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Northern Mariana Islands U.S. Workforce Act of 2018 (H.R. 5956) – This bill is related to the Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008, which stated that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services must reduce the number of Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) transitional worker (CW) permits each year, with the goal of ceasing all permits by the end of 2019. However, over the past five years, there has been increasing demand for CW permits resulting from economic expansion largely due to the construction of casinos and hotels. H.R. 5956 authorizes an increase in the percentage of U.S. workers for CNMI work permits. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT) on May 24 and signed into law by the President on July 24.

North Korean Human Rights Reauthorization Act of 2017 (H.R. 2061) – This bill was introduced by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) on April 6, 2017, and signed into law by the President on July 20. H.R. 2061 authorizes funding of $10 million a year from 2018 to 2022 as well as reinstates and extends human rights and democracy programs under the North Korean Human Rights Act through 2022. The purpose of these programs is to promote human rights, democracy, and freedom of information in North Korea, and provide humanitarian assistance to North Korean refugees.

American Innovation $1 Coin Act (H.R. 770) – Introduced by Rep. James Himes (D-CT), this bill directs the Department of the Treasury to mint and issue $1 coins commemorating innovation and innovators from each state, U.S. territory and the District of Columbia. Starting in 2019, the Treasury will issue four coins per year over a 14-year period in alphabetical order by jurisdiction. Coin designs may not feature the bust of any person nor the portrait of any living person. The bill was introduced on Jan. 31, 2017, and signed into law by the President on July 20.        

Swan Lake Hydroelectric Project Boundary Correction Act (H.R. 219) – Sponsored by Rep. Don Young (R-AK), this bill authorizes the Department of the Interior to modify the boundary of the Swan Lake Hydroelectric Project (FERC No. 2911) and convey to the state of Alaska any additional land necessary for the project. The bill was introduced on Jan. 3, 2017, and was signed into law by the President on July 20.

To extend the deadline for commencement of construction of a hydroelectric project (H.R. 2122, 2292, 951, 447, 446; S. 490) – This series of bills were sponsored by various Republican Congressmen and women from several different states. Although the initial legislative Acts were enacted in various past years, each of these bills authorizes the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to extend the time period for starting construction on their respective hydroelectric projects. The bills were signed into law on various days in July by the President.

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People are spending less time “Googling” for information on where to shop, where to eat, where to vacation and where to get the best rates. Instead, many are using bots such as Amazon’s Alexa and iPhone’s Siri to do the browsing for them.

Artificial intelligence (AI) bots do not just conduct data searches, they assess information and make recommendations to consumers based on variables such as location and key phrases. For example, a local search for restaurants might reveal a laundry list of the closest venues. However, a search for a trendy or hopping bar could extend the search further out both geographically and look for those specific phrases.

That’s why it’s important not just to write copy that describes your organization, but use specific words and phrases that appeal to the types of consumers most likely to be interested in your service or wares. Small business owners need to optimize their website copy for today’s bot-friendly search landscape.

Speech Patterns

New AI bots usually are given search instructions via voice commands. For example, “Siri, find a nearby Thai restaurant that has takeout and accepts Discover.” This voice command reflects actual speech patterns, which are different from choosing select keywords that you would type into a search engine. Therefore, the top search results tend to yield websites that use similar phrases with prepositions, questions and comparison words. To provide copy most likely to get picked up by a bot search, consider writing, for example, a FAQ section with questions phrased the same way a customer would ask them.

User Reviews

Bots pick up review sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor because the comments provided may closely mimic the initial search question. Consequently, it’s important to stay on top of customer comments about your business. Even if you get a bad review – either on your website or one of the popular social media sites –respond to the commenter and try to resolve the issue in a positive manner. It’s also a good idea to respond and thank each good review. Not only does this project a positive experience for the commenter and readers, but additional comments make it all the more likely that copy will be picked in a bot search.

Establish Credibility

Credibility is established in numerous ways. You need to ensure your website is secure with a safely encrypted HTTPS connection. You should encourage high levels of engagement – comments, reviews and testimonials. You also can establish credibility by sharing external links with high-quality websites. For example, if your products are featured in a national news article or even a local newspaper, quote from or share the article or link and be sure to credit the trustworthy source.

Mix Copy Lengths

There’s a time to be long-winded and a time to be brief and snappy. A well-designed website knows when and where to offer each type of copy. When a consumer browsing for information through a bot or search engine lands on your website, the copy should make it clear that he’s found what he’s looking for. However, those keywords or phrases may be buried in a long-form article meant to be educational or entertaining. Use side copy boxes to highlight brief product or service copy, cite pricing or make similar recommendations in order to give the reader additional quick information in a side glance.

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While social media can be an easy, wonderful way to keep in touch with friends, a means of support and a window into what’s going on in the world, there are downsides for kids of which parents need to be aware. Here is a snapshot of a few of the negative effects:

1. Promotes Addiction

According to a 2016 survey from Common Sense Media, half of the teens surveyed felt addicted to their smartphones; 78 percent checked their devices at least hourly. In 2015, a Pew Research report found that 73 percent of 13- to 17-year-olds not only had access to a smartphone, but 24 percent reported that they were online “almost constantly.” This is not surprising, given a project conducted by researchers at UCLA. During their study, they scanned the brains of a few dozen adolescents as they watched what looked like an Instagram feed. When teens saw that their own pictures had received lots of “Likes”, they showed a greater activation in an area of the brain called the nucleus accumbens, part of the brain’s reward circuitry and one that’s particularly sensitive during adolescence. It’s easy to see how this vulnerable age group – easily influenced by what others think – would crave approval on social media.

2. Causes Depression

This is sobering. A study by the American Psychological Association found that adolescents who spent less time on non-screen activities (in-person social interaction, sports/exercise, homework, attending religious services) and more time on electronic communication and screens (social media, the internet, texting, gaming) had lower psychological well-being. Conversely, teens who spent a small amount of time on electronic communication were the happiest. In particular, it was found that teens who spent five hours per day using their phones were almost twice as likely to exhibit depressive symptoms than their peers who spent only one hour on their phones.

3. Contributes to Sleep Deprivation

Research has shown that teenagers need 9.5 hours of sleep each night, but on average only get 7.5 hours. But this is no surprise. According to the CDC, teens who spent three or more hours a day on electronic devices were 28 percent more likely to get less than seven hours of sleep. Further, teens who visited social media sites every day were 19 percent more likely not to get adequate sleep. Furthermore, an article in The Guardian stated that teens are so addicted to social media that one-fifth of secondary school kids will wake up at night to check social media to make sure they don’t miss out. This “fear of missing out” (aka FOMO) is another detrimental consequence of kids spending too time on social media.  

4. Might Lead to Identity Theft

An article on Truhealthonline.com stated one of the big problems with social media sites is that many times kids don’t read or understand the privacy settings of their accounts. They are clueless about the risks of disclosing unnecessary personal information. According to a recent survey referenced on this website, 20 percent of youth think it’s perfectly safe to post their personal information and photos online. Identity theft, anyone?

5. Cyberbullying

This is more widespread than you might think – and it extends beyond the borders of the United States. In 2014, a South Korean survey of kids between 11 and 14 found that 9.7 percent were involved in cyberbullying, either as victims (3.3 percent), perpetrators (3.4 percent) or both (3 percent). In 2009, a Finnish study discovered that out of 5,516 adolescents, 10 percent of the boys had been victims, 10 percent had bullied and 10 percent had witnessed cyberbullying. Among girls, the stats were higher: 11 percent, 9 percent and 16 percent, respectively. For parents, it may be time to think twice when you see your kids glued to their smartphones.

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A large number of Americans intend to keep working past retirement age. For many, their reasons are financial. Some have a high level of debt while others are afraid if they retire too soon, they will run out of money.

Working longer offers several financial benefits; workers are able to:

  • Accrue a higher Social Security benefit
  • Grow a higher pension benefit
  • Allow more time to save money and permit investments to grow
  • Utilize company-paid insurance benefits

In addition to financial benefits, there are cognitive, physical and social advantages to working longer. Studies have found that older Americans, who tend to work longer than people in European countries, score higher than those citizens on memory tests. The research correlates continued mental stimulation provided through work with retaining mental acuity longer than those who retire.

Working outside the home also exposes older folks to a larger social network than some retirees might experience. As we get older, our social networks tend to narrow. Most people see fewer people after retiring and must make a concerted effort in order to engage in conversation and activities with a wide range of people on a daily basis. Maintaining a job past traditional retirement age can keep us socially engaged longer. Scientists say that regular social contact contributes to better health and a positive sense of well-being as we grow older.

Some people prefer to keep working because they are self-described workaholics. We tend to associated any type of “-aholic” with negative connotations. However, recent research has found that an addiction to working long hours can yield positive outcomes. For one,

American businesses generally reward workaholic behavior with promotions and higher pay, so there is a financial benefit.

Also, a recent study correlated health benefits as well. The research discovered that workaholics who love their job have no more risk of developing health conditions (e.g., high blood pressure, high blood sugar, abnormal cholesterol, excess waistline fat) than the average employee.

Unfortunately, if work is causing undue stress and health problems, this will likely cost more money for treatment during retirement. In this case, if you don’t love your job it could be worth considering retiring – even if that means living on less income. At least it would give you the opportunity to pursue a daily regime of healthy habits and interesting hobbies – which might help ward off expensive medical bills and provide a higher quality of life.

When weighing the benefits of retiring versus working longer, don’t rule out opportunities for income other than a full-time job. Consider taking on a less stressful part-time job that will allow you to explore some of your interests. For example, if you like carpentry or gardening, consider applying for a position at Lowes, Home Depot or Ace Hardware. If you enjoy crafts or sewing, consider selling wares at a local market or starting your own tailoring and alterations service. If you like being around animals, consider offering a pet sitting service.

Working longer doesn’t necessarily mean working longer at the same job. You can enjoy many of the same perks – financial, mental, physical and social – by simply switching to a less stressful type of work that you enjoy more.

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Over the past 30 months, the price of a barrel of oil has increased from the mid-$30s to – in recent days – as high as the mid-$70s per barrel. At nearly half the historic $150 per barrel price level nearly 10 years ago, how will the market react if oil reaches $150 again, as some analysts are speculating?

Understanding the Increase in the Price of Oil

With investors speculating in the markets to drive prices higher and the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and Russia cutting production, global production has been experiencing production pressure since 2016. Add in America’s 2015 decision to export its expanding domestic crude oil production – ending a four-decades ban on the practice – and there are many reasons for the run up in oil prices.

Speculating About Oil’s Future

While there’s no crystal ball as to where crude oil will peak, looking at how production might play out in the near and long terms can provide insight for future global crude supplies. Whenever oil prices increase, producers look to ramp up production to take advantage of increased prices. But what are global producers capable of?

Despite the shale oil renaissance, if America’s existing shale production increased by 100 percent, it would still make up only 15 percent of the world’s oil supply. Of the remaining global oil suppliers outside of America, OPEC accounts for 40 percent of worldwide production, with offshore producers comprising another 30 percent of global supply. While many experts contend OPEC is a cartel, there is much exploration and innovation by offshore drillers and this may have a bigger impact on worldwide oil prices going forward.  

According to industry reports, 75 percent of the globe’s 32 best performing oil fields are offshore. Based on a few data points, there’s a lot of potential for increased oil production at higher margins. Norway has increased its offshore oil output this year compared to last, and the country is expecting another offshore oil drilling project to come online in 2019 – one of the biggest projects in the last half century. This increased production is coupled with one in four of Norway’s new car sales in 2017 being electric, further reducing the country’s domestic demand for refined oil products.

Another example of increases in offshore production is energy companies working with the Guyanese government. Within approximately 24 months, Exxon is planning to extract 500 million barrels. Yet this discovery represents only 15 percent of the total projected output.

Along with increased production, the advent of new technology lowers production costs for offshore drillers to between $20 and $40 a barrel. Due to advances in technology such as sub-sea robots; robo-rigs and drones; and augmented and virtual reality, which will reduce labor costs, the case for $150 per barrel oil is less likely. This is true even if global demand grows at the projected 1.5 million barrels annually.

How Higher Oil Prices Could Impact the Economy Overall

When it comes to increased oil prices, the economy can respond in various ways. For the general consumer, as oil prices increase, a ripple effect will raise the price of gasoline. This will undoubtedly offset some of the recent gains consumers received with the recent tax cuts signed into law, potentially dampening consumer spending.

Similarly, as the cost of oil increases, businesses may choose to pass the increases on to consumers – in the form of higher fares for airlines, for example. Businesses also can increase the price of their services with fuel surcharges or increase prices for products derived from crude oil. However, for workers in the oil and gas industry, companies will increasingly look to invest more in capital expenditures to increase drilling capacity, stimulating job creation and economic growth.

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Welcome back to the second and final part of our series on KPIs. In this portion, we’ll explore the best way to define Key Performance Indicators, as well as show you how to communicate them across your organization.

Defining KPIs

Here are a few guidelines you can use to focus your efforts in defining your KPIs.

  • KPIs vary: Every company and industry is different. This means not everyone will have the exact same KPIs. Even companies within the same industry, geography and size might have some different KPIs; for example, results will vary if the businesses are at different life cycle phases. A family-owned company looking to be in business for the next 100 years is going to have different KPIs than the same business bought out by a private equity firm that is planning to resell in a few years.
  • There are three main categories of KPIs: overall business, departmental/team and individual. Remember to separate supporting metrics from true KPIs across all three types.
  • Limit the number of KPIs you track: Measuring everything is as good as measuring nothing. Keep the “K” of KPIs in mind at all times; ensure you distill your KPIs to what are truly “key” for your business. Too many measures mean you’ll dilute your focus and may become diverted from what really matters.

Make Your KPIs Accessible

Mushroom management is an opaque management style where employees are not privy to the company’s performance and have little connection to their work and the purpose behind it. The name comes from how mushrooms are farmed – by being kept in the dark. This style of management can be very discouraging and disengaging to employees, with a recent report finding that:

  • About 80 percent of employees want more data about the company they work for to be shared with them
  • Approximately 25 percent of employees either left or know someone who exited a company because of inadequate transparency on business direction and performance
  • More than half of employees say that sharing of company data positively impacts their performance and productivity

Effective use of KPIs can dramatically increase the visibility of a company’s goals and performance, making employees feel like they are in the know; keeping them engaged; and connecting their work to the company’s mission. Coupled with effective communication, the right KPIs are part of the solution to mushroom management.

Effective Communication and Consumption of KPIs

Unless you’re an analyst, you probably have little desire to paw through spreadsheets identifying KPIs and making sense of the numbers. In order to be accessible to a broad audience across your organization, KPIs need to be easily understood. One effective way to communicate the most actionable metrics is to display them on a large monitor in the office or factory floor.

Another strategy is to manage your metrics and KPIs with a dashboard. Building a business KPI dashboard can bring your metrics to life through visualization, allowing everyone easy access to the data. Dashboards are an effective way to track key objectives, drive your business decisions and accelerate growth.

KPI Examples

Not sure where to start? A great place to visit is this KPI Library, which provides a rather exhaustive list of metrics. Remember that everything included in the link above are metrics and should only be considered KPIs if you meet the right criteria given the context of your company and its objectives. The list of possible KPIs from the link above can be overwhelming, so if you need assistance picking and measuring the right KPIs, reach out for assistance.

 

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