Archives June 2015

RadioShack Bankruptcy Update: Electronics Retailer Nears the End

The former RadioShack Corp. is currently nearing the final stretches of its bankruptcy filing, reaching a final reckoning after being in business for 94 years.

According to the Wall Street Journal, bankruptcy lawyers are currently counting the take from the liquidation of the now-collapsed company. At the same time, Salus Capital Partners LLC is seeking to oust these lawyers and replace them with a trustee by converting RadioShack’s bankruptcy into a Chapter 7 filing.

The electronics retailer, which made a name for itself over the last century by selling consumer electronics ranging from cellphones to radios, filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy in February. The company hastily closed or sold its 4,000 or so remaining store locations. This form of bankruptcy, which offers legal protection from creditors and sets up a division of assets, is most often filed by businesses. In 2013, about 8,980 businesses filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

By converting RadioShack’s bankruptcy into a shoestring Chapter 7 case, Salus Capital would effectively replace the company’s teams of lawyers and advisers with a single trustee. Salus Capital, a hedge-fund owed some $150 million, said in a June 23 filing that RadioShack’s liquidation brought in much less than it should have.

Additionally, the bankruptcy case has racked up $45 million in legal and other professional fees, court papers said, which “threaten to rapidly erode creditor recoveries in these cases.” By switching to a trustee, Salus would no longer need to front the bill for these legal fees, and the case would be wrapped up in a much more efficient manner.

“Salus stands to lose the most in these Chapter 11 cases, which at this stage are essentially being funded directly from Salus’s pockets,” lawyers for the hedge fund explained.

If nothing else, it’s clear that the cord is finally cut on RadioShack’s future.

Study by Oxford Economics Gives Insights on Cloud Usage

Programming Internet website network
A new study done by Oxford Economics offers insights on the current and projected usage of the cloud. Beginning in late 2014, researchers studied businesses that use this technology, and those that plan to make a serious investment. The study provided them with a long list of statistics and figures, which we’ve compiled into a list for an easier read.

1. Within the next three years, 69% of companies plan to make at least moderate investments in the cloud, and will be migrating core functions strictly to the cloud.2. In order to launch new business models, 44% are using cloud computing. This number will hit 55% within three years.

3. Cloud computing is being used by 32% to streamline supply chains, and this is predicted to rise to 56% in three years — a 24% increase.

4. 59% are using the applications and platforms in the cloud in order to better manage and analyze data. This is a clear indicator of the importance analytics have and will continue to have for companies.

5. Almost 60% of businesses are predicting that cloud usage will drive up their revenue growth over the next three years, and 67% believe that the use of cloud services will change skill sets. This use may also begin to transform the role of HR.

6. About two-thirds have said that innovation is cloud-based, and 61% have new products or services to offer their consumers thanks to the cloud.

7. Between 2012 and 2014, security strategies for the cloud have increased by 24%. 19% of companies are focusing on virus attacks, while 16% are focused on identity theft.

8. The top three areas that the cloud is helping companies with are: new product and service development (61%), entering new markets (40%) and new lines of business (51%). Product development has jumped 35% for many companies.

9. 31% say that the cloud had transformed their business, while almost half say it has had a moderate impact. Most believe that it has a significant impact either way.

10. Nearly 70% have said marketing, purchasing, and supply chain are partially cloud-based, and many are looking forward to the innovation that can come from using the cloud.

11. According to the International Data Corporation, public cloud spending will increase by $40 billion between 2012 and 2016.

What do you think about the future of cloud technology? Is it a great idea or do you think it may backfire?

Inside Drought-Shaming, the Latest Trend Among Californians


Want to keep your lawn looking pristine and as green as your neighbors’ envy?

If you live in southern California, you’ll most likely have to water your lawn during the wee hours of the morning, under clandestine cover of darkness. Otherwise, you could risk becoming famous for all the wrong reasons when your neighbors post a video of you watering your lawn on YouTube.

According to the Columbus Dispatch, it’s all a part of a new trend called “drought-shaming.” In a manner more closely resembling a witch hunt than anything, anyone caught wasting water freely during California’s worst drought in history will be seen — and shamed — across the world.

“Yeah, I put your address out there. The world is watching a lot more,” said Tony Corcoran, one of several people who traverse the plushest neighborhoods of Beverly Hills and West Hollywood in search of people who openly display their disregard for the water crisis at hand.

Corcoran said he’s uploaded more than 100 videos of these water-wasters to YouTube, including the individuals’ addresses. Other drought-shamers will tweet the water-wasters’ addresses with the hashtag #DroughtShaming — and still others snap photos on their smartphones to send them to local authorities. There’s now even a free app, DroughtShame, that allows people to record the times and places in which they see water being wasted.

Throughout the year, the average American household will waste anywhere from 2,000 to 20,000 gallons of water stemming from leaks that could have been easily fixed. In California, a state that hasn’t seen a drop of rainfall in nearly four years, everyone is being pushed to use as little water as possible.

Gov. Jerry Brown recently ordered residents to cut their water consumption by 25%. In wealthier communities, however, a troubling number of residents continue to water their lawns.

Corcoran maintained that the purpose of his vigilante videotaping isn’t to shame people — despite the name of the trend — and he remains unrepentant despite unsurprisingly receiving backlash from the people he’s recorded.

“The whole point is to get people to change, not to shame,” he said.

Could a Hacked Kids’ Toy Be Used to Break Into Your Garage?

Garage Doors

For the majority of American homeowners, the garage is one of those few sacred suburban spaces where our automobiles, tools and yard work essentials all coexist in harmony.

Recently, however, the sanctity of America’s garages has been violated — by a seemingly innocent kid’s toy.

According to Wired, security researcher Samy Kamkar has developed a way to get past the security code that keeps most garage doors locked by creating a tool called OpenSesame, which is built from a discontinued Mattel toy called the IM-ME.

The IM-ME, a toy that resembles one of those old cell phones that came with sliding keyboards, simply needs an antenna and an open-source attachment in order to be able to try every possible combination for these garage door codes in less than 10 seconds.

Even scarier? The OpenSesame device costs less than $100 to create.

“It’s a huge joke,” said Kamkar, a serial hacker who also works as an independent developer and consultant. “The worst case scenario is that if someone wants to break into your garage, they can use a device you wouldn’t even notice in their pocket, and within seconds the garage door is open.”

However, not all of the 53% of home buyers who want a two-car garage need to panic. OpenSesame only works on garage doors that respond to a “fixed code” that is wirelessly transmitted when you press the button on a remote garage door opener. “Rolling code” systems, which require you to punch the code in manually, aren’t vulnerable to this device.

Not for long, though — Kamkar told Wired he’s already working on a hack that would extend OpenSesame’s capabilities to rolling code systems, as well. And if he figures out a way to hack rolling codes, no one’s garages will be safe.

“It’s a sticky situation. I haven’t even figured out what I’m supposed to do to my own garage,” Kamkar says. “I don’t have a great solution for anyone, including myself.”

Study Reveals Just How Common Repeat ER Visits Are

Doctor explaining diagnosis to her female patient
Patients treated in emergency rooms make far more repeat visits than previously thought, a new study has revealed, although they often go to a different ER the second time around.

Analysis of more than 53 million ER records from between 2006 and 2010 (the latest data available) showed that around 8% of the patients were back in an emergency department within three days. About 20% of patients made a repeat visit within a month.

Patients with skin infections had the highest rate of return, followed by patients with abdominal pain.

These types of “big data” studies have been facilitated only relatively recently because of the rapid adoption of electronic health records; adoption of basic EHR systems by office-based physicians went up 21% between 2012 and 2013 alone, and the industry is slated to be worth nearly $30 billion by 2022.

But unfortunately, national health systems are still disconnected in many ways, meaning those same records often aren’t available to practitioners at different health facilities.

That could even be part of the reason why patients end up back in the ER, the study authors suggest; it’s likely that their primary care managers never even know that they’ve made ER trips, meaning they don’t get the follow-up care that they need.

And in reverse, ER doctors may not have access to tests or diagnostic scans from previous visits, meaning they have to order them again. That drives up the costs of healthcare, as well as overloading facilities and delaying treatment.

The federal government has been trying to enforce the adoption of EHRs among hospitals and doctors that receive reimbursement from Medicare and Medicaid, but numerous problems with implementation have forced regulators to back off and allow more time for providers to comply. That means it could be even longer before all health institutions have records that allow for easy communication among practitioners.

This study used data from Arizona, California, Florida, Hawaii, Nebraska and Utah, some of the first states to link records so that they follow patients from one health facility to another.

The findings were published this month in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

Bullied Children Twice as Likely to Suffer From Depression as Adults, New Study Finds


People who suffered from bullying as young adults are twice as likely to suffer from depression when they get older, according to a new study.

Researchers from the University of Oxford asked nearly 3,900 subjects when they were 13 years old whether or not they were bullied, and if so, how often. When the subjects turned 18, the researchers interviewed them about their mental health.

The Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children found that of the 680 13 year olds who said they were bullied more than once a week, 15% were depressed at 18. Of the 1,450 teenagers who were bulled one to three times over six months, just over 7% were depressed as older teens.

In comparison, only 5.5% of teens who weren’t bullied when they were 13 were depressed at 18.

After analyzing the data, the researchers say that these findings suggest a significant portion of depression cases can be linked to childhood bullying.

“In our study we found that up to 30% of depression in our sample of 18 year olds may be attributed to being bullied as a teenager, if this link is indeed causal,” study author Lucy Bowes told Forbes. “This means that anti-bullying interventions in the teenage years could potentially have a big impact in reducing depression in the general adult population.”

Combatting bullying can be difficult. Much like depression, bullying can be a bit of an invisible problem. More than four out of five depressed individuals don’t seek out professional help, while less than 30% of boys and 40% of girls will talk about bullying to their peers by age 14. If no one knows there’s a problem, no one can help.

The National Center For Victims of Crime suggests that a youth who is being bullied tell his or her parents and discusses how they can help him or her be safe, tell a teacher or counselor who can take action, find out the school’s policy on bullying to see how it can help his or her case.

The agency also suggests that anyone who sees someone being bullied should get a teacher or parent to help, talk to the victim, and report the incident to the proper authority.

Sadly, a review of studies from 13 countries by the Yale School of Medicine found an apparent connection between bullying, being bullied, and suicide. In other words, taking action against bullying could potentially save someone’s life.

This Summer, Thieves Targeting Air Conditioning Units for a Surprising Reason

Air Conditioning Repair
As the weather gets hotter, instances of air conditioning theft are on an upswing across the country.

According to a June 3 KSPR News report, these thieves don’t snatch air conditioning units to stay cool — they’re more concerned with what’s inside the units, namely the valuable copper wires and other scrap metals that keep air conditioners running.

Within minutes, thieves can strip valuable scrap metal from an air conditioner, leaving homeowners with a major financial loss — and without a way to stay cool.

“Generally, they can break one of these units down in about a minute,” Det. Stephanie Bellamah with Cincinnati Police, District Two, told “Most of these crimes are driven by people trying to get money for drugs.”

The U.S. heating and cooling industry — a $71 billion economic force — places yards and yards of copper wire within each air conditioning unit. In fact, all this copper is often worth more than the actual worth of the air conditioner itself.

To safeguard your own air conditioning system from a theft this summer, you can purchase an air conditioning cage which will literally bar thieves from getting their hands on your air conditioner. While these cages range from $600 to $800, they’re much cheaper than the cost of replacing an entire air conditioner, which can set you back thousands of dollars.

There are a number of other ways to prevent air conditioning theft, such as purchasing an air conditioner alarm or even landscaping to conceal the air conditioner itself. While these thefts may be on an upward trajectory, it’s easier than ever to make sure your investment stays safe and keeps you and your family cool throughout the summer.

West Virginia Reminds Above Ground Storage Tank Owners to Register Their Tanks By July 1st

White oil storage tanks
Above ground storage tank (AST) owners in West Virginia must register their tanks with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) by July 1st.

WCHS-TV8 in Charleston reports that the DEP is reminding AST owners across the state to register their tanks by the end of the month or else be subject to enforcement action by the state. Any modifications to ASTs already registered must be completed by the end of the month as well.

The state is also requiring AST owners to inform the state if their tanks are actually considered AST units under state law. West Virginia recently passed an amendment to the Above Ground Storage Tank and Public Water Supply Protection acts that altered the definition of an AST. Tank owners who registered tanks that no longer qualify as an AST must deregister them or else face a registration involve of $40 per tank.

For tank owners unsure of the status of their tanks, the DEP runs a survey on its website for assessment. Entitled “Do I Need to Modify My Existing Registration?”, the survey enables tank owners to determine the status of their tanks and provides links to modify an existing registration.

Tanks that remain unregistered by July 1st will be deemed out of compliance with state law and subject to violations, fines, and other censures. The original deadline for registration was October 1st of last year in order to give tank owners time to research and potentially modify their tanks. All AST units that remain unregistered by July 1st are not allowed to store liquids.

The DEP offers another online survey, called “Do I Need to Register My AST?”, that helps tank owners determine whether they need registration or deregistration and offers links for those ends. Paper registration forms are also accepted in addition to online ones.

The DEP will propose recommendations for the current AST program at the 2016 legislative session.

ASTs are already subject to strict regulations by the American Petroleum Institute (API). One API code, for example, mandates that AST units must be build inside a secondary containment area capable of holding the entirety of the tank’s contents.

Car Crash Victim Sued By Insurance Company Headed To SCOTUS

Allegory of Justice
Robert Montanile has traveled a long, painful road while seeking a fair personal injury settlement after suffering horrible car accident injuries. Not only did he require spinal surgery after a drunk driver ran a stop sign, but he was also sued by his own insurance company. Montanile is just one of three million people injured in an estimated 5.5 million car crashes in the U.S. every year, but he is one of the only victims who will have his case heard by the Supreme Court.

When Montanile sued the drunk driver who struck him, he had no way of predicting it would lead to a legal battle that would reach the highest court in the land. Montanile was insured by The National Elevator Industry Health Benefit Plan, which paid $120,000 of his medical costs after his accident.

When his personal injury claim resulted in a $500,000 settlement, the insurance company argued that under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, they were entitled to first reimbursement from his successful personal injury claim. After nearly a year of fighting his own insurance company, he was sued himself.

Montanile’s legal supporters say his insurance company is unfairly using the Act to receive a “free ride” from the good work of his personal injury attorneys, even though the Act was clearly designed to protect employees, not employers and insurance companies. For example, this June, a U.S. District Judge ruled that General Electric could not suddenly change its benefit plans for retired employees, a clear violation of the Act’s original intent.

Montanile says he needs the money from his settlement to care for his 12-year-old daughter and pay his mounting legal costs. Now, the case will be called Robert Montanile v. Board of Trustees of the National Elevator Industry Health Benefit Plan and will be heard by the Supreme Court in October of this year.

Alessandro Michele Debuts Gucci Collection On Runway Of Persian Carpets

precious Middle Eastern rugs Handmade wool for sale in the antiq
This June, the leaders of the fashion world will show off their wares in Resort 2016, a series of fashion runway shows unveiling new designer collections.

The new creative director for luxury fashion powerhouse Gucci made a bold statement in his American debut in the New York Arts District. Alessandro Michele has been working with the Italian design house for more than a decade, when he worked under the legendary Tom Ford. Now that Michele is in charge, the designer is going his own way. The clothes and stick-thin models may have taken center stage during the June show, but the designer also turned heads with a unique artistic choice — the models flaunted new fashions on a runway lined with antique Persian carpets and Oriental Rugs.

Before mentioning any of the styles or celebrity spectators (“50 Shades of Grey” star Dakota Johnson was in the front row), Vogue commented on the strange choice Michele made in setting the stage with such a non-traditional runway.

“It’s clear that the Roman-born designer is intent on steering the brand in a completely new direction. With crumbling brickwork and antique Persian rugs piled on the floor end to end, the show space in Chelsea today looked like something out of a Wes Anderson movie, and was a million miles away from a Milanese milieu.”

Obviously, you don’t ascend to the role of Creative Director at Gucci without a discerning eye. The “knife-pleated lace skirts,” “faded pastel shades,” and “long-sleeved evening dresses that tumbled to the floor” looked absolutely stunning on the classic patterned rugs. Although fashion houses are often known for eschewing the old for the new, the choice of decor belied a stylistic throwback to another time. The earliest Persian carpets date all the way back to 641 CE, setting a classic tone for the thoroughly modern event.

Refinery29 quipped that Michele “Borrows From Weirdo Women Of Yore,” while also admitting that it’s his very “willingness to throw a wart into the mix that makes this collection feel braver than any fit-and-flare that’s come down the runway, and far more interesting at that.”