Pages

Monday, July 28, 2014

Dollar Tree Extends Limb to Low-Income Shoppers by Buying Family Dollar

Dollar Tree Extends Limb to Low-Income Shoppers by Buying Family Dollar


Dollar Tree Extends Limb to Low-Income Shoppers by Buying Family Dollar

Posted: 28 Jul 2014 10:47 AM PDT

Dollar Tree will buy Family Dollar for $8.5 billion in a deal that will create North America’s largest discount retailer.

Dollar Tree announced the acquisition Monday, a month after activist investor Carl Icahn pressured Family Dollar CEO Howard Levine to consider a sale of the company, arguing that buyers would see strategic and financial benefits. Though Icahn had said Family Dollar resisted his suggestions, Levine said in a statement Monday its plans to sell had begun last winter.

Under the transaction’s terms, Dollar Tree will pay to Family Dollar shareholders $74.50 for each share. The bid consists of $59.60 per share in cash and Dollar Tree stock worth about $14.90. The transaction is expected to close in early 2015, and Dollar Tree expects to save about $300 million annually through synergies over the next three years.

“This acquisition will extend our reach to lower-income customers and strengthen and diversify our store footprint,” Dollar Tree CEO Bob Sasser said. “We plan to leverage best practices across both organizations to deliver significant synergies, while we accelerate and augment Family Dollar’s recently introduced strategic initiatives.”

Both Dollar Tree, which sells items $1 and less, and Family Dollar, which sells $1 items but also higher priced goods, have struggled amidst a weak economy. While years ago recession boosted deep-discount stores’ sales, Family Dollar reported in April declining second-quarter profits while announcing that it could cut jobs and close nearly 400 underperforming stores. Earlier this month, its third-quarter report noted a 33% drop in profit.

Family Dollar Quarterly Profit Margins
YCharts

Difficult economic conditions have become financial headwinds for discount store shoppers, who are forced to choose between discretionary and necessary items. The average American household in 2013 was poorer than it was 10 years ago, according to a study, as wealthier families rode the surging stock market after the 2008 crash, and the middle-class struggled with decreasing values of their homes. The “bifurcation,” as Levine called it in January, is even harsher for the low-income families that make up the bulk of Family Dollar’s consumers: on average shoppers have an annual income under $40,000, and 50% receive government assistance.

“Our core lower-income customers have faced high unemployment levels, higher payroll taxes, and more recently reductions in government-assistance programs,” Levine said. “All of these factors have resulted in incremental financial pressure and reduction in overall spend in the market.”

But the deal provides a valuable opportunity for Dollar Tree to stake a bigger space in the deep-discount market. Aside from Dollar General, one of Dollar Tree’s largest competitors is Wal-Mart, whose stores have increasingly offered items at steep discounts, at times even $1 and less. In stores and on-line, prices of commonly-purchased Walmart items are already on average 20% less than those on Amazon, according to a study by Kantar Retail. Several items sold in Dollar Tree stores are sold at equal prices in Wal-Mart. The 2-piece Dial Gold soap bar, for example, sells for $1 at both Walmart and Dollar Tree—except at Dollar Tree, the deal is available in only 36-order bulk package.

There are over 13,000 Dollar Tree stores across the U.S. and Canada.

 

 

Bloody Day in Gaza as Calls for Cease-Fire Intensify

Posted: 28 Jul 2014 10:29 AM PDT

The UN Security Council’s call for an immediate cease-fire between Israeli forces and Hamas failed to cease violence in Gaza Monday, as two large attacks left over a dozen dead and scores wounded.

Israel and Hamas traded blame for explosions at Shifa Hospital and a nearby refugee camp in the Gaza strip Monday which killed at least 10 children and left at least 30 people dead or wounded, NBC reports.

Hamas said the explosions were a “direct” strike by Israeli drones, while Israel said they were caused by failed militant rockets. “A short while ago Al-Shifa hospital was struck by a failed rocket attack launched by Gaza terror organizations,” the IDF said in a statement, adding that “there was no Israeli military activity in the area surrounding the hospital whatsoever. “

At least four people were also killed by a mortar shell in Eshkol, in Israel’s southern district close to the border with the Gaza Strip, the Jerusalem Post reports. At least six others were seriously injured.

The attacks came just hours after UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon echoed calls from his body’s security council for an immediate cease-fire. “In the name of humanity, the violence must stop,” he said, according to the BBC.

Over 1,030 Palestinians have been killed, according to Palestinian health organizations, many of them children. Israel says it has lost 43 soldiers and two civilians.

Ban called for an end to the violence out of respect for Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim holiday commemorating the end of Ramadan. “It’s a matter of their political will,” he said. “They have to show their humanity as leaders, both Israeli and Palestinian.”

His statements follow the UN Security Council’s call for a “durable” truce which would stop the violence and lead to substantial talks. The Palestinian representative to the UN, Riyad Mansour, said that didn’t go far enough, and demanded a formal resolution calling for Israel to remove troops from Gaza.

Israel’s UN Ambassador Ron Prosor said the Security Council’s statement was slated towards the Palestinians by failing to mention Hamas and the recent rocket attacks, the BBC reports.

Tornado Rips Off Roofs, Downs Trees Near Boston

Posted: 28 Jul 2014 10:25 AM PDT

(REVERE, Mass.) — A storm system that wreaked havoc across the eastern half of the U.S. spawned a tornado just north of Boston on Monday, causing extensive damage in Revere, where roofs were ripped off buildings and dozens of large trees were uprooted.

Officials in Revere, a coastal city of about 53,000, said there no immediate reports of serious injuries, but several people suffered minor injuries, including a baby who was in a car and hurt by flying glass and an elderly woman who suffered cuts.

“Given the magnitude of the storm, it’s really a miracle that no one sustained more serious injuries,” said Revere Mayor Dan Rizzo.

Communities across the U.S. were cleaning up Monday after strong storms destroyed homes, knocked out power for thousands of people and toppled power lines and trees.

The tornado was spawned by a powerful storm that moved through the Boston area shortly after 9 a.m. Deputy Fire Chief Mike Viviano said his department received dozens of calls reporting partial building and roof collapses, and downed trees and power lines.

Paul and Patty Carrabes said they were both at work when the wind tore the roof off their home.

“I probably would have died if I was in there,” said Patty Carrabes said.

Bob Cronin, the city’s sealer of weights and measures, said he was in City Hall when the tornado hit.

Cronin said City Hall was damaged, as were a number of businesses. One auto body shop had its roof ripped clean off, Cronin said.

“This isn’t something you expect to happen when you wake up in the morning,” he said.

The National Weather Service’s office in Massachusetts said it was the first tornado in Suffolk County, which includes the city of Boston and the northern communities of Revere, Chelsea and Winthrop, since the agency began keeping records on them in 1950.

Rizzo said City Hall was evacuated due to damage and will likely be closed for a couple of days. He said he expected the city to open a shelter for any residents who are unable to stay in their homes.

In eastern Tennessee, officials said there were no reports of any deaths or injuries from Sunday’s storms, though at least 10 homes were destroyed. Claiborne County emergency management spokeswoman Gina Breeding told The Associated Press it wasn’t clear whether the destruction was the result of a tornado, but noted there were strong winds, lightning and heavy thunderstorms.

In Kentucky, National Weather Service forecaster Tony Edwards said some areas got softball-sized hail Sunday.

Massive hail also was reported in Michigan, where winds toppled trees and ripped the roofs off buildings. And in Ohio, some roads had been blocked by flash flooding. In Pennsylvania, nighttime storms knocked out power to thousands.

The 20 Most Beautiful Libraries in the World

Posted: 28 Jul 2014 10:23 AM PDT

George Peabody Library, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore

The Peabody Stack Room's five-tier soaring atrium has wrought-iron balconies and columns so graceful that Nathaniel H. Morison, its first provost, called it a "cathedral of books." It's one of America's most beautiful college libraries, with a setting so gorgeous that weddings and special events are often held here. Bibliophiles come not only for the design but to browse 18th- and 19th-century volumes of archaeology as well as British and American history and literature.

The Royal Library, Copenhagen, Denmark

Known as the Black Diamond, this neo-Modernist building was built in 1999 as an addition to the Royal Library's original complex. Its striking steel, glass, and black granite structure contains a concert hall, a popular café, and exhibition spaces. The Black Diamond treats visitors to spectacular harbor views and a ceiling fresco by one of Denmark's most famous artists, Per Kirkeby. Guided tours are available on Saturdays.

Clementinum, Prague

The baroque Library Hall, with its rare gilded globes and spectacular frescoes depicting science and art, is just one building in the vast Clementinum complex. Legend says the Jesuits had only one book when they started building the library in 1622; when they were done, the collection had swelled to 20,000 volumes. Labels on the bookshelves are original to the library's opening, as are volumes with "whitened backs and red marks," markers left by the Jesuits. Tours run daily.

Royal Portuguese Reading Room, Rio de Janeiro

A group of far-from-home Portuguese immigrants banded together to create a Portuguese library in 1837, although construction on the Real Gabinete Português de Leitura didn't get going until 1880. The neo-Manueline building's limestone façade showcases Portuguese explorers like Prince Henry the Navigator, Vasco da Gama, and Pedro Álvares Cabral in sculpture. The cathedral-like reading room has a stained-glass dome and wooden galleries. Its ornate bookshelves hold the largest collection of Portuguese literature outside of the motherland. Open Monday to Friday.

Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

When the original library burned down in 1814, Thomas Jefferson seeded a new one with his own much broader collection of books. Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom, stands guard in mosaic form above the main reading room, and scrolls, books, and torches pop up throughout the Library of Congress. Highlights include the main reading room, the Gutenberg Bible (one of 42 left in the world), and free classical concerts. Open Monday to Saturday.

READ THE FULL LIST HERE

More from Travel + Leisure:

The Suburbs Will Die: One Man’s Fight to Fix the American Dream

Posted: 28 Jul 2014 10:22 AM PDT

If you looked up "Minnesota nice" in the dictionary you might see a picture of Charles Marohn. Affable and mild-mannered, Marohn, who goes by Chuck, grew up the eldest of three sons of two elementary school teachers on a small farm near Brainerd, the central Minnesota city best known as the backdrop for the movie Fargo. Marohn (pronounced "mer-OWN") graduated from Brainerd High School, entered the National Guard on his seventeenth birthday, and went on to study civil engineering at the University of Minnesota. He now lives with his wife, two daughters, and two Samoyeds in East Gull Lake, a small city north of Brainerd. Marohn, forty, likes the Minnesota Twins, reads voraciously, and is a proud Republican. He's the friendliest guy you're likely to meet. He's also a revolutionary who's trying to upend the suburbs as we know them.

After graduating from college, Marohn went to work as a municipal engineer in his hometown and spent several years working with the small towns around the greater Brainerd area, putting projects together that would build roads, pipes, storm drains, and all kinds of infrastructure. It was the mid-1990s, the area was booming, and Marohn was laying down the systems that helped the area grow. "I built sprawl," he now says.

Often his work required him to knock on the doors of residents, many of whom he knew from growing up, and tell them about changes that might impact their property. In order to make the town's roads safer, he would explain, engineers were going to have to widen the road in front of their house or cut down a tree in their yard. When his neighbors would get upset and ask why or try to protest—the roads were hardly trafficked at all, and sparse enough to almost be rural, they would point out—he'd explain that the town was required to make these changes in order to comply with the book of engineering standards to which it had to adhere. The code, put in place by the town but derived from state and national standards, dictated that roads must have an ample "recovery zone," or a wide berth to accommodate cars that veer off the road, and that drivers have improved "sight distance," the distance a driver needs to be able to see in order to have enough room to be able to react before colliding with some- thing in the roadway. When residents pointed out that the recovery zone was also their yard, and that their kids played kick ball and hopscotch there, Marohn recommended they put up a fence, so long as it was outside the right-of-way. He was sorry, he told them, but the standards required it. The trees were removed, the roads widened, the asphalt paved and repaved. "I never stepped back from my own assumptions to consider that I wasn't making anything safer," Marohn says. "In reality, I was making their street more dangerous, and in the process, I was not only taking out their trees, I was pretending I knew more than them."

In 2000, Marohn found himself assigned to fix a leaky pipe in Remer, a small town north of Brainerd. It was a routine project, but it would ultimately lead him to an epiphany. A sewer pipe that sat under a highway had a leak that was allowing clean groundwater to flow in. That meant that the clean water was getting pumped out to sewage treatment ponds, which were exceeding their capacity and would soon overflow. It was easily fixable, but it would cost $300,000, a hefty sum considering the town's total budget for such projects was $120,000 a year; sure enough, the town said no. But the pipe was going to cause the sewage ponds to overflow, undermine the dike, knock down its wall, and pour into the neighboring river "in like a catastrophic way," Marohn says. So he decided to find a federal grant to pay for it.

He discovered that the project was too small; grant agencies didn't seem to be interested in a $300,000 renovation, he found, presumably because it wasn't worth the time in administration costs. So he expanded the project, proposing the government pay not just to fix the pipe but also to extend the sewers, expand the size of the pumps, and more, at a cost of $2.6 million. The grant agency gave the green light; the state and federal government put up all the money except for

$130,000, which the U.S. Department of Agriculture financed at below-market rates over a forty-year time period. Marohn was hailed a hero. "Everybody was super thrilled with me because I got this project approved out of nowhere," he says. And since the project would connect more homes, it would allow the town to promote the fact that it was creating capacity for the city to grow.

But over the next several years, as Marohn went back to Remer to do additional work—he had by then gotten a degree in urban planning—and saw that the town was in the process of doing a similar project with their water system, he realized he had created an unsustainable financial situation. Thanks to the leaky pipe he fixed, the town now had to bear the maintenance costs of a system that was double the size of the one it had before. "I bought them time," he says, "but I gave them a giant unfunded liability."

Marohn started questioning the rationale of this kind of system. The government paid the up-front costs of the massive project, but there was no accounting for the significant cost to maintain the system. The town's property taxes wouldn't come close to covering those costs, which meant the city would ultimately need to take on more debt. And the system was likely to need replacing well before forty years were up—the duration of the financing he'd procured—which would require an investment of equal or larger size. Marohn began to wonder whether all the work he'd been doing to supposedly help the city grow was really necessary or whether it was going to end up hurting it and, on top of that, whether the roads he was helping to "improve" were designed to accommodate the way people lived or were that way simply because the planning books said that was the way they had to be built.

He connected with a few friends in the local planning community who shared his concerns. In November 2009 they started a Web site called Strong Towns to start raising questions about America's approach to land use and the financial impracticalities suburban sprawl encourages. Rich in case studies and educational materials, Strong Towns lobbies for communities that are financially productive and grow responsibly. But it's also a screed against what Marohn sees as development patterns that go against the logic of design, finance, and the best interests of residential communities and everyday Americans.

One night soon after he started the Web site, Marohn wasn't sure what to write about, so he composed a blog post on his experience tearing down trees in his neighbors' yards, an idea that had been bouncing around in his head for a while. Declaring his work "professional malpractice," he described how the wider, faster streets he was sent to build weren't only financially wasteful but unsafe. "In retrospect, I understand that it was utter insanity," he wrote in the essay, which he called "Confessions of a Recovering Engineer." "Wider, faster, treeless roads not only ruin our public places, they kill people," he wrote, referring to statistics of traffic deaths each year that, in his view, were a direct result of poor design. He penned the piece in less than an hour and went to bed. When he got up, his in-box was full of comments from people in the planning community with whom his words had resonated.

The Web site soon became a nonprofit, which became a series of podcasts, videos, and live neighborhood events around the country called the "Curbside Chat." A local nonprofit threw in three years' worth of funding, and in mid-2012 Marohn quit his job to focus on Strong Towns, which is now a robust site packed with in-depth articles, podcasts, a Curbside Chat companion booklet for public officials, and a "Strong Towns University" section with instructional videos featuring Marohn and his partners discussing things like the ins and outs of wastewater management. Marohn's work has brought him attention within the planning community; he now travels all over the country speaking at conferences, hosting Curbside Chats, and spreading his message. But all, he says, for the greater good. "We're not bomb throw- ers," he says. "We like to think of ourselves as intellectual disruptors."

Marohn primarily takes issue with the financial structure of the suburbs. The amount of tax revenue their low-density setup generates, he says, doesn't come close to paying for the cost of maintaining the vast and costly infrastructure systems, so the only way to keep the machine going is to keep adding and growing. "The public yield from the suburban development pattern is ridiculously low," he says. One of the most popular articles on the Strong Towns Web site is a five-part series Marohn wrote likening American suburban development to a giant Ponzi scheme.

Here's what he means. The way suburban development usually works is that a town lays the pipes, plumbing, and infrastructure for housing development—often getting big loans from the government to do so—and soon after a developer appears and offers to build homes on it. Developers usually fund most of the cost of the infrastructure because they make their money back from the sale of the homes. The short-term cost to the city or town, therefore, is very low: it gets a cash infusion from whichever entity fronted the costs, and the city gets to keep all the revenue from property taxes. The thinking is that either taxes will cover the maintenance costs, or the city will keep growing and generate enough future cash flow to cover the obligations. But the tax revenue at low suburban densities isn't nearly enough to pay the bills; in Marohn's estimation, property taxes at suburban densities bring in anywhere from 4 cents to 65 cents for every dollar of liability. Most suburban municipalities, he says, are therefore unable to pay the maintenance costs of their infrastructure, let alone replace things when they inevitably wear out after twenty to twenty-five years. The only way to survive is to keep growing or take on more debt, or both. "It is a ridiculously unproductive system," he says.

Marohn points out that while this has been an issue as long as there have been suburbs, the problem has become more acute with each additional "life cycle" of suburban infrastructure (the point at which the systems need to be replaced—funded by debt, more growth, or both). Most U.S. suburbs are now on their third life cycle, and infrastructure systems have only become more bloated, inefficient, and costly. "When people say we're living beyond our means, they're usually talking about a forty-inch TV instead of a twenty-inch TV," he says. "This is like pennies compared to the dollars we've spent on the way we've arranged ourselves across the landscape."

Marohn and his friends are not the only ones warning about the fix we've put ourselves in. In 2010 the financial analyst Meredith Whitney wrote a now-famous report called The Tragedy of the Commons, whose title was taken from the economic principle that individuals will act on their own self-interest and deplete a shared resource for their own benefit, even if that goes against the long-term common good. In her report, Whitney said states and municipalities were on the verge of collapse thanks in part to irresponsible spending on growth. Likening the municipalities' finances and spending patterns to those of the banks leading up to the financial crisis of 2008, Whitney explained how spending has far outpaced revenues—some states had spent two or three times their tax receipts on everything from infrastructure to teacher salaries to libraries—all financed by borrowing from future dollars.

Marohn, too, claims we've tilled our land in inefficient ways we can't afford (Whitney is one of Marohn's personal heroes). The "suburban experiment," as he calls it, has been a fiscal failure. On top of the issues of low-density tax collection, sprawling development is more expensive to build. Roads are wider and require more paving. Water and sewage service costs are higher. It costs more to maintain emergency services since more fire stations and police stations are needed per capita to keep response times down. Children need to be bused farther distances to school. One study by the Denver Regional Council of Governments found that conventional suburban development would cost local governments $4.3 billion more in infrastructure costs than compact, "smart" growth through 2020, only counting capital construction costs for sewer, water, and road infrastructure. A 2008 report by the University of Utah's Arthur C. Nelson estimated that municipal service costs in low-density, sprawling locations can be as much as 2.5 times those in compact, higher-density locations.

Marohn thinks this is all just too gluttonous. "The fact that I can drive to work on paved roads where I can drive fifty-five miles an hour the minute I leave my driveway despite the fact that I won't see another car for five miles," he says, "is living beyond our means on a grand, grand scale."

Marohn is one of a growing number of sprawl refugees I encountered during my reporting—people who at one point helped enable the building of modern-day suburbia but now spend their days lobbying against it with the zeal of religious converts. Some, like Marohn, focus on the unsustainability of the financial structure. Others focus on the actual physical design of the suburbs and point to all the ways it's flawed. Most of them argue for the development of more walkable communities closer to public transportation. But their unifying criticism is that our spread-out development pattern was manufactured, packaged, and sold to Americans as part of an American Dream that fails to deliver on its promises.

Leigh Gallagher is an assistant managing editor at Fortune and a frequent guest on MSNBC's Morning Joe, among other national television and radio news shows. She lives in New York City. This article is excerpted from Gallagher’s book, The End of the Suburbs, out now in paperback.

How to Make Your Phone Number Private

Posted: 28 Jul 2014 10:10 AM PDT

When my daughter was born, we placed an advertisement for a nanny in a local newspaper. At 6:30 a.m. on the first day the ad ran, the phone started ringing. It was the first applicant out of hundreds who would call inquiring about the position. What I would have given then for a disposable phone number — something I could turn off once I'd made my hire.

Today, there are options for keeping your phone number private. Here’s what I recommend.

Free Disposable Numbers for Incoming Calls

If you're looking to post your phone number online — for a dating site, if you're selling something on eBay or Craigslist — you can get post a free disposable link to your phone number on Babble.ly. When someone clicks on the link, they are prompted to enter their phone number and Babble.ly will call your phone and their phone to connect the call. The link is good for as long as you want it to be, but calls are limited to 10 minutes.

Temporary “Burner” Numbers

Burner App
Ad Hoc Labs

For a temporary disposable number, I like Burner (free on iTunes and Google Play). You get 20 minutes of talk time and 60 texts over a week for free and then you need to buy credits to extend service and buy new burner numbers. New numbers are $1.99 (three credits) for 14 days or 20 minutes or 60 texts, whichever comes first. Or you can pay $4.99 (eight credits) for 30 days of services with unlimited texts and calls.

Free Long-Term Private Number

For a more permanent calling solution, I recommend Google Voice. You get unlimited calling within the U.S. for free as well as voicemail, call screening and do not disturb, among other features. To receive a call or text, you’ll need a smartphone or computer with Internet access and the Google Voice app. Or, you can choose to forward all of your Google Voice calls and texts to an existing number. Outbound calls will show with your Google Voice number instead of your real one.

Free Ad-hoc Outbound Caller ID Blocking

If you don't want to use your disposable phone number minutes, you can block your outbound Caller ID by turning it off in your phone's call “settings” on your mobile phone, setting it up in your phone management software if you use a digital phone service, or dial *67 before the number on a regular landline phone or cell phone (for both you’ll need to use the country code, so it would look like *6712125551212). Your number will appear as unavailable.

While I value openness — even when it comes to Caller ID — I can see real value in protecting my privacy in a situation where I would be dealing with strangers. It's safer and smarter.

This article was written by Suzanne Kantra and originally appeared on Techlicious.

More from Techlicious:

Sports Analyst Apologizes for Comments About Ray Rice and Domestic Violence

Posted: 28 Jul 2014 09:49 AM PDT

Sports analyst Stephen A. Smith apologized for the comments about domestic violence he made on ESPN’s First Take on Friday. While discussing Ray Rice’s two-game suspension following the footballer’s arrest for allegedly punching his wife unconscious, Smith said that women should think about how not to “provoke wrong actions” from men.

Following his statements, many lambasted Smith for implying that women could do anything to “provoke” a violent attack, including Smith’s fellow ESPN analyst Michelle Beadle, who tweeted, “Violence isn’t the victim’s issue. It’s the abuser’s. To insinuate otherwise is irresponsible and disgusting. Walk. Away.”

Smith initially defended and clarified his feelings on Twitter, but Monday morning on First Take, he called his initial statements “the most egregious error” of his career. Cari Champion, the host of the show, followed up on Smith’s comments by discussing trigger words such as “provoke.”

ESPN issued a statement saying that Smith will not be suspended:

We will continue to have constructive dialogue on this important topic. Stephen's comments last Friday do not reflect our company's point of view. As his apology demonstrates, he recognizes his mistakes and has a deeper appreciation of our company values.

See Smith’s comments on Friday’s First Take below:

Comic-Con Women Protest Sexual Harassment

Posted: 28 Jul 2014 09:49 AM PDT

As more women get involved with San Diego Comic-Con, some are calling for its organizers to institute an official anti-sexual harassment policy at the convention. Three women from Philadelphia who founded Geeks for CONsent have collected more than 2,600 signatures on a petition that demands such rule changes.

Women have flocked to the Geeks of CONsent site to share stories of harassment, ranging from cat calling to groping to taking underskirt shots at the world’s biggest comic convention, which took place over the course of four days last weekend. Many of these women were participating in cosplay, or dressing up like a character from a comic book, movie or TV show and adopting that character’s personality and traits. “Unfortunately, some con-goers see women in costumes as just a part of the convention scenery and believe they are dressed up solely to attract male attention,” Geeks for CONsent writes on their site.

Geeks for CONsent emphasizes that “cosplay does not equal consent,” meaning that dressing up like a character (in a revealing costume or not) does not mean that women are inviting men to ogle or fondle them.

Even as thousands of women signed the petition this weekend, objectification continued to be a problem at the convention. Scantily clad women known as “booth babes” were still used by many organizations to attract visitors to their events, and panel host Craig Ferguson described costumed women as “vaguely slutty,” according to the New York Post.

Star Trek: The Next Generation actor and Comic-Con icon Wil Wheaton tweeted his support for the movement over the weekend:

San Diego Comic-Con believes that its rules sufficiently address the offending behavior in question. “Comic-Con has an explicit Code of Conduct that addresses harassing and offensive behavior,” said Comic-Con International in a statement on Sunday to the Associated Press. “This Code of Conduct is made available online as well as on page two of the Events Guide that is given to each attendee.”

But the Geeks for CONsent founders claim that the code of conduct is vague and does not specifically address sexual harassment. They also assert that staff members working at the convention need to be trained in how to handle sexual harassment complaints. San Diego Comic-Con’s code of conduct currently reads:

Attendees must respect common sense rules for public behavior, personal interaction, common courtesy, and respect for private property. Harassing or offensive behavior will not be tolerated. Comic-Con reserves the right to revoke, without refund, the membership and badge of any attendee not in compliance with this policy. Persons finding themselves in a situation where they feel their safety is at risk or who become aware of an attendee not in compliance with this policy should immediately locate a member of security, or a staff member, so that the matter can be handled in an expeditious manner.

The women of Geeks for CONsent point to Awesome Con in Washington, D.C. as a model of what sexual harassment rules at San Diego Comic-Con could look like. The convention responded to complaints last year by partnering with Geeks of CONsent to provide a team of people who could act as a resource to attendees who feel unsafe. Awesome-Con’s rules now say it has a “zero-tolerance policy against harassment, groping, stalking and inappropriate photography. Gender-based harassment doesn’t have to happen in the workplace to be unacceptable.”

9 of the Cutest Dogs All Dressed Up as Superheroes for Comic-Con

Posted: 28 Jul 2014 09:44 AM PDT

This year’s Comic-Con International in San Diego was truly a celebration of all things comics, all things superheros and, perhaps above all, all things beautifully weird. For many, one of the best parts of the festival is seeing the endlessly creative cosplay (short for costume play) — and while we usually think of humans participating in that, plenty of dogs got in on the fun too. Here are some of our favorite canine cosplayers:

Ollie the French Bulldog, dressed in a "Shazam" costume, sits outside of the San Diego Convention Center during the 2014 Comic-Con International Convention in San Diego
Ollie the French Bulldog, dressed in a “Shazam” costume, sits outside of the San Diego Convention Center during the 2014 Comic-Con International Convention in San Diego, California July 24, 2014. Sandy Huffaker—Reuters
Mark Shaffer walks with Chopper The Biker Dog outside of the San Diego Convention Center during the 2014 Comic-Con International Convention in San Diego
Mark Shaffer walks with Chopper The Biker Dog outside of the San Diego Convention Center during the 2014 Comic-Con International Convention in San Diego, California July 25, 2014. Sandy Huffaker—Reuters

And here, as a bonus gift to you, are two pooches from last year’s festival in San Diego — and one from Dublin:

Exploring California's San Diego County
A pomeranian dog dressed as Batman sits in a toy electric car outside Comic-Con 2013 on July 23, 2013, in San Diego. George Rose—Getty Images
Comic Con Fans Attend The Annual Convention In San Diego
Beckham the dog sports a Superman costume during Comic Con on July 19, 2013 in San Diego. Sandy Huffaker—Getty Images
Dublin Comic Con
Homer the Super Dog, one of the attendees at the Dubin Comic Con event at the National Show centre in Dublin on August 11, 2013. Niall Carso—PA Wire/Press Association Images/AP

 

Liberia Closes Borders to Curb Ebola Outbreak

Posted: 28 Jul 2014 09:32 AM PDT

The Liberian government closed off most of the country’s border crossings Sunday in an effort to curb an Ebola outbreak that has already killed over 670 people across Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone and become the largest outbreak of the virus on record.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said the airport will remain open, but that all travelers coming in and out will be tested for the virus, Reuters reports. “All borders of Liberia will be closed with the exception of major entry points,” she said. “At these entry points, preventive and testing centers will be established, and stringent preventive measures to be announced will be scrupulously adhered to.”

Ebola kills around 90% of those who contract it, although the current outbreak has only killed around 60%. Numerous medical personnel have succumbed to the most recent outbreak, including Dr. Samuel Brisbane, one of Liberia’s most high-profile doctors, who died Saturday.

Two Americans, Dr. Kent Brantly and missionary Nancy Writebol, have contracted the virus and are currently in stable condition, NBC reports. Both worked for North Carolina-based aid group Samaritan’s Purse, and spokeswoman Melissa Strickland said that they are both “alert.”

Brantly and Writebol had followed all CDC and WHO guidelines and worn full protective equipment when treating Ebola patients, including gloves, goggles, face protection, and full body coverings, Strickland said.

Since Ebola is highly contagious, Liberia has also restricted public gatherings such as marches and demonstrations until the outbreak is brought under control. “No doubt, the Ebola virus is a national health problem,” President Sirleaf said in a statement. “And as we have also begun to see, it attacks our way of life, with serious economic and social consequences.”

1 comments:

Post a Comment