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Why Gay CEOs stay quiet

The Wall Street Journal ran an interesting article by Leslie Kwoh called, "A Silence Hangs Over Gay CEOs."

It talks about how being openly gay in the workplace is becoming more acceptable, but looks at why those at the top may choose to keep their sexuality a secret.

There isn't a single openly gay chief executive officer in the Fortune 1000, according to the Human Rights Campaign. (The sole openly gay CEO, former Urban Outfitters Inc. chief Glen Senk, left the company in January and now leads jewelry retailer David Yurman.)

That is not to say there are no gay CEOs in that group, said Kirk Snyder, a diversity consultant who works with Fortune 500 companies and has written several books on being gay in the workplace. From his research and talks with business contacts, he claims to know of at least 10 closeted CEOs.

"It's the fear factor," he said. "They're afraid consumers will boycott if they know the company is led by a gay CEO."

Issues surrounding homosexuality still push very hot buttons. Just look at the recent flap involving Chick-fil-A CEO Dan T. Cathy's remarks against gay marriage. And how about the brouhaha when Ellen Degeneres became spokesperson for JC Penney?

But executives are finding staying closeted is more harmful to their well being than it is helpful to their corporation:

Former BP PLC chief John Browne, who resigned in 2007 amid revelations he had lied in court about how he met his ex-boyfriend, said he remained closeted during his tenure at the oil giant for fear of damaging professional relationships, particularly in the Middle East, where homosexual acts are punishable by death in some countries. "I thought it would affect everything," he said.

Ultimately, he might have lost a client or two, he said, but the suffering took a bigger toll. "You hide things. It's a double life," he said.

Highly skilled jobs get outsourced, too

Western New York business leaders met in Buffalo last week to discuss how to address a shortage of highly skilled manufacturing workers, such as engineers and machinists. There has also recently been a lot of talk about importing skilled workers with H1-B visas to make up for other worker shortages. And of course, we've been hearing about the effects of offshoring jobs for years.

Turns out, companies can save a lot of money by importing skilled workers and outsourcing skilled jobs. So how does that affect us as workers and college graduates?

Here is an excerpt from an interesting New York Times article from guest economist Nancy Folbre:

Since the 1990s, the global supply of skilled labor has greatly expanded and the technology for using this labor wherever it is has greatly improved. Why hire a more expensive employee when a cheaper one is available? Why pay taxes to educate and train highly skilled workers when other countries (and their families and taxpayers) will do that for you?

The disruptive impacts of globalization initially hammered workers without much education. Many workers holding college degrees remained optimistic about the benefits of international trade, celebrating improvements in their own purchasing power.

Now, my students can decide for themselves if lower prices will compensate them for reduced opportunities and lower wages. More than half of recent college graduates in the United States are either unemployed or are working in a job that doesn’t require a bachelor’s degree. Entry-level wages for employed college graduates were lower in 2011 than in 2000.

The current global recession isn’t the only cause. The economist Richard Freeman provides an extraordinarily clear account of what he calls “The Great Doubling” of labor supply resulting from structural changes that brought China and India more directly into the global marketplace.

Rather than relying merely on low-wage competition, China and India, like many developing countries, invested heavily in higher education and scientific training. While college graduates represent a small occupational elite within their large labor force, their absolute numbers are high compared with those homegrown in the United States.

College students in the United States who major in science, technology, engineering and mathematics – often referred to as STEM fields – definitely face better prospects in the labor market than others do. But even they need to be aware of intensified competition down the road.

Many software engineers and others in the information technology field feel particularly aggrieved about the effects of the H1-B visa program. The computer scientist Norman Matloff, who maintains a Web site on the topic, asserts that it enables employers to hire younger and less expensive workers, leaving many highly skilled, older programmers in the lurch.

Get your high-tech motors running...

We had two stories this week about the effort to jump start the high-tech entrepreneurial instincts of this region. It's worth recounting what this is all about.

The opening of the Z80 Labs on Monday was a concrete action Z80Labs backed by two of the region's top venture capitalists. The labs, on the first floor of the Buffalo News building (but not affiliated with the News), has resources and expertise to help people with high-tech business ideas. Jordan Levy and Ron Schreiber, Buffalo's VC stars and leaders of Softbank Capital, have moved their offices into the labs and are there to help the smart talent. That's a real commitment to make change.

The next day, Fred Wilson, one of the nation's rock star high-tech venture capitalists, appeared for a one-hour interview and Q&A session at the Burchfield Penney art gallery. He outlined the role VC's play Fred Wilsonin starting companies - and keeping them runnning when necessary. He also had some very engouraging things to say about Buffalo's potential to get its high-tech engine running. Fred is one of the most influential VC bloggers on the planet, and his posts are of interest to all in any business.

The folks running Z80 Labs are bringing in more speakers to keep people here in the loop about how this process works and how it is going on in cities all over the nation.  

In a town where it is almost a reflex to complain about how things never change, these are efforts backed by real talent and real money to change all that.

The Z80 Labs folks made a video explaining their efforts.




Murdoch funnies...

Rupert Murdoch has resigned his position as chair of the News International newspaper division in the U.K. after a phone-hacking scandal enraged the public. Since the scandal began, editorial cartoonists have had a field day. Here is how some how cartoonists see the issue:








---Samantha Maziarz Christmann

No victory in swipe fee settlement

CCMerchants have been fighting credit card companies over swipe fees for years. As the battle drags on, you may have noticed more mom-and-pop retailers have instituted a minimum purchase amount for credit card purchases.

Thanks to a recent settlement, merchants will now be able to pass swipe fees on to consumers rather than incurring them themselves.

The Wall Street Journal interviewed about two dozen retailers, many of whom said they aren't sure whether they want to risk alienating their customers by passing the cost of swipe fees on to them:

Steven Resnick, a partner at the accounting firm Resnick Amsterdam Leshner in Blue Bell, Pa., which sued Visa and Mastercard, says he would "definitely not" impose a surcharge on clients because "it would be like we're nickel-and-diming them," he says.

SwipeAfter complaining about being nickel-and-dimed by the credit card companies, one would hope merchants wouldn't want to turn around and do the same to their own customers.

The swipe fee settlement is a messy victory for merchants. They are no longer required to pay the surcharge themselves, but they still have to figure out who pays it. The credit card companies still get their money, which amounts to about 1 percent to 3 percent per transaction. But it begs the question, especially in a society where one almost cannot function without plastic, what is so costly about the system that every swipe costs so much?

According to swipe fee reform group the Merchants Payments Coalition, the money brought in through swipe fees far exceed the cost of doing business. In fact, they bring in twice as much money as ATM fees and overdraft charges:

What started in the 1960s as a fee to cover the transaction costs of using plastic is now a cash-cow for the big banks that issue 90% plus of all MasterCard and Visa cards.  According to a consultant for the big banks, only 13% of the credit card interchange fee goes to processing credit card transactions; much of the rest goes to pay for billions of pieces of unsolicited junk mail annually among other dubious credit card marketing activities aimed at students or those with bad credit histories.

The more people you ask, the more it sounds like the recent settlement was a victory for no one but the banks, who get to keep the status quo.

iPhone leaks hint at thinner phone and bigger screen

IphoneApple is expected to release its latest version of the iPhone this fall.

Tech geeks at the Wall Street Journal have been nosing around the company's Asian suppliers, and have pieced together a few hints about how the next generation iPhone will be different, judging by the components that are being made for it.

Among the new features are a larger, thinner screen with scratch-resistant glass, a new operating system and enhanced Siri functions.

Here are some more leaks and rumors about what we might see in the phone's next incarnation, from Slate News:



Some Libor laughs

The Libor Scandal is no laughing matter. London bankers' practice of reporting false interest rates misrepresented the health of the British banking industry and has caused ripple effects in everything from mortgages and student loans to derivatives and a myriad of financial products.

But if it bums you out to know how casually this sort of thing goes on, take a look at it from the lighter side.



Dinosaur is coming! Run!

It's big news--Dinosaur Bar-B-Que has picked a spot for its first Buffalo location. When Buffalo News food writer Andrew Galarneau first broke the story on his Hungry for More blog, BBQ lovers rejoiced.

Western New Yorkers have been making pilgrimages to the restaurant's Rochester location for years.  While the "Bring Dinosaur BBQ to Buffalo" Facebook page (curated by a fan) has only 137 likes, the restaurant's own official page has more than 119,000.

So what is all the fuss about?

A look at Dinosaur's Web site and menu probably won't do it justice, though it may get your mouth watering.

To get a better idea, you can check out restaurant review Web sites. Dinosaur has a 92 percent approval rating on On that site, one fan describes it as "Part biker bar, part southern BBQ restaurant Dinosaur Bar-B-Que is a local Syracuse favourite that has both the locals and tourists lining up around the corner for a table."

"When people say this is the best BBQ on the East Coast, they aren't lying," writes fan Michael Shay.

"Love this place! I live an hour and a half away and travel to Syracuse every few months just to have dinner here! Their macaroni and cheese = AMAZING," writes ShelbyVanHalen.

The restaurant was featured on Food Network's Man vs. Food:


If you haven't sampled Dinosaur for yourself, you'll soon be able to try for yourself whether it lives up to all the hype.

Until then, you can get your fill of excellent barbecue at some of our own, homegrown restaurants, such as  Fat Bob's Smokehouse on Virginia Street, the new Smoke on the Water in the City of Tonawanda, Kentucky Greg's Hickory Pit in Depew, the R&R BBQ food truck, the Whole Hog food truck and Suzy-Q's Bar-B-Que Shack in Riverside.


Unemployment looks to be a sticky problem

JobFairGet used to seeing depressing photos from desperate job-seekers at career fairs.

A story in today's Business section says unemployment in the United States is expected to stay high for at least four more years--regardless of who wins November's presidential election.

The Economy Survey conducted by the Associated Press shows a majority of economists predicting the unemployment rate will remain above 6 percent until at least 2016.

That sounds pretty scary. But it seems more innocuous when you consider that the country has spent less time below the five percent unemployment rate (which is considered healthy) over the past 40 years than it has spent above it.

In this interesting Washington Post piece, associate history professor David B. Sicilia takes a look back at unemployment through the decades and breaks down what contributed to the numbers' rise and fall.

Comics as an international mirror

Ever wonder what the rest of the world thinks about current events in the United States?

A fun way to keep tabs is to have a look at political cartoons from around the world.

For example, want to know what folks elsewhere thought when the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act?

Here is what Chinese artist Luojie offered in China Daily:

Rainer Hachfeld published this in Germany's Neues Deutschland:


In Sweden, Olle Johansson created this:


How about our economy?

Paresh Nath, illustrating for The Khaleej Times in the United Arab Emirates, sees it this way:


How about the upcoming presidential election?

Arend van Dam published this from the Netherlands:



And finally, Yaakov Kirschen of Israel:



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