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Miscellaneous Tariff Bill Act of 2018 (H.R. 4318) – This bill is designed to cut or eliminate tariffs on articles such as chemicals, footwear, toasters and approximately 1,660 other items made outside the United States. About half of those items are produced in China. The legislation does not void any of the recent 25 percent tariffs imposed on a combined $50 billion of Chinese imports, but it does reduce existing “normal” tariff rates on all the imports listed. For example, a chemical with a 5 percent “normal” import duty that is on both the MTB list and the new list subject to a 25 percent tariff would be exempt from the 5 percent duty only. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) on Nov. 9, 2017 and signed into law by the president on Sept. 13.

Veterans Treatment Court Improvement Act of 2018 (H.R. 11822147) – This bill was introduced by Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) on April 26, 2017 and signed into law by the president on Sept. 17. The bill requires the Department of Veterans Affairs to hire at least 50 Veterans Justice Outreach (VJO) specialists, licensed social workers who help veterans that become involved in the criminal justice system be referred to Veterans Treatment Courts (VTC). VTCs are specialty, diversionary courts dedicated to veteran offenders where the veteran is diverted from the regular criminal justice process to address underlying issues, such as post-traumatic stress disorder or substance abuse. It is the job of a VJO specialist to tailor a structured rehabilitation program for the unique needs of each assigned veteran and to monitor the veteran’s progress in the VTCs.

POWER Act (S. 717) – Introduced by Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK), this bill requires the U.S. Attorney’s office in each judicial district to conduct, at least annually, a public event to promote pro bono legal services for survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking, with additional provisions to reach American Indian and Alaskan Natives. The promotion of free legal services is considered a critical means to empower survivors of these criminal acts. The bill was introduced on March 23, 2017, passed by both chambers in identical form on Aug. 15 and signed into law by the president on Sept. 4.

Tribal Social Security Fairness Act of 2018 (H.R. 6124) – Sponsored by Rep. David Reichert (R-WA), this bill authorizes the Social Security Administration to enter into an agreement, when requested by an Indian tribe, to extend Old Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance benefits to tribal council members. The bill also permits tribal council members to receive Social Security credit for taxes paid prior to the establishment of the agreement. The bill was introduced on June 15 and was signed into law by the president on Sept. 20.

Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act of 2018 (S. 2946) – This legislation is designed to help American victims of international terrorism receive justice in U.S. courts by holding accountable those who commit, or aid and abet, terrorist activity abroad. The new bill seeks to correct several flaws in the original anti-terrorism act. This bill was introduced by Rep. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) on May 24. As of Sept. 13, it had passed both houses and is awaiting signature by the president. A companion bill, the Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act of 2018 (H.R. 5954) – thus far only passed in the Senate – seeks to to clarify the meaning of the terms “act of war” and “blocked asset” with the goal of enabling victims to be compensated with assets seized from the responsible terrorist organizations.

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Is your staff spending too much time in meetings and not enough time working independently? If so, you’re not alone. Since 2008, the amount of time that firms spend in meetings has been increasing. It is now projected that organizations spend an average of 15 percent of company time in meetings.

It could be that meetings have become more prevalent because of all the bells and whistles that new technology has brought to the conference table. These advances include slick presentations with video and talking heads as well as interactive face time with offsite staff and clients. It’s no wonder companies are investing in meeting technology.

However, technology that was meant to make workers more productive has, in many cases, just placed them in meetings for longer periods. Perhaps it’s time to start using technology for more efficacious purposes.

Enter: Meeting apps. Instead of inviting loads of people to a meeting to get up to speed, how about just invite the folks necessary and record the meeting for all those who just need to be aware of what’s going on. There are now phone apps that record a meeting and then transcribe the dialogue into meeting notes to be distributed after the fact.

One such example is an AI-powered app called Tetra, introduced in 2017 and continually being updated with new improvements. The key feature of the app is to eliminate the need for anyone to take notes, which enables participants to stay focused on the content being discussed. The app not only records the phone call, but also transcribes the call into a text document using deep learning and natural language processing (NLP).

A full transcription of the discussion is delivered within minutes after the call, complete with features that make it easy to search for specific terms in order to review exactly what was said. For example:

  • Search for keywords across all conversations
  • Listen to a specific piece of audio by tapping on those keywords
  • Generate a call summary by manually tagging key moments during a call
  • Save highlights and action items with a single tap
  • Share notes with colleagues who are not present through the Tetra mobile or web app

How It Works

Tetra allocates a dedicated Tetra number to be used for all outgoing and incoming calls over Wi-Fi or 4G. Once each call is completed, the VoIP app generates notes a short time later.

Price

In terms of cost, the app offers an initial trial of 60 free minutes in the first month. Thereafter, the user signs up for a specific plan based on projected time.

  • Plus – $9/month for a total of five hours of call time per month
  • Pro – $29/month for a total of 10 hours of call time per month
  • Business – $99/month for unlimited call time each month

Compliance

One common question regarding recorded phone calls is whether it is illegal. To legally comply with the issue, the Tetra app issues a default announcement to participants that the call is being recorded. The app offers the option for a user to disable this announcement as long as the plan subscriber agrees to ask for  recording permission where necessary to stay compliant with local laws.

Also, Tetra utilizes industry standard encryption and Amazon Web Servers (AWS) to store data that’s been collected. Note that the transcription function is generated automatically by artificial intelligence and no humans are involved, so all meeting content remains confidential.

The meeting recording market is starting to expand. There are currently numerous apps, such as Zoom, clark.ai, Scopist and NoNotes, that record calls and save them to a cloud for easy retrieval. However, the transcription service is relatively new and adds a striking dimension to enhance productivity – allowing more employees to keep working outside of meetings.

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You’ve just lost your phone and you’re in full-on panic mode. When you locate said electronic device, all is well. You heave a sigh of relief. All of this begs the question: Why and how have we become so dependent on our phones? Though doing without a phone entirely is probably not realistic or in some cases necessary, here are a few ways to ramp off your addiction – and why unplugging is so important for your overall well-being.

  1. Don’t Take Your Phone to Bed
    Research shows that blue light from the phone screen makes it hard to fall asleep. Wayne Conn, a sleep coordinator at Texoma Medical Center, claims that it wakes up the brain and causes it to be overstimulated, much the way exercising before going to bed prevents our bodies from relaxing. Idea: Put the phone down two hours before you retire for the evening, maybe in another room. If you need to make a call, use a land line. When you do this, chances are you’ll sleep better and wake up refreshed.
  2. Let Go of FOMO
    FOMO is the acronym for “fear of missing out”. In fact, Larry Rosen, psychology professor and author of The Distracted Mind, told CNBC that most people check their phones every 15 minutes or less for fear of not being in the know about whatever local or world crisis might be in play. Truth is, if it’s that important, you’ll hear about it on TV, the radio or from a friend. Acquiescing to this phenomenon creates anxiety and interferes with your ability to focus. To avoid all this stress, let go and let live.
  3. Set Alarms to Wean Yourself Off
    Relegate your phone checking to certain times, which might be after work or after dinner. Next, set alarms on your phone during these times so that you can take one deep dive into your phone, respond to emails and comment on social media. Better still, Rosen suggests a radical idea: tell friends and family that you might not be responding to messages as quickly as you used to. Talk about liberating! No longer will you be a slave to the world.
  4. Remove Distracting Apps from Your Phone
    To avoid accidental time-sucks, remove apps that seem to lure you in and hold you hostage, such as social media sites and games. Instead, deploy apps for reading or learning a new language. If you really want to see who has had a new baby or been on a fabulous vacation, you can do it on your desk computer or laptop. The takeaway? Now when you’re interacting with your phone, you’ll be contributing to your mental health and personal growth, rather than taking away from it.
  5. Rely More on Smart Speakers
    Step away from the screen. Give your thumbs a rest. Use your voice to do the heavy lifting with smart speakers like the Amazon Echo or Google’s Home Products. These blue light-free devices can answer virtually any question you have, as well as turn on music or a podcast. When you’re not glued to your phone, you’ll enjoy life a whole lot more.
  6. Try Replacement Therapy
    Finally, instead of reaching for your phone, pick up a book. Talk to your coworker, spouse or neighbor. If we’re honest, human interactions far more satisfying than a tiny rectangular screen.

Sources

https://www.bustle.com/articles/188786-5-scientifically-proven-benefits-to-unplugging-from-technology

https://www.kxii.com/home/headlines/Cell-phones-believed-to-cause-serious-sleep-problems-264708571.html

https://www.cnbc.com/2018/01/03/how-to-curb-you-smartphone-addiction-in-2018.html

http://time.com/4793331/instagram-social-media-mental-health/

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Next month, all 435 seats of the U.S. House of Representatives and 35 of the 100 seats in the Senate will be up for grabs in the midterm elections. Historically, congressional midterms have had much lower turnout than Presidential elections, but this year has a lot of issues at stake – not the least is the potential for in-depth Congressional investigations and the possible impeachment of a sitting president.

But putting all of that aside, let’s take a look at how various scenarios could impact the investment markets.

Republicans Retain Control of Both Houses in Congress

This would likely lead to more social and economic policy changes in the future, such as further reduced taxes, more trade disputes in North America and throughout the world, stronger control of immigration and a new healthcare bill that reintroduces medical underwriting for pre-existing conditions. The coal industry, financial and consumer discretionary sectors also are poised to benefit.

On one hand, investor confidence has been strong and could continue to support the long-running bull market. On the other hand, the current administration’s approach to many policies are far outside the mainstream, so continuing this strategy coupled with the unpredictability of President Trump could start to weigh heavily on the markets.

Democrats Take Control of One Branch

Congress will be divided, which puts most legislation in gridlock. However, a stalemate offers stability and predictability, which the markets like, so it could serve to sustain the bull run. In addition, the one common ground on which Democrats and Republicans can agree is the need to bolster the nation’s infrastructure, so there could be substantial investment in industrials, materials and utilities.

Democrats Take Control of Both Branches

Potential impeachment proceedings could temporarily roil the market. However, subsequent changes might include ending global tariffs and a greater focus on clean energy, green infrastructure and the healthcare industry, with less emphasis in the financial, energy and defense sectors.

Regardless of how the power structure lands after midterms, it’s worth noting that historically the midterms have yielded largely positive market performance. In fact, every midterm election year since the 1940s has yielded a positive return.

Risk Factors

In addition to potential changes in Washington, there are other factors to consider in today’s economic environment. First, the threat of rising inflation coupled with ongoing low unemployment increases the chances of more interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve Bank.

Subsequently, the rising value of the dollar could threaten the current positive environment for earnings. Recent U.S. sanctions on Iran have given way to increasing oil prices, and there is a general sense of global instability among both allies and adversaries that present geopolitical risks to investments abroad. And finally, should the United States experience a political crisis as a result of the midterm elections and/or the ongoing investigation into the 2016 presidential campaign, the markets could see a dramatic drop in consumer confidence.

One historical trend that is likely to continue this year is increased market volatility in the month leading up to the midterm elections, driven by political uncertainty. With this in mind, remember that temporary price declines provide an excellent opportunity for investors to expand portfolio positions for the future. Also remember that as we approach the year’s end, it could be a good time to harvest gains and reposition assets for higher growth in 2019.

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The majority of the mainstream financial media steers investors to news stories that have little bearing on intermediate and long-term returns. The stories often have a short-term focus, centering on the problem of the day and how it will impact the stock market. Many experts, including the legendary investor Ray Dalio, believe the average investor would be better served by ignoring daily news headlines and focusing on metrics with insight into where we are in the economic cycle.

Dalio’s Start and Accomplishments

Born in Jackson Heights, Queens, Ray Dalio became hooked on investing at the age of 12, when he used $300 he saved from caddying and other jobs to invest in Northeast Airlines because of what he overheard on the golf course. Dalio later went on to graduate from Harvard Business School and trade commodity futures on Wall Street before starting his own investment management firm, Bridgewater Associates, in 1975. Today, Bridgewater is one of the largest hedge funds in the world, with more than $160 billion in assets under management. Dalio himself is personally estimated to be worth approximately $16 billion to $18 billion.

Investment Approach

Dalio employs an investment approach called “global macro,” which means large-scale investing based on broad systematic factors. He studies market history, looking for events and causations that were previously thought to be impossible. He uses this historical perspective to anticipate changes in currencies, commodity prices and inflation. He also is a strong believer in understanding the psychological factors that influence markets and company management.

Past Prognostications

Dalio is perhaps best known for foreseeing the Great Recession of 2008-2009. Back in 2006, Bridgewater Associates figured out that the total debt service in the United States was exceeding income and that as a consequence, economic de-leveraging was inevitable. Then in 2007, Dalio saw the housing boom coming to an end and met with the Secretary of the Treasury to warn him that the big banks were in danger of becoming insolvent. As a result, the fund made significant investments in Treasury bonds, gold and the Japanese yen. Finally, in the spring of 2008, his fund pulled out of Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns, a mere week before the latter failed.

What Does Dalio See Coming Now?

Recently, Dalio said he thought that the U.S. economy was in the seventh inning, and that now is the time to starting shifting to a more defensive position in the market. Why does he believe this? There are three main economic metrics that tie into this thesis.

The first is the NFIB Small Business Confidence index. Right now, small business confidence is at an all-time high. This suggests that small businesses are hiring, expanding and investing. These are all good things, but the fact that we are at an all-time high leads many to believe that we are also at the peak and the only place to go from here is down.

Two other metrics to consider are the ISM Manufacturing Index and the Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index; they are at 14 -year and 18-year highs, respectively. These metrics suggest that manufacturing and consumer confidence are also near peaks and indicate nearing the top of another economic cycle.

Conclusion

The simple fact that these three measures are at or near all-time highs doesn’t mean that a recession is imminent. It does mean that the economy has a high probability of seeing growth slow before reversing. Essentially, Dalio is suggesting that we are not at the end of the cycle, but we are getting close. Unfortunately for investors, being too early is the same as being wrong – so there are no easy answers or we’d all be billionaires like him.

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When it comes to selling a business, it’s never a bad thing to be too careful. In fact, according to Forbes’ contributor Richard Parker, 50 percent of business acquisitions fall apart during the “due diligence” phase, where many current and future obligations exist. With such a high rate of deals that fall through, what are the most common reasons that business acquisitions end up failing?

Learn About Business Obligations Pre-Purchase

One of the many reasons a business deal breaks down is due to either the seller not being transparent or the buyer discovering things about the business’s existing obligations, such as the level of debt or a full accounting of outstanding bills.

This brings up a larger concern of how to determine if a business is a good fit. First, generate many questions to ask. This includes finding out details about the business structure, the company’s outstanding bills, agreements and client contracts and how each of these items will be addressed. For example, if there’s a lease, will it be transferred and renewed as part of the business sale? Is the building’s owner on board and part of the contract to renew the lease after the sale and transfer has completed?

Another consideration, echoed by Parker, is to determine how many customers the business currently has and what the company will be doing to keep developing clients. Is the business on time with bills or are there vendors with outstanding invoices that might be holding back product, thus preventing existing customer orders from being fulfilled?

Parker uses the example of looking at a company and how the majority of its revenue comes from a single government contract. As long as the company has ongoing marketing and sales efforts to gain new clients to expand its client base when that contract ends, it can make reasonable budget and staffing projections depending on how fast new clients are acquired. However, if such efforts are not implemented, a lack of new clients can put a squeeze on future cash flow.

Other considerations include understanding how the new ownership will affect existing and future obligations. For example, have all existing debts and business correspondence been disclosed to the potential buyer? If there’s an indemnification clause in the purchase contract for the business, and the business is subject to collections from an unpaid vendor or is later sued, if the indemnification clause is not fully understood, the new owners might contest indemnifying the previous owner.

An additional consideration is to determine how the business’ ownership is structured and how it will impact unforeseen events. Depending on the business entity, creating a fair operating agreement that sets expectations for all owners can minimize many issues, especially for businesses with more than one partner.

One example of an important clause for business owners is how major decisions are made. Are these decisions made unanimously or are they made with a majority of partners? Without a clear set of expectations for how major decisions will be made, partners could walk away with hard feelings, looking to sell their ownership share unexpectedly.             

Sources

Half Of All Business Sales Fall Apart In Due Diligence, Here’s What To Do

 

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