Senate Won In Favor Of Eliminating City-Run Retirement Plans By A Single Vote

During the Obama administration, a ruling enabled several cities to create their own retirement plans to cover those employees who don’t have access to retirement plans through their jobs. Now, under Trump’s administration, the Senate has voted to undo the ruling. This means that Congress effectively prevents local and state governments from helping employees to get a retirement plan. The voting was extremely narrow as the resolution was approved 50 to 49.

All the Republicans except for Senator Bob Corker, who was against it and Senator Johnny Isakson, who was not present voted in favor of eliminating the rule. The resolution will become a legislation once Trump provides his signature. Cities such as Philadelphia, New York City and Seattle have taken measures to introduce savings plans for retirement accounts. Oregon, Illinois, California, Connecticut, Maryland, Washington and New Jersey have already initiated the process to start retirement plans run by the states.

Republicans oppose this plan because they don’t want the states and cities to take the additional responsibility. Many business owners are also against it because these plans may discourage several employers from creating their own retirement plans. Small businesses that operate in multiple cities should also face legal hurdles due to this ruling.

The Labor Department rule imposed in the past year exempted cities and states under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. Two resolutions were passed in the House in February to eliminate these exemptions. On Thursday, the Senate has approved the exemption for cities and another voting will be scheduled to exempt the states too.

The supporters of the ruling argue that the city run retirement programs benefit workers who retire with very little money saved. The democrats are also in favor of the ruling and they couldn’t stop the resolution for the cities. However, the democrats are keen on convincing the senators to make sure that the resolution on state-run retirement programs is rejected. This is because the state run programs have deeper implications than city-run programs.

The Democrats haven’t lost hope because few Republicans don’t want to cancel the state-run retirement programs. The retirement programs run by the cities and states have helped workers by providing access to savings plans. AARP reported that more than 55 million Americans don’t have a retirement plan because they don’t have access to retirement accounts or pensions. The city and state-run retirement programs have an opt-out option to let go of employees who don’t want to save for retirement. For others, the contributions would be deducted automatically from their monthly paychecks. This retirement plan enables employees to rely less on social security benefits once they retire.

Scott M. Stringer, Comptroller of New York city commented that the Republicans succeeded in undermining the economic security of employees. This could also result in states spending more on funding programs like Medicaid later on. The voting could deter other states from launching their own retirement programs.

Florida Delegation Shows Support for Bad Credit Loans; Advocates Up in Arms


A group of consumer advocates has shown strong response towards the support shown by Florida’s delegation for the U.S. House of Representatives over the payday lending business and the industry as a whole. The consumer advocates sent a common letter signed by all the group members that read – “we strongly disagree with any misconception or wrong perception on our part.

However we strongly support the Florida’s regulation and the financial structure that has the ability to safeguard prospective borrowers in Florida from continuous economic or financial harm.”

According to sources, more than twenty groups have signed this letter. The groups include but are not limited to the United Way of Florida, Florida Consumer Action Network, the Legal Aid Service of Broward County and Dade Legal Aid. It is important to know here that payday loans are high interest loans that are often borrowed by low income people to meet both ends in their financial crunch. These bad credit loans are available online and are believed to be predatory in nature, claim leading loan experts of the loan industry.

Sources claim that a member from the Florida’s delegation signed a letter back in April this year that included strong criticism of the policies that have tighten the regulations related to payday loan in the country. He said that ‘the new rules are more restrictive and leave less freedom for the borrower. The Florida’s legislation requested the lawmakers to follow the lending laws of the Florida. The delegation was confident that the Florida’s laws have the ability to protect the borrower’s interest.

Consumer advocated strongly believe that the state laws lack the ability as well as the strength to protect the citizens of Florida from the debt trap. They believe that this debt trap is never ending as the borrowers caught in it require lot of time to become free from the clutched of the payday lenders. As per the delegation, borrowers in Florida are mentally forced to seek new loans to clear the old ones in Florida. This trend in making the whole financial system full of loopholes.

According to Center for Responsible Lending, an average borrower of Florida takes nine loans in a financial year. This organization seeks better regulations and wants the payday lenders to practice ethical lending policies while dealing with borrowers. According to the Center, the average loan amount in Florida is $250 with an annual interest rate of 312 percent.

That Didn’t Take Long – Cheap Knockoff Apple Watches

Apple Watch Knockoff

Alibaba is bringing you the new Apple Watch even before Apple and they are cheaper. Only one thing is different, Apple Watches on Alibaba run on Android not on iOS.

Here is what you will find in these knock offs;

  • You can purchase these watches at $40 per unit.
  • Battery life of these watches will be longer than the original Apple Watches.
  • They look exactly like the original watch.
  • Alibaba watches do not have Apple’s sensors for monitoring heart activity.

You can find these watches under the name of iWatch and AW08. The interface of the watch shows the same graphics as well; however Alibaba has shown the courtesy of not calling them Apple Watches. It is stated clearly in their product description that these are not the official Apple Watches. Looks like Alibaba does not want to be sued after all.

A promotion for the knockoffs on Alibaba clearly states that “Knockoff Apple watches have hit the market.”

According to an expert from Beijing, after being advertised online these knockoffs may actually create a market for themselves; especially among those who cannot afford the real item.

According to a lawyer for intellectual property who has the experience of working with Apple says that the company has the sources to shut down the sales of these fake watches; however the process would be time consuming and quite expensive.

Apple will certainly not be pleased about its Watch’s knockoffs floating around in the market as the company prides itself on being exclusive and classy. However the tech giant has not issued any comments on the matter so far and it seems it will not take any action against it as well; they may be not pleased but they are certainly not concerned.

It can be safely said that Alibaba watches will not take away any chunk of Apple’s market share because those who want an Apple Watch will get only the real Apple Watch.

The fakes may cause some frustration among the segment that will buy the real product; but then this is not the first time that a knockoff of a product has been introduced in the market. These knockoffs do not really take away any chunk of the original product’s market share because the expensive products are targeted at a certain segment of consumers who buy nothing but the original item.

Apple on the other hand is already getting a lot of attention from the market. After a few hours of the “Spring Forward” event the number of participants in a cardiovascular study using Apple’s researchKit being conducted by Standford University reached over 10,000 mark. According to the Stanford’s Cardiovascular Health medical director Alan Yeung, getting this many participants usually requires a year and about 50 different centers across the country. ResearchKit was launched at the event held on the 9th of March.

ResearchKit is an open-source platform that has specially been designed to assist researchers in their research work by allowing them to expand their candidate pool for the study and collect accurate data.

With such response to its products and services Apple would be least bothered about knockoffs at the moment.

OMG Apple Watch is Here Fan Boys Rejoice!


This week the much awaited Apple Watch was finally launched in a media held in San Francisco. Here are some of the details about the Watch.

The Price

As expected Apple Watch is going to be an expensive gadget specifically designed to capture the high-end segment of the market. The mid-tier watch made of stainless steel will have the base price of $549 and can be as expensive as $1,099, depending on the watch’s band configuration and its size.

List of Models

The Watch price for its 18-karat gold model will go up to as high as $17,000 after starting from $10,000. The gold model will be a limited edition watch. The basic entry level sports model will cost as much as $349, which will for the smaller sized watch of 38 mm; whereas the 42 mm sports watch will be priced at $399.

According to HIS consultants’ Ian Fogg, “Apple’s pricing demonstrates the confidence it has in the new Apple Watch’s functionality, design and consumer appeal.”

The features

As expected Apple Watch has all the basic features, which will allow the wearer to check emails, Facebook notifications, Twitter Trends, WeChat messages, texts and phone calls etc. the watch will be compatible with iPhone through Bluetooth.

The Apple Watch will also feature other apps for instance an app created by BMW that allows users to open the car using only their watch; moreover passengers travelling through United Airlines will be able to check into the schedule flight through their watch.

The user can also interact with Siri through the watch, receive phone calls and of course the much hyped feature of health tracking.

The watch will be powered by iOS 8.2 and will be able to run simple apps on its interface.

The release date

The Apple Watch will be available for pre-order from the 10th of April; whereas the gadget will go on sale from the 24th of April this year. The Watch will be launched only a few selective countries initially; these countries are;

  • United States
  • Apple’s new favorite and strong market China
  • United Kingdom
  • Canada
  • Australia
  • Germany
  • France
  • Japan
  • Hong Kong

More countries will be added to the list later.

The battery life

Apple has faced a lot of criticism for its iPhone’s battery life and the tech giant will have the same issue with its Apple Watch as well, which will have to be recharged almost every night. On average, during the day, the Watch will give you 18 hours, which is not that bad considering the fact that its Bluetooth will mostly be on because of iPhone connectivity.

What are the experts saying?

According to Strategy Analytics’ Neil Mawston, “the Apple Watch is the catalyst to ignite the global smartwatch market”.

eMarketer’s Cathy Boyle believes that the wearable market needs some catalyst to get it buzzing with competition and thinks Apple Watch can do exactly that; Boyle says the market is in dire need of “a magic product to spark adoption”; however she continued on to say that smartphones are already doing what the Watch will do; therefore Boyle believes that “So, to succeed with a smart watch, Apple needs to create a compelling use case for the device, a feature set that offers far more than simply saving consumers the few seconds it takes to pull a smartphone out of a pocket or purse.”

Greece Accuses Germany of Avoiding WWII Nazi Reparations

Pearl Harbor

In April of 1941 during the Second World War, Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy invaded and occupied Greece and was separated into three occupation zones. Forty-thousand Greeks living in Athens died of starvation after the Hitler-led army quashed any sort of rebellion. This occupation lasted for three years until Germany and Bulgaria withdrew from the mainland. German garrisons did remain in control of Crete and other Aegean islands until the end of WWII when the Axis Powers surrendered to the Allies in June of 1945.

Both Athens and Berlin have been on cordial terms for decades, but the relationship has somewhat deteriorated, particularly since the financial structure of Greece collapsed. Now, the relationship could strain even further after the Greek government suggested it could seize German assets as part of compensation for the Nazi occupation.

Greek Justice Minister Nikos Paraskevopoulos first brought up the matter and presented the case that German property should be confiscated in order to pay for the damage done by Nazi troops and compensate victims of the war.

Additionally, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tspiras concurred and accused Berlin of employing “legal tricks” to avoid paying WWII reparations.

“Germany has never properly paid reparations for the damage done to Greece by the Nazi occupation,” Tsipras said during a parliamentary debate (via CNBC). “After the reunification of Germany in 1990, the legal and political conditions were created for this issue to be solved. But since then, German governments chose silence, legal tricks and delay.”

Tsipras added that the crimes perpetrated by the Nazi leadership remain “vivid”  and “fresh in the memory” today and defended his government by arguing Greece maintains a “moral obligation to remember what the (German) forces did to the country.”

Paraskevopoulos told Greek television he was mulling over supporting a supreme court ruling that would eventually lead to the foreclosure of German assets across the country.

Reuters reported Wednesday that Germany has dismissed the recommendations and accusations. Germany contends that it has paid all war reparations.

Steffen Seibert, the spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, told reporters that the issue of compensation and reparations has been resolved both legally and politically. “We should concentrate on current issues and, hopefully what will be a good future.”

In addition, Finance Ministry spokesperson Sigmar Gabriel noted there was really no need to initiate discussions regarding reparations because ultimately it would be a distraction from the present dire financial negotiations. Overall, according to Gabriel, the “likelihood is zero.”

This strife comes as the German government is weary about providing Greece with another bailout. Conservatives within the Merkel government, including the Christian Social Union (CSU) and Christian Democrats (CDU), feel that if the community extends Greece with a third bailout then it will continually come back for more without making any significant progress.

Some of the suggestions being put forward to turn around Greece’s fortunes include better preparing budgets, instituting officials to overlook tax evasion, improving welfare and energy to the country’s poorest families and launching an Office for Fiscal Responsibility to monitor the government’s policies.

Google Becomes WPP Biggest Advertising Partner


Google has made huge acquisitions in the past, the company produces smartphones, watches, tablets, Android operating system, it is the biggest search engine in the world, it is experimenting with a full-fledged driverless car, but everyone knows the company gets its big bucks from advertising.

And the latest news in this regard came today when the world’s biggest advertising agency WPP revealed that Google is the company’s biggest media partner.

Chief Executive Officer of WPP, Sir Martin Sorrell said that “Google has become our biggest media partner”.  His statement can easily be supported by the amount of its client’s money the advertising agency spends on Google ads. WPP received media bookings worth $75 billion last year, out of which it spent $2.9 billion on Google ads.

This figure is huge; the internet giant reported total revenue of $59 billion last year generated through advertising; the $2.9 billion spent by WPP accounts for 5% of this total amount.

WPP is also using other internet platforms to spend its client’s digital advertising budget; this year alone the company spent $640 million on Facebook, $400 million on Yahoo (wonder why), $150 million on Twitter and $100 million on AOL (really?).

The interesting thing here is that Sorrell used to refer to Google as his “frenemy” mainly because of how it changed the trend of advertising, taking away a huge chunk of advertising market share from conventional advertising agencies.

Google’s intervention has forced advertising agencies to explore new possibilities and marketing strategies using “digital advertising” as a result of which Google started getting the major chunk of its revenue from ads.

However Google has been having troubles of its own as the trend is shifting from desktop to mobile advertising. Google is already feeling the impact of this shift as its market share fluctuated between 2013 and 2014. The company’s biggest competitor at the moment is Facebook.

Last year Google did have the largest share in the revenue that was generated through mobile ads; however the major concern for the company was that its share went down by 6% whereas Facebook reported an increase in share by 2%, which gave the social networking giant a total share of 18%.

Gone is the time when Google was the only valuable ad space in the world, with social networking becoming stronger and strong, the internet giant has to start thinking about distributing its revenue load.

In a way Google and Apple are in the same boat as far as their source of revenue is concerned. Both companies rely heavily on just one “product”, which faces extreme competition from the market. Apple in this regard has to fight off more competitors as compared to Google, but they both have to look for an alternate source of revenue.

Even though Google is not in trouble at the moment, but if Facebook continues to take bigger chunk out of Google’s ad revenue share then the company’s investors and unofficial partner such as WPP will have other options to consider, which may start a very competitive era for Google.