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Infinite Menus, Copyright 2006, OpenCube Inc. All Rights Reserved. Tuesday, September 23, 2014
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Why Alibaba's Jack Ma Says He Doesn't Need His Sudden Wealth

Michael Loccisano/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- China's newly richest man Jack Ma, whose American hero is the fictional Forrest Gump, reminded the world that he is "100 percent made in China."

When asked about his recent success during a panel at the Clinton Global Initiative summit, Ma said he's constantly asked how he will spend his money. Ma said he is dedicating $3 billion of his nearly $20 billion to philanthropy, adding that he is responsible to society and its future.

"The money I donate is not my money," Ma said.

The former English teacher said he owes Alibaba's success to his customers: small and medium-sized companies. He zinged China's state-owned enterprises, saying Alibaba doesn't owe its success to government support.

"We don’t have a rich father or powerful uncle," Ma said.

Either way, Ma explained that people don't need an excess amount of money.

"We only eat three meals a day and we only sleep on one bed," he said, adding that once the rich age, "We’ll all spend the money in the hospital, buying medicine."

So how is Ma spending his time, now that he's a multi-billionaire? Ma previously stepped down as CEO and is executive chairman of Alibaba. He's been a trustee of the Nature Conservancy's China program since 2009 and is now chairman.

"A lot of people say forget about it. China is hopeless," Ma said. He added that people had similar doubts about the success of his business in China's controlled Internet environment.

"Fifteen years ago, people said e-commerce would never happen in China. We never gave up," Ma said, saying the country will see again "blue skies" and "clean water."

He said education and the world's youth are key to global change.

"I never had one day of education in the U.S.," Ma boasted. "I taught myself English. I’m 100 percent 'Made in China.'"

Ma said parents should stop complaining that their children spend too much time on the Internet or on their mobile phones.

"Today, the Internet is probably the best university to educate your kids," he said.

Repeating comments he made at Alibaba's debut on the New York Stock Exchange, Ma said, "My best American idol is Forrest Gump," repeating the film's famous line, "Life is a box of chocolates -- you never know what you’re going to get."

"But we have to be realistic. If you’re not standing on the ground, you won’t survive," he said, explaining that he is "optimistic and realistic."

"Otherwise it's a fancy dream," Ma said.

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Google's Eric Schmidt: Tim Cook Is Wrong, Julian Assange Is 'Paranoid'

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Eric Schmidt, Google's executive chairman, spent more than a decade as Google's CEO, taking the company from a startup to a global tech giant. He spoke with ABC News' Real Biz about disagreements with Apple CEO Tim Cook, online privacy and why he thinks WikiLeaks' Julian Assange is "paranoid."

Schmidt teamed up with former product chief Jonathan Rosenberg to pen a book a called How Google Works, released Tuesday by Grand Central Publishing. Rosenberg joined Google in 2002 and managed search, ads, Gmail, Android, apps and Chrome, and today is an adviser to Google's co-founder Larry Page.

Google has won the top spot in Fortune's list of "Best Companies" five times, and is one of the stalwarts of Silicon Valley innovation, with Google Glass, driverless cars and, of course, those money-making ads.

Schmidt and Rosenberg's book focuses on the management of Google, revealing Schmidt's leadership secrets of how to get everyone on your management team to agree on a big decision.

In an interview with ABC News’ chief business correspondent Rebecca Jarvis, Schmidt said: "You need buy-in and you need ownership for whatever the corporation is going to do," to avoid the "bobble head" effect in which "everybody goes yes and then the moment they leave the table, they go and they fight against you."

"Start your staff meeting by asking everyone their opinion and making sure everyone speaks," he suggested.

Instead of beginning the meeting with the most senior head honcho in the room dominating the conversation, he said it's important to get a discussion going from all of the people involved in the meeting to make sure the best idea comes out as fast as it can and then "set a deadline."

The Mountain View, California-based company is not only famous for its decision making, it's also known for its sneaker-wearing culture of co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, and their motto, "Don't be evil." But Schmidt's book reminds readers that Google is indeed a mammoth, global corporation.

Speaking with ABC News, Schmidt addressed a recent comment by Apple CEO Tim Cook that for Internet companies, "You're the product." While Cook didn't address Google by name, he criticized firms that "build a profile based on your email content or Web browsing habits to sell to advertisers."

"I think that’s not quite right," Schmidt said of Cook's letter published last week. "The fact of the matter is Google allows you to delete the information that we know about you and in fact, Google is so concerned about privacy that you could in fact, if you’re using Chrome for example, you can browse in what is called 'incognito mode' where no one sees anything about you. So I just don’t think that’s right."

Days ago, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange told the BBC and Sky News that, "Google's business model is to spy," and that the tech firm's "behavior" is "a privatized version of the [National Security Agency]."

Though Assange prefaced that Google is not acting illegally.

Schmidt took a poke back at Assange's comments, saying, "Well, he’s, of course, writing from the, shall we say, luxury lodgings of the local embassy in London. The fact of the matter is Julian is very paranoid about things and it's true that the NSA did things that they shouldn't have done, but Google has done none of those things. Google never collaborated with NSA and in fact, we've fought very hard against what they did and since what the NSA did which we do not like, we have taken all of our data, all of our exchanges, and we fully encrypted them so no one can get them, especially the government."

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When Money's Tight, Crowd Fund the Down Payment

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- It's a common conundrum. You want to buy a house or make improvements on your current one, but there's just no money in the bank to make your dream home dreams a reality. If only you could ask your friends or family for money.

Is that too awkward? Maybe not.

Enter Feather the Nest, the latest in a line of real estate crowd funding sites designed to allow "nesters" to set a financial goal online and ask friends and family to contribute.

It's certainly an option at traditional gift-giving times of life -- like a wedding for a couple already fully stocked with kitchen gadgets. But increasingly, couples whose weddings were many years and several kids ago are using the site as a way to ask for funds without, you know, asking for funds.

"It's embarrassing to ask family for money," said Alicia Figueroa, who joined Feather the Nest when it launched in the spring.

The mom of two and her husband set a goal of $12,000 hoping to fund the down payment on a new house in Indiana, where they recently relocated to from Florida in hopes of finding more affordable housing and a job for her husband. Figueroa had been in a car accident in Florida when she was pregnant with her second child and lost her job, resulting in a depletion of their savings in a matter of months.

Figueroa, who runs the blog Jack of All Trades, Master of Mom, has raised only $250 so far towards her goal. But she plans to include information about her nest in this year's Christmas cards, suggesting that in lieu of gifts people donate to her dream of home ownership.

"I don't want to ask people for $5-$10," the amount she expects people might spend on a gift, she said. "You end up getting a lot of stuff you don't want. It's more classy to set it up as a gift registry."

Lindsay Oparowski, CEO of the Pennsylvania-based company, said the site aims to take the awkwardness out of asking for money surrounding real estate needs -- whether down payment, closing costs, home improvement project or even furnishing new digs. The first completed "nest," she said, was a graduate student looking for money to furnish a new apartment.

The company grew out of a personal need. Oparowski was having her second daughter, and didn't need any more baby gear. What she needed was funding for a new nursery for the baby on the way.

"This about family and friends contributing to a dream," she said.

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Richard Branson Wants Everyone to Have Unlimited Vacation

Chris Jackson/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Virgin Group founder Richard Branson believes people should be able to take time off work whenever they want -- no questions asked.

"It is left to the employee alone to decide if and when he or she feels like taking a few hours a day, a week or a month off," the billionaire said in an excerpt from his new book The Virgin Way: Everything I Know About Leadership that was posted to his blog.

Branson said he's introduced the "non-policy" at Virgin offices in the United States and the United Kingdom, and if all goes according to plan, he said he plans to encourage all of the company's subsidiaries to stop counting vacation time.

The "non-policy" works under the assumption that employees will only take breaks from their jobs when they feel comfortable that their absence will not damage the business, the team or their careers, Branson said.

The mogul said he was first inspired to try out the policy after he said his daughter showed him a news article that mentioned how Netflix does not track vacation time.

"I have a friend whose company has done the same thing and they've apparently experienced a marked upward spike in everything -- morale, creativity and productivity have all gone through the roof," Branson recalled his daughter telling him.

With unlimited vacation time, Branson's employees will have time to seek out adventures like their leader, such as taking a hot air balloon across an ocean, hanging out on a private island or planning a trip to space, if they're so inclined.

Branson isn't the first billionaire to publicly advocate for a more flexible work-life balance.

In an interview over the summer, Google co-founder Larry Page said people shouldn't have to work so hard.

"If you really think about the things you need to make yourself happy -- housing, security, opportunity for your kids...it's not that hard for us to provide those things," Page said in an interview moderated by fellow billionaire, Vinod Khosla, that was posted to YouTube.

"The idea that everyone needs to work frantically to meet peoples' needs is not true," he said.

Page said the world should be living in a "time of abundance" in which robots and machines could help meet everyone's basic needs much more easily.

With a more productive society, Page said he believed people would be happy to "have more time with their family or to pursue their own interests."

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Jimmy Choo Plans to Sell Stock Later This Year

iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- Luxury shoe lovers will soon be able to buy Jimmy Choo stock.

The designer brand plans to sell a quarter stake of its holding company, Jimmy Choo Limited, which could value the company at about $1.1 billion, according to the New York Times.

The public offering of Jimmy Choo is expected in October in London and it would make the brand the first publicly traded luxury footwear brand.

Choo's rise to fame started on HBO's Sex and the City. A pair of the brand's boots could cost you well over $1,000.

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State Farm Drops Rob Schneider as Pitchman

Chris Jackson/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The Robmeister is lookin' for a job! 

State Farm has dropped actor and comic Rob Schneider as a pitchman, apparently following pressure from groups that objected to Schneider's vocal anti-vaccination stand over the past few years.

PR Week
reports State Farm's director of public affairs told them the campaign -- which featured Schneider's old Saturday Night Live character, Richmeister the obnoxious copy guy -- "has unintentionally been used as a platform for discussion unrelated to the products and services we provide.  With that, we are working to remove the ad from our rotation at this time."

Photos featuring Schneider have already been removed from State Farm's Facebook and Twitter accounts. His campaign had been airing for about a month.

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Gas Prices Drop Another 10 Cents

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Drivers around the country are getting some relief at the gas pump.

According to the U.S. Energy Department, the last two weeks have seen a 10 cent dip in prices at the pump.

The West Coast leads the nation with an average price of $3.68 per gallon while the the Gulf Coast average comes in at $3.13.

The national average for regular gas is now a whopping $3.35 per gallon.

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What Americans Will Spend on Halloween This Year

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- There's just 39 days until Halloween and that's counting Oct. 31 as well for those last minute shoppers.

So, what kind of Halloween will it be for the industry that thrives on our lust for dressing up strangely and wolfing down sugar?

Not bad, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers' Halloween Consumer Spending Survey. The ICSC estimated $11.3 billion in Halloween-related expenses this year.

About three-quarters of households planning to buy Halloween stuff will spend an average of $125 on costumes, decorations and candy.

Brick and mortar stores still dominate Halloween shopping with 90 percent of shoppers willing to leave the house to make a purchase. About seven percent will buy their holiday merchandise online.

Oh, the top costume for boys this year is super heroes, and princesses for girls.

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Apple Sales of iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus Set Record in First Weekend

Apple(CUPERTINO, Calif.) -- Apple said it sold more than 10 million iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus models in the first weekend they were available in stores, making it the company's best launch ever.

"Sales for iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus exceeded our expectations for the launch weekend, and we couldn't be happier," Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a statement. “We would like to thank all of our customers for making this our best launch ever, shattering all previous sell-through records by a large margin."

Cook said he believes Apple could have sold even more iPhones in the first weekend had there been enough supply. He said the team was working hard to manufacture more of the new iPhones to meet demand.

With larger screen sizes -- 4.7 inches for the iPhone 6 and 5.5 inches for the iPhone 6 Plus -- Apple has tapped into the consumer appetite for bigger phones, giving Samsung, which has dominated the giant phone market, some competition.

The iPhone 6 starts at $199 for a 16 GB configuration, $299 for 64 GB and $399 for a 128 GB configuration, with a two-year contract.

The iPhone 6 Plus starts at $299 (16 GB), $399 (64 GB) and $499 (128 GB). Both phones come in three colors: gold, silver and space gray.

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'Bored Elon Musk' and Other Funny Business Parody Twitter Accounts

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The Twitterverse sighed with disappointment when the Twitter account thought to belong to outspoken JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon turned out to be a fake. Twitter subsequently suspended the account a couple weeks ago, but there are a number of hilarious parody business accounts that fill the void of laughter.

Dimon's fake account, which had the Twitter handle JPMorganCEO, started with the first tweet, "We are excited to announce that our CEO James Dimon has joined Twitter. This account is managed by the Global Media Relations Department."  

San Francisco, California-based Twitter Inc. does verify celebrity accounts with a blue check, which none of these have, as they are clear parodies. Here are some of the funniest parody business accounts:

1. Bored Elon Musk

This parody account of the Tesla Motors CEO has this description: "Thoughts and inventions from Elon in his downtime. This is a futuristic hyper-parody account." Oh, and his Twitter profile indicates that Musk is from Mars.

2. David Karp

This parody account of Tumblr co-founder and CEO David Karp started in April 2012, more than a year before Karp made $209 million from Yahoo's acquisition of the company. This Twitter handle is among the most active of parody accounts, with multiple posts a day. Now it has more than 67,000 followers, more than the real 28-year-old's Twitter handle, which has 38,000 followers.

3. The Fake Pinterest

This Twitter account describes "fake Pinterest finds," like "a business casual romper."

4. Not BP Oil

The description for this account states: "This serves to show you just how much BP Cares for you, your family, the world, and animals. Mostly birds."

5. Not Mark Zuckerberg

The description for this parody account of Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg states: "My story is everyone's story: boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy makes social network, girl and 1 billion others join social network."

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Think Twice Before You Buy That Extended Warranty

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- What if you paid hundreds of dollars to buy an extended warranty on your kitchen appliances only to find out a critical piece wasn’t covered? That’s exactly what the Hoftiezer family said happened to them.

With their appliances a few years old, David Hoftiezer of Medford, N.J., found Stanley Warranty and said he thought he was getting the same kind of protection his original warranties had given him.

Hoftiezer said he paid $1,000 for a warranty for all of his kitchen appliances. Then he started having some "issues," he said.

First, the refrigerator's ice maker broke.

"Weeks go by and the warranty company finally said to me, 'The reason we followed up service is because your ice maker is not covered,'" he said.

Unfortunately, though the warranty specified that the refrigerator and freezer were covered, the contract said, about six pages in, that "ice maker controls" were not covered.

Hoftiezer told ABC News he wished he would have read that.

"I'm not going to say I don't take some responsibility," Hoftiezer said. "But when they sell you the product, they ask you what would you like to cover and you say, 'I would like to cover my refrigerator.' They don’t say, 'If your ice maker breaks, that isn't covered.'"

Stanley Mankovsky, the CEO of Stanley Safe Club and Stanley Warranty, said the ice maker was excluded from Hoftiezer's policy because "it's a high volume item that gets broken by people abusing it."

"If people want the ice maker covered, we have separate coverage for that in addition to the refrigerator," Mankovsky said.

"The reason you buy an insurance policy is to make sure that when something does happen, you are covered," he said. "The key is to read [and] make sure you go through every line."

Mankovsky also added that since Hoftiezer had bought his warranty, the language had been revised and improved so that it was easier for consumers to understand.

Anthony Giorgianni, a finance editor at Consumer Reports, said readers should think twice before buying an extended warranty.

"Not saying they will never work out but on a whole, you’re much better taking the money that you would put into a service contract [and] put it in the bank," he said.

Some items that might that might be worth getting an extended warranty for, Giorgianni said, are electronics that children usually use and are more likely to be dropped or damaged. He still encourages consumers to read the fine print on those agreements, too.

Giorgianni's other tips are to call the original manufacturer if something breaks-- because sometimes the companies will want to keep the customer happy -- and to check with your credit card company, which will sometimes offer extended warranties.

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Survey: Many Americans Still Looking for Work After Recession

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Twenty percent of the nearly 30 million Americans who were laid off during the Great Recession are still looking for work, a new survey from Rutgers finds.

"Of those people who were laid off during the Great Recession and its aftermath, one in five are still unemployed, in other words, they're unable to find a job, either a full-time or a part-time job, they haven't retired, they're still in the labor market, they're still looking for work today," explains public policy professor Carl Van Horn, who directs the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers.

But even more troubling is the number of people who have been out of work for more than six months.

"There still is a persistent problem of the long-term unemployed. It's the highest percentage of unemployed people it's been for many, many years and it's still three million people, it's a third of all folks that are unemployed who are still looking for work after all these years," Van Horn notes.

He says two-thirds of all adults -- including those who never lost a job -- say the recession had an impact on their own standard of living. This especially holds true for the long-term jobless.

"They've lost a great deal of money -- many of them borrowed from family and friends, they missed mortgage payments, some of them declared bankruptcy and had to move in with other people," he says.

And those who did find work didn't fare much better.

"About half of those who found work were paid less in their new positions and one of four of those individuals said that the job they found was only a temporary position -- so they haven't completely either recovered financially nor, in many cases, have they found another permanent job," Van Horn says.

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Average Middle-Class Household Income is the Same as in 1988

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) --  Analysts say the American median household income is at the same level as it was in 1988.

In 1988 the average middle-class wage hit $52,000, and since 1999, middle-class earnings have been stagnant or in decline. And according to Ben Casselman with the ESPN data-mining site 538, we're back at the $52,000 mark today.

"After adjusting for inflation we've seen basically no gain in income over the past 25 years," Casselman said.

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Dow Loses Over 100 Points After Five Straight Gains

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Stocks moved lower Monday as investors worry about some soft economic data from overseas.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average had three record-high closes last week and was coming off of five straight gains. On Monday, the Dow went down 107.06 points, closing at 17,172.68. The Nasdaq lost 52.10 points, ending the day at 4,527.69, while the S&P lost 16.11 points, closing at 1,994.29.

Existing home sales dropped 1.8% in August, snapping a four-month streak of gains. Much of the slowdown came from the exodus of real-estate investors, who had been buying up properties in the aftermath of the housing bust and recession. Overall, the pace of home sales has dropped more than 5% since last year.

Analysts say middle-class wage earners have not gotten a raise for 15 years. The American median household income hit $52,000 dollars in 1988, and we're back at that level today.

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More Deaths Linked to GM's Faulty Ignition Switches

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The number of deaths linked to General Motors' faulty ignition switches has shot up once again.

Ken Feinberg, the independent administrator of GM's compensation program, now says 21 deaths are eligible for a claim. Earlier this month, Feinberg bumped the figure up to 19.

GM had previously estimated that at least 13 deaths resulted from its defective ignition switches.

The automaker hired Feinberg to pour through more than 140 death claims from families whose loved ones died in accidents they believe were caused by the problem. Compensation for each confirmed death claim will be at least a million dollars.

The overall compensation program, which launched on Aug. 5, is open for submission until Dec. 31 through GMIgnitionCompensation.com.

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