people voted for the BNP candidate in the village.The correspondent, while visiting the village, met with BNP supporters, though could not locate any of the party’s leaders. The supporters were reluctant to speak openly.They said, apart from closing down bus service and satellite connections, the deep tube wells of the village were taken over by Awami League activists and supporters.It seems water for irrigation will be stopped as well, they added.The locals said that there were two ways to exit from the village- either from the west through the village Billi or from the east through Dargadanga village. However, the villagers are now blocked from all sides.Tanore upazila AL president Golam Rabbani told this correspondent, “I heard about what is going on in Kolma, but can do nothing about it.” “Now anyone, regardless to their political beliefs, is being attacked. The other day two pro-AL college teachers were beaten up and their motorbikes were vandalised on the way to college,” said a local.An auto rickshaw driver of the village complained that a group of AL activists kicked him out from Dargadanga Bazar and now he could not drive his auto rickshaw.Kolma ward AL president Sirajul Islam alleged that BNP activists and supporters attacked a union parishad chairman and Tanore upazila Juba League president a day before the election, leaving five of them injured.Citing it to be the reason of fray, the AL leader said the attack on the teachers was a mistake.He hoped the situation would improve very soon.Most of the shops and restaurants were found closed in the Kolma bazaar while an owner of a restaurant told the correspondent that the dispute had affected their businesses.This correspondent contacted Mohammad Ali, supervisor of a Bismillah Paribahan bus travelling from Rajshahi to Tanore. He said the bus was not running through Kolma village after the election.Asked about the reason he said, “There are clashes in the village.”Tanore police station officer in charge (OC) Rezaul Islam and Kolma UP chairman Lutfar Haider did not answer their phones when attempts were made to contact them.However, Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) Chowdhury Golam Rabbi told Prothom Alo that nobody told him anything about the matter.He said necessary action would be taken after the matter was investigated.
Whistle Sports has raised more than US$28 million as part of an ongoing Series D funding round, which is being led by investment company and Eleven Sports founder, Aser.Aser’s investment forms part of a wider collaboration between Whistle Sports and its subsidiaries, including Eleven Sports, that is designed to help accelerate Whistle’s international expansion.Whistle said it plans to use the proceeds of the funding to, in part, expand its catalogue of free and premium original content with brand partners and creators.The round also included participation from return investors Liberty Media, Emil Capital and WndrCo – the media and technology holding the company that includes former Disney chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg as a founding partner.“This is more than just an investment,” said Aser founder and chairman, Andrea Radrizzani, who joins the Whistle Sports board. “It is an innovative collaboration with a leader in social content creation and distribution that will help Aser’s portfolio to engage these young audiences by creating exciting, engaging and positive content that today’s fans love to watch and share.”Whistle Sports founder and CEO, John West, said: “We are thrilled to receive an investment from – and partner with – a leading edge, dynamic and like-minded company such as Aser.”“We are looking forward to partnering with their invaluable global network and the key relationships they possess in important markets in Asia, Europe and around the world as we look to expand the Whistle Sports footprint. Today’s young sports fans have global interests, and with Aser, we can reach and engage them in new and exciting ways.”Whistle Sports is an entertainment network that specialises in youth-focused sports content for social and digital platforms, including YouTube and Facebook Watch.The company was founded in 2014 and now claims to have an aggregate social audience of over 450 million subscribers, followers and fans. This is across 2,000 channels that have a library of more than 560,000 videos.With the new funding, Whistle has raised a total of nearly US$100 million from investors that also includes NBC Sports, Sky Sports, Tegna and UK-based venture capital firm Beringea.Aser’s portfolio also includes Easyprod – a production company for the sport and media sector – and English Championship football team, Leeds United. This is alongside Eleven Sports, which Aser founded in 2015.
By Marin Katusa, Chief Energy Investment StrategistHugo Chàvez is undoubtedly one of the most polarizing politicians in the world today. The man who has led Venezuela for 14 years is vehemently anti-American, a proud voice for Venezuela’s poor, a patriot and a poet, and a firm believer that national resources belong to the nation and no one or nothing else.That final Chàvez mainstay – that resources are best and most appropriately managed by the people for the people – has positioned Venezuela at the head of a group of Central and South American nations that are trying resource nationalization on for size as they struggle to make the most out of their oil and gas bounties. Venezuela is a global oil heavyweight – its 211-billion-barrel reserve is one of the top three national oil reserves worldwide – so Chàvez’s moves to nationalize his country’s massive oil machine gave neighboring countries the confidence to follow suit.Sometimes national control over oil and gas resources can work well. Saudi Arabia, Brazil, and Kuwait are all prime examples of well-functioning, state-controlled oil sectors. However, resource nationalization is a tricky business, and more often than not the process goes awry.Venezuela is no exception. Chàvez’s efforts to kick foreign firms out of Venezuela and use oil and gas revenues to fund social programs worked pretty well initially, but despite rising oil prices that early success has slipped away. In recent years Chàvez has demanded too much from the oil and gas sector, expecting ever-increasing revenues despite his reluctance to fund infrastructure and exploration programs. The result has been declining production, an exodus of technical expertise, and a pariah reputation in the international oil and gas industry.Now, with a presidential election looming and Chàvez struggling with a cancer that it’s rumored will take his life within months, the path forward for the country that has been a firebrand for South American resource nationalization is far from clear.Venezuela’s Love-Hate Relationship with Resource NationalizationVenezuela nationalized its oil industry in 1976, at a time when many countries in the southern hemisphere were asserting sovereignty over their natural resources. The transformation of Petróleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA) into a state-owned company was hailed as a national victory. However, it did not take long for trouble to begin.In the 1990s global oil prices plunged and Venezuela, having based its budget on a certain level of oil income, found itself in deep economic trouble. PDVSA had 900 to 1,300 billion barrels of oil on its reserve books, but the company didn’t have the money or the technological know-how to tap into these reserves, most of which sat trapped in the geologically challenging Orinoco Belt. Seeing few other options, the country opened its oil sector to foreign investors: PDVSA started seeking out international partners willing to provide expertise and funding in exchange for a share of the profits. Big Oil arrived and started spending billions of dollars to unlock the heavy oil of the Orinoco.Then Mr. Chàvez won the 1998 presidential election on a populist ticket that promised to use the country’s vast oil wealth to benefit the poor. Venezuela’s experiment with foreign involvement in its oil sector slowly came to a halt. Despite initially adopting “orthodox” economic policies, Chàvez soon started making good on his promise to his people – he gradually closed the door on international investment, raised rents, and changed fiscal agreements to retain ever more oil revenue for Venezuela. Imagine this: at one point the government take on oil contracts was more than 100% – foreign producers would have had to pay Chàvez for the privilege of producing oil in his country.Chàvez brought a new form of politics to Venezuela. He identified with his supporters because he was one of them, having grown up poor, and he used language they understood, caring not that the elites saw such language as one of many signs that he was a buffoon with limited education and experience. His style stuck and the people grew to love him.As he gained in popularity and confidence, Chàvez grew bolder in his moves to control Venezuelan oil in its entirety. In 2002 a group of PDVSA executives kick-started a general strike aimed at ousting Chàvez that lasted for a month and cut oil production to about 30% of normal levels; in response Chàvez fired nearly half of the company’s employees – 18,000 people in all – erasing large swaths of technical know-how in one fell swoop but sending a clear message that he would not tolerate dissent against his control over Venezuela’s oil.By 2007 Chàvez had gained enough confidence to essentially complete his oil renationalization campaign – he expropriated oil assets in the Orinoco by issuing a decree that PDVSA hold at least 60% ownership in all international partnerships. What little was left of Big Oil pretty much packed up and left Venezuela. National oil production immediately fell by 25%.You could say that was the beginning of the end, or the end of what had been a great beginning. That great beginning was undoubtedly aided by rising global oil prices: when Chàvez came to power, oil prices were sitting near $12 per barrel. By 2006 prices were averaging almost $60 a barrel, Venezuela’s coffers were overflowing, and the Venezuelan president felt unstoppable.Those rising prices created such a sense of success around Chàvez’s experiment with renationalizing Venezuela’s oil and gas sector that Chàvez was able to convince his compatriot leaders in South America to follow in his footsteps. And it worked – Bolivia and Ecuador renationalized their oil sectors, and the concept of resource nationalization took hold in Argentina. As his geopolitical influence grew, Chàvez also devoted attention to the oil-needy nations in his neighborhood, implementing an oil-transfer program to energy-needy Central American and Caribbean countries. With his oil sector seemingly able to provide for so many, resource nationalization took on new life across South America, and Chavez was the movement’s proudest spokesman.But here the word “seemingly” is key. As oil prices rose, PDVSA profits also rose, and it seemed that nationalization had been a boon to Venezuelan oil. But the increased profitability stemmed only from rising prices; the company itself was being strangled by a lack of investment – Chàvez spent all of PDVSA’s profits on his domestic fuel subsidies and social programs – and its dearth of technical expertise.In short, a sector can only provide profits if it is also supplied with investment; and that is where Chàvez went wrong. Like so many other socialist leaders who nationalized resource sectors with great fanfare only to see the sectors wither away because of insufficient TLC, Chàvez failed to put money back into PDVSA.Now the country’s once-proud oil and gas sector is in disarray. Infrastructure is old and insufficient, and production volumes are declining instead of climbing. In 2005 the company launched a new six-year plan calling for investment of US$239 billion to boost oil production to 5.8 million bpd by 2012. Instead, output has fallen from 2.9 million barrels per day (bpd) to 2.5 million bpd. Things are even worse when you look at Chàvez’s tenure as a whole: from 1998 to today, production has fallen from 3.5 million bpd to 2.5 million bpd, a decline of almost 30%:(Click on image to enlarge)Global oil production is declining to such an extent that the US Department of Energy is warning the world has crossed a critical oil threshold.Not only has production declined, but PDVSA’s financials have also deteriorated dramatically, its debt increasing from US$2.7 billion in 2005 to some US$33 billion now. Yet PDVSA continues to borrow money at an incredible rate, in large part to fund those domestic oil subsidies that are so very popular among Chàvez supporters. These subsidies cost the company US$15 billion a year.The view forward is unclear. PDVSA lacks the technical expertise to take advantage of the heavy oil in the Orinoco. With foreign investment – and therefore involvement – in the oil sector banned and PDVSA drowning in debt, the prospects for turning Venezuela’s fading oil sector around are pretty dim.Unless, of course, the sector is opened up to outside investment… which could well happen if Chàvez ceases to be part of the picture.The CancerOver the last 12 months Chàvez has made regular trips to Havana for cancer treatments. The only official information about these treatments is that two malignant tumours were removed from his pelvic region. The secrecy surrounding Chàvez’s cancer and the fact that Chàvez, who rarely goes a few days without speaking directly to his people, enters radio silence during his trips to Cuba have fueled rumors of his declining health. Several times already these have ballooned into claims that the Venezuelan president had died.The latest twist in the Chàvez cancer drama came from venerated journalist Dan Rather, the former CBS anchor who now hosts and directs Dan Rather Reports, a weekly news television show on HDNet. In a report he labeled as “exclusive,” Rather revealed on May 30 that he had been told that Chàvez is suffering from metastatic rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare and aggressive cancer that has “entered the end stage.” Rather said the information came from a highly respected source who is close to Chàvez and in a position to know his medical condition and history. This source says the prognosis is dire and that Chàvez is not expected to live “more than a couple of months at most.”This is not the first time rumors of Chàvez’s pending death have surfaced. However, with his treatment having dragged on for a year already, with his uncharacteristic disappearances to Cuba growing longer and more frequent, and with Rather’s reputation for accuracy lending credence to this new information, it is time to ponder Venezuela – and South America – without Hugo Chàvez.Chàvez would be incredibly difficult to replace. His rags-to-riches story line, bold governing style, and idiosyncratic mannerisms have earned adoration from the Venezuelan population, especially the poor and working class masses who constitute his prime electoral base. He also enjoys broad support from Venezuela’s military members.This is a president who announces executive orders between readings of poetry, regularly draws families around their televisions to listen to his lengthy and often fiery speeches, and sings Venezuelan folk songs on a weekly show called Hello President. There are few people in the world who could match his charisma and earn such allegiance from a national population. That is why, even though others from Chàvez’s inner circle bear similar political views, most observers think any Chàvez successor would have a very difficult time maintaining the Chavista movement.So when Chàvez dies, what might become of Venezuela? In the immediate aftermath, Vice President Elías Jaua would take power, according to the Constitution. In fact, Chàvez recently formed a nine-member State Council headed by Jaua to assist him with executive duties, a move many interpreted as a preparation for his impending demise.In the longer term, Venezuelan political observers see five potential successors within Chàvez’s Socialist Party. All hold similar views, but none enjoy anything close to Chàvez’s recognition and support. The Party would have to hope that Chàvez’s reputation can carry one of these candidates to the presidency, but such a succession is far from assured.If Chàvez dies before the October presidential election, opposition candidate Henrique Capriles would suddenly see his odds of winning jump dramatically. Polls show Capriles currently lagging behind Chàvez by roughly 5%, but the same polls found that Capriles would win the race by double-digit margins if he were to face a Chàvez successor instead of facing Hugo himself… unless, of course, the Socialists rig the election. Given that Chàvez has proven that a high regard for democracy is not a required characteristic for someone holding the Venezuelan presidency, this is not unlikely.Capriles is a veteran politician, having previously served as governor of the state of Miranda despite being just 39 years old. He is a center-left politician who has cleverly focused on issues close to the day-to-day lives of Venezuelans: crime, corruption, declining services, inflation, and jobs. Capriles’ petroleum policies are less clear, but his rare comments on the matter indicate he would keep PDVSA as a national entity while allowing the company to engage in investment partnerships with foreign firms, much like the Brazilian national oil firm Petrobras.If Chàvez is healthy enough to run, he will almost certainly win the election in October. If he is not, we see two possible paths. The first is that Capriles finds himself president of Venezuela, and South America loses its resource nationalization ringleader. However, a desire to change how Venezuela’s oil sector operates is very different from the actual ability to do so. The biggest obstacle to change: those domestic oil subsidies. If Capriles wants to revitalize PDVSA – indeed, if he simply wants to give PDVSA a chance at economic survival – he would have to significantly reduce the domestic oil subsidies, and likely also reduce social spending to free up some oil revenues for reinvestment into the country’s oil fields. And that would cause riots. We have seen it before, most recently in Nigeria: populations that are accustomed to having access to cheap oil are highly unwilling to let go of that benefit and will riot, often violently and for extended periods, at the mere suggestion that gas prices need to increase.Oil-related riots in one of the world’s top-ten oil-producing nations would undoubtedly push global oil prices higher.The other potential path for a post-Chàvez Venezuela is that his successor within the Socialist Party wins the presidency, legitimately or with the aid of electoral fraud. This Chàvez clone would then be stuck trying to fill Hugo’s shoes, a near-impossible task in which he would only have a chance at success by promising even more in the way of social spending. These expensive programs would put even greater strain on Venezuela’s budget, which is funded in large part by revenues from PDVSA. There would continue to be no money available to finance PDVSA’s spending needs, and production would continue to decline.Guess what? This scenario – of continued production decline in a major world supplier – would also push global oil prices higher. The bottom line is that Chàvez has created a lose-lose scenario for Venezuelan oil. The country has become reliant on a one-way flow of money and cheap oil from PDVSA to society, but after a decade of neglect PDVSA is withering away and the flows are drying up. Even if Chàvez dies and a left-leaning leader like Capriles comes to power, Venezuela will have to convulse through many ugly years before a functional relationship can be reestablished between its oil riches and its social demands. In the meantime, Venezuelans and the world will have to do with only limited access to Venezuelan oil.So, for those of us positioned to gain from a long-term rising oil price, it’s heads we win, tails we win. Additional Links and ReadsOil Prices to Ease Further This Year (Reuters)The CEO of Royal Dutch Shell expects oil prices to continue easing through the rest of the year, as demand reacts to a slowing global economy and international tensions ease. Peter Voser’s statement came just as Brent crude dropped to a 16-month low – below US$96 per barrel – on the heels of further weak economic news from the US and China. In addition, concerns over the state of the European economy have taken the spotlight away from the lingering tensions between Iran and Western powers, which just three months ago helped to push Brent above US$128 a barrel.Global Gas Demand to Grow by 2.7% Annually to 2017 (Platts)Global demand for natural gas will rise by 2.7% annually for the next five years, a faster growth rate than previously expected. China and the United States are driving the additional demand by switching from coal to gas to generate electricity. In China alone consumption is expected to double to 273 billion cubic meters in 2017 from 130 billion cubic meters today, representing an average growth rate of 13% per year.King Coal Still Reigns Despite Drop in Prices (Vancouver Sun)Canadian coal companies are not slowing down exploration nor development programs despite a drop in prices in China, their main export market. Companies are generally viewing depressed prices as a transient problem and see demand from Asia remaining strong in the medium term, especially for British Columbia’s high-quality metallurgical coal.South Sudan’s $4-Billion Question Answered: Oil Revenue Stolen by Corrupt Officials (The Globe and Mail)It has been a mystery for years: how does South Sudan remain so poor and hungry when it receives billions of dollars in oil revenues every year? The answer is now clear: South Sudan’s president says corrupt officials have stolen $4 billion in oil revenues since 2005. He is asking those officials to return the stolen funds. Any returned funds would be especially useful at the moment, because a dispute with Sudan has shut in South Sudan’s oil production and thereby eliminated about 98% of the government’s official revenue.Oil Rush in the Arctic Gambles with Nature and Diplomacy (The Guardian)A small group of international scientists, politicians, and business leaders are gathered in the Ny-Alesund research station on the Norwegian island of Svalbard to discuss the path to a global low-carbon economy. Meanwhile, just outside the station an oil rush looms – one that threatens to spark territorial disputes and saber-rattling as a host of nations compete to claim rights to the Arctic seabed.Germany Plans Massive Wind Power Grid (The Globe and Mail)Germany’s utilities have tabled plans to build four high-voltage electricity lines to link wind turbines off the north coast with manufacturing centers in the south. The plan is a boost for Angela Merkel, who has been criticized for announcing an accelerated nuclear-power phase-out a year ago without producing an alternative plan. The lines are expected to cost around €20 billion
I note that gold made it all the way to it’s 50-day moving average before it got sold down.Both gold and silver blasted off the moment that Comex trading began in New York at 6:00 p.m. on Sunday evening…and JPMorgan Chase et al threw tonnes of paper at these rallies to prevent them from getting out of hand. Volumes by noon in Hong Kong were enormous in both metals.The gold price peaked in Far East trading at exactly 2:00 p.m. Hong Kong time…and then slid a bit until the London a.m. gold fix was in at 10:30 a.m. BST.The subsequent rally didn’t do much until around 1:00 p.m. in London…twenty minutes before the Comex open…when the rally gained more strength. From there, the gold price rose to its high of the day…$1,341.10 according to Kitco…which came shortly before the 1:30 p.m. Comex close. It got sold down to the $1,335 spot price mark from that point…and then traded in a very tight range around that price right into the 5:15 p.m. EDT close of electronic trading in New York.Gold closed at $1,335.20 spot…up $38.50 on the day. Net volume was around the 140,000 contract mark, with a big chunk of that coming in Far East trading.It was very much the same story in silver, except the high tick…$20.72 spot…came at 12:30 EDT in New York. Other than that, the price pattern was the same.Silver closed at $20.54 spot…up $1.01 on the day. Gross volume was a very hefty 53,000 contracts…net of July and August numbers.It was pretty much the same story in platinum, but it’s high came around 11:45 a.m. in New York. Palladium‘s rally attempt ran into opposition at the Comex open. Here are the charts… The dollar index closed at 82.62 late Friday afternoon in New York…and it was pretty much all down hill to its low of the day [82.10] which came shortly after 10:30 a.m. in New York. After that, the index rallied a bit into the close…finishing the Monday trading session at 82.22…off 40 basis points from Friday.The gold stocks gapped up five percent at the open…and hit their zenith when gold did, just before the 1:30 p.m. Comex close…and then sold down a bit along with the metal itself. At its high, the HUI was up well over 7 percent…but still finished up a respectable 6.08%.The silver stocks did very well for themselves…but considering the metal was up about 5 percent on the day, one would have thought that the stocks would have done better. As it was, Nick Laird’s Intraday Silver Sentiment Index closed up 5.49%.(Click on image to enlarge)The CME’s Daily Delivery Report showed that 3 gold and 57 silver contracts were posted for delivery within the Comex-approved depositories on Wednesday. In silver, 40 of those contracts were issued by JPMorgan out of its client account…and JPMorgan stopped 41 contracts out of its in-house [proprietary] trading account. The beat goes on…and the link to Monday’s Issuers and Stoppers Report is here.It was another down day for GLD yesterday. This time it was only 38,646 troy ounces, but a decline nonetheless. And as of 9:43 a.m. EDT, there were no reported changes in SLV.Joshua Gibbons, the Guru of the SLV Bar List posted an update on this website for SLV activity as of the close of trading on Wednesday, July 17th…and this, in part, is what he had to say… “Analysis of the 17 July bar list, and comparison to the previous week’s list: 5,524,756.4 oz. were added…4.8M oz. to Brinks London…0.8M o.z to Via Mat. No bars were removed or had a serial number change.” The link to his website is here.There was sales report from the U.S. Mint yesterday. They only sold 4,000 ounces of gold eagles…and no one-ounce 24K gold buffaloes. But they did sell a very decent 925,000 silver eagles. Month-to-date the mint has sold 3,456,500 silver eagles, so they should break through the 4 million mark with ease, unless they hold back some July sales and stick them in August…just like they did for some silver eagles sales for June…the held them back until the first day of July. The games children play!It was a very busy day over at the Comex-approved depositories on Friday. In silver, they reported receiving 599,622 troy ounces…all of it into JPMorgan Chase. But they also reported shipping out a whopping 2,215,278 troy ounces to parts unknown as well, with half of that coming from the Brink’s, Inc. depository. Here’s the link to all the action…and it’s worth a peek.There was a decent amount of gold shipped out of these same warehouses on Friday. All of it…103,484 troy ounces…came out of the HSBC USA depository. The link to that activity is here.Here are a couple of charts that Nick Laird over at sharelynx.com sent me…and if you have any questions or comments, all of them should be sent to him, not me! The first is for silver futures spreads going back to 1975. Nick notes the times that silver has been in backwardation on these charts.(Click on image to enlarge)Here’s the one for gold, but it only goes back to the year 2000…as Nick is still working on these charts. It shows that gold has never been in backwardation over the last thirteen years…at least not the way he describes it.(Click on image to enlarge)I asked Nick this question after I had looked at the above gold chart… “So the fact that the current cash price in gold is higher that the near futures, doesn’t mean a thing? That’s what you’re saying.” Nick’s reply…”Yes – that’s not real backwardation.”Let you and him fight!Being a Tuesday, I have a decent number of stories for you today, so I hope you can find the time to wade through them all.But I do acknowledge that with JPMorgan so massively positioned on the long side of gold, anything can happen that JPMorgan wishes or desires. If JPMorgan wants to put it to the shorts, the shorts will have it put to them. If JPMorgan desires for there to be a large demand for delivery difficult to fulfill by those required to make delivery, there will be a large delivery demand. If JPMorgan wishes for gold to jump many hundreds of dollars per ounce, thereby enriching the bank, gold (and silver) will jump as high as that enrichment requires. Conversely, if JPMorgan desires none of these things, then the odds of any occurring, at least in the short term, are much longer. My point is that JPMorgan has…and has had…an unnatural dominance of the gold and silver market; the bank is the sole determinant for gold and silver pricing. In terms of a rational and free financial market, that is absolutely absurd. – Silver analyst Ted Butler…20 July 2013I was happy to see gold and silver prices blast off at the New York open on Sunday night…but wasn’t happy to see the heavy artillery show up and crush the rallies in very short order…and it’s hard to tell whether they were new longs coming into the market, or whether it was short covering. Volume was way up there, but since it occurred on Monday, all the volume data should be in Friday’s Commitment of Traders Report.After the initial price spikes, things settled down quite a bit and became far more orderly…and I’m sure that JPMorgan’s high-frequency traders had something to do with that, as gold volumes were more ‘normal’ for a summer trading day once London began to trade…although silver volumes were pretty chunky.We’ll have to wait until Friday to find out for sure.I note that gold made it all the way to it’s 50-day moving average before it got sold down just before the Comex close yesterday. Silver still has a way to go in that department. Here are their respective 6-month charts.(Click on image to enlarge)(Click on image to enlarge)It will be interesting to see what JPMorgan Chase allows to develop from here.The meetings on commodities…and the bullion banks involvement in them…is the subject de jour in Washington today, so we’ll see what comes out of that, if anything.There was absolutely no follow-through in the Far East or early London trading to yesterday price action in New York, which certainly surprised me a bit. As I hit the ‘send’ button on today’s column at 5:15 p.m. EDT, gold is down about five bucks…and silver is down about 30 cents. Volumes are already pretty heavy in both metals, but I can tell that it’s mostly of the HFT variety…and the dollar index isn’t doing much, not that it matters greatly.I have no idea what might happen during the New York trading session today…and nothing will surprise me when I switch my computer on later this morning.That’s more than enough for today…and I’ll see you here tomorrow.
The tiny hand and forearm slipped out too early. Babies are not delivered shoulder first. Dr. Terri Marino, an obstetrician in the Boston area who specializes in high-risk deliveries, tucked it back inside the boy’s mother.”He was trying to shake my hand and I was like, ‘I’m not having this — put your hand back in there,’ ” Marino would say later, after all 5 pounds, 1 ounce of the baby lay wailing under a heating lamp.This is the story of how that baby, Bryce McDougall, tested the best efforts of more than a dozen medical staffers at South Shore Hospital in Weymouth, Mass., one day last summer.Bryce’s birth also put to the test a new method of reducing cesarean sections that has been developed at Dr. Atul Gawande’s Ariadne Labs, a “joint center for health systems innovation” at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston.The story starts before Bryce’s birth, on the last day of August at about 9:30 in the morning.Melisa McDougall has just checked into South Shore, after a routine ultrasound. She’s in her 36th week, pregnant with twin boys. The doctors have warned Melisa that her placenta won’t hold out much longer. She’s propped up in bed, blond hair pulled into a neat bun, makeup still fresh, ordering a sandwich, when her regular obstetrician arrives.”How are you?” asks Dr. Ruth Levesque, sweeping into the room and clapping her hands. “You’re going to have some babies today! Are you excited?”The first of the twins — Brady — is head-down, ready for a normal vaginal delivery. But his brother, Bryce, is horizontal at the top of Melisa’s uterus.That’s one reason Melisa is a candidate for a C-section. Babies do not come out sideways. And there’s another reason most doctors would never consider a vaginal delivery in Melisa’s case, Levesque says. Four years ago, she delivered the twins’ sister by cesarean.”[Melisa] has a scar on her uterus,” Levesque explains, “so there’s a risk of uterine rupture — very rare, but there’s always a possibility.”And that possibility may be greater for Melisa because she’s 37 years old and having twins. But the McDougalls hope to have vaginal deliveries for both boys.”I just feel like it’s better for the kids — better for the babies,” Melisa says.How the Team Birth Project came to beAvoiding C-sections is also better for many moms. With cesareans, there’s a longer recovery period, a greater risk of infection and an association with injury and death. And most are not medically necessary, says Dr. Neel Shah, who directs the Delivery Decisions Initiative at Ariadne Labs.”We’re fairly confident that, when you look nationally, the plurality — if not the majority — of C-sections are probably avoidable,” says Shah.Those avoidable C-sections are the focus of the Team Birth Project, designed by Shah with input from roughly 50 doctors, nurses, midwives, doulas, public health specialists and consumer advocates who focus on childbirth. South Shore Hospital is one of the pilot sites for the project.In describing the collaboration, Shah begins with an acknowledgement: Childbirth is complicated. You’ve got two patients — the mother and the baby — and an ad hoc, often shifting team that at a minimum includes the mom, a nurse and a doctor.”So you’ve got three people who have to come together and become a very high-performing team in a really short period of time, for one of the most important moments in a person’s life,” Shah says.And this team has to perform at its best during an unpredictable event: labor.Shah says doctors and nurses generally agree about three things: when a mom is in active labor; when a mom can definitely try for a vaginal delivery; and when she must have a C-section.”And then there’s this huge gray zone,” Shah says. “And actually, everything about the Team Birth Project is about solving for the gray.”To avoid unnecessary C-sections when what to do isn’t clear, this hospital, in conjunction with the Ariadne project, has changed the way labor and delivery is handled from start to finish.First, women aren’t admitted until they are in active labor. Secondly, the mom’s preferences — such as whether she would like an epidural or not and whether she wants to have “skin-to-skin contact” with the baby immediately after birth — help guide the members of the labor team. The team members map the delivery plan — including Mom’s preferences and the medical team’s guidance — on a whiteboard, like the one in Melisa’s room.For the births of Bryce and Brady McDougall, the white erasable planning board gets a lot of use.Under “team,” Dr. Levesque and registered nurse Patty Newbitt write their names. Melisa and Shaun McDougall are also listed as equal partners. The names of other family members or nurses may be added and erased as labor progresses. Shah’s idea is that this team will “huddle” regularly throughout the labor to discuss the evolving birth plan.The birth plan itself is divided into three separate elements on the board: maternal (the mom), fetal (the baby) and progress (in terms of how the labor is progressing). A mom with high blood pressure may need special attention — and that would be noted on the board — but she could still have a normal labor and vaginal delivery.Good communication is keyDr. Kim Dever, who chairs the OB-GYN department at South Shore, highlights a section of the whiteboard called “Next Assessment.”That category is included on the board, Dever says, “because one of the things I often heard from patients is that they didn’t know what was going to happen next. Now they know.”Asking the mom — and the couple — about their preferences for the delivery is crucial, too, Levesque says.”It forces us to stop and to think about everything with the patient,” she explains.”It makes us verbalize our thought process, which I think is good.”Shaun McDougall walks across the room to get a closer look at the whiteboard.”Honestly, it seems like common sense,” he says. “I would always think the nurses would have something like this, but to have it out where mom and dad can see it — I think it’s pretty cool.”With Melisa McDougall’s plan in place, everyone settles in, to wait. About four hours later, Melisa isn’t yet feeling contractions. Levesque breaks the water sac around Brady.”Looks nice and clear,” Levesque reports. “Hey bud, come on and hang out with us,” she says to the baby, tickling his head.”So, you’re going to keep leaking fluid until you leak babies,” the doctor explains to Melisa. “Whenever you start getting uncomfortable, we’ll get you an epidural at that point.”Levesque moves to the board and adds updates: Melisa is 4 centimeters dilated; her waters broke at 13:26; the next assessment will be after she gets an epidural.The medical team insisted ahead of time that Melisa agree to be numbed from the waist down if she wants to deliver Bryce — the second twin — vaginally. Melissa agreed. The obstetricians may need to rotate the baby in her uterus, find a foot and pull Bryce out, causing pain most women would not tolerate.One of those doctors — Marino — peeks into the room and waves.”Just came to say hi,” says Marino, who has more experience than most obstetricians in delivering babies positioned like Bryce. Along with Levesque, Marino has been seeing Melisa regularly in office visits.Shaun McDougall asks the physicians if they’ll pose for a picture with his wife.”Can we make funny faces?” asks Levesque.”I want you to,” says Shaun. “You guys are like her favorite people on the planet.”As the hours tick by, there’s a shift change, and registered nurse Barbara Fatemi joins the McDougall team. She checks Melisa’s pain level regularly to determine when she’s ready for the epidural.Melisa says she isn’t feeling much but adds that she has a high tolerance for pain. Shaun tells Fatemi he sees the strain on his wife’s face. Fatemi acts on Shaun’s assessment and calls an anesthesiologist to prepare the epidural, something Shaun later says reinforces his feeling that they’re a team.Levesque soon arrives for the promised “next assessment.” Melisa is now 10 centimeters dilated and ready to deliver — but she must hold on until nurses can get her into an operating room.Levesque will still attempt to deliver both babies vaginally, she explains, but in the operating room, Melisa will be in the right place if Bryce doesn’t shift his position inside the uterus, and the doctor needs to do a last-minute cesarean.”I’ll see you in a few minutes. No pushing without me, OK?” Levesque says over her shoulder as she heads to the operating room to prep.”I’ll try,” Melisa says, weakly. In a minute, nurses are rolling her down the hall, following Levesque.Almost five years ago, two women who were wheeled into this hospital’s operating rooms during childbirth died after undergoing C-sections. Though state investigators found no evidence of substandard care, Dever says the hospital scrutinized everything.”When you have something like that happen, that expedites your efforts,” she says. “Exponentially.”Now, Dever says, she sees an opportunity, through the Team Birth Project, to model changes that could help women far and wide.”I would love women everywhere to be able to come in and have a safe birth and healthy baby,” she says. “That’s why I’m doing it.””They did not flinch”Dever is about to see her pilot study of the Team Birth Project pushed to new limits by little Bryce McDougall. First, though, Melisa must deliver Bryce’s brother, Brady. Even his birth, the one that was expected to be easier, is more difficult than anticipated.Bent nearly in half, her face beet red, Melisa strains for five pushes. She throws up, then gets back to laboring. And suddenly, there he is.”Oh my goodness, Brady, oh Brady,” wails Shaun. He follows a nurse holding his son over to a warmer.Marino takes Shaun’s place next to Levesque, who has reached inside Melisa to get the next twin. Levesque’s mission is to grab Bryce’s feet and guide him out. But everything feels like fingers, not toes.”That’s a hand,” she murmurs. “That’s a hand, too.”Marino rolls an ultrasound across Melisa’s belly, hoping the scan will show a foot. But Bryce’s feet are out of sight and out of reach.Marino has had more experience than most obstetricians with transverse babies, and this procedure, known as a breech extraction; she asks to try. She reaches into Melisa’s uterus while Levesque moves to Melisa’s right side and uses her forearm to shift Bryce and push him down. Dever, the head of obstetrics, has come into the room and takes over the ultrasound. At least six doctors and nurses encircle Melisa, whose face is taut. Shaun frowns.”Babe, you OK?” he asks.Melisa nods. Bryce’s heart rate is steady. But there’s still no sign of a foot. One little hand slips out and Marino nudges it back in.”Open the table,” says Marino, her voice strained.It’s open and ready, her colleagues say, referring to the array of sterile surgical instruments that Marino may soon need, to begin a C-section.For 36 seconds, this room with more than a dozen adults grows oddly quiet. Everyone is watching Marino twist her arm this way and that, determined to find Bryce’s feet. Levesque leans hard into Melisa’s belly. Shaun bites his lip. Then Marino yanks at something — and her gloved, bloodied hand emerges, clenching baby Bryce by his two teeny legs.”Oh babe, here he comes, here he comes — Woo!” squeals Shaun.Shaun is overcome with emotion again. Melisa manages an exhausted giggle. Baby Bryce keeps everyone waiting a few more seconds and then howls.Levesque starts to stitch up a small tear for Melisa, and Marino comes around to congratulate the new mom.”He was fighting you, huh?” Melisa says, and laughs.Outside the operating room, Levesque and Marino look relieved and elated. Both agree that most doctors would have delivered Bryce by C-section. But at South Shore, the McDougalls found a hospital that has challenged itself to perform fewer C-sections and a doctor with experience in these unusual deliveries — one who knew and respected the parents’ preference.”They specifically wanted to have a vaginal delivery of both babies,” Marino says — and that was on her mind during the difficult moments.Bryce was fine, says Marino, so the deciding factor for her was that Shaun and Melisa did not panic.”They did not flinch — they were like, ‘Keep going,’ ” Marino recalls. “Sometimes the patient will say ‘stop,’ and then you have to stop.”The babies’ father says he came close to requesting that, in the very last minute before Bryce was born.”That part with the arm — it was pretty aggressive,” Shaun says.But in that moment, he adds, the feeling that he and Melisa were part of the team made a difference.”It made us more comfortable,” Shaun says, and that comfort translated to trust. “We trusted the decisions they were making.”Melisa says she’s grateful for the vaginal delivery.”I did not want to have a natural birth and a C-section,” she says. “That would be a brutal recovery.”Instead, 30 minutes after Marino pulled Bryce out of her, Melisa is nursing Brady and talking with family members via FaceTime.Next assessment for The Team Birth ProjectSouth Shore began using the Team Birth approach in April. Three other hospitals are also pilot sites: Saint Francis in Tulsa, Okla.; EvergreenHealth in Kirkland, Wash.; and Overlake in Redmond, Wash. The test period runs for two years. In the first four months at South Shore, the hospital’s primary, low-risk C-section rate dropped from 31 percent to 27 percent — about four fewer C-sections each month.Experts who contributed to the development of the Team Birth Project are anxious to see whether other hospitals can lower their rates of C-section and keep them down.”Once you get past the early adopters, how do you demonstrate the benefits for others that aren’t willing to change?” asks Gene Declercq, a professor of community health sciences at Boston University School of Public Health.Declercq notes that a few insurers are beginning to force that question, refusing to include in their networks hospitals that have high C-section rates, or high rates of other unnecessary, if not harmful, care.Declercq says the project’s focus on communication in the labor and delivery room makes sense because many physicians decide when to perform a cesarean based on clinical habit or the culture of their hospital.”If you can impact that decision-making process, you can perhaps change the culture that might lead to unnecessary cesareans,” says Declercq.The federal government has set a target rate for hospitals: No more than 23.9 percent of first-time, low-risk mothers should be delivering by C-section. The U.S. average in 2016 was 25.7 percent.The target was put in place because research has shown that if a woman’s first delivery is a C-section, her subsequent deliveries are highly likely to be C-sections, too — raising her (and her baby’s) risk for complications and even death.This story is part of NPR’s reporting partnership with WBUR and Kaiser Health News. Copyright 2018 WBUR. To see more, visit WBUR.
Updated at 3:20 p.m.The first of more than 1,600 lawsuits pending against Purdue Pharma, the maker of the opioid OxyContin, has been settled. The drugmaker has agreed to pay $270 million to fund addiction research and treatment in Oklahoma and pay legal fees.Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter filed suit two years ago alleging Purdue helped ignite the opioid crisis with aggressive marketing of the blockbuster drug OxyContin and deceptive claims that downplayed the dangers of addiction. Hunter had sought $20 billion dollars in damages against Purdue and other pharmaceutical firms.The settlement comes one day after the Oklahoma Supreme Court denied Purdue’s appeal for a delay of the trial. It is expected to begin on May 28, with the remaining defendants, including Johnson & Johnson and Teva Pharmaceuticals. A judge has said the trial can be televised.”We see this agreement with Oklahoma as an extension of our commitment to help drive solutions to the opioid addiction crisis,” said Purdue Pharma CEO Dr. Craig Landau, in statement. “We pledge Purdue’s ongoing support to the National Center and the life-saving work it will do for generations to come.”Landau refers to a new National Center for Addiction Studies and Treatment to be housed a Oklahoma State University in Tulsa. It will be funded by $102.5 million from Purdue and $75 million from the Sackler family, which owns the drug company.”The agreement reached today will provide assistance to individuals nationwide who desperately need these services — rather than squandering resources on protracted litigation,” the Sackler family said in a statement. “We have profound compassion for those who are affected by addiction and are committed to playing a constructive role in the coordinated effort to save lives.”Members of the Sackler family, some of whom were expected to be called to testify at trial, are reportedly contributing to the settlement. Court documents filed in Massachusetts show the Sacklers made more than $4 billion on opioid sales between 2008 and 2016.The settlement also includes $20 million for medicines to be used by patients in the center, $12.5 million for counties and municipalities in Oklahoma and $60 million for legal fees.Some lawyers suggest the deal in Oklahoma is the beginning of many more in cases that stretch across the nation. Attorneys representing more than 1,600 lawsuits consolidated in a federal court in Northern Ohio say the resolution in Oklahoma reflects the strength of claims against Purdue.”We have long alleged that Purdue Pharma ignited today’s epidemic by starting the disturbing practice of deceptive opioid marketing, convincing both doctors and the American public to trust that these drugs were safe and virtually non-addictive,” said plaintiffs’ attorneys Paul J. Hanly Jr., Paul T. Farrell Jr. and Joe Rice, in a statement. “Purdue’s wrongdoing, however, does not stand alone.”There are nearly two dozen defendants named in the consolidated opioid lawsuits.The U.S. and individual states are beginning to tally health care, incarceration and law enforcement costs tied to epidemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the burden based on prescription drug misuse alone, in 2013, was $78.5 billion. Oklahoma estimated the opioid crisis would cost the state nearly $9 billion, according to the Washington Post. In Massachusetts, the costs, along with lost productivity, were $15.2 billion in 2017.The CDC says a record 47,600 people died after an opioid overdose in 2017. Purdue’s CEO has said the company is exploring bankruptcy amid rising pressures. The U.S. House Oversight Committee has asked Purdue to produce a trove of documents by April 4 about the marketing and sales strategies for OxyContin.Members of some families that lost loved ones to an opioid overdose say they are disturbed by the settlement. Rhonda Lotti, of Watertown, Mass., had planned to attend the trial with other members of an opioid overdose grief group. Lotti’s daughter Mariah suffered a fatal overdose in 2011 at age 19.”I’m disgusted,” said Lotti in an email.”How many lives were worth $270 million?”This story is part of a reporting partnership between WBUR, NPR and Kaiser Health News. Copyright 2019 WBUR. To see more, visit WBUR.
Thousands of disabled students are being forced to choose between having food to eat or having the equipment they need to study, because a new government rule means they must pay £200 towards the cost of computers they need for disability-related reasons.The government introduced the new rule as part of its controversial reform of the disabled students’ allowance (DSA) system, a non-means-tested grant that assists with the extra costs a disabled student faces during higher education study.Universities minister Sam Gyimah admitted in a parliamentary answer that introducing the new rule – with disabled students in England having to pay £200 towards the cost of a computer and assistive software obtained through the DSA system – had seen the number of recipients of DSA equipment funding fall by 4,600.This appears to refer to a drop from 28,000 to 23,400 in the number of students receiving DSA for equipment, comparing those who began their courses in 2014-15 with those who began in 2015-16, when the new rules were introduced.Gyimah said the drop was “expected, because we knew the numbers would fall once students had to pay £200 towards the cost of computer equipment”, but he said that an evaluation of the impact of the change was “under way”.Marsha de Cordova (pictured), the disabled Labour MP and shadow minister for disabled people, who had asked the question, said the number of students receiving DSA for essential equipment had fallen by nearly 30 per cent since the £200 up-front fee was introduced (the latest figures show the number of students receiving DSA for equipment have fallen even further than Gyimah’s figures, to 19,700).She said the charge was “clearly preventing disabled students from accessing the essential equipment they need to further their studies” and she called on Gyimah to scrap the new rule.The minister claimed that the fall in the number of students receiving DSA for equipment did not mean they were “lacking in equipment” because he said “computer ownership is now common among all students, with students spending on average around £250 on computers”.He said: “As DSAs are not intended to cover all student costs, we think it is reasonable to ask students to contribute towards the cost of computer equipment.”De Cordova told Disability News Service (DNS) afterwards: “I thought [the minister’s] response was really weak.“It demonstrates a lack of understanding and awareness of the support needs of disabled students.”She received DSA when she was studying at university, which paid for a support worker and the assistive technology she needed.She said: “It certainly enabled me to carry out my studies effectively.“Without it, I would have been put at a disadvantage, without a shadow of a doubt.”Piers Wilkinson, from the National Union of Students’ Disabled Students’ Campaign, said they had “consistently opposed” the DSA reforms, because the union believed they would “not only put us at a greater disadvantage in accessing education but also force disabled students out of education”.He said: “Disabled students face astronomical costs of attending university, with higher accommodation costs, additional costs for transport, food and support equipment.“A laptop can be a vital piece of equipment; this £200 charge is causing hundreds of vital laptops to be locked away from the student, even after the assistive technology software and hardware has been paid for.“The Equality Act 2010 clearly states that a disabled person cannot be asked to pay for disability adjustments, and yet our government has been charging disabled students £200 for the privilege of accessing the same education opportunities non-disabled students have.“This charge is making disabled students choose between having food to eat or having the equipment essential for them to study for their £9,000-a-year course.“So disabled students are left in a paradoxical limbo, unable to study because they can’t afford the £200 charge and unable to afford the charge because they are a disabled student.”Meanwhile, The Alliance for Inclusive Education has condemned the government’s announcement that it is spending £50 million to expand places in grammar schools in England.Disabled children with education, health and care plans (EHCPs) or statements of special educational needs represent only 0.1 per cent of grammar school pupils, despite making up 1.8 per cent of the secondary school population.And disabled children without statements or EHCPs still make up only 4.2 per cent of grammar school pupils, but 12.4 per cent of all secondary school pupils.Simone Aspis, ALLFIE’s policy and campaigns coordinator, said: “The expansion of grammar school provision is another government attack on comprehensive and inclusive education and disabled pupils’ rights to a good and well-resourced mainstream school placement as set out in Article 24 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.”DNS revealed last year that the government had been forced to admit that it failed to assess the impact on disabled children and young people of its “discriminatory” plans to expand grammar schools.Aspis pointed to last year’s conclusion of the UN committee on the rights of persons with disabilities, which was highly critical of the UK government’s approach to inclusive education and the “persistence of a dual education system” that segregates increasing numbers of disabled children in special schools.Figures last year showed the proportion of pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) who attend a special school in England had risen from 5.6 per cent in 2012 to 8.5 per cent in 2016, with the proportion in independent specialist settings rising from 4.5 to 6.3 per cent.ALLFIE said that the introduction of greater selection by ability in the education system through the expansion of grammar school provision meant “choice for SEND pupils and their parents is in danger of becoming non-existent”.
Much more needs to be done to ensure that disabled people and other groups in fuel poverty can benefit from energy efficiency schemes, according to a new report.The report says that disabled people often have higher energy demands, because of factors such as health-related needs to keep warm and the electricity needed to use equipment such as nebulisers, stair lifts and hoists, and to charge wheelchairs.The report, published by the UK Energy Research Centre, University of York, and ACE Research, says this can lead to both higher energy costs and a greater risk of harm if energy supplies are disconnected.The report says current policy is focused too much on targets and providing work to improve the energy efficiency of homes – such as installing cavity wall insulation and replacing inefficient boilers – at the lowest possible cost.Because disabled people often live in the poorest quality homes and need extra support through the installation process, they are often side-lined by those providing schemes such as the government’s Energy Company Obligation (ECO) energy efficiency programme.They also face other barriers, such as problems caused by the disruption of the energy supply while installation is taking place, the inaccessibility of the application process and the difficulty of carrying out preparatory work, such as clearing a loft space.There are also “high levels of mistrust” of the energy sector.Among its recommendations, the report calls for the government to reinstate a taxpayer-funded scheme in England, where there has been no such programme since the demise of Warm Front in 2013, even though Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all operate such schemes.It calls for investment in energy efficiency support in England to be “brought up to par with the devolved nations with the reintroduction of a tax-payer funded energy efficiency scheme”.It also concludes that “the trustworthiness of energy efficiency programmes needs to be improved, most notably in England”.As well as the report, Policy Pathways to Justice in Energy Efficiency, the two-year research project has also published a guide for those working in the sector on supporting disabled people, Supporting Fuel Poor Disabled People Through Energy Efficiency Measures.Disability Rights UK (DR UK), which helped deliver the project, said the research showed how current policy was “overly focused on targets and low-cost provision to the exclusion of the people living in fuel poor homes”.It said the research also shows how households in need are “difficult to find, that they do not receive adequate information that is accessible and from a trusted source, and how their needs are not always taken into consideration during the installation process”.Sue Bott (pictured), deputy chief executive of DR UK, said that delivery of energy efficiency policy was “variable and patchy”, and there was “a lack of knowledge and awareness of the specific needs of disabled people”.She said that 30 per cent of families living in poverty contain a disabled person and are at particular risk of experiencing fuel poverty.She said: “Too often fuel poverty is thought of as an issue that only impacts older disabled people, but the reality is that fuel poverty blights the lives of disabled people of any age: from children, to adults of working age, to older people.“The effects of fuel poverty can penetrate deep into everyday life and exacerbate existing impairments and health conditions.”Dr Joanne Wade, chief executive of ACE, said: “In short, the needs of older people – important though they undoubtedly are – have been prioritised above those of people with disabilities and long-term health conditions, and those of families with young children.“All these groups are vulnerable to the ill-effects of cold homes, and many people within them also have greater than average needs for energy services.“We have to stop ignoring people who don’t always have the loudest voices; we have to stop avoiding people who are harder to engage, or more expensive and more difficult to help than others.” A note from the editor:Please consider making a voluntary financial contribution to support the work of DNS and allow it to continue producing independent, carefully-researched news stories that focus on the lives and rights of disabled people and their user-led organisations. Please do not contribute if you cannot afford to do so, and please note that DNS is not a charity. It is run and owned by disabled journalist John Pring and has been from its launch in April 2009. Thank you for anything you can do to support the work of DNS…
Free Webinar | Sept 5: Tips and Tools for Making Progress Toward Important Goals Documents suggest that Alfonso Ribeiro can’t copyright his signature move, the ‘Carlton Dance.’ Next Article The ‘Fortnite’ Dance Lawsuits Are Close to Falling Apart Attend this free webinar and learn how you can maximize efficiency while getting the most critical things done right. 3 min read Epic Games has found itself slapped with a flurry of lawsuits, all alleging the company of stealing people’s dance moves and selling them on for a profit. These dances are incorporated into its world-conquering game Fortnite, which are bought by players for a quantity of in-game currency (costing real money). That’s angered a number of musicians and viral video stars, who feel that they’ve been ripped off, but in one high-profile case, the law might be on Epic’s side.Alfonso Ribeiro, star of early ’90s sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, was one of the plaintiffs arguing for a slice of Epic’s cash. Ribeiro claimed to be the creator of the “Carlton Dance,” a goofy routine that Epic sold as a Fortnite emote — unsubtly named “Fresh” — inside the game. Sadly, documents uncovered by The Hollywood Reporter reveal that Ribeiro’s application to copyright his sway has been denied.According to the US Copyright Office, Ribeiro’s claim to copyright the “Carlton Dance” has failed because it is just a “simple dance routine.” That puts it beyond the protections of s102(4) Copyright Act 1976, which requires dances to be “a related series of dance movements and patterns organized into a coherent whole.” Not to mention that, if basic motions were copyrightable, nobody would be able to walk down the street without facing a potential lawsuit.Ribeiro was always on shaky legal ground to begin with, given that he often admitted that the “Carlton Dance” was inspired by others. In 2015, he told HuffPost Live (amongst other news outlets) that he was inspired by both Eddie Murphy and Bruce Springsteen’s Dancing in the Dark video. Specifically, the moment when a pre-fame Courtney Cox is invited on stage to dance, which Ribiero says he adopted.There was also the more nuanced legal fact that Ribeiro initially performed on a televised sitcom, his employer at the time. Which meant that, if the dance had been copyrightable (which it isn’t), NBC, rather than Ribiero, would be the owner. Now, while the lawsuit hasn’t been thrown out (yet), it doesn’t sound too good for the actor, or anyone else who’s trying to get a cut of Epic’s epic windfall.This week has also seen Epic Games request for another lawsuit, brought by rapper 2 Milly, to be thrown out. Kotaku reports that the company says that the allegedly infringing emote is too short to be copyrighted, as above. And Epic adds that the Swipe It dance is different enough from the Milly Rock to avoid infringement, even though fans have said that they’re pretty similar. It remains for the courts to determine the validity of that position, but it’s interesting to see what new precedent will be created. Add to Queue Daniel Cooper –shares This story originally appeared on Engadget February 15, 2019 fortnite Alfonso Ribeiro Image credit: Chris Trotman | Getty Images via engadget Register Now »
March 3, 2015 –shares Andy Hunt and Jeremiah Daly have stepped down as partners with Highland Capital Partners, in order to launch their own growth equity firm, Fortune has learned.Hunt is a co-founder and director with eyeglass upstart Warby Parker, and joined HCP back in 2011. He currently serves on the board of Scopely, and has been involved with such HCP portfolio companies as Gemvara, Harry’s and SessionM.Daly joined HCP in early 2012 as a principal, after having spent three years with Accel Partners. He was promoted to partner the following year, and serves on the board of Malwarebytes.News of Hunt and Daly’s pending departure first came earlier today in a letter sent to HCP’s limited partners. It was confirmed by HCP partner Sean Dalton in a phone call with Fortune. Both of their board seats are expected to be filled by other HCP staffers.Neither Hunt nor Daily has yet responded to requests for comment.In other HCP news, longtime chief financial officer Kathy Barry is expected to transition into an advisory role this May, while director of finance Jessica Pelletier will be promoted to senior vice president of finance. Dan Primack Add to Queue Attend this free webinar and learn how you can maximize efficiency while getting the most critical things done right. Next Article 1 min read This story originally appeared on Fortune Magazine Warby Parker Co-Founder Launching Growth Equity Firm Free Webinar | Sept 5: Tips and Tools for Making Progress Toward Important Goals Register Now » Warby Parker
Know My TeamWhich personality trait has helped you excel as a Marketer? Skepticism is essential for a good marketer. While they need to believe what they are communicating on behalf of a client, marketers cannot be too accepting of the assumptions a client brings to customer engagements. If we don’t apply active and constructive skepticism about client assumptions, agencies reinforce the client’s worst decisions. Being ready and willing to ask questions on behalf of the customer, about the benefits customers will get from the product or service, and the best way to simplify the customer’s journey will help refine the resulting story and sharpen campaign messaging.How big is your Marketing team and what drives them to succeed in meeting small-term and long-term goals at Metaforce?Metaforce takes the same approach it does with clients when building its own marketing programs. We assembled a team of partners and associates of seven and then eight to design, produce, and launch the company, each of us contributing across several areas.For example, Co-Founder Allen Adamson, who previously was chairman of Landor, brought his branding expertise and years of management and organization-building experience that complements my entrepreneurial, editorial, technology development, and storytelling experience. David Camp, Allen’s Co-Founder, is an exemplary execution-focused former C-level leader who has launched products with Microsoft, Amazon, and his own startups. Together, we identified a set of work necessary to close our target number of clients each year, then outsourced some work while onboarding new partners to contribute creative assets, brand imagery, and a production cadence to make Metaforce a familiar name. Building on that, we use owned and earned media as the foundation of customer engagement and have never spent on paid media. We would encourage spending in targeted client campaigns when it makes sense, but the first step is making a direct connection with the customer and potential customers with your own story, straight from the heart.People work with us for brands and causes they believe in because they have the experience to work at the senior level of any marketing organization. We’re building a movement, not a traditional agency, that provides exactly the right message to the customer at the right time, based on a clear, simple brand and design language. We bring the best people to solve the client’s challenge.How tech-savvy have the Marketing, Sales and Branding teams been that you have worked with in your career? How do you rate them on a scale of 1-10?There is a large enough sample in my background that I think of the ratings as distributed on a power curve, with very few high-performing teams at 10, assuming that is best, and the rest spread on a slightly declining curve from nine to one, where most teams fall. Microsoft has some great marketers and a lot of average ones, but the good ones are among the best I’ve known. For the most part, marketing teams tend to skew toward non-technical strengths, but in an era when new channels are appearing daily, it is essential to understand how technology modulates messages. The same message in one channel may not work in another because, for instance, there is no mechanism for answering a call-to-action in a voice interaction or on the dashboard screen of an auto navigation system.Thinking past the UX we know, especially designing for interaction beyond the screen, is essential. Today we go mobile-first because mobile phones were the last big growth market. Today, Voice-assistance, In-car entertainment, and mapping, OOH, Augmented Reality, and Virtual Reality are evolving rapidly, and they don’t restrict the user’s world to a six-inch mobile screen.How do you think young Sales Professionals should train themselves to master MarTech skills?In addition to MarTech, learn higher maths to ensure you can understand and collaborate with analysts to improve the targeting of messages, optimizing interaction before, during, and after the sale to build a repeat and growing revenue. Math skills will help them keep up with Machine Learning and AI developments so that they can leverage these tools to make their skills more valuable. Learn MarTech and keep adding to your Mathematical knowledge. It is not necessary to be a savant, but now one must be able to think in models to understand what AI is doing, to the extent it can be understood.Author David Weinberger’s new book, Everyday Chaos, encapsulates what marketers need to be prepared to embrace when he writes: “We are at the beginning of a great leap forward in our powers of understanding and managing the future: rather than always having to wrestle our world down to a size we can predict, control, and feel comfortable with, we are starting to build strategies that take our world’s complexity into account.” Thinking across multiple models is the well-spring of innovation.What is Gig Economy and how should Marketing Professionals keep refining their strategies?I’ve gigged for decades. But like other adoption curves, gig work is spread unevenly and has only entered common discourse since the cloud made the model scalable. In a nutshell, the gig economy is a local on-demand marketplace facilitated by logistics and customer experience software. We all think of Uber, which unfortunately focused on commodifying the worker, but the future of gig work is about differentiating our services and delivering them for a reasonable price, not the lowest price, that fits our need to earn or passion to work toward our clients’ goals – to join projects for a while, even as an FTE. There will be no Gig Economy, the organizational model itself is fracturing and realigning, making it more important that companies have the right team composition for each project. The era relying on one fixed team trying to do everything, but inevitably a part of their time is spent on the bench waiting for the next relevant project, is ending.Think of the early online dating environment and how it blossomed from Match.com, which was one dating site for all, into myriad specialized dating sites and open markets like Tinder. These have changed the nature of dating, which has also become hooking-up and a group activity facilitated by software. Work is changing in similar ways.B2B Marketing Strategy and Customer Acquisition ModelsTell us about your role at Metaforce and how you got here.I am an early partner in the company responsible for technical and creative communications design. Throughout my career, I’ve worked at every level of the technical product stack, from explaining hardware and software to building it, organizing creative and Editorial teams using content management tools to deliver multi-channel experiences. My forte is process-solving, finding the most efficient way to deliver quality experience through text, graphics, video, aural, and information design.David Camp and I are long-time friends and have worked together several times. When he and Allen started Metaforce, we began talking about a role and I joined late last year.Are Marketing Technologies pushing the boundaries of present-day Brand Engagement and Customer Experience? How often do you measure the performance of your Marketing Analytics and Sales Reporting tools? If you are not measuring in order to adjust resources, budgets, and messages, the tools will push you into a repetitive and unproductive direction. Metrics are not simply reporting thresholds, they are the feedback that makes a conversation with the customer possible. We need to be studying our customers with the same care given to a face-to-face conversation in order to be responsive to their needs and values.Using technology today, we can customize messaging to address people personally. Eventually, we will address everyone personally and the “mass market” will become a thing of the past. Right now, marketers tend to ignore the “noise” that doesn’t fit into their campaign metrics, but I’ve worked on examples of AI-assisted content customization increasing sales rates by 60% – that noise is full of buying signs, objections, and other feedback that can be used to create an enduring relationship with customers.What are the most critical Marketing Problems that need immediate actions?We need to deal with privacy using realistic and fair policies that prevent the customer from feeling like they will be stripped of personal data like a hillside is stripped of coal. Unfortunately, the extractive thinking that got us into the climate crisis was applied to people on the Web, and the result is a depletion of trust, of the sense a company values the individual customer.We also need to embrace transparency, so that companies share more information with customers to prove that their businesses align with people’s values. This is the flip-side of the privacy debate and is essential to the sense of accountability that builds trust in any relationship. Information asymmetries due to unequal access to information about a marketplace have created huge fortunes but at the cost of social trust. I spend a lot of time evangelizing openness about supply chain environmental impacts, for instance.Why are the two important? When people can trust a company to keep their information private and use it only in service to them, they will share more information – in the form of future buying plans and the values they want to achieve with those purchases. When companies publicly disclose their CSR and environmental performance, they build confidence among consumers that they share common goals – when consumers can support a goal, such as reducing atmospheric CO2 or reducing the use of toxins in production processes, they will become customers. The circular economy will be viable when privacy and transparency are upgraded for our digital times.How can technology help to solve these problems?For the past 40 years, the internet has been adding to the volume of information we can access as individuals and organizations. Now, technology can help us filter out the dross and focus on what matters – in far greater detail than before. Experience is speciating, diverging into more specialized channels and exotic forms of interaction that allow us to be with customers, and for customers to tap into any company or service, an intimate partnership. Technology can provide automated contracts to extend trusted relationships into new channels, such as voice, AR, and VR that will allow more personalized interaction.The next 10 years will be about rebuilding trust, which is shattered like a plate glass window and still shedding shards noisily onto the floor of history. We’re going to talk about this era for centuries.What are the dynamic elements driving your B2B Customer Engagement model? How do you execute Engagement Economy vision, Strategy, Product and Corporate development at Metaforce?Here’s the basic mechanism for engagement: Questions. Not statements, though they set the stage for questions, the give-and-take that characterized face-to-face interaction for millennia. Listening closely to prospective customers, customers, and former customers can be accomplished through a variety of channels, from email and a website to the new voice and virtual environments we’re building.When we begin a branding or strategy project, we interview dozens of customers at every level of spend to understand what has captured their imagination and how they use the product or service to accomplish their goals. After that, we have a reliable map with which to start building relationships through different channels. Depending on the client’s goals, the limitations and future capabilities of each engagement channel, we design a go-to-market strategy and communication process for building relationships. We start with the message and express it through measurable interactions that help our client develop a trusted relationship with groups first, then individuals. We also coach the client’s sales and marketing teams about how to make the most of the digital engagements for campaigns and product feedback. Telling customers the story about how they changed a company is a powerful message that they are in charge of.How does Metaforce help customers to choose a reliable partner in the age of disruption?We rely on our hundreds of years of experience at the C-level and on hundreds of projects to perform a review similar to our customer engagement interview process: we identify the client’s strong suits and weaknesses, digging into how they work to connect them with the right technology partners or service providers. Our teams are built for the customer’s needs. We will provide services for the long-term or transfer the team to the client depending on what’s best for the client.Marketing and Sales Alignment: Social Media and Content Marketing StrategiesWhat are the tools and strategies you use to create effective B2B content at Metaforce? Could you provide us a sneak peek into your MarTech Acceleration strategies?Ideation and composition begin with the right data flows. We subscribe to feeds related to the customer’s industry and follow influential sources, competitors, and scientific writing that is shaping the industry. Each of these yields material that can engage customers. We either embed an editor in the organization or deliver content to support the client’s communication, but encourage internal use of the ideas we provide. At Microsoft, I worked on a project that removed a half-dozen layers of reviewers between an executive in charge of a product and the audience that ultimately consumed the executive messages. We used a blogging platform, nothing complicated, and equipped leadership to speak directly to the market.Metaforce amplifies that human-sourcing with content management, distribution, metrics, and the appropriate advanced technology to make and build relationships. We don’t encourage a client to embrace advanced technology until we can show how it will cultivate a deeper customer engagement. Our special sauce is prepared from our collective experience for each client, not served cafeteria style.What are the types of content (web and social) you prefer to read and retain/share in a day, week, month, and a quarter?I read hundreds of sources across tech, peer-reviewed journals in cognitive and Social Science, MarTech, and the general press to keep up with what’s next. As a former journalist during the rise of the Net, my skepticism about the hype applied to any new technology verges on the jaded. So, I rely on reading the experience of marketers, coders, and business leaders who have used, for example, Augmented Reality in their business. Vendor content comes last in most cases.Out of all marketing collateral, including the whitepaper, brochures, e-book, playbook, case studies, webinar, research reports, and infographics, which ones resonate the most with your customers? All of these resonate under different circumstances at points along the customer journey. An infographic can catch attention and link to a whitepaper download offer. Our clients’ customers habits, per our market explorations during the launch phase, determines which we suggest they invest in.Customer Success and Technology InsightsFrom a tactical standpoint, how often does your organization revisit the automation stack? Every project. We have different stacks that we rely on, such as WordPress and its eco-system or Adobe Experience Manager and its supporting services, but always seek to integrate with what a client has used in the past unless it is so antiquated that it is unserviceable. Why that tenacious attention to the past? It’s where the client’s existing relationships are consolidated at the beginning of a project.Tell us more about Verizon’s Customer Journey story and how Metaforce delivered its promises on Marketing Packaging, and Online Activation? Every few years, Verizon customers come into the store to upgrade or buy a new phone. Often the customer will also need new accessories to work with their new device. From cases to screen protectors to car chargers and headphones. While they wait for their new phone to be configured customers often wander around the store. Research indicated that Verizon’s own private label accessory packaging and merchandising were extremely difficult to shop. By strengthening packaging and merchandising communications and branding, Verizon was better able to capitalize on the key accessory buying opportunity that occurs when customers upgrade their phones.How does the technology involved impact your customer building/partnership model?We compose the team differently based on the existing technology and build for marketing outcomes with the appropriate technology. My concern is always to provide the client with a path forward to integrate new capabilities and channels as they emerge.How do you see the technology you use impact the Customer Acquisition and Success Rate?Well, it’s a combination of technology and message. The right tech delivering the right messages can transform sales and customer engagement. My favorite example of how to combine content and AI, which was developed by a startup I Co-Founded, Gig Economy Group, we identified the most effective language used by salespeople when sharing branded content and propagated those suggestions to the entire sales network. Salespeople are not forced to accept the suggested language, but the coaching resulted in the adoption of more effective messaging. And as each salesperson continued to develop their customer relationships, their good ideas are made available to other members of the organization.Do you see Sales and Marketing Technologies unifying or evolving together to deliver higher ROI to CMOs? Yes. Marketing without sales is just talking to an undefined audience. Sales, however, will be more automated and I think the challenge on that side of the equation will be delivering human touches when most appropriate.What is that one piece of advice you received that you would like to pass on to the MarTech industry?I’m a convinced adherent to David Weinberger, Doc Searls, Chris Locke, and Jim Sterne’s advice in The Cluetrain Manifesto: Markets are conversations. People talking to people in our economy and society in action. Machines will help optimize, but without the people, it’s all noise.Tag a living person from the industry that you would like to read answers from, in our Fireside Chat: Doc Searls (@dsearls) and David Weinberger (@dweinberger)Thank You, Mitch, for answering all our questions. We hope to see you again at MTS, soon. Mitch Ratcliffe talks about how Sales Professionals should train themselves to master MarTech skills customer engagementcustomer experienceFireside ChatMetaforceMitch Ratcliffe Previous ArticleZendesk Expands Amazon Web Services Support to Make Customer Data More ActionableNext ArticleSharpSpring Named Top Marketing Resource Management Software by G2 Crowd Fireside Chat with Mitch Ratcliffe, Marketing Partner at Metaforce Sudipto GhoshJuly 12, 2019, 1:30 pmJuly 12, 2019
CES tech show stuffed with gadgets we don’t need – or do we? Trying to distinguish your product among the thousands at the CES gadget show is no easy feat, so it helps when music legend Stevie Wonder pays an unexpected visit. © 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only. In this Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018, photo, musician Stevie Wonder plays a so-called “smart” piano, an internet-connected device designed to teach people how to play, while piano teacher Gabie Perry stands next to him at The One Music Group’s CES booth in Las Vegas. Wonder spent about 15 minutes playing tunes as a crowd gathered at the booth. Wonder says he likes to visit the conference to see new things and meet people. (AP Photo/Matt O’Brien) Explore further Citation: Stevie Wonder wows crowd on ‘smart’ piano at tech show (2018, January 11) retrieved 18 July 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2018-01-stevie-wows-crowd-smart-piano.html Especially when your product is a “smart” piano designed to teach people how to play.Piano teacher Gabie Perry was demonstrating the internet-connected device, made by a California startup, when someone told her that Wonder asked to try it. She thought it was a joke.Wonder spent about 15 minutes playing tunes as a crowd gathered at The One Music Group’s CES booth in Las Vegas. Wonder says he likes to visit the conference to “see new things” and meet people. He’s among several celebrity musicians attending, including rapper Iggy Azalea and Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry.CES runs through Friday.