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Prolific Designer Oscar de la Renta Dies At 82

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Inversion Implosion: AbbVie-Shire Merger Officially Dead

A Shire logo outside the company’s offices in Dublin, Ireland. (Aidan Crawley/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The Treasury Department can celebrate a victory on Monday.

After the government revised the rules about inversion deals, the proposed $54 billion merger between drug companies AbbVie AbbVie and Shire Shire came to an end. AbbVie will pay Shire a $1.635 billion break-up fee, one week after it said it would reconsider the benefits of a deal beset with public relations concerns.

The acquisition of Shire would have let AbbVie lower its taxes by reincorporating in Britain and used billions of dollars stashed overseas. Following the government’s new rules, that cash would have been taxed upon using it in the deal — making the acquisition much less profitable. In abandoning the deal, AbbVie cited the Treasury department for “re-interpreted longstanding tax principles in a uniquely selective manner designed specifically to destroy the financial benefits of these types of transactions.” It also noted “unacceptable level of risk and uncertainty” regarding potential for further rule revisions.

“The unprecedented unilateral action by the U.S. Department of Treasury may have destroyed the value in this transaction, but it does not resolve a critical issue facing American businesses today.” said AbbVie Chairman and CEO Richard A. Gonzalez. “The U.S. tax code is outdated and is putting global U.S.-based companies at a disadvantage to foreign competitors in an area of critical importance, specifically investing in the United States. Comprehensive tax reform is essential to create competitiveness and to stimulate investment in the economy.”

AbbVie also authorized a new $5 billion stock buyback program to be executed over the next several years and increased the company’s quarterly cash dividend from $0.42 to $0.49 per share.

AbbVie shares ticked up 1.85% in after hours trading on the news, after rising about 2% during the day. Shire shares remain down more than 25% since the news of the deal’s trouble reached Wall Street last week.

Follow Brian on Facebook and Twitter.

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Makers Of More: Sparking Local Economic Opportunity And Social Change Together

“How do we find a way to reconnect communities with local businesses, local resources, but more importantly, with each other?” This question, posed by Ken Banks at Pop!Tech, is being echoed by an innovative generation of problem-solvers who are looking to strengthen local economies while simultaneously tackling community issues.

Banks is perhaps most well known as the founder of Frontline SMS, a text-message-based communications platform that is driving solutions ranging from health to microfinance in over 150 countries today. His current initiative, Means of Exchange, is exploring ways that technology can unlock the potential of local economic systems, especially through strengthening sharing economies.

For example, during the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, Means of Exchange used social media to deploy its first “cash mob,” a group of people who agree to each spend a small amount of money at a local business on a given day.

In less than two hours, a bookshop in Hackney, London sold 100 books—whereas in that last two days, it had sold only two. “The buzz created by social media drove people to attend, partly out of excitement, partly out of curiosity, partly out of a desire to see something positive happen on their main shopping street,“ Banks wrote on the Means of Exchange blog.

Cash mobs have a multiplier effect. By tapping into people’s desire to commune socially and participate in a larger movement, tools like cash mobs boost local businesses, connect people to local resources, create a culture of cooperation, and strengthen the community fabric.

Like Banks, more social entrepreneurs around the world are creating hybrid solutions that turn around struggling local economies while taking aim at social issues. Solutions that help communities generate more income can be leveraged for addressing deeply entrenched social problems.

For example, a social entrepreneur named Masnu’ah working in Indonesia is increasing economic opportunities in fishing communities while tackling gender issues like domestic violence. Fishing is one of Indonesia’s largest industries, with 95% of the activities performed by artisanal fisherfolk, who often struggle to earn a living. Women perform a significant portion of the duties involved in fishing, but their contributions often remain unrecognized, due to patriarchal gender beliefs. With few resources, women often experience domestic violence and are unable to seek help.

In an effort to both empower fisherwomen and engage men as part of the solution, Masnu’ah launched Puspita Bahari, a cooperative that teaches men and women to generate additional family income through fish processing. Men are allowed to manage a donated fishing boat only if they agree to attend gender equality workshops and let their wives join the cooperative. And as women fisherfolk increase their earning power, they also become more socially empowered and able to speak out for their own rights.

As many experts have noted, economic empowerment and social empowerment are intertwined. Other social entrepreneurs like Majid El Jarroudi are tapping into this principle by helping marginalized communities build economic connections to mainstream markets, thus laying the foundation for more inclusive and accepting societies.

For El Jarroudi, the 2005 French riots underscored the multifaceted discrimination experienced by low-income, diverse communities. The son of a Moroccan immigrant who became one of France’s first professional boxers, El Jarroudi helps local entrepreneurs from marginalized communities in France access mainstream business opportunities and is working to make large companies more welcoming of diversity.

El Jarroudi created an online platform, Agency for Diversity in Entrepreneurship, that transforms the purchasing practices of large companies so that they do business with suppliers in underserved neighborhoods. The platform identifies and vets promising local entrepreneurs and helps them build the capacity to meet the needs of mainstream companies. At the same time, companies often save money by working with local businesses and a larger cultural shift towards inclusiveness is created.

As these initiatives are demonstrating, energizing community economies can also open doors to solving serious social problems. Similarly, giving communities the tools to nurture strong cultures of cooperation and support can make all the difference for local businesses to thrive.

A key next step for social entrepreneurs like Ken Banks, Masnu’ah, and Majid El Jourroudi will be to grow local solutions into movements and to accelerate change at the level of decision makers and policy makers.

This post was written by Kristie Wang of Ashoka Changemakers. Arthur Guinness Projects and Ashoka are supporting ideas that help unlock the potential of communities around the globe.

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2015 Jaguar F-Type V8 S Convertible

Jaguar’s latest roadster, the F-Type V8 S.

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20 Ways to Improve Your Small Business Writing Skills

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Go To Las Vegas For The Food. You'll Be Entertained, Too.

If, as the saying goes, they do everything bigger in Texas then Las Vegas is a close second. With its soaring hotels, maze-like casinos and head-scratching replicas of the Eiffel Tower and New York City skyline, just under 40 million tourists (in 2013) craving some sin and sizzle found both in the town long known for impromptu marriages, just as quick divorces and now, apparently, the food.

Food Network star Giada De Laurentiis choose the city’s famed Strip as the site of her first and only eponymous restaurant. It opened in June of this year at the white-hot (so say the locals) hotel The Cromwell Las Vegas and just began serving, according to Eater Las Vegas, a 9-item breakfast that riffs off its Cali-meets-Italy inspired menu.

While the town’s food rep was long synonymous with considerable quantities of cheap eats and drink, in recent years Vegas has been upping it culinary cred as various media outlets have highlighted on and off the Strip locales that are serving up solid fare at affordable prices.

image1-2It could be argued, in fact, that the real showstoppers along the 4.2-mile strip are the gastronomic spectacles produced by celebrity chefs.  Any chef worth his or her Himalayan sea salt has to have at least one, if not several, outposts. According to the city’s website, celebrity chefs are at the helm of 64 eateries on the Strip. Some, like the father of Californian cuisine Wolfgang Puck or Washington, DC’s Spanish hefe Jose Andres, have multiples (6 and 4, respectively).  But they all go big as their names and faces—like Bobby Flay, Mario Batali and Buddy Valastro (the man behind the TLC series Cake Boss whose restaurant is Italian and not a bakery)—are splashed on jumbotrons and billboards that line the Strip.  Apparently, Las Vegas is one stop a celebrity chef must make when building his or her brand–and also one city that consumers may want to visit as they try to up their culinary capital in a world that values it more and more.

All those cooks populating the city’s kitchens are arriving not a moment too soon as Las Vegas the brand is in flux. An attempt to market the city as family-friendly never caught fire (a 2013 Visitor Profile Study found couples make up as many as 2/3 of the city’s visitors). Gambling, the engine that keeps Vegas ticking 24/7 still provides vital revenue (according to the city’s Convention and Visitors’ Bureau the Strip generated some $6.5 billion in 2013; from March through August of this year, the number thus far is just over $3 billion) and jobs (375,700 in Southern Nevada support tourism). But overall the percentage of casino revenue that comes directly from gambling has declined from 46% in 2000 to 37% in 2013. According to David G. Schwartz, director of the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV), gaming win hasn’t kept pace with the growth of non-gaming revenue since the recession, although the one bright spot is baccarat. (According to a 2013 Mid-Year Report from UNLV, it has increased steadily from 21% in 2004 to 44% in 2012, thanks to Asian high rollers.)  And if you consider that 71% of visitors in that Profile Study gamble just under 3 hours of their 4-day stay, then the city needs to find a new groove.

And it appears it has, given that consumers are gambling less and spending more to be entertained—at a show (72% attended one during their stay in 2013, with most opting for lounge acts) and restaurants (they contributed to almost 16% of Strip revenue in 2012, up from 12% in 2000).

Yet celebrity comes with a price and if you aren’t prepared to shell out a few hundred bucks for lunch or dinner (and most people might not be if you consider that tourists spend just under $300 on food and drink during a typical 4-day stay), then consider these relatively cheap options for a taste of the city:

Cool down in the 100-degree heat with one of the excellent, intensely flavored fruit pops at ChillSpot by Sasasweets, at a mere $4 a pop.  They have several locations, but visit the one tucked away in downtown’s Shipping Container Park. It will give you a reason to check out Zappo CEO Tony Tsieh’s downtown revitalization project.Munch on the freebie salty snacks as you sit in the cool comfort of the bar on the 23th floor of the Mandarin Oriental. Wash them down to with a $10 glass of Reisling as you watch the sun set.Cut your losses and call it a day with the comfort food on steroids at the Heart Attack Grill. For $13.88 and 9,982 calories you can have the Quadruple Bypass Burger. For an extra $3.70, you go really big with 20 extra bacon slices. Remember: what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.

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2015 Jaguar F-Type V8 S Convertible Test Drive And Review: The Next Great Jag

Jaguar has a storied history of fantastic roadsters. My favorites are the XK120 (1948-54) and the E-Type (1961-75) – both are landmarks in automotive design. I’m ready to add another Jag roadster to my list of favorites, and that’s the new F-Type Convertible.

Roadsters are tricky beasts. Both the XK120 and E-Type push the limits, with long, almost exaggerated hoods and shortened back porches, yet somehow manage to project an air of elegance and sophistication. F-Type is more centered and balanced, placing the driver just slightly toward the rear of the centerline.

The roadster’s retractable roof is a traditional insulated cloth unit, available in four colors. Black is the standard; an additional $600 buys Stone Grey, Red or Beige. Roof up, the F-Type still has a sleek, low look. Roof down, the F-Type is just gorgeous. Integrated dual roll bars are permanently mounted behind driver and passenger head rests, and a tonneau cover conceals the workings of the top and clean up airflow behind the cockpit.

F-Type wears a grille that is in the current Jaguar design vocabulary, with a modest chrome Jaguar head logo at top center. Expressive inset Xenon headlamps fit into the lines of the hood, underlined by attractive LED running lights. The bulging hood hints that it can barely contain the engine beneath, and sports vents that accent the muscularity.

A roadster’s interior is going to be more exposed to the public than a closed-in coupe’s or sedan’s interior, and F-Type’s dash, seats and doors give them something to look at and envy. The driver’s seat is definitely the place to be, with a beefy flat-bottomed steering wheel that sports a dozen or so buttons and controls and a bold leaping chrome jaguar silhouette on the horn. My V8 S test vehicle also had anodized aluminum paddle shifters behind the steering wheel, completing the F1-inspired look. The center stack is elegant and relatively simple for such a sophisticated car, with cool pop up vents at the top. For pure function, I would have preferred that the navigation touch screen were at the top of the stack instead, but the current location is a fair compromise.

One thing that Jaguar has done really well on the F-Type is the little details. The tactile feel of every knob and button on the car is just right, with solid action and great feel. Nothing flimsy or cheap feeling intrudes on the impression of luxury.

A gorgeous roadster won’t win many long-lasting fans if it doesn’t drive well, and Jaguar knows that. There are three trim levels of F-Type Convertible: F-Type (starting at $69,000); F-Type S (starting at $81,000); and F-Type V8 S (starting at $92,000). I can’t complain – I got to spend my time behind the wheel of the V8 S (price at tested: $100,370). The F-Type and F-Type S come with supercharged 3.0-liter V6 engines, while the F-Type V8 S gets a supercharged 5.0-liter V8 that’s tuned to produce 495 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque. Considering the V8 S’s modest 3,671-lb curb weight, it’s not surprising that the roadster is capable of scooting from zero to sixty in 4.2 seconds and reaching an electronically limited top speed of 186 mph. That’s some serious thrust, and it gets sent to the rear wheels through an 8-speed QuickShift transmission. Even with all that power, the F-Type V8 S is rated to achieve 16 mpg city/23 mpg highway. Impressive.

Sound is an important factor in a convertible, and this one’s got a nice British blat to it. Pressing down on the accelerator brings forth a concert for a motorhead, almost negating the need for the fancy 380-watt Meridian sound system that’s standard equipment on this model.

Roadsters have a reputation for body flex, which makes sense, since the roof structure of a coupe or sedan offers engineers and designers more leverage to keep the body straight under stress. Jag’s engineers have made extensive use of aluminum to build a structure that feels solid around curves and over rough surfaces, working with a supple, electronically adjustable suspension with adaptive damping to deliver a great, sporting ride.

I had a blast driving the F-Type V8 S, roof up and roof down. With the roof up, outward visibility was a little bit compromised, especially for reversing and changing lanes. The standard backup sensors helped a lot with reversing. I might spring for the optional Vision Pack ($2,100), which adds front sensors, a rear-view camera and blind spot monitor along with other features. Roof down, and outward visibility is virtually unobstructed – that’s one of the side benefits of a convertible.

The Jaguar F-Type V8 S is a beautiful, sophisticated, fast, fun-to-drive convertible, the latest in a long line of classic roadsters from Jaguar. The less-expensive V6 editions are pretty great, too, but the V8 puts this one over the top.

In this price range, there’s some stiff competition for luxury performance two-seat roadsters. The Mercedes-Benz Mercedes-Benz SL550 is a serious contender. The new Chevrolet Corvette Convertible has made a big leap forward as it drives into its seventh generation. Anyone looking for pure performance is probably considering the Porsche Porsche 911 Carrera Cabriolet, which puts its engine out back behind the rear axle. What the three convertibles have in common is a legacy that stretches back to the 1950s.

Jaguar hopes that you’ll draw a line between the F-Type and the brand’s history of building great roadsters. I think it’s a legitimate claim, and that the F-Type is a future classic.

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The Ebola Number You Haven't Heard: 80% Of U.S. Ebola Patients Have Survived

Ebola’s a death sentence — or at least, that’s the popular wisdom.

And in the current West Africa outbreak, that’s not far from the truth.

The Ebola survival rate in Guinea might be somewhere around 30%. The Ebola survival rate in Liberia is likely similar.

But in the United States, the Ebola survival rate is 80%. Among the five Ebola patients with a known clinical outcome, four have been successfully discharged — three from Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, one from Nebraska Medical Center.

(Unfortunately, Thomas Duncan, the first person ever diagnosed with Ebola in the United States, died last week in a Dallas hospital.)

The U.S. Ebola survival rate will probably improve before it gets worse, too. Ashoka Mukpo, the NBC News cameraman who contracted Ebola in Liberia, is doing “quite well.” Mukpo’s expected to get discharged from Nebraska Medical Center in the next few days.

Also See: Ebola Is Scary. It’s Also Beatable. Here’s Why.

There’s a lot to celebrate here. But before we go any further, let’s acknowledge an obvious criticism: Measuring Ebola in the United States means relying on a tiny sample size.

U.S. hospitals have handled just a handful of Ebola patients, while Liberia and Guinea have treated thousands of patients in this Ebola outbreak. Just two bad outcomes and the U.S. survival rate for Ebola wouldn’t be much better than the survival rate in West Africa.

And beyond the five patients with a known clinical outcome and Mukpo, two more Ebola patients (nurse Nina Pham and nurse Amber Vinson) are still in U.S. hospitals. Their current conditions are unknown.

Where the U.S. Ebola patients are, as of October 21 2014. (Via the Advisory Board Daily Briefing.) Where the U.S. Ebola patients are, as of October 21 2014. (Via the Advisory Board Daily Briefing.)

Are there any lessons that we can draw here? Do we know enough to identify a secret behind the U.S. success?

At minimum, experts conclude that America’s hospitals have notable advantages — particularly at Emory and Nebraska Medical Center, which have specially trained staff and specialized biocontainment units — that West Africa’s hospitals generally don’t. More resources to devote to round-the-clock care, for one.

That appears obvious in retrospect. But success didn’t seem so assured when Emory leaders made a brave decision back in July to fly Ebola-infected missionaries Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol back to Atlanta. Some pundits scoffed and many Americans shuddered.

(Just look at the responses to this Sanjay Gupta post on Twitter. “I’m an RN [and] horrified this is happening,” one woman tweeted. “To bring the deadliest disease on the planet to [the] U.S. is reprehensible,” she added.)

Today, Emory’s staff look like lifesavers.

And Emory’s infectious disease chief made a bold statement in August that doesn’t seem as shocking now.

“We would anticipate that … most patients, if they have not had any substantial organ damage, will make a full recovery,” Dr. Bruce Ribner said at a press conference, after Brantly and Writebol had been discharged.

Also See: Emory’s Already Treated Three Ebola Patients — And Saved Them All.

Look. Whatever you take from this article, remember that Ebola’s an incredibly scary disease.

It may not be as contagious as some reports have suggested, but Ebola’s ability to provoke a “cytokine storm” is dangerous and debilitating. Both Brantly and Writebol ultimately survived, but their doctors in Africa expected them to die.

(A third Emory patient — a World Health Organization doctor who’s asked to remain anonymous — was touch-and-go too before pulling through. Emory on Monday announced that he’d been discharged.)

And Ebola’s often unpredictable. Nina Pham and Amber Vinson still have a difficult road ahead of them. There may be other Ebola patients coming to America, or a few unexpected cases popping up among people who were accidentally exposed in recent weeks.

So there’s reason to remain cautious.

But after a week of Ebola-related national fear, the U.S. survivability figures are an essential reminder:

There’s also reason to hope.

Follow @ddiamond

From the archives:

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Oscar de la Renta

Sarah Jessica Parker attends the “Charles James: Beyond Fashion” Costume Institute Gala held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 5, 2014.

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Taiwan Court Rejects Real Estate Billionaire's Bail Agreement Amid Bribery Probe

Taiwan’s high court today threw out a lower court agreement that allowed a real estate billionaire to be released on NT$5 million ($166,000) bail amid a corruption probe, Taiwan’s official Central News Agency reported.  A new bail hearing was ordered.

Investigators are looking into whether Farglory Group Chairman Chao Tseng-hsiung used an intermediary to pay NT$17 million to a Taoyuan county government official, Yeh Shih-wen, in connection with a land bid, CNA said.

The alleged payment to Yeh was delivered in a wheeled suitcase by retired professor Tsai Jen-hui when the two met at a Japanese restaurant on Thursday in downtown Taipei, according to today’s Taipei Times newspaper, citing unnamed sources.   

Tsai earlier picked up the funds from a Farglory office, the newspaper said.   Prosecutors that followed Yeh home found the money there during a search on Friday.  Yeh, Taoyuan’s deputy magistrate, was reported to have said the cash was a loan from Chao and not a bribe.

Taiwan’s high court today rejected the lower court decision’s to release Chao on NT$5 million bail on Saturday, saying the amount wasn’t enough to keep him from leaving the country, CNA reported.

Chao ranked No. 1,005 on the Forbes real-time billionaires list with wealth of $2 billion on Friday.

Chao’s real estate empire extends from Taiwan into the mainland, as well as the Middle East. Farglory Group also is in the insurance and hotel business.  Chao’s mainland business partners include Hong Kong billionaire Hui Wing Mau.

Farglory is currently building a high-profile Taipei Dome stadium near City Hall in the city’s prestigious Hsinyi district. 

Chao was born into poverty on the island’s west coast. He learned his initial habits from helping his father perform farm chores and fish.

– Follow me on Twitter @rflannerychina


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