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Monday, February 24 2014

This week begins with a flurry of fireworks, snow and big deals.

20140224-FTA-sochi-olympics-team-usa355Small Talk Special
The Winter Olympics at Sochi have come to a close with a ceremony full of fireworks. It was Russia's opportunity to show the world its progress and strength. There were a few glitches, both political and technical, but the Sochi games have left everyone talking about Russia. The US finished in 2nd after host country Russia in terms of medals, most notably in Freestyle Skiing and Snowboarding. In Figure skating, Meryl Davis and Charlie White became the first Americans to win a gold medal in the short dance category.


Despite the festivities in Russia, across the black sea other fireworks were taking place in Kiev, Ukraine where the city marked the end of the Ukranian struggle to oust president Viktor Yanukovych. The victory came after Parliament redesigned the government and installed Oleksandr Turchynov as interim-president. 82 people died in the violent protests held in the capital's Independence Sqaure. New elections will be held in May.

Making Deals
That's not the only news related to the Ukraine! Jan Koum, Ukranian-American, and co-founder Michigan native Brian Acton of messaging App, WhatsApp, closed one of the biggest deals in Internet with Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook which has bought WhatsApp for $19 billion dollarsKoum and Acton met while working at Yahoo, and in 2009 they decided to launch a messaging system that didn't incur fees from the carriers or bombard users with ads. The free smartphone messaging app popular in Europe, promises to retain its autonomy and independence.  WhatsApp now has over 450 million users.

But all massive internet initiatives have a few glitches. WhatsApp service was cut-off temporarily soon after the announcement. That's not the only data agency to have to apologize to its users last week. Last Week National Security Agency's Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, apologized for the lack of transparency regarding the agency's data collection and surveillance of US citizens. The key take-away here- transparency is relevant not just for business but for government too.

Now, that Netflix and Comcast have struck a new streaming deal, you can watch videos faster (If you're a Comcast Customer). This is the second time this year Comcast has made headlines, following its announcement of a $45billion purchase of Time Warner Cable, making it the largest broadband provider in the country.

Around the World
This weekend, leaders from the G20, the Group of 20 biggest economies in the world of major industrialized nations, have meet in Sydney prior to the November meeting in Brisbane, Australia. During this meeting the group issued a communiqué pledging to work towards a goal to increase the expected GDP by 2% in their respective countries in addition to stricter and more uniform tax regulation. The latter issue is a response to "profit shifting" by major firms such as Apple, Google, Starbucks and Amazon, all of which have been accused of tax evasion by relocating fiscal headquarters to lower taxation regimes in other countries. The G20 represents about 85% of the world economy.

Closer to home, at the North American Trade Summit, between the US, Mexico, Canada, the so called three friends (los tres amigos) were less successful in finding common ground. The meeting is aimed at furthering trade and economic relations among the North American neighbors. On the table were issues related to international travel, border restrictions and red tape for import-export businesses.

What would international trade be without deliver trucks? Not much. Last Tuesday President Obama announced a new initiative to promote truck fuel efficiency. It proposes to reduce oil consumption by 8 billion barrels as Heavy Duty Trucks are responsible for 20% of fuel consumption and highway greenhouse gas emissions. A new rule will be in place as of March 2015, however the associated tax credits will have to gain approval by congress before going live. So far, FedEx and UPS have signed up. The President joked that if these two rivals "can join together on this, then maybe Democrats and Republicans can do the same."

Start Your Week With A Smile
Humanities majors take heart! You're relevant too! A new study by the Harvard Business Review shows that those "intangible skills" learned in lit class have tangible benefits in today's workplace. Despite the higher salaries found in Science jobs, there's nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to learning for learning's sake.

You may be working too hard. Take a break. Inspired by the intensity of Olympic competitions, Birgid Schulte from the Washington Post reminds us that all work and no play makes jack a dull boy.

Finally, as Black History Month comes to a close, be inspired by a selection of quotes from Black Americans who have contributed to making our country great. This year marks 50th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, as such the theme was Civil Rights in America to remind us of the struggle others went through for the freedoms we enjoy today. We leave you with the words of America's first lady of Song:

"Just don't give up what you're trying to do. Where there is love and inspiration, I don't think you can go wrong." - Ella Fitzgerald


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