PULSE: In the News
The worldwide pulse. Things that matter.

WWSG speakers are actively involved in major events around the world and play a key role in shaping their trajectory and outcome. Below is a sampling of today's top stories that may be impacting your business and for which WWSG can help address these critical issues.

Pulse: In The News

Allen West: Tom Steyer and the Seemingly Boundless Hypocrisy of Liberals (+/-)

By: Allen West, Fox News 

How many times do we have to hear about the evil one-percenters who embrace the Republican party? Or how many times shall we have to endure Senator Harry Reid disparage the Koch brothers? Will we ever hear the liberal progressive socialists admit their own hypocrisy with billionaire George Soros who is behind every major left-wing radical organization or initiative? Nah, of course not.

Because they’re too busy embracing hypocrites like Tom Steyer. As Powerline reports, “Billionaire hedge fund operator and “green” energy magnate Tom Steyer has pledged $100 million in the 2014 election cycle to help Democratic candidates who oppose the Keystone pipeline and who favor “green” energy over fossil fuels.” Wait, I thought those hedge fund folks were bad and evil?

Anyway, in typical liberal progressive fashion, Steyer believes he’s on a mission to shape what’s best for all of us. In 2012 he left his position at Farallon, the company he co-founded, in order to focus on political activism, in particular on advocating for alternative energy.

Steyer claims to be a man of principle who has no financial interest in the causes he supports, but acts only for the public good. Ha. Steyer depends on government connections to produce subsidies and mandates that make his “green” energy investments profitable. He also is, or was until recently, a major investor in Kinder Morgan, which is building a competitor to the Keystone pipeline.

But wait, there’s more.

According to Powerline, today he is a bitter opponent of fossil fuels, especially coal — how convenient it seems. That fits with his current economic interests: banning coal-fired power plants will boost the value of his solar projects. But it was not always thus. In fact, Steyer owes his fortune in large part to the fact that he was one of the world’s largest financers of coal projects. Tom Steyer was for coal before he was against it.

But hardly anyone in the U.S. knows about this, because all of his investments in coal, through Farallon, the company he founded, have been done overseas, and wherever possible, through corporate structures that make it difficult to trace their direct involvement. Powerline presents some interesting facts:

• Over the past decade Farallon has become, without question, the pre-eminent financier of coal transactions in Asia and Australia.

• The coal mines Steyer funded through Farallon produce an amount of CO2 each year equivalent to about 28 percent of the amount of CO2 produced in the US each year by coal burned for electricity generation.

• The half dozen Indonesian and Australian coal producers in Farallon’s investment stable produced about 80 mtpa of coal collectively prior to Farallon’s involvement. By 2012 these companies produced 150 mtpa, making them together the largest private sector coal companies in the world. I guess once he made his billions from coal production, he got “environmental religion.” (By comparison, the “famously evil” Koch brothers appear to own a grand total of … wait for it ….ONE coal mine which, at its peak, produced 6 mtpa and is no longer in operation)

You can read the full report here, but I think you get the picture. Tom Steyer is just another typical liberal progressive socialist hypocrite and liar, nothing more than another profiteer looking to use government to further his own causes — and it ain’t about the “public good.” As they always say, follow the money, and when you do, you find the real interests of those supporting the Democrat party — the party of Wall Street.

There’s nothing wrong with free market capitalism. But there is something very wrong with crony capitalism.

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Russell Simmons to Speak at Claremont Lincoln Convocation (+/-)

By: Staff, Virtual Strategy 

Claremont Lincoln University is pleased to announce that Russell Simmons – an internationally known entrepreneur, philanthropist and ambassador for peace – will speak at a festive celebration May 20 involving graduates, educational partners and community.

Convocation 2014: a Celebration of Graduates begins at 4 p.m. Tuesday, May 20 at Garrison Theater, 1030 Columbia Avenue, Claremont. The purpose of this inaugural event is to celebrate the achievements of students, the interreligious and academic partnerships of the Claremont Lincoln Consortium, followed by a celebration rich in tradition and culture.

“This has been a milestone year for Claremont Lincoln as we continue to grow into an independent graduate institution,” said President Jerry Campbell. “We are hosting this convocation to thank everyone who has helped get us to where we are today, and to celebrate long-lasting relationships that will help us all continue to grow into the future.”

The event is free, but reservations are required. Preference will be given to graduating students and their guests, Claremont Lincoln Consortium members (Claremont School of Theology, Bayan Claremont, Academy for Jewish Religion, California, University of the West and the CLU Centers for Jain, Sikh and South Asian traditions) as well as all of the Claremont Colleges. RSVP at http://www.claremontlincoln.org/convocation/. For information, email events(at)claremontlincoln(dot)org.

Simmons is a hip-hop pioneer, entrepreneur and philanthropist whose focus on mindfulness, compassion and ethical leadership has sparked a kindred connection with Claremont Lincoln University, a new Southern California graduate school empowering students to bring unlikely allies together across differing religious and cultural boundaries and to create innovative ways to put compassion, collaboration and wisdom to work in the world.

“We’re incredibly excited to have such an important and influential world figure coming to speak at our convocation,” said Campbell. “Russell Simmons has dedicated his life to bringing people together and I know his message will resonate with everyone.”

Simmons co-founded the hip hop music label Def Jam and made hundreds of millions of dollars from that and other business venues including the clothing lines Phat Farm, Argyleculture and American Classics. He speaks and writes extensively on effective ethical business practices with a spiritual foundation of self-awareness and compassion for others and is involved in countless philanthropic efforts around the world.

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Sheila Bair: Big Institutional Investors Need Finance 101 Refresher (+/-)

By: Sarah Todd, American Banker 

Sheila Bair has been an advocate of financial education for everyone from homebuyers to kindergartners since she stepped down as Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. chief a few years ago, but it's not just Main Street that needs economic schooling in her mind.

Big institutional investors demonstrated a profound lack of fiscal skill in the run-up to the financial crisis, she says.

Institutional investors' failure to research the risk associated with the mortgage-backed securities they traded left them exposed when the assets turned toxic, Bair said Tuesday in a speech at the Museum of American Finance in New York City.

"Because [institutional investors] didn't do their homework, they lost market discipline and didn't appropriately price for the risk they were taking, and they were surprised" when the wholesale market soured, Bair said. "And that surprise is one of the reasons the market seized up — they ended up having a very low risk tolerance for taking any losses."

Bair largely avoided naming names in her critique of private investors, although she singled out Citigroup (NYSE:C) — which she has previously argued should have been allowed to fail during the crisis. Financial irresponsibility was pervasive among the majority of institutional investors, she said.

"If big institutional investors had worked a little harder at the basic core principles" of economics such as buyer beware and understanding risk, Bair said, "we wouldn't have had the crisis we had, because the market wouldn't have funded it. You wouldn't have gotten the investment and this kind of excessive risk-taking."

Moreover, Bair said, if investors had followed the lead of Warren Buffet — an investor with a reputation for careful risk management who managed to make money during the crisis — "they would have been in a better position to absorb the losses when the market turned."

While Bair reserved her harshest words for institutional investors, the former FDIC chairman — who currently serves as a senior advisor to the nonprofit Pew Charitable Trusts — noted a few other areas in need of improvement.

Banks should face higher capital requirements, Bair said, which would force them "to put more skin in the game."

"We need to force banks to fund [their activities] with more common equity, which will give their shareholders more of an incentive to monitor risk" and provide banks with a cushion for potential losses, Bair said.

In response to the argument that higher capital requirements could make banks less profitable, Bair pointed to out that Wells Fargo (WFC) — the highest-earning U.S. bank in 2013 — also has one of the highest capital levels. It had a Tier 1 common equity ratio of 11.36% under Basel III in the first quarter.

"Capital is a competitive strength, not a competitive weakness," Bair said.

The financial industry must also face up to the cultural issues that contributed to the crisis, Bair said. She argued that traders who work in large institutions frequently feel disconnected from the effect their actions might have on everyday people.

"Their environment is a blinking screen, their thought process is in algorithms," she said. "They don't interact with real people, but what they do has real-life ramifications."

"Maybe when people go into financial services, they should have to live with a homeless family for a while or stand in the unemployment line for a few weeks," Bair said, noting that her tongue was only partially in cheek.

The idea may not be too far-fetched. Referring to the idea that Wall Street workers should wait in unemployment lines, one audience member spurred a round of laughter with the observation: "I think we've done that in the last few years."

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Steve Wozniak to Keynote at the 48th Design Automation Conference (+/-)

By: Staff, BusinessWire

Industry luminaries from Apple/ Fusion-IO, Freescale Semiconductor, Intel, and IBM will give keynotes at the 48th Design Automation Conference (DAC). DAC 2011, the premier conference devoted to design and design automation of electronic systems, will be held at the San Diego Convention Center in San Diego, California, from June 5-10, 2011. Design Automation Conference acknowledges trademarks or registered trademarks of other organizations for their respective products and services.

“In assembling the 48th DAC series of distinguished keynotes, DAC is emphasizing the changes that Embedded Systems and Software are driving in electronic product design and its impact on the EDA industry in the keynotes by Lisa Su and Gadi Singer,” said Leon Stok, General Chair of the 48th DAC. “Steve Wozniak will lead this off by showing us the sheer joy of engineering innovation in putting challenging systems together. The series will be rounded off by Dharmendra Modha offering us a glimpse in the future of computing.”

Keynote Schedule:

Monday, June 6, 2011 from 2:00--3:00pm

  • Up Close and Personal with Steve Wozniak
  • Steve Wozniak, founder of Apple Computer and currently Chief Scientist for Fusion-IO
  • Steve Wozniak will be interviewed live on stage by San Jose Mercury News columnist Mike Cassidy on a wide range of topics, including the ‘joy’ of engineering and following your passion to convert innovative ideas into reality. Steve will provide a unique insight into the vision that started the largest and most successful technology company in the world.

Steve Wozniak 

A Silicon Valley icon and philanthropist for more than thirty years, Steve Wozniak has helped shape the computing industry with his design of Apple’s first line of products the Apple I and II and influenced the popular Macintosh. In 1976, Wozniak and Steve Jobs founded Apple Computer, Inc. to market Wozniak’s Apple I personal computer. For his achievements at Apple Computer, Inc., Wozniak was awarded the National Medal of Technology, the highest honor bestowed on America’s leading innovators.

Since the 1980's, Wozniak has been involved in various business and philanthropic ventures. He has spent a great deal of time and energy focusing on computer usage in schools by stressing hands-on learning and encouraging creativity for students. In 2000, he was inducted into the Inventors Hall of Fame and was awarded the prestigious Heinz Award for Technology, The Economy and Employment. Wozniak also co-founded the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and was the founding sponsor of the Tech Museum, Silicon Valley Ballet and Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose. He currently serves as Chief Scientist for Fusion-IO.

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Ayaan Hirsi Ali: Brandeis Betrays its Educational Mission (+/-)

By: Jonathan Zimmerman, Newsday

In 1949, Wayne State University president David Henry blocked Herbert Phillips, a well-known philosophy professor, from speaking on campus. The reason: Phillips was a Communist. "I cannot believe that the university is under any obligation in the name of education, to give him an audience," Henry said.

I thought of the episode when I learned about Brandeis University's recent decision to withdraw its offer of an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali following criticism from students, faculty and the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Citing Ali's controversial remarks about Islam, Brandeis said the comments were "inconsistent" with its "core values."

But a core value of a university is -- or should be -- open dialogue and discussion. And Brandeis -- not Ali -- violated it, just as universities did by keeping out left-leaning speakers during the McCarthy era.

A native of Somalia who fled a forced marriage, Ali eventually moved to Holland and was subsequently elected to parliament. She also wrote the screenplay for a 2004 film about the treatment of Muslim women, which earned her death threats that prompted her to move to the United States.

And in a 2007 interview, Ali called Islam "a destructive, nihilistic cult of death." Later that year, she said "there is no moderate Islam" and that it must be "defeated."

Over the top? Definitely. Offensive? I think so. But Ali's comments hardly put her in the same category as Nazis or white supremacists, as several critics have recently charged. Unlike fascist ideologues, who stressed the second-class status of women and their duty to reproduce for the fatherland, Ali has fought for independence and equality for women.

She also has been at the center of an ongoing debate about whether Muslims have enhanced or curbed women's rights. These are legitimate issues, and academia should address them.

Instead, we're more likely to quash them. Part of the problem is the liberal political orientation of university professors. That makes it hard to include perspectives from people like Ali, who don't fit neatly into the categories we've created for ourselves. She's a feminist, obviously, but she has also made anti-Islamic remarks. Is she one of us, or not? Even worse, we tend to demonize people who disagree with us. The very worst aspect of American political culture is the assumption that your opponents are either stupid or evil. The university used to be a bulwark against that kind of thinking. But lately, I fear, we've fallen into it ourselves.

Nobody ever admits that out loud; instead, liberals simply say certain views are too offensive to merit a hearing. But that's precisely what red-baiters said about Communists and their sympathizers during the Cold War. And it's also what conservative Catholics said in 2009, when Notre Dame tapped President Barack Obama as its graduation speaker.

More than 300,000 people signed a petition urging the university to revoke its invitation to Obama, a long-standing supporter of abortion rights. In hosting the president, the petition said, the institution was "betraying its Catholic mission."

But turning away Obama would have betrayed the university's academic mission: to promote dialogue and understanding across our myriad differences. Fortunately, Notre Dame held firm, and Obama gave his address. Some dissenting graduates protested his abortion views by affixing pictures of baby feet to their mortar boards.

Ali won't have the opportunity to address Brandeis graduates next month. More to the point, students won't have the chance to challenge and engage her. That's a core value of the university, and also of a liberal society. Too bad Brandeis -- and its avowedly liberal defenders -- seem to have forgotten it.

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Katty Kay: The Confidence Gap (+/-)

By: Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, The Atlantic 

For years, we women have kept our heads down and played by the rules. We’ve been certain that with enough hard work, our natural talents would be recognized and rewarded.

We’ve made undeniable progress. In the United States, women now earn more college and graduate degrees than men do. We make up half the workforce, and we are closing the gap in middle management. Half a dozen global studies, conducted by the likes of Goldman Sachs and Columbia University, have found that companies employing women in large numbers outperform their competitors on every measure of profitability. Our competence has never been more obvious. Those who closely follow society’s shifting values see the world moving in a female direction.

And yet, as we’ve worked, ever diligent, the men around us have continued to get promoted faster and be paid more. The statistics are well known: at the top, especially, women are nearly absent, and our numbers are barely increasing. Half a century since women first forced open the boardroom doors, our career trajectories still look very different from men’s.

Some observers say children change our priorities, and there is some truth in this claim. Maternal instincts do contribute to a complicated emotional tug between home and work lives, a tug that, at least for now, isn’t as fierce for most men. Other commentators point to cultural and institutional barriers to female success. There’s truth in that, too. But these explanations for a continued failure to break the glass ceiling are missing something more basic: women’s acute lack of confidence.

The elusive nature of confidence has intrigued us ever since we started work on our 2009 book, Womenomics, which looked at the many positive changes unfolding for women. To our surprise, as we talked with women, dozens of them, all accomplished and credentialed, we kept bumping up against a dark spot that we couldn’t quite identify, a force clearly holding them back. Why did the successful investment banker mention to us that she didn’t really deserve the big promotion she’d just got? What did it mean when the engineer who’d been a pioneer in her industry for decades told us offhandedly that she wasn’t sure she was really the best choice to run her firm’s new big project? In two decades of covering American politics as journalists, we realized, we have between us interviewed some of the most influential women in the nation. In our jobs and our lives, we walk among people you would assume brim with confidence. And yet our experience suggests that the power centers of this nation are zones of female self-doubt—that is, when they include women at all.

We know the feeling firsthand. Comparing notes about confidence over dinner one night last year, despite how well we knew each other, was a revelation. Katty got a degree from a top university, speaks several languages, and yet had spent her life convinced that she just wasn’t intelligent enough to compete for the most-prestigious jobs in journalism. She still entertained the notion that her public profile in America was thanks to her English accent, which surely, she suspected, gave her a few extra IQ points every time she opened her mouth.

Claire found that implausible, laughable really, and yet she had a habit of telling people she was “just lucky”—in the right place at the right time—when asked how she became a CNN correspondent in Moscow while still in her 20s. And she, too, for years, routinely deferred to the alpha-male journalists around her, assuming that because they were so much louder, so much more certain, they just knew more. She subconsciously believed that they had a right to talk more on television. But were they really more competent? Or just more self-assured?

We began to talk with other highly successful women, hoping to find instructive examples of raw, flourishing female confidence. But the more closely we looked, the more we instead found evidence of its shortage.

The All-Star WNBA player Monique Currie, of the Washington Mystics, displays dazzling agility and power on the basketball court. On the subject of confidence, however, she sounded disconcertingly like us. Currie rolled her eyes when we asked whether her wellspring of confidence was as deep as that of a male athlete. “For guys,” she said, in a slightly mystified, irritated tone, “I think they have maybe 13- or 15-player rosters, but all the way down to the last player on the bench, who doesn’t get to play a single minute, I feel like his confidence is just as big as the superstar of the team.” She smiled and shook her head. “For women, it’s not like that.”

The tech entrepreneur Clara Shih, who founded the successful social-media company Hearsay Social in 2010 and joined the board of Starbucks at the tender age of 29, is one of the few female CEOs in the still-macho world of Silicon Valley. But as an undergrad at Stanford, she told us, she was convinced that courses she found difficult were easy for others. Although Shih would go on to graduate with the highest GPA of any computer-science major in her class, she told us that at times she “felt like an imposter.” As it happens, this is essentially what Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg told us a year before her book, Lean In, was published: “There are still days I wake up feeling like a fraud, not sure I should be where I am.”

We were inspired by these conversations, and many more, to write a book on the subject, with a particular eye to whether a lack of confidence might be holding women back. We ended up covering much more territory than we’d originally anticipated, ranging from the trait’s genetic components to how it manifests itself in animals to what coaches and psychologists have learned about cultivating it. Much of what we discovered turns out to be relevant to both women and men.

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Newt Gingrich's 'Breakout' Touted by Lamar Alexander in Weekly Address (+/-)

By: Sandy Fitzgerald, Newsmax

Government should enable Americans to succeed, not pass mandates to control them, Tennessee Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander says in this week's GOP address, citing a tech expert quoted in Newt Gingrich's new book saying that government should follow the example of Apple's philosophy for its iPhone.

“Just imagine if instead of mandating things for you to do, your government became a platform, just like your iPhone, enabling you to create a happier, safer, more prosperous life," Alexander said Saturday.

Gingrich, in his new book "Breakout," quoted tech expert Tim O'Reilly, saying that "The best way for government to operate is to figure out what kinds of things are enablers of society and then make investments in those things. The same way that Apple figured out, ‘If we turn the iPhone into a platform, outside developers will bring hundreds of thousands of applications to the table.’”

“Then O’Reilly went on to say that smartphone development used to look like government does now: Vendors talking in a backroom and deciding what features to offer," said Alexander.

“Republicans want to enable you. We want to be the iPhone party. We believe government ought to be a platform that gives you opportunity and freedom to create a happier, more prosperous, and safer life," said Alexander.

"Imagine your government as your iPhone," said Alexander. "How can government empower you with the freedom and knowledge to make decisions to create a happier, more prosperous, and safer life for yourself and for your family?

Lamar said government has actually been enabling citizens for years, long before the Internet was invented.

"In 1944, the G.I. Bill enabled World War II veterans to attend a college of their choice—helping them become the greatest generation," said Alexander. "And today, half our college students have federal grants or loans that follow them to the colleges of their choice, enabling them to buy the surest ticket to a better life and job."

Just two weeks ago, the Senate voted to continue vouchers for working parents to pay for child care while they earn degrees to get better jobs, said Alexander.

In addition, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's 2012 JOBS Act cut red tape, making it easier for entrepreneurs to launch a businesses.

"While these ideas have attracted bipartisan support, usually in Washington Republicans are the enablers and Democrats are the mandators," said Alexander. “Republicans say the success of the JOBS Act proves that lifting the big wet blanket of Obama regulations will enable our free enterprise system to create plenty of jobs."

The Democrats' Dodd-Frank law, however, requires bankers to spend "more time filling out forms than they do making loans."

Democrats, said Alexander, "want to mandate fixed wages and more lawsuits, while

Republicans want to allow more flexibility for working parents, enabling them to attend soccer games and piano recitals."

Alexander, meanwhile, has proposed allowing states to turn half of their education dollars into $2,100 scholarships allowing parents to choose the best school for their children, but "Democrat mandators insist on telling those children what school is best."

“Health care provides the most glaring difference between Republican enablers and Democrat mandators," said Alexander. "Too often, Obamacare cancels the policy you wanted to keep and tells you what policy to buy, even if it costs more and even if it restricts your choices of doctors and hospitals."

Republicans, meanwhile, "would let you buy insurance across state lines; allow small businesses to join together and insure more people; expand access to health savings accounts; give governors flexibility with their state Medicaid programs; and allow patients to compare the price and quality of doctors and medical services."

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