I know many of you have likely already beat me to reading the latest edition of Workforce magazine — the publication devoted to important trends for human resources professionals — but I want to mention anyway that there’s a piece that follows up on Baylor Health Care System’s policy of not hiring anyone who uses tobacco products.
That ban went into effect in January 2012. Previously Baylor had required that employees who were smokers pay a surcharge for their health care insurance, an extra $25 a pay period. When I discussed the change with Baylor CEO Joel Allison shortly before it was made, he said “We’re in the healthcare business, so we want people to practice good health” and noted that ”Five percent of the population uses up about 50 percent of the health care cost.”
Well, how has it worked out for Baylor? According to the article:
Anyone with a preliminary employment offer goes through drug screening, which includes nicotine screening. The test will detect any kind of nicotine product, including cigarettes, a nicotine patch, nicotine gum and e-cigarettes. So far, 69 of about 400 offers have been rescinded, she says, and there is no evidence Baylor is losing out on top-notch talent because of the screening.
Testing is possible because nicotine users are not a protected legal class in Texas. Currently 29 states and the District of Columbia offer legal protection to smokers, according to the American Lung Association.
Employees already working for the company weren’t required to quit smoking to keep their jobs, but they continue to pay the surcharge.
According to a report by the American Lung Association, employees who smoke cost employers an average of $1,429 more in health care costs than nonsmokers.
Yesterday’s New York Times Magazine ran a short feature pitting “disgraced former J.C. Penney C.E.O.” Ron Johnson against Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. The Times said each man has his own “seminal work,” for example. Johnson’s seminal work was The Genius Bar; Hubbard’s was Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health. Each also has his own “divine creator.” Johnson’s was Steve Jobs; Hubbard’s was Xenu. (According to Scientology doctrine, Xenu was the dictator of the Galactic Confederacy who brought billions of people to earth 75 million years ago in a spacecraft that looked very much like a DC-8.) In the end, the Times says, the competition’s winner is Scientology’s Hubbard.
The UK outpost of Wired magazine today cited research by SMU computer science professor Tyler Moore, which found that 45 percent of online exchanges that change hard currency into the online currency Bitcoins end up closing.
More than that, if an exchange somehow gets large enough to justify staying in business, it soon becomes a prime target for cyberattacks.
The study said: “Exchanges handling 275 Bitcoins’ worth of transactions each day have a 20 percent chance of being breached, compared to a 70 percent chance for exchanges processing daily transactions worth 5570 Bitcoins.” Moore and Christin estimate that the median lifespan of any Bitcoin exchange is 381 days, with a 29.9 percent chance that a new exchange will close within a year of opening.
An extra risk for customers is losing their money from exchanges closing. Of the 18 closed exchanges, there was evidence that only six reimbursed their customers. Five did not, while there was not evidence enough to make a judgement regarding the remaining seven.
Anyway, yeah, maybe don’t trade in all your greenbacks for Bitcoins.
Then, on Wednesday, Exxon recaptured its position as the world’s most valuable publicly traded company, after shares of Apple Inc. dropped below $400. “Whatever that means,” Tillerson said with a laugh during a private reception before his talk. “They’re more volatile than we are. Day traders must love that Apple stock. We try to stay steady, while they go up and down. We’re good for long-term investors like pensions.”
In his formal remarks, Tillerson had his mind on the long-term as well. In contrast to the “old ways” of thinking about oil and gas in terms of rationing scarcity, he said, new technologies mean North America is enjoying and will enjoy an abundance of affordable, environmentally safe energy for decades to come. Thanks to techniques like fracking and horizontal drilling, North America is now the world’s fastest-growing hydrocarbon region, he said, providing jobs for rural areas, boosting U.S. industrial competitiveness, and pumping tens of millions of dollars in revenue into government coffers every day. At the same time, Tillerson stressed, CO2 levels have fallen to their lowest levels in decades, even as the population has grown. (more…)
Agree with his politics or not, you can’t accuse Rick Santorum of being inconsistent. While the unsuccessful 2012 GOP presidential candidate makes no bones about his preference for smaller government, he acknowledges the need to address big, persistent problems like crime and poverty. So he’s thrown his weight behind innovative private-sector solutions like Behind Every Door LLC, a Dallas-based group that aims to “transform neighborhoods” by buying up and improving Class-C apartments. Some services at the LLC properties are supported by donations to a 501(c)3 nonprofit called Behind Every Door Ministries, making the outfit a unique sort of hybrid solution.
Friends with one of the group’s investors, Santorum showed up gratis at downtown’s Petroleum Club yesterday noon to talk up Behind Every Door to a crowd of about 100 businesspeople. His support for the local outfit meshes neatly with his own vision of remaking urban America, in part by energizing conservatives to fight for traditional values and stronger families. While he didn’t mention it in his remarks, Santorum’s reportedly open to running again for president in 2016. In an interview before his talk, the former Pennsylvania senator said Republicans should not have lost the 2012 election, but did because “we had a candidate who tried to be all things to all folks, instead of articulating a clear vision for … average Americans.”
“Lucas B&B Restaurant; office building construction in background,” 1980.
Share your own Ghosts of Dallas.
In speaking to the trade group Newspaper Association of America on Monday, the publisher and CEO of the Dallas Morning News asserted that print has not been killed by the internet, “nor have we committed suicide by stupidity as some have suggested.”
Moroney said by next year the newspaper industry will collectively post a year-over-year increase in total revenue. “Business diversification” — the DMN has opened or acquired five other businesses in 2012 — and “reader engagement” were the optimistic buzzwords of the meeting.
“As an industry, we’ve got barrels of whoop ass left,” he said. “And all we’ve got to do is put it on.”
I’m not sure how one “puts on” a barrel of whoop-ass.
(H/T: Bud Kennedy)
In the Sunday Dallas Morning News, Gromer Jeffers opined that the Dallas City Council campaign of Jennifer Staubach Gates is being aided by the famous name and wealthy friends of her father, former Dallas Cowboys quarterback and commercial real estate bigwig Roger Staubach.
Staubach has long been expected to become a political candidate himself, though he never has, Jeffers wrote:
But the game’s not over. Staubach is handing off any dreams of public office to his daughter, Jennifer Staubach Gates.
When I interviewed Staubach this morning, Jeffers’ column was one of the first matters he brought up. He didn’t like the implication that his daughter is running for office in his stead and that he harbors political ambitions of his own.
“I didn’t really want her to be in politics,” Staubach said. “The reason I mention that is my dream was never, never even indicated, never even tried, never any contemplation of going into politics.”
Kimberly A. Elkjer of Dallas-based Scheef & Stone is suing the firm because of its ban on men and women working alone together. The suit claims this policy made it more difficult for women to advance in their careers there. From AOL Jobs:
While the rules are no longer in effect, Elkjer’s lawsuit says, they created a segregated culture that persists — a culture that denies female attorneys the same opportunities for business and for raises as their male colleagues, and hurts their ability to work. This violates the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act, her suit states, which prohibits employers from making decisions that harm the “terms, conditions, or privileges” of employees on the basis of gender.
“If their concern was harassment or something, you wouldn’t do that to African American employees,” says [Elkjer's attorney Amy] Gibson. ” ‘We’re afraid someone will accuse us of racial harassment, so white employees can’t be alone with African American employees.’ That’s crazy.”
The firm says there’s no evidence to support Elkjer’s claims.
The lawsuit wasn’t specific about the exact wording or rationale of the policy, or the years that it was in effect. Gibson says that she’s concerned about violating the firm’s confidentiality policy, which was brought to her attention — in a manner she found “threatening” — not long before she filed suit.
UPDATE: The PR firm for Scheef & Stone asked me to share their full statement on the suit. Take the jump if you’d like to read it:
No $20 Million Severance For American Airlines CEO. As part of an order approving the airline’s merger with US Airways, a judge has disallowed the payment that the bankrupt airline planned to give Tom Horton, who will step down as the company’s CEO once the merger is complete. The $19,875,000 Horton was slated to receive is more than 10 times the average severance paid to outgoing AMR employees during the bankruptcy. According to the judge, the proposed payment exceeds what’s allowed under federal bankruptcy code. But maybe this meddling judge just doesn’t understand the way that big corporations have to operate, huh? I mean, how’s American Airlines ever going to attract top talent to lead it into bankruptcy again if Horton gets only a piddly $9 million or $10 million severance check?
Second Fatal Accident For Driver. Loyd Rieve, 65, was the bus driver in yesterday’s accident in Irving that left two women dead and injured 42 others. In 1998 he drove a tour bus that ran over a good Samaritan helping at an accident scene. A grand jury declined to indict him then. There’s been no official determination of the cause of yesterday’s incident.
Jasso, Griggs Spar Over Trinity Toll Road, Gas Drilling. Due to redrawn Dallas City Council districts, incumbent council members Scott Griggs and Delia Jasso are running against each other for the District 1 seat. At last night’s debate, Griggs was working hard to draw a contrast between them, arguing that he’s the only candidate to oppose all natural gas drilling in urban areas. (Jasso indicated she’s not a big fan of the drilling but that the city may be legally obligated to allow it because of a lease it granted five years ago.) Griggs also was adamant about his opposition to building a toll road between the Trinity River levees. (Jasso said other options for the toll road should be looked at, but that the citizens of Dallas have asked for the road through a referendum, and so the city should do what the voters want.)
High School Coach Sues Cowboys Stadium Over Runaway Golf Cart. Willie Amendola, the football coach at Spring’s Dekaney High School, filed suit earlier this week. In 2011, while he was being interviewed after his team won the state title, an unmanned golf cart plowed into him from behind. He flew back into the cart’s seat and had to roll out when he couldn’t get it under control himself. He’s asking for $1 million in damages due to personal injury and “great personal anguish and embarrassment.” Look for his embarrassment in the video above.
Yesterday, intern Farraz Khan toured the new terminal at Love for us. Included in his recap were pictures and a description of a D Mag-branded newsstand shop. In the comments, a wisenheimer asked whether we were now doing business with Eddie Bernice Johnson. I see that comment has been deleted. Not sure why. These things happen. But I thought the joke was a fair one, because folks deserve to know where our interests lie. (If you need to catch up on the whole rancorous deal over concessions at Love, start here. But just know that EBJ, as part owner of Hudson Retail Dallas, was involved.)
So then. The D Magazine-branded newsstand is run by CBR Specialty Retail, which is an affiliate of HMSHost, which is part of Autogrill S.p.A., which claims to be the world’s largest provider of food, beverage, and retail services for travelers. CBR Specailty uses our trademarks through a license agreement. We look forward to a long and successful business partnership with them. And free Big Red.
D Healthcare Daily notes that Frisco-based GM Southwest Inc., which according to its website provides student health insurance plans, has been indicted for fraudulently overstating claims of Virginia Tech students by $9 million.
The company and its former owner, 73-year-old John Paul Gutschlag Sr., are charged with with racketeering, conspiracy, money laundering and fraud.
Okay, so you might be thinking that it wouldn’t take a genius to predict the collapse of Bitcoin, that goofy-sounding web-based “currency” whose value had gone bonkers recently. But here’s the thing: Eichenwald timed his prediction perfectly. Here’s the Dallas-based writer’s take on Bitcoin, published Tuesday on the Vanity Fair site. The jist:
Put simply, despite all the hullaballoo, Bitcoins are not a currency, at least in any traditional sense of the word. Rather, they have transformed more into an investment, like a stock. … This year, the insanity of Bitcoins is obvious for all to see. Within a few months, the value of Bitcoins soared to a high of $147, an eleven-fold increase. … What caused this unprecedented jump, which translates into an annualized return of about 4,000 percent? The general consensus is that the financial crisis in Cyprus, which led to proposals to raid domestic bank accounts, set off a panic among Spaniards, who feared that the tumult would cross the Mediterranean and put their savings at risk. So large numbers of them converted their euros into digital Bitcoins. But the reason for the price jump is almost irrelevant. What matters here is that the experience shows that the Bitcoin is not functioning like a useful currency. …
Hoarding has become a common feature of the Bitcoin market, as purchasers hold on to the investment in hopes that the prices will keep rising. One comprehensive study released last October found that more than three-quarters of all Bitcoins — 78 percent — had been stuffed into virtual mattresses and taken out of circulation. In other words, in a system where supply and demand dictate prices, the available supply in the market is far less than might be imagined. In essence, the market is a fantasy. Once the hoarders stop buying, what buyers will step up to the plate to take their place? My bet? No one. There will be, at some point, a time when some hoarder decides to unload. Prices will drop.
The day after Eichenwald’s post, Bitcoin collapsed from an all-time-high of $265 to as low as $105. The reason offered by Bitcoin? It was a victim of its own success. From the Facebook page of Mt.Gox, the leading Bitcoin exchange:
Hi everyone, just a quick update on the situation and what happened last night.
First of all we would like to reassure you but no we were not last night victim of a DDoS but instead victim of our own success!
Indeed the rather astonishing amount of new account opened in the last few days added to the existing one plus the number of trade made a huge impact on the overall system that started to lag. As expected in such situation people started to panic, started to sell Bitcoin in mass (Panic Sale) resulting in an increase of trade that ultimately froze the trade engine!
Me, I’m too smart to get mixed up in this Bitboin silliness. I’ve got all my money in Mike Merrill, a guy who sold shares of himself.
“Love Evolution” sounds like it could’ve been the title of Justin Timberlake’s latest album. Or a command emblazoned in bold black letters on the bumper of Richard Dawkins’ sedan. Or the airy mantra chanted by a new-age, sheep-romancing cult. But instead we’re talking about Dallas Love Field’s shorthand and official brand for its five-year modernization project.
Today we got a sneak peek of the airport’s newly done-up segment of Terminal 2. It’s the first major milestone for Love Evolution, and it will open to the ticket-purchasing public next Tuesday, April 16. The modernization program, which began in 2009 through a strategic partnership between the city of Dallas and Southwest Airlines, seeks to give a facelift to the nearly six-decade-old airport in order to meet the demands (and indulge the fancies) of the 21st-century air traveler.
The construction project will conclude in 2014—synchronized with the full repeal of the Wright Amendment restrictions—and will equip the airport with the technology, amenities, and “post-9/11” design to accommodate the current 4 million yearly passengers, as well as the estimated 2 million extra passengers who will flock to Love once its carriers are free to fly the country.
Going private in a leveraged buyout may be one way out of its current dilemma for JCPenney—and for hedge-fund mogul William Ackman, who brought in Ron Johnson as CEO, then helped show him the door. That’s what this Reuters article suggests, anyway.