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Consumer Spending Down Over Thanksgiving

Retailers certainly always hope that the Thanksgiving weekend will bring massive sales. This year, however, it was difficult for them to compete with online shopping and early holiday promotions. Shoppers, on average, were found to spend 6.4% less than they did last year at this time, according to data released by the National Retail Federation.

The NRF estimates that shoppers spend $380.95 at stores over the holiday weekend, compared with $407.02 last year. This was a total spending fall of about 11% over the weekend.

NRF President and Chief Executive Matthew Shay explained that there has been a “revolutionary change” in holiday shopping and that it’s likely to continue. With the growing ease and importance of online sales and the lessening excitement over Black Friday, retailers aren’t getting out to the stores over the holiday weekend as they used to.

The Thanksgiving weekend is also an early gauge of consumer mood and spending for the entire season. This weekend accounts for about 30% of the sales and almost 40$ of the profits for retailers during the holiday season.

BlackBerry Attempts Come Back

BlackBerry is attempting an earnest comeback, according to chief executive John Chen. Chen moved into the executive role in November of 2013 and he is trying to get the company on track. They have raised cash through their sale of real estate holdings in Waterloo, Ontario.

As Chen said while speaking to Reuters, “Once we turn this company to profitability again, I will do everything I can to never lose money ever again. That is definitely something I am very focused on doing.”

Having made his name at Sybase, Chen said, “If you look at my track record at Sybase, I think we made money for some 60 quarters in a row, even when the dotcom bubble blew up we were profitable. I like that philosophy,” said Chen, who added he believes the worst is now behind BlackBerry. We will survive as a company and now I am rather confident. We’re managing the supply chain, we are managing inventories, we are managing cash, and we have expenses now at a number that is very manageable. BlackBerry has survived; now we have to start looking at growth.”

BlackBerry is hiring again although it has not yet turned steady profits.Time will tell if they get back on their feet.



Ebola & The Economy…a Direct Connection?

While Ebola is certainly scaring the nation, it does not appear to be hurting the economy at the moment. The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan index of consumer sentiment rose in early October to the highest level that it’s seen since July of 2007.

As David Berson, an economist at Nationwide Mutual Insurance in Columbus, Ohio, said, “The underlying strength of the U.S. economy remains intact. If it were not for Ebola and geopolitical concerns, these (sentiment) numbers would be higher.”

Measures of consumer confidence simply haven’t shown the worry or alarm that has been expected. Economists polled by Reuters who expected a drop found instead that the sentiment index ticked two tenths of a point higher to 86.4. Gallup’s daily poll of economic sentiment has also been stable in recent weeks.

As Kris Dawsey, a Goldman Sachs analyst said, “Despite rising media coverage, Ebola seems to have had little discernible effect on consumer sentiment to date.”

Agiliance Inc. Wins Stevie Awards

Agiliance®, Inc., the Big Data Risk Company™ and a provider of integrated solutions for Operational and Security Risk programs has recently announced that they received four Stevie Awards during the 2014 American Business Awards competition. They received the Gold Award for being the Most Innovative Tech Company of the Year (with up to 100 employees). They also received three other honors for its product called RiskVision™. They were named as the Gold Award winner for Best Governance, Risk, and Compliance Software Solution. They also received the Bronze Award for Best Software Security Solution and for Best Big Data Software Solution.

As Torsten George, the VP of worldwide marketing and products for Agiliance, said,

“In 2014, Agiliance has received more than two dozen industry accolades. These Gold and Bronze Stevie Awards are especially gratifying for the company, its employees, and our partners. The American Business Awards is the nation’s premier business competition – it can’t get any bigger. In 2014, Agiliance has received more than two dozen industry accolades. These Gold and Bronze Stevie Awards are especially gratifying for the company, its employees, and our partners.”

Plans for the Swatch Smartwatch?

Swatch Group plans to launch a series of watches with “smart” features to complete with the wearable gadgets from large brands. They plan to unveil the Swatch Touch next summer. Swatch Chief Executive Nick Hayek explained that the watches will have a step counter, calorie calculator and other “Swatchy” things.

Apple has recently invited the media to a special event where many believe they will unveil an “iWatch.” and this is perhaps partly responsible for Swatch losing almost 15% so far this year.

Other companies are working on smartwatches as well with Google’s Motorola having plans to launch the Moto360 next week in the US. The spotlight, however, is all on Apple and its up-and-coming announcement.



Scholarship Programs on the Virgin Islands

For people living on the Virgin Islands, there are many interesting educational grants that are certainly worth exploring. The Virgin Island Board of Education offers four types of financial assistance. They have Territorial Scholarships, Special Legislative Grants, In-Service Training Grants and Summer Grants for Educators. Generous donors like the White Bay Group USVI LLLP have helped to ensure these grants continue.

In order to get the grant, people must be residents of the Virgin Islands and graduates from a Virgin Island high school. They must be able to show financial need and must have a cumulative grade point average of no less than 2 or 2.5 if nursing. Finally, they must be accepted to or attending an accredited institution.

Another interesting grant that the Board of Education has is the Morris F. DeCastro Fellowship that allows as much as $45,000 per one year and applies to active Virgin Islands Government Employees. It is for active government workers who are accepted to an institution of higher learning and are nominated by the Governor of the Virgin Islands, the President of the Legislature or others. The fellowship lasts for one year and includes one fellowship for the district of St. Thomas-St. John and one for the Distric of ST. Croix.

Certainly, these fellowships and scholarships are worth exploring for anyone who wants to get ahead. The assistance of those like the White Bay Group with Elli Ausubel and Uriel Cohen allows these programs to continue to grow and flourish.

Obama Pledges Large Sum to Africa

Certainly, when Obama talks, others listen. And this is definitely true when he talks about $14 billion. Obama pledged to invest more than this amount in Africa while speaking at a meeting of African leaders recently. His remarks came during the US-Africa Business Forum. Speakers and attendees included former president Bill Clinton, Wal-Mart president and chief executive Doug McMillon, MasterCard president and chief executive Ajay Banga and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim.

Officials want to strengthen financial and trade ties between African countries and the US. As Obama said in his speech, “We want to do business with these folks.”


Great Bahama Vacations: Bimini Cruise from Miami, Carnival Cruise and Norwegian Cruises

The Bahamas are a string of more than 700 islands in the Atlantic Ocean just off the coast of Florida. Breathtaking beaches, warm inviting water, and a relaxing atmosphere make the Bahamas a favorite destination for Americans. The variety of ways to visit these islands almost numbers the amount of islands in the island chain. Listed are just three of the many enticing possibilities for wonderful romantic or family getaway.

Bimini Cruise from Miami
Bimini Superfast Cruise from Miami

Bimini Superfast Cruise from Miami

Strapped for time? Then there is no doubt that a Bimini Cruise from Miami hosted by Resorts World Bimini (RWBimini) is the choice for you. Leaving at 9AM every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the Bimini Superfast speeds you to the western Bahama island of Bimini in just over 2 hours. Traveling at speeds up to 30 knots, the 32,000 gross ton ship is the fastest cruise liner in America. As you speed to your destination passengers enjoy the delights of six spectacular restaurants and other activities in comfort and style. Upon arrival visitors on the Bimini Day Cruise have hours to explore the delights of the island. The fun does not end until passengers return home to Miami at 8PM. Hard to think of a better way to spend a day.

Carnival Cruise from Virginia

Have a little more time? Consider taking Carnival Cruises leaving from Norfolk, Virginia. Trips with Carnival can be from 2-5 days long and take passengers to the Bahama ports of Nassau and Freeport. On board the Carnival Splendor passengers can enjoy comedy shows, musical performances, karaoke and more in the El Morocco Lounge. The ship has a jazz club and an elegant steak house. The cloud 9 Spa gives the word “relax” new meaning, while those looking for a bit more excitement can head for the Splash Park and the Carnival Twister Waterslide. Carnival would be an excellent choice for those looking for a bit of a longer dream vacation.

Norwegian Cruise from New York

Saving all your vacation time for that one big adventure? Consider a 14-night Bermuda, Bahamas and Florida tour. The Norwegian Cruise Line offers a full service holiday on their luxurious Norwegian Breakaway. The cruise ship offers a long list of bars, clubs and lounges; a spa; a fitness and sports center; swimming pools; shopping in art galleries and more; theater, singers, dance, comedy and magic shows; and much more. There are even children’s programs. Ports of call include West End, Bermuda; Port Canaveral, Florida; Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas; and then New York. If you have the time for an extended cruise, this one is excellent.

Massive Settlement Awarded to Widow of Chain Smoker

In a fascinating ruling, a Florida jury has just awarded the widow of a chain smoker who died of lung cancer 18 years ago more than $23 billion against RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company. These are punitive damages and represent the largest award given in a wrongful death lawsuit filed by a single plaintiff.

Cynthia Robinson sued RJ Reynolds in 2008 saying that the company conspired to conceal the health dangers of their product. Her husband died of lung cancer in 1996 at the age of 36, having smoked one to three packs a day for more than 20 years.

The jury awarded $7.3 million to the widow and the couple’s child and $9.6 million to another son of Johnson’s. They then awarded $23.6 billion in punitive damages.

Of course, J. Jeffery Raborn, vp and assistant general counsel for RJ Reynolds, said that they plan to challenge “this runaway verdict.”




Facebook Acquires LiveRail

In a desire to make video ads a larger part of their business, Facebook Inc. is acquiring the video advertising company LiveRail. LiveRail’s technology pairs video ad with videos that appear on websites such as sites for ABC, Major League Baseball and others.

Facebook won’t discuss its own plans for the technology. Learn more about LiveRail and about Facebook’s acquisition.


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