Sunday, March 31, 2013

Strategies For VCs To Increase Startup Success Odds | TechCrunch

Editor?s note:?David Teten is a partner with?ff Venture Capital?and founder and chairman of?Harvard Business School Alumni Angels of Greater New York. Follow him on his blog or on Twitter?@dteten.

Lots of venture capitalists claim to add value to the companies in which they invest. But how do they do it?? And does it really produce better?returns?for their investors??We recently wrapped up a?study?on best practices of venture capitalists in creating portfolio company value through operational support, exploring exactly these questions.

We found that certain VCs are aggressively building out a focused portfolio operations skill set and recruiting more people with operational backgrounds. Based on a range of sources, we believe that most funds with well-developed portfolio operator models have top-quartile returns (typically above 20 percent IRR in the relevant time periods).

Given the mediocre median?returns?of the VC industry and the high?failure rate?of the typical entrepreneur, techniques to improve the odds of success are highly needed.

?Adding Value

VCs can add more value to their portfolios through team building, operations, perspective, skill building, customer development, analysis, and the network (the ?TOPSCAN? framework):

Team Building:?Designing and?recruiting?for a startup?s most important asset, its human capital base.

Operations:?Enhancing administrative, accounting, legal, and technological capabilities.

Perspective:?Strategy, competitive positioning, defining the target market, and scoping the product.

Skill Building:?Building the right skills, especially for senior management.

Customer Development:?Identifying and gaining access to the right customers.

Analysis:?How entrepreneurs measure, understand, and report the performance of their early-stage companies.

Network:?The cheapest and sometimes most value-added service that an investor can provide is access to his/her network, particularly to?potential investors?and acquirers.

The portfolio operator strategy has potential to boost returns.

A company?s need for these services is greatest in its earlier life. However, even among private-equity funds that invest in late-stage, stable, established companies, we see many such funds?building portfolio operations groups.?Later-stage, private-equity firms clearly believe that their portfolio companies benefit from a similar pool of operational talent, despite the fact that their companies are far more complete in their management and developed in their strategy than the companies backed by VCs.

The portfolio operator strategy has potential to boost returns. Our thesis that greater participation correlates with higher returns is consistent with two other formal studies: ?Returns to Angel Investors in Groups?, and ?Prediction and Control Under Uncertainty: Outcomes in Angel Investing.? Both studies found that higher levels of angel participation in investments, as measured by number of hours per week interacting with a portfolio company, correlates with higher returns.

In addition, VCs (particularly those focused on Internet investments) live in a social-media-enabled world where almost every investor has a very visible public resume on LinkedIn; many have a public blog; and blogs and sites such as? track their behavior. Social media footprints make it exceptionally easy for entrepreneurs to assess precisely how much value a potential investor can add and reach out to those investors specifically.?Deal origination?becomes very easy for firms with a strong reputation for adding value.

Current Practices

VCs have five main resources with which to increase portfolio company value: cash, brand, industry network, funding network and in-house expertise.

  1. Cash.?A significant operational toolkit is expensive. Given the?low average returns of the VC industry, and the modest assets under management of VCs relative to the assets under management of a typical private-equity fund, many VCs simply cannot afford to invest meaningful dollars in a large portfolio acceleration infrastructure.
  2. Brand.?The fact that a company has been funded by a well-respected fund/partner alone can increase a company?s odds of success, because that brand makes it easier for the company to attract talented employees and follow-on investors. By definition, startups have no brand at launch.
  3. Industry network.?One entrepreneur observed about one of the most prominent VCs in America: ?[X]?s default response to all problems is to email introduce you to 3-10 people in his network who can help.?
  4. Funding network.?Later-stage VCs pay careful?attention?to the earlier funders in a company, using the reputations of the funders as a proxy for their own diligence. The next-best asset to a large pool of capital in-house is the ability to easily help raise more capital in later rounds from past syndicate partners.
  5. In-house expertise.?VCs can provide consulting, accounting, or operational resources, both directly from their own staff and from preferred service providers.

All of the resources above are synergistic, i.e. more success creates more cash, which strengthens the brand, which increases the industry and VC network, which strengthens the in-house expertise. This is one of the key reasons that venture capital is one of the few asset classes in which?past performance is predictive of future results.

financier1There are three common categories of VCs in terms of attitude and practices toward investing and portfolio company support: financiers, mentors, and portfolio operators, ranked in order of increasing level of operational involvement.

1. Financiers: ?I?m a banker, not an operator.?

The financiers are the most traditional group of VC investors; one said he views venture capitalists as ?glorified commercial bankers.? Financiers believe that the most value added by a VC comes from carefully scrutinizing early-stage companies, generating leads, conducting a thorough due diligence process, and eventually investing the right amount of capital at the right valuation and structure. The relationship to their portfolio after making the investments primarily consists of monitoring.

Of course, the financiers are not completely detached from what is going on in their portfolio companies, but they tend to focus more on formal interaction. Examples include VCs taking board seats, suggesting structures for board meetings, and providing monthly reporting templates.

The most perfect example of a financier is?Correlation Ventures, which some have called the ?Moneyball? of venture capital. Even though the firm?s two managing partners are both former startup entrepreneurs, Correlation never takes board seats and has only modest operational involvement. They gain access to investment opportunities by offering a very rapid?investment decision (two weeks or less), with a very low hassle process, leveraging their large investment in predictive analytics. They have $165 million in assets under management. Other examples are?Right Side Capital Management?and?i2x.

mentor32. Mentors: ?I try to be the CEO?s consigliere.?

Most VCs can be classed as mentors. Mentors believe their fund and personal assets can improve the performance of the ventures they invest in. The most important asset they bring to the table is their personal and professional network, which they leverage to strengthen portfolio companies. Throughout our research, we observed many examples of this: introductions to potential customers, suppliers, partners, and executive-level employees.

What distinguishes the mentors from the portfolio operators, however, is that they deliberately choose not to institutionalize the support they give to their portfolio companies. Support is almost always initiated by the entrepreneur and does not involve preset systems or processes. As one mentor said, ?My entrepreneurs have my cell and email address ? and I always answer them.? As a result, mentors assessing a new investment need to be comfortable that their input will be heard by the companies ? that the CEO is coachable.

In the past few years, there has been a?surge?of small, solo-GP funds, typically with under $40 million in assets. Although in many cases, these solo GPs have strong operational track records, they typically have limited resources to engage in-depth with their portfolio, and so would normally be classified as mentors.

3. Portfolio Operators: ?We have a structured, standard process for adding value.?

Portfolio operators agree with mentors that their unique personal and fund assets can be used to develop their portfolio companies. However, unlike mentors, portfolio operators do this in an institutionalized and structured way. Whereas mentors tend to be reactive in their support, portfolio operators pro-actively look for ways to improve the performance of their investments through systems and processes. We know of numerous instances in which companies took lower valuations to win portfolio operator VCs as investors versus other categories of VCs, because the entrepreneurs so valued the resources a portfolio operator could bring to bear. In other cases, entrepreneurs have offered board options or other sweeteners to highly attractive portfolio operator VCs.

portfolio operatorThe most common service portfolio operators offer their portfolio companies is recruiting assistance. Most of the VCs in this category not only provide personal references to interesting candidates, but also use their own websites as job boards for portfolio companies. First Round Capital takes this a step further by running a program in which they recruit MBAs for internships and full-time positions with their portfolio companies.

We find that portfolio operator VCs are building teams of employees that are unusually large for the VC industry and include many people with strong?operational backgrounds. These larger teams tend to be accompanied by a transition toward pyramidal organizations, which are increasingly becoming the norm in portfolio operator funds.

As Harvard Business School professor Noam Wasserman discusses in his?paper??Upside-down Venture Capitalists and the Transition Toward Pyramidal Firms: Inevitable Progression, or Failed Experiment?? ?VCs have long been structured as ?upside-down pyramids? in which general partners outnumber more junior employees. This phenomenon is attributable to the fact that VCs are ?knowledge intensive firms in which esoteric expertise predominates over standard knowledge.?

Moving Toward The Pyramid

The need to exchange rich information in the course of pre-investment activities (e.g. due diligence) serves as a dis-incentive to expand the firm beyond a certain size or adopt formal, pyramidal structures. Those structures are, to a certain extent, an emergent property of large and/or complex organizations, in which workers become specialized and need to structure their interactions more. Although later-stage VCs have the luxury of concrete quantitative data, early-stage VCs rely on more tentative information for which analysis cannot be easily delegated.

Post-investment activities such as operational support for portfolio companies, however, can be delegated and benefit from economies of scale. Pyramidal structures are the most efficient means of systematizing and delivering this support due to the benefits of leverage, delegation and specialization.

Three trends are accelerating the transition to pyramidal models and operational focus. First, the cost of starting a company has come down dramatically, and as a result young entrepreneurs with modest capital and only angel/Series A investors can find themselves leading significant businesses beyond their management capacity.

Second, the rate at which startups can scale has increased dramatically, so the judicious application of VC resources can have an exponential impact.

The pyramidal model ultimately won out in more mature knowledge-intensive industries.

Finally, we have moved to a more transparent world in which both VCs and entrepreneurs find it easier to conduct due diligence. This puts pressure on VCs to differentiate themselves substantively. The pyramidal model ultimately won out in more mature knowledge-intensive industries, such as law and investment banking, and the same may occur in venture capital.

Snapshots: Portfolio Operators

An example of a portfolio operator VC is?Andreessen Horowitz, which has raised $2.7 billion since it was founded in 2009 and has made investments in Airbnb, Facebook, Skype, Twitter, Instagram and many other highly successful startups. They give their portfolio companies structured support through one of their four operational support teams, focused on executive recruiting, marketing/PR, technology, and business development. The fund has seven partners and employs?more than 40 operational staff, helping portfolio companies with preparing negotiations, making client introductions and providing preferred suppliers.

My firm,?ff Venture Capital, has a similar strategy; it?has made more than 160 investments in more than 60 companies since 1999. As of October 2011, the firm had $38 million in assets under management and today has 16 full-time employees (including three general partners). We offer our portfolio companies resources,?including a?job board,?recruiting assistance,?strategy consulting, a?mentor network, a pool of service providers, a portfolio?executive community and?accounting services.

First Round Capital?is another example, with seven partners with more than $400 million in assets under management and 22 full-time employees. FRC has a wide range of initiatives to support portfolio companies. For example, they organize yearly CEO, CFO and CTO summits in which executives of all portfolio companies in certain roles come together, as well as a related online community. Because of the internal, closed nature of the platform, it has become a trusted source for advice (e.g. ?Our finances are out of control and we need a CFO yesterday; what should we do??). They offer the portfolio free access to a ?venture concierge,? a lightweight consulting and research service that helps their entrepreneurs save time on research-related tasks.

Google Ventures?has over 115 portfolio companies, makes 60-80 investments per year, and is investing north of $100 million per year. They leverage both Google?s vast resources and a dedicated?54-person?team, including 10 partners. Joe Kraus, partner,?observed, ?We believe helping companies plays more of a role than most people give it credit for.?

Given the economic constraints of the industry, how else can VCs systematically increase the odds that their portfolio companies will be successful?

This is a summary of the full original study, which was co-authored with Adham AbdelFattah, founder and CEO of CircleVibe and a consultant on leave from McKinsey & Co.;?Koen Bremer,?a consultant with the Boston Consulting Group in Amsterdam, Holland; and?Gyorgy Buslig, a consultant with McKinsey & Co. in Budapest, Hungary.??

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Oklahoma warns 7,000 dental patients of HIV, hepatitis risk

By Steve Olafson

OKLAHOMA CITY (Reuters) - Health officials are notifying some 7,000 people to warn they may have been exposed to HIV and other infectious diseases at an Oklahoma dental practice where improper sterilization procedures and rusty surgical tools were discovered, authorities said.

The investigation was launched after a patient of Dr. Wayne Scott Harrington of Tulsa was diagnosed with hepatitis C and HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, according to a complaint filed against the oral surgeon.

When it was determined the patient was not engaged in behavior associated with blood-borne diseases, investigators visited Harrington's office and found an array of violations, according to the complaint, filed by the Oklahoma Board of Dentistry on Tuesday.

The magnitude of the suspected violations and the number of patients involved were "unprecedented," said Susan Rogers, executive director of the Board of Dentistry, on Friday.

Harrington, 64, surrendered his license and is cooperating, officials said.

He has operated a Tulsa practice and maintained a satellite office in a suburb for about 35 years and has treated a large number of infectious disease carriers, the complaint said.

He is one of only a handful of dentists who accept Medicaid patients in the area, officials said.

The complaint says drug vials and needles were used multiple times on different patients, causing risk of cross-contamination. A separate set of instruments used for infectious disease carriers appeared rusty, it said.

The autoclave used to sterilize instruments was not being used properly and was not regularly tested, the complaint said.

Also, Harrington's drug cabinet and drug logs were in disarray, it said.

Harrington could not be reached for comment.

(Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst)


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Pope leads Good Friday rite at Rome Colosseum

By Philip Pullella

ROME (Reuters) - Thousands of people holding candles turned out at Rome's Colosseum to see Pope Francis mark the first Good Friday of his pontificate with a traditional "Way of the Cross" procession around the ancient amphitheatre.

Francis, who was elected on March 13, sat under a red canopy on Rome's Palatine Hill as representatives of the faithful from around the world alternated carrying a wooden cross on the day Christians commemorated Jesus's death by crucifixion.

"Sometimes it may seem as though God does not react to evil, as if he is silent," the Argentine pope said, speaking slowly in Italian and in a somber voice at the end of the evening service.

"And yet, God has spoken, he has replied, and his answer is the Cross of Christ: a word which is love, mercy, forgiveness. It is also reveals a judgment, namely that God, in judging us, loves us," he said.

"Christians must respond to evil with good," he said, urging them to beware "the evil that continues to work in us and around us".

The meditations for the 14 "stations of the cross" which commemorate events in the last hours of Jesus's life - from when Pontius Pilate condemned him to death to his burial in a rock tomb - were written by young people from Lebanon.

The wooden cross was passed from one group and person to another - including a person in a wheelchair. Those who carried it came from Italy, India, China, Nigeria, Syria, Lebanon and Brazil.

Several of the meditations, read by actors, referred to conflict in the Middle East and the suffering of its people.

One meditation called the Middle East "a land lacerated by injustice and violence".

Francis praised those Lebanese Christians and Muslims who tried to live together and who, he said, in doing so gave a sign of hope to the world.

Prayers were read out for exploited and abused children, refugees, the homeless and victims of religious intolerance, war, violence, terrorism, poverty, injustice and drug addiction.

There were also prayers against abortion and euthanasia.

Good Friday is the second of four hectic days leading up to Easter Sunday, the most important day in the Christian liturgical calendar.

On Holy Thursday, two young women were among 12 people whose feet the pope washed and kissed at a traditional ceremony in a Rome youth prison, the first time a pontiff has included females in the rite.

After celebrating an Easter eve service, on Easter Sunday he will deliver his first "Urbi et Orbi" (to the city and the world) message in St. Peter's Square.

(Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Michael Roddy)


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Sept. 11 Cross Lawsuit Thrown Out By Judge Deborah Batts

  • U.S Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, and Charles Schumer, D-NY, place American flags in names engraved in the border of one of the World Trade Center Memorial reflecting pools, during the 11th anniversary observance, in New York, Tuesday Sept. 11, 2012. (AP Photo/Justin Lane, Pool)

  • A man embraces a woman as friends and relatives of the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center attend a ceremony marking the 11th anniversary of the attacks at the National September 11 Memorial at the World Trade Center site in New York, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

  • An American flag flies over a man pausing near a reflecting pool at the National September 11 Memorial during the observance of the 11th anniversary of September 11 in New York, on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012. (AP Photo/Todd Maisel, Pool, New York Daily News)

  • Friends and relatives of the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center attend a ceremony marking the 11th anniversary of the attacks at the National September 11 Memorial at the World Trade Center site in New York, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012.(AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

  • A firefighter's hat rests on names of firefighters at the south reflecting pool who died in the attacks at the World Trade Center, during the 11th anniversary observance at the World Trade Center Memorial, in New York, Tuesday Sept. 11, 2012. (AP Photo/Justin Lane. Pool, EPA)

  • A woman holds a young boy as friends and relatives of the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center attend a ceremony marking the 11th anniversary of the attacks at the National September 11 Memorial at the World Trade Center site in New York, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

  • A woman becomes emotional while holding a photo of her father after reading his name as friends and relatives of the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center attend a ceremony marking the 11th anniversary of the attacks at the National September 11 Memorial at the World Trade Center site in New York, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

  • A boy observes a moment of silence as friends and relatives of the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center attend a ceremony marking the 11th anniversary of the attacks at the National September 11 Memorial at the World Trade Center site in New York, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

  • New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, left, places a flag on a memorial site as friends and relatives of the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center attend a ceremony marking the 11th anniversary of the attacks at the National September 11 Memorial at the World Trade Center site in New York, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012. (AP Photo/The Daily News, Todd Maisel, Pool)

  • Amelia Tedesco of Staten Island, N.Y. touches the name of her son-in-law Walter Baran of Staten Island, N.Y. during observances held on the eleventh anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center, at the site in New York, September 11, 2012. Baran was killed on the 90th floor of the south tower during the attacks. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle, Pool, Newsday)

  • A young boy scratches the name on paper as friends and relatives of the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center attend a ceremony marking the 11th anniversary of the attacks at the National September 11 Memorial at the World Trade Center site in New York, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012. (AP Photo/The Daily News, Todd Maisel, Pool)

  • Two girls scratch names on paper as friends and relatives of the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center attend a ceremony marking the 11th anniversary of the attacks at the National September 11 Memorial at the World Trade Center site in New York, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012. (AP Photo/The Daily News, Todd Maisel, Pool)

  • Family members of Belinda Pascua Domingo of New York place mementos on her name during observances held on the eleventh anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center, at the site in New York, September 11, 2012. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle, Newsday, Pool)

  • September 11 POOL image from New York

    Captain John Lam rolls up an etching of his uncle Stuart Louis on the South Tower pool wall at the National September 11 Memorial, for his aunt during observances on the eleventh anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center, Tuesday. Sept. 11, 2012 in New York. (AP Photo/Timothy A. Clary, Pool)

  • Nina Fisher, Mia Tinson

    Nina Fisher, sister of 9/11 victim Andrew Fisher, embraces her niece Mia Tinson, 9, at ceremonies marking the eleventh anniversary of the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012 in New York. Begum, who is from Bangladesh, lost her nephew, Nural Miah and his wife Shakila Yasmin, two of the many Muslims who also died the attacks. New York City is observing the eleventh anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks. (AP Photo/John Moore, Pool

  • Tina Grazioso, left, looks at the name of her husband, John Grazioso, at the World Trade Center Memorial, who died in the attacks at the World Trade Center, during the 11th anniversary observance, in New York, Tuesday Sep. 11, 2012. At right is John Grazioso's sister Carolee Azzarello. (AP Photo/John Moore, Getty Images, Pool)

  • Friends and relatives of the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center attend a ceremony marking the 11th anniversary of the attacks at the National September 11 Memorial at the World Trade Center site in New York, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012.(AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

  • Friends and relatives of the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center attend a ceremony marking the 11th anniversary of the attacks at the National September 11 Memorial at the World Trade Center site in New York, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

  • Childhood friends from Italy, Lucrezia Susca, 78, left, and Chiara Pesce, 75, center, hold photos of their grandchildren Grace Gollante-Susca and Danny Pesce, who were also friends and died together while working at Cantor Fitzgerald, as friends and relatives of the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center attend a ceremony marking the 11th anniversary of the attacks at the National September 11 Memorial at the World Trade Center site in New York, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

  • New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, kneeling left, and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, right, speak with Miah Afsaruddin at ceremonies for the eleventh anniversary of the attacks at the World Trade Center, in New York,Tuesday Sept. 11, 2012. Afsaruddin, from Bangladesh, lost his son Nural Miah and daughter-in-law Shakila Yasmin in the 9/11 attacks. (AP Photo/John Moore,Getty Images, POOL)

  • Former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, far left, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, fifth left, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, fourth right, and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, second right, attend as friends and relatives of the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center attend a ceremony marking the 11th anniversary of the attacks at the National September 11 Memorial at the World Trade Center site in New York, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

  • The World Trade Center Flag is presented as friends and relatives of the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center attend a ceremony marking the 11th anniversary of the attacks at the National September 11 Memorial at the World Trade Center site in New York, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

  • A woman becomes emotional after reading the name of her father as friends and relatives of the victims of 9/11 gather for a ceremony marking the 11th anniversary of the attacks at the National September 11 Memorial at the World Trade Center site, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012, in New York. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

  • Friends and relatives of the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center attend a ceremony marking the 11th anniversary of the attacks at the National September 11 Memorial at the World Trade Center site in New York, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

  • Friends and relatives of the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, look over a reflecting pool during a ceremony at the National September 11 Memorial at the World Trade Center site in New York, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012.(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

  • Friends and families of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, look over a reflecting pool during a ceremony at the National September 11 Memorial, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012 in New York. As in past years, thousands are expected to gather at the World Trade Center site in New York, the Pentagon and Shanksville, Pennsylvania, to read the names of nearly 3,000 victims killed in the worst terror attack in U.S. history. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

  • A man paces a bouquet of flowers at a reflecting pool during a ceremony at the National September 11 Memorial, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012 in New York. As in past years, thousands are expected to gather at the World Trade Center site in New York, the Pentagon and Shanksville, Pennsylvania, to read the names of nearly 3,000 victims killed in the worst terror attack in U.S. history. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

  • Maria Rodriguez sits with photos of her son-in-law Emilio Ortiz as friends and relatives of the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center gather for a ceremony marking the 11th anniversary of the attacks at the National September 11 Memorial in New York, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

  • Friends and relatives of the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center gather for a ceremony marking the 11th anniversary of the attacks at the National September 11 Memorial at the World Trade Center site in New York, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

  • Friends and relatives of the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center gather for a ceremony marking the 11th anniversary of the attacks at the National September 11 Memorial at the World Trade Center site in New York, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

  • A firefighter makes a rubbing of a victim's name as friends and relatives of the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center gather for a ceremony marking the 11th anniversary of the attacks at the National September 11 Memorial in New York, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

  • The tower known as 1 World Trade Center, left, the National September 11 Memorial, bottom left, and 4 World Trade Center, right, are bathed in light, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012 in New York. Tuesday is the eleventh anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

  • Photos of victims of the attacks of September 11 and messages from their loved ones, are shown at a news conference, Monday, Sept. 10, 2012 in New York. On the eve of the Sept. 11 anniversary, the faces and recorded voices of those who died have been unveiled as part of the future 9/11 Memorial Museum. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

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    Buster Posey gets $167M, 9-year deal from Giants

    San Francisco Giants' Buster Posey removes his cap during batting practice before an exhibition spring training baseball game against the Oakland Athletics, Thursday, March 28, 2013, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

    San Francisco Giants' Buster Posey removes his cap during batting practice before an exhibition spring training baseball game against the Oakland Athletics, Thursday, March 28, 2013, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

    San Francisco Giants' Buster Posey (28) swings for an RBI single off Oakland Athletics' Tommy Milone in the third inning of an exhibition spring training baseball game Thursday, March 28, 2013, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

    SAN FRANCISCO (AP) ? The San Francisco Giants have rewarded NL MVP and batting champion Buster Posey with a $167 million, nine-year contract.

    Posey's deal, announced Friday by the reigning World Series champions, includes a club option for 2022 that could raise the value to $186 million over 10 years.

    The agreement is the longest for a catcher and the largest in Giants history, surpassing Matt Cain's $127.5 million, six-year contract.

    Posey had been due to make $8 million this year. He instead gets a $7 million signing bonus, with $5 million payable Oct. 15 and the remainder Jan. 15, and his 2013 salary is reduced to $3 million.

    The agreement includes a full no-trade clause.

    Associated Press


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    Scientists propose revolutionary laser system to produce the next LHC

    Friday, March 29, 2013

    An international team of physicists has proposed a revolutionary laser system, inspired by the telecommunications technology, to produce the next generation of particle accelerators, such as the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).

    The International Coherent Amplification Network (ICAN) sets out a new laser system composed of massive arrays of thousands of fibre lasers, for both fundamental research at laboratories such as CERN and more applied tasks such as proton therapy and nuclear transmutation.

    The results of this study are published today in Nature Photonics.

    Lasers can provide, in a very short time measured in femtoseconds, bursts of energy of great power counted in petawatts or a thousand times the power of all the power plants in the world.

    Compact accelerators are also of great societal importance for applied tasks in medicine, such as a unique way to democratise proton therapy for cancer treatment, or the environment where it offers the prospect to reduce the lifetime of dangerous nuclear waste by, in some cases, from 100 thousand years to tens of years or even less.

    However, there are two major hurdles that prevent the high-intensity laser from becoming a viable and widely used technology in the future. First, a high-intensity laser often only operates at a rate of one laser pulse per second, when for practical applications it would need to operate tens of thousands of times per second. The second is ultra-intense lasers are notorious for being very inefficient, producing output powers that are a fraction of a percent of the input power. As practical applications would require output powers in the range of tens of kilowatts to megawatts, it is economically not feasible to produce this power with such a poor efficiency.

    To bridge this technology divide, the ICAN consortium, an EU-funded project initiated and coordinated by the ?cole polytechnique and composed of the University of Southampton's Optoelectronics Research Centre, Jena and CERN, as well as 12 other prestigious laboratories around the world, aims to harness the efficiency, controllability, and high average power capability of fibre lasers to produce high energy, high repetition rate pulse sources.

    The aim is to replace the conventional single monolithic rod amplifier that typically equips lasers with a network of fibre amplifiers and telecommunication components.

    G?rard Mourou of ?cole polytechnique who leads the consortium says: "One important application demonstrated today has been the possibility to accelerate particles to high energy over very short distances measured in centimetres rather than kilometres as it is the case today with conventional technology. This feature is of paramount importance when we know that today high energy physics is limited by the prohibitive size of accelerators, of the size of tens of kilometres, and cost billions of euros. Reducing the size and cost by a large amount is of critical importance for the future of high energy physics."

    Dr Bill Brocklesby from the ORC adds: "A typical CAN laser for high-energy physics may use thousands of fibres, each carrying a small amount of laser energy. It offers the advantage of relying on well tested telecommunication elements, such as fibre lasers and other components. The fibre laser offers an excellent efficiency due to laser diode pumping. It also provides a much larger surface cooling area and therefore makes possible high repetition rate operation.

    "The most stringent difficulty is to phase the lasers within a fraction of a wavelength. This difficulty seemed insurmountable but a major roadblock has in fact been solved: preliminary proof of concept suggests that thousands of fibres can be controlled to provide a laser output powerful enough to accelerate electrons to energies of several GeV at 10 kHz repetition rate - an improvement of at least ten thousand times over today's state of the art lasers."

    Such a combined fibre-laser system should provide the necessary power and efficiency that could make economical the production of a large flux of relativistic protons over millimetre lengths as opposed to a few hundred metres.

    One important societal application of such a source is to transmute the waste products of nuclear reactors, which at present have half-lives of hundreds of thousands of years, into materials with much shorter lives, on the scale of tens of years, thus transforming dramatically the problem of nuclear waste management.

    CAN technology could also find important applications in areas of medicine, such as proton therapy, where reliability and robustness of fibre technology could be decisive features.


    University of Southampton:

    Thanks to University of Southampton for this article.

    This press release was posted to serve as a topic for discussion. Please comment below. We try our best to only post press releases that are associated with peer reviewed scientific literature. Critical discussions of the research are appreciated. If you need help finding a link to the original article, please contact us on twitter or via e-mail.

    This press release has been viewed 79 time(s).


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    Saturday, March 30, 2013

    Bill Allowing Gold and Silver as Money; Bureaucratic Nightmare ...

    I have encouraging news in the state of Arizona where lawmakers back gold, silver as currency.

    The measure is Arizona's latest jab at the federal government, which prohibits states from minting their own money. It also reflects a growing distrust of government-backed money.

    The bill, which advanced in a 4-2 vote by a House committee Monday, states that gold and silver should be legal currency not subject to tax or regulation as property. The Republican-led Senate gave the bill its blessing in February in a 17-11 partisan vote.

    The bill would let people use the precious metals as money as long as businesses agree to take them. If made law, it would take effect in 2014.

    Democrats oppose the measure. They say it would be a bureaucratic nightmare because businesses don't have the equipment to determine the value of gold and silver.

    Bureaucratic Nightmare?


    The bill is well written and extremely well thought out. It does not force companies to accept gold or silver (nor should it), it merely allows businesses to do so if they want. Any company that does not want to deal with gold or silver will not have to. So where's the nightmare?

    States will not be minting their own money under such a proposal (nor should they) so there is no conflict on that part of Federal law.

    I commend this bill, expect Arizona lawmakers to pass it, and urge the Governor to sign it. When that happens, gold will once again be legal money.

    I support gold as money and believe gold is money whether or not the bill passes.

    There is significant reason for people to distrust government-sponsored fiat currencies backed by nothing. I made the case recently in Fraudulent Guarantees; Fictional Reserve Lending; Comparison of US to Cyprus; What About New Zealand?

    Here is a brief synopsis, but I encourage you to read the full article.

    Monetary Recap

    • Base Money Supply: $2.9 Trillion
    • M1: 2.4 Trillion
    • M2: 10.4 Trillion
    • Total Credit Market Debt Owed: $56.3 trillion
    One Giant Ponzi Scheme

    Clearly far more money has been lent than exists. How can it possibly be paid back? If it can't be paid back, how good is a government guarantee on deposits?

    In 2010 Bernanke proposed ending reserve requirements completely, but long-time Mish readers understand what Bernanke proposed is the de facto state of affairs already. (see the above link for an explanation).

    Five Key Points
    1. In a Fractional Reserve Lending scheme, the notion there are meaningful reserves is ridiculous.
    2. Far more money has been lent out than really exists (the rest is a fictional accounting entry).
    3. Fractional reserve lending constitutes fraud (just as lending something you do not own is fraud).
    4. There is no way for all this money to be paid back (so it won't be).
    5. The Reserve Bank of New Zealand has the most sensible policy on deposit insurance of all the world's central banks. (NZ offers no deposit insurance). See my article for a full explanation.

    In the sake of full disclosure, I own gold, silver, platinum, as well as shares in various mining corporations.

    Mike "Mish" Shedlock


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    Australian Fitness & Health Expo {+ Giveaway}

    Last year, for the first time, I attended the Australian Fitness & Health Expo?in Sydney. Packed with all the latest gym equipment, training aids, apparel, music, boxing equipment and nutritional products,?this event is the largest of its kind in the southern hemisphere!?

    This year the?Australian Fitness & Health Expo?will be held on April 20-21 at the Sydney Convention & Exhibition Centre and I'm?definitely?attending again!

    Last year highlights were for me the Healthy Eating Zone and the Zumba Main Stage with live demonstrations. It was also great fun to try and discover many new health foods and by the end of the day I had collected quite a few samples and brochures!


    Like last year, I have teamed up with the Australian Fitness & Health Expo??again?and have not one but 3?double-passes to giveaway to three lucky Sydney-based readers?to attend the event!?Each double pass is worth $59.

    To enter?:

    Head-over to?Mademoiselle Slimalicious? Facebook Page?(make sure you LIKE the page if you haven't already) and leave a?comment on my?Facebook page?wall telling me?why you would like to attend the expo and who you would like to go with!

    Giveaway is open to residents of NSW (Australia) and closes on?15th April 2012 at?9 pm?(EAST).?The winners will be?announced?on Facebook shortly after the end of the competition. Prizes kindly donated by Australian Fitness & Health Expo, total prize pool value: $118

    Image credit: Australia Fitness & Health Expo website


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    Justin Bieber's monkey quarantined in Germany

    BERLIN (AP) ? Justin Bieber had to leave a monkey in quarantine after landing in Germany last week without the necessary papers for the animal, an official said Saturday.

    The 19-year-old singer arrived at Munich airport last Thursday. When he went through customs, he didn't have the documentation necessary to bring the capuchin monkey into the country, so the animal had to stay with authorities, customs spokesman Thomas Meister said.

    Bieber performed in Munich on Thursday, beginning the latest leg of his European tour. He later tweeted: "Munich was a good time. And loud. The bus is headed to Vienna now. U coming?" He didn't mention the monkey.

    The Canadian singer is giving several concerts in Austria and then in Germany over the next week.

    Bieber had a trying stay in London recently. The star struggled with his breathing and fainted backstage at a show, was taken to a hospital and then was caught on camera clashing with a paparazzo. Days earlier, he was booed by his beloved fans when he showed up late to a concert.


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    Bespoke Post Raises $850K From Great Oaks, 500 Startups & Others For Its Subscription-Based ?Box Of Awesome? For Men

    logo-vert-blk-rgbBespoke Post, a subscription-based e-commerce startup offering a hilariously titled "Box of Awesome" (no, not that one?- Bespoke Post is for grown-ups), is today announcing having closed on $850,000 in seed funding, led by Warby Parker and Bonobos investor, Great Oaks VC. Also participating in the round, which actually closed last fall, were 500 Startups, Brad Harrison Ventures, 1-800 Flowers' strategic investing arm, and several angel investors. And, as of Monday, the company is expanding into Canada.


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    NKorea says it's in state of war with SKorea

    SEOUL, South Korea (AP) ? North Korea issued its latest belligerent threat Saturday, saying it has entered "a state of war" with South Korea a day after its young leader threatened the United States because two American B-2 bombers flew a training mission in South Korea.

    Analysts say a full-scale conflict is extremely unlikely and North Korea's threats are instead aimed at drawing Washington into talks that could result in aid and boosting leader Kim Jong Un's image at home. But the harsh rhetoric from North Korea and rising animosity from the rivals that have followed U.N. sanctions over Pyongyang's Feb. 12 nuclear test have raised worries of a misjudgment leading to a clash.

    In a joint statement by the government, political parties and organizations, North Korea said Saturday that it will deal with all matters involving South Korea according to "wartime regulations." It also warned it will retaliate against any provocations by the United States and South Korea without "any prior notice."

    The divided Korean Peninsula is already in a technical state of war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a cease-fire, not a peace treaty. But Pyongyang said it was scrapping the war armistice earlier this month.

    South Korea's Unification Ministry released a statement saying the latest threat wasn't new and was just a follow-up to Kim's earlier order to put troops on a high alert in response to annual U.S-South Korean military drills. Pyongyang sees those drills as rehearsals for an invasion; the allies call them routine and defensive.

    In an indication North Korea is not immediately considering starting a war, officials in Seoul said South Korean workers continued Saturday to cross the border to their jobs at a joint factory park in North Korea that's funded by South Koreans

    On Friday, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un warned his forces were ready "to settle accounts with the U.S." after two nuclear-capable U.S. B-2 bombers dropped dummy munitions on a South Korean island range as part of joint drills and returned to their base in Missouri.

    North Korean state media later released a photo of Kim and his senior generals huddled in front of a map showing routes for envisioned strikes against cities on both American coasts. The map bore the title "U.S. Mainland Strike Plan."

    At the main square in Pyongyang, tens of thousands of North Koreans turned out for a 90-minute mass rally in support of Kim's call to arms. Small North Korean warships, including patrol boats, conducted maritime drills off both coasts of North Korea near the border with South Korea earlier this week, South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said in a briefing Friday. He didn't provide details.

    The spokesman said South Korea's military was mindful of the possibility that North Korean drills could lead to an actual provocation. He said the South Korean and U.S. militaries are watching closely for any signs of missile launch preparations in North Korea. He didn't elaborate.

    Experts believe North Korea is years away from developing nuclear-tipped missiles that could strike the United States. Many say they've also seen no evidence that Pyongyang has long-range missiles that can hit the U.S. mainland.

    Still, there are fears of a localized conflict, such as a naval skirmish in disputed Yellow Sea waters. Such naval clashes have happened three times since 1999. There's also danger that such a clash could escalate. Seoul has vowed to hit back hard the next time it is attacked.

    "The first strike of the revolutionary armed forces of the DPRK will blow up the U.S. bases for aggression in its mainland and in the Pacific operational theatres including Hawaii and Guam," the North said Saturday in the statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency. DPRK stands for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the North's official name.

    Pyongyang uses the U.S. nuclear arsenal as a justification for its own push for nuclear weapons. It says that U.S. nuclear firepower is a threat to its existence.


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    Tim McDaniel, Idaho Teacher, Explained 'Vagina' In Sex Ed Class, So He's Being Investigated

    Parents in Dietrich, Idaho, say the word "vagina" has no place in a 10th grade science class, according to news website

    A small group from Dietrich, population 332, complained to the Idaho State Department of Education, which launched an official investigation of science teacher Tim McDaniel. He is accused of teaching "sex education material" in a science class, describing "inappropriate" forms of birth control, telling "inappropriate" jokes in class and showing a video clip that depicted a genital herpes infection.

    McDaniel said the parents even objected to his use of the word "vagina" in the lesson on human reproduction, according to

    At a school board meeting, Katie Norman, one of the parents who objected, reportedly demanded prior warning of sensitive topics like birth control so that she could excuse her child from the class.

    But McDaniel told that none of the 10th graders are required to attend that day's class and that he only handles sex education because the school's health teacher won't.

    The teacher said he is cooperating with the investigation but denies any wrongdoing. "I've done nothing wrong," he told the website.

    Locals who have joined a Facebook page called "Save The Science Teacher!!" contend that conservative parents are attempting to censor topics considered controversial in the political arena but commonplace in the classroom. They promise to defend McDaniels in written letters to the state?s education department.

    Dietrich Superintendent Neil Hollingshead told that the school board is more likely to send McDaniel a letter of reprimand than to dismiss him -- a move Hollingshead considers "highly unlikely." But McDaniel has said he will refuse to sign the letter if it arrives, and it seems that some parents will back him up.

    Stacy La, a member of the Facebook group, outlined the reasons for her support on the page's timeline, noting that McDaniel taught from the textbook and offered students uncomfortable with the material a chance to opt out of the lesson entirely. She offered squeamish parents their own exit strategy.

    La wrote, "Mr. McDaniel showed a video and let the children form their opinions. He did not push anything. If you want to be in full control of what your child learns, homeschool them. Period."

    The Facebook page is also bringing McDaniel support from outside his school district:

    I am actually pretty mortified for this poor teacher who was just doing his job, I am embarrassed for the parents who have a problem with these things being taught in a school, and I am concerned for the children whose parents object. -- Brandy Farlow from Moscow, Idaho
    I used to be a high school science teacher. This is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. Why is the school system not supporting this teacher for doing his job? I'm disgusted. Things like this are why I'm glad I'm not teaching any more. -- Lisa Sharktopus Harless from Morgantown, W.Va.

    Parental and political clashes are not uncommon when hot-button issues surface in school lessons -- from evolution to Mexican American studies. Sex education is a particularly sensitive topic, however, and parents often complain that it's too explicit or conflicts with their religious beliefs.

    When NPR's "Talk of the Nation" profiled New York City's sex ed curriculum, the segment explained how outside experts consider local politics to find the delicate balance between what's acceptable, what's taboo and what students need to hear. Warning: This link might discuss vaginas.

    Also on HuffPost:

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    Chrissy Teigen Likes 'Girls,' Miley Feels Positive, Michael Kors Style Tips & More Tweets Of The Week

    As is often the case, we learned lots of fun facts about our favorite funny people on Twitter this week. Chrissy Teigen pledged her affection for "Girls" -- and worried her followers might misinterpret her message. Brad Goreski revealed an appreciation for angora. And the Man Repeller wondered about declarations of love in 2013.

    Look through the slideshow below to hear from our friends firsthand. Did any of these tweets surprise you? Or are you already accustomed to Tyra's reliance on the runway? Let us know in the comments!

    Want more? Be sure to check out HuffPost Style on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest and Instagram at @HuffPostStyle.
    Do you have a style story idea or tip? Email us at (PR pitches sent to this address will be ignored.)

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    Tom Stoppard pens Pink Floyd radio drama

    LONDON (AP) ? He wrote a play called "Rock 'n' Roll," and now Tom Stoppard is returning to the topic with a radio drama inspired by Pink Floyd.

    The play marks the 40th anniversary of the release of the band's "The Dark Side of the Moon."

    The BBC said Thursday it is "a fantastical and psychedelic story based on themes from the seminal album."

    Pink Floyd formed in 1965 and soon became stars of London's psychedelic scene. "The Dark Side of the Moon," released in 1973, has sold more than 40 million copies.

    Stoppard, who scripted Oscar winner "Shakespeare in Love," has also written "Arcadia" and "The Real Thing."

    Stoppard's play "Dark Side" is due for broadcast on BBC radio in August, with a cast including Bill Nighy and Rufus Sewell.


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    Forty years later: Vietnam troop's exit recalled

    Forty years ago, soldiers returning from Vietnam were advised to change into civilian clothes on their flights home so that they wouldn't be accosted by angry protesters at the airport. For a Vietnamese businessman who helped the U.S. government, a rising sense of panic set in as the last combat troops left the country on March 29, 1973 and he began to contemplate what he'd do next. A young North Vietnamese soldier who heard about the withdrawal felt emboldened to continue his push on the battlefields of southern Vietnam.

    While the fall of Saigon two years later ? with its indelible images of frantic helicopter evacuations ? is remembered as the final day of the Vietnam War, Friday marks an anniversary that holds greater meaning for many who fought, protested or otherwise lived the war. Since then, they've embarked on careers, raised families and in many cases counseled a younger generation emerging from two other faraway wars.

    Many veterans are encouraged by changes they see. The U.S. has a volunteer military these days, not a draft, and the troops coming home aren't derided for their service. People know what PTSD stands for, and they're insisting that the government take care of soldiers suffering from it and other injuries from Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Below are the stories of a few of the people who experienced a part of the Vietnam War firsthand.


    Former Air Force Sgt. Howard Kern, who lives in central Ohio near Newark, spent a year in Vietnam before returning home in 1968.

    He said that for a long time he refused to wear any service ribbons associating him with southeast Asia and he didn't even his tell his wife until a couple of years after they married that he had served in Vietnam. He said she was supportive of his war service and subsequent decision to go back to the Army to serve another 18 years.

    Kern said that when he flew back from Vietnam with other service members, they were told to change out of uniform and into civilian clothes while they were still on the airplane to avoid the ire of protesters at the airport.

    "What stands out most about everything is that before I went and after I got back, the news media only showed the bad things the military was doing over there and the body counts," said Kern, now 66. "A lot of combat troops would give their c rations to Vietnamese children, but you never saw anything about that ? you never saw all the good that GIs did over there."

    Kern, an administrative assistant at the Licking County Veterans' Service Commission, said the public's attitude is a lot better toward veterans coming home for Iraq and Afghanistan ? something the attributes in part to Vietnam veterans.

    "We're the ones that greet these soldiers at the airports. We're the ones who help with parades and stand alongside the road when they come back and applaud them and salute them," he said.

    He said that while the public "might condemn war today, they don't condemn the warriors."

    "I think the way the public is treating these kids today is a great thing," Kern said. "I wish they had treated us that way."

    But he still worries about the toll that multiple tours can take on service members.

    "When we went over there, you came home when your tour was over and didn't go back unless you volunteered. They are sending GIs back now maybe five or seven times, and that's way too much for a combat veteran," he said.

    He remembers feeling glad when the last troops left Vietnam, but was sad to see Saigon fall two years later. "Vietnam was a very beautiful country, and I felt sorry for the people there," he said.


    Tony Lam was 36 on the day the last U.S. combat troops left Vietnam. He was a young husband and father, but most importantly, he was a businessman and U.S. contractor furnishing dehydrated rice to South Vietnamese troops. He also ran a fish meal plant and a refrigerated shipping business that exported shrimp.

    As Lam, now 76, watched American forces dwindle and then disappear, he felt a rising panic. His close association with the Americans was well-known and he needed to get out ? and get his family out ? or risk being tagged as a spy and thrown into a Communist prison. He watched as South Vietnamese commanders fled, leaving whole battalions without a leader.

    "We had no chance of surviving under the Communist invasion there. We were very much worried about the safety of our family, the safety of other people," he said this week from his adopted home in Westminster, Calif.

    But Lam wouldn't leave for nearly two more years after the last U.S. combat troops, driven to stay by his love of his country and his belief that Vietnam and its economy would recover.

    When Lam did leave, on April 21, 1975, it was aboard a packed C-130 that departed just as Saigon was about to fall. He had already worked for 24 hours at the airport to get others out after seeing his wife and two young children off to safety in the Philippines.

    "My associate told me, 'You'd better go. It's critical. You don't want to end up as a Communist prisoner.' He pushed me on the flight out. I got tears in my eyes once the flight took off and I looked down from the plane for the last time," Lam recalled. "No one talked to each other about how critical it was, but we all knew it."

    Now, Lam lives in Southern California's Little Saigon, the largest concentration of Vietnamese outside of Vietnam.

    In 1992, Lam made history by becoming the first Vietnamese-American to elected to public office in the U.S. and he went on to serve on the Westminster City Council for 10 years.

    Looking back over four decades, Lam says he doesn't regret being forced out of his country and forging a new, American, life.

    "I went from being an industrialist to pumping gas at a service station," said Lam, who now works as a consultant and owns a Lee's Sandwich franchise, a well-known Vietnamese chain.

    "But thank God I am safe and sound and settled here with my six children and 15 grandchildren," he said. "I'm a happy man."


    Wayne Reynolds' nightmares got worse this week with the approach of the anniversary of the U.S. troop withdrawal.

    Reynolds, 66, spent a year working as an Army medic on an evacuation helicopter in 1968 and 1969. On days when the fighting was worst, his chopper would make four or five landings in combat zones to rush wounded troops to emergency hospitals.

    The terror of those missions comes back to him at night, along with images of the blood that was everywhere. The dreams are worst when he spends the most time thinking about Vietnam, like around anniversaries.

    "I saw a lot of people die," said Reynolds.

    Today, Reynolds lives in Athens, Ala., after a career that included stints as a public school superintendent and, most recently, a registered nurse. He is serving his 13th year as the Alabama president of the Vietnam Veterans of America, and he also has served on the group's national board as treasurer.

    Like many who came home from the war, Reynolds is haunted by the fact he survived Vietnam when thousands more didn't. Encountering war protesters after returning home made the readjustment to civilian life more difficult.

    "I was literally spat on in Chicago in the airport," he said. "No one spoke out in my favor."

    Reynolds said the lingering survivor's guilt and the rude reception back home are the main reasons he spends much of his time now working with veteran's groups to help others obtain medical benefits. He also acts as an advocate on veterans' issues, a role that landed him a spot on the program at a 40th anniversary ceremony planned for Friday in Huntsville, Ala.

    It took a long time for Reynolds to acknowledge his past, though. For years after the war, Reynolds said, he didn't include his Vietnam service on his resume and rarely discussed it with anyone.

    "A lot of that I blocked out of my memory. I almost never talk about my Vietnam experience other than to say, 'I was there,' even to my family," he said.


    A former North Vietnamese soldier, Ho Van Minh heard about the American combat troop withdrawal during a weekly meeting with his commanders in the battlefields of southern Vietnam.

    The news gave the northern forces fresh hope of victory, but the worst of the war was still to come for Minh: The 77-year-old lost his right leg to a land mine while advancing on Saigon, just a month before that city fell.

    "The news of the withdrawal gave us more strength to fight," Minh said Thursday, after touring a museum in the capital, Hanoi, devoted to the Vietnamese victory and home to captured American tanks and destroyed aircraft.

    "The U.S. left behind a weak South Vietnam army. Our spirits was so high and we all believed that Saigon would be liberated soon," he said.

    Minh, who was on a two-week tour of northern Vietnam with other veterans, said he bears no ill will to the American soldiers even though much of the country was destroyed and an estimated 3 million Vietnamese died.

    If he met an American veteran now he says, "I would not feel angry; instead I would extend my sympathy to them because they were sent to fight in Vietnam against their will."

    But on his actions, he has no regrets. "If someone comes to destroy your house, you have to stand up to fight."


    Two weeks before the last U.S. troops left Vietnam, Marine Corps Capt. James H. Warner was freed from North Vietnamese confinement after nearly 5 1/2 years as a prisoner of war. He said those years of forced labor and interrogation reinforced his conviction that the United States was right to confront the spread of communism.

    The past 40 years have proven that free enterprise is the key to prosperity, Warner said in an interview Thursday at a coffee shop near his home in Rohrersville, Md., about 60 miles from Washington. He said American ideals ultimately prevailed, even if our methods weren't as effective as they could have been.

    "China has ditched socialism and gone in favor of improving their economy, and the same with Vietnam. The Berlin Wall is gone. So essentially, we won," he said. "We could have won faster if we had been a little more aggressive about pushing our ideas instead of just fighting."

    Warner, 72, was the avionics officer in a Marine Corps attack squadron when his fighter plane was shot down north of the Demilitarized Zone in October 1967.

    He said the communist-made goods he was issued as a prisoner, including razor blades and East German-made shovels, were inferior products that bolstered his resolve.

    "It was worth it," he said.

    A native of Ypsilanti, Mich., Warner went on to a career in law in government service. He is a member of the Republican Central Committee of Washington County, Md.


    Denis Gray witnessed the Vietnam War twice ? as an Army captain stationed in Saigon from 1970 to 1971 for a U.S. military intelligence unit, and again as a reporter at the start of a 40-year career with the AP.

    "Saigon in 1970-71 was full of American soldiers. It had a certain kind of vibe. There were the usual clubs, and the bars were going wild," Gray recalled. "Some parts of the city were very, very Americanized."

    Gray's unit was helping to prepare for the troop pullout by turning over supplies and projects to the South Vietnamese during a period that Washington viewed as the final phase of the war. But morale among soldiers was low, reinforced by a feeling that the U.S. was leaving without finishing its job.

    "Personally, I came to Vietnam and the military wanting to believe that I was in a ? maybe not a just war but a ? war that might have to be fought," Gray said. "Toward the end of it, myself and most of my fellow officers, and the men we were commanding didn't quite believe that ... so that made the situation really complex."

    After his one-year service in Saigon ended in 1971, Gray returned home to Connecticut and got a job with the AP in Albany, N.Y. But he was soon posted to Indochina, and returned to Saigon in August 1973 ? four months after the U.S. troops withdrew from Vietnam ? to discover a different city.

    "The aggressiveness that militaries bring to any place they go ? that was all gone," he said. A small American presence remained, mostly diplomats, advisers and aid workers but the bulk of troops had left. The war between U.S.-allied South Vietnam and communist North Vietnam was continuing, and it was still two years before the fall of Saigon to the communist forces.

    "There was certainly no panic or chaos ? that came much later in '74, '75. But certainly it was a city with a lot of anxiety in it."

    The Vietnam War was the first of many wars Gray witnessed. As AP's Bangkok bureau chief for more than 30 years, Gray has covered wars in Cambodia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Rwanda, Kosovo, and "many, many insurgencies along the way."

    "I don't love war, I hate it," Gray said. "(But) when there have been other conflicts, I've been asked to go. So, it was definitely the shaping event of my professional life."


    Harry Prestanski, 65, of West Chester, Ohio, served 16 months as a Marine in Vietnam and remembers having to celebrate his 21st birthday there. He is now retired from a career in public relations and spends a lot of time as an advocate for veterans, speaking to various organizations and trying to help veterans who are looking for jobs.

    "The one thing I would tell those coming back today is to seek out other veterans and share their experiences," he said. "There are so many who will work with veterans and try to help them ? so many opportunities that weren't there when we came back."

    He says that even though the recent wars are different in some ways from Vietnam, those serving in any war go through some of the same experiences.

    "One of the most difficult things I ever had to do was to sit down with the mother of a friend of mine who didn't come back and try to console her while outside her office there were people protesting the Vietnam War," Prestanski said.

    He said the public's response to veterans is not what it was 40 years ago and credits Vietnam veterans for helping with that.

    "When we served, we were viewed as part of the problem," he said. "One thing about Vietnam veterans is that ? almost to the man ? we want to make sure that never happens to those serving today. We welcome them back and go out of our way to airports to wish them well when they leave."

    He said some of the positive things that came out of his war service were the leadership skills and confidence he gained that helped him when he came back.

    "I felt like I could take on the world," he said.


    Flaccus reported from Los Angeles and Cornwell reported from Cincinnati. Also contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Chris Brummitt in Hanoi, David Dishneau in Hagerstown, Md., and Jay Reeves in Birmingham, Ala.


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    Friday, March 29, 2013

    Michael Dell spoke with Blackstone during "go-shop": source

    NEW YORK (Reuters) - Dell Inc founder and CEO Michael Dell met with private equity firms Blackstone Group LP and Francisco Partners during the computer maker's "go-shop" period, a person familiar with the matter said on Friday.

    The meetings, which took place on March 7 and 8, will be disclosed in Dell's proxy statement on Friday and indicate Blackstone explored early on the possibility of keeping Michael Dell as CEO in a bid to take over the company, the person said on condition of anonymity because the information is not yet public.

    Michael Dell also met this week with Blackstone senior managing directors Dave Johnson and Chinh Chu, although the outcome of these discussions has yet to become clear, the person added.

    Blackstone and Dell did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

    During a 45-day go-shop period that expired last week, Dell explored alternatives to Michael Dell's and Silver Lake's $24.4 billion offer for the world's number-three PC maker.

    (Reporting by Gregory Roumeliotis; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)


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    The Secret Republican Plan to Repeal 'Obamacare'

    A few minutes after the Supreme Court issued its landmark decision upholding President Obama?s health care law last summer, a senior adviser to Mitch McConnell walked into the Senate Republican leader?s office to gauge his reaction.

    McConnell was clearly disappointed, and for good reason. For many conservatives, the decision was the death knell in a three-year fight to defeat reforms that epitomized everything they thought was wrong with Obama?s governing philosophy. But where some saw finality, McConnell saw opportunity ? and still does.

    Sitting at his desk a stone?s throw from the Senate chamber, McConnell turned to the aide and, with characteristic directness, said: ?This decision is too cute. But I think we got something with this tax issue.?

    He was referring to the court?s ruling that the heart of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, the so-called individual mandate that requires everyone in the country to buy health insurance or pay a penalty, was a tax. And while McConnell thought calling the mandate a tax was ?a rather creative way? to uphold the law, it also opened a new front in his battle to repeal it.

    McConnell, a master of byzantine Senate procedure, immediately realized that, as a tax, the individual mandate would be subject to the budget reconciliation process, which exempted it from the filibuster. In other words, McConnell had just struck upon how to repeal Obamacare with a simple majority vote.

    The Kentucky Republican called a handful of top aides into his office and told them, ?Figure out how to repeal this through reconciliation. I want to do this.? McConnell ordered a repeal plan ready in the event the GOP took back control of the Senate in November ? ironic considering Democrats used the same process more than two years earlier in a successful, last-shot effort to muscle the reforms into law.

    In the months that followed, top GOP Senate aides held regular strategy meetings to plot a path forward. Using the reconciliation process would be complicated and contentious. Senate rules would require Republicans to demonstrate to the parliamentarian that their repeal provisions would affect spending or revenue and Democrats were sure to challenge them every step of the way. So the meetings were small and secret.

    ?You?re going in to make an argument. You don?t want to preview your entire argument to the other side ahead of time,? said a McConnell aide who participated in the planning. ?There was concern that all of this would leak out.?

    By Election Day, Senate Republicans were ready to, as McConnell put it, ?take this monstrosity down.?

    ?We were prepared to do that had we had the votes to do it after the election. Well, the election didn?t turn out the way we wanted it to,? McConnell told National Journal in an interview. ?The monstrosity has ... begun to be implemented and we?re not giving up the fight.?

    Indeed, when it comes to legislative strategy, McConnell plays long ball. Beginning in 2009, the Republican leader led the push to unify his colleagues against Democrats? health care plans, an effort that almost derailed Obamacare. In 2010, Republicans, helped in part by public opposition to the law, won back the House and picked up seats in the Senate. Last year, GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney?s embrace of the individual mandate while Massachusetts governor largely neutralized what had been a potent political issue.

    But, in the next two years, Republicans are looking to bring the issue back in a big way. And they?ll start by trying to brand the law as one that costs too much and is not working as promised.

    Democrats will be tempted to continue to write off the incoming fire as the empty rhetoric of a party fighting old battles. But that would be a mistake. During the health care debate, the GOP?s coordinated attacks helped turn public opinion against reform. And in the past two years, no more than 45 percent of the public has viewed Obamacare favorably, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation?s tracking polls. Perhaps even more dangerous for Democrats, now-debunked myths spread by Republicans and conservative media remain lodged in the public consciousness. For instance, 40 percent of the public still believes the law includes ?death panels.?

    During the legislative debate over the law, Democrats promised Obamacare would create jobs, lower health care costs, and allow people to keep their current plans if they chose to. Those vows, Republicans argue, are already being broken.

    The Congressional Budget Office, the Hill?s nonpartisan scorekeeper, estimated that the health care law would reduce employment by about 800,000 workers and result in about 7 million people losing their employer-sponsored health care over a decade. The CBO also estimated that Obamacare during that period would raise health care spending by roughly $580 billion.

    McConnell?s office has assembled the law?s 19,842 new regulations into a stack that is 7 feet high and wheeled around on a dolly. The prop even has it?s own Twitter account, @TheRedTapeTower.

    ?All you got to do is look at that high stack of regulation and you think, ?How in the world is anybody going to be able to comply with all this stuff?? ? GOP Sen. Orrin Hatch, told National Journal. ?And I?m confident that the more the American people know of the costs, the consequences, the problems with this law, then someday there are going to be some Democrats who are going to join us in taking apart some of its most egregious parts.?

    In fact, just a few hours after that interview last week, 34 Democrats joined Hatch on the Senate floor to support repealing Obamacare?s medical-device tax. Though the provision passed overwhelmingly, it doesn?t have a shot at becoming law because the budget bill it was attached to is nonbinding. Still, Republicans see it as a harbinger of things to come.

    ?Constituent pressure is overriding the view that virtually all Democrats have had that Obamacare is sort of like the Ten Commandments, handed down and every piece of it is sacred and you can?t possibly change any of it ever,? McConnell said. ?When you see that begin to crack then you know the facade is breaking up.?

    Of course, Republicans are doing their best to highlight and stoke the kind of constituent anger that would force Democrats to tweak the law. In fact, if Democrats come under enough pressure, Republicans believe they might be able to inject Obamacare into the broader entitlement-reform discussion they are planning to tie to the debt-limit debate this summer.

    But that is a long shot. If Republicans hope to completely repeal the health care law, they have to start by taking back the Senate in 2014 and would likely need to win the White House two years later. Still, some Republicans think the politics are on their side.

    ?I?m not one of those folks who ... because I didn?t support something, I want it to be bad. I want good things for Americans. But I do think this is going to create a lot of issues and ? affect things throughout 2014 as it relates to politics,? Republican Sen. Bob Corker said. ?The outcome likely will create a better atmosphere for us.?

    Republicans will need to win half a dozen seats to retake the chamber. So, what are the chances??

    ?There are six really good opportunities in really red states: West Virginia, North Carolina, Louisiana, Arkansas, South Dakota, and Alaska,? McConnell said last week. ?And some other places where you have open seats like Michigan and Iowa. And other states that frequently vote Republican, an example of that would be New Hampshire. So, we?re hopeful.?

    And earlier this week, Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson put his home state of South Dakota in play when he announced he will not be running for reelection in 2014.

    In addition to trying to win back the Senate, McConnell will have to protect his own seat in two years. McConnell has made moves to shore up his right flank to fend off conservative challengers. He?s hired fellow Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul?s campaign manager, who helped Paul defeat the establishment candidate McConnell backed in the primary. ?

    In the meantime, Republicans will continue to, as GOP Sen. John Barrasso put it, ?try to tear (Obamacare) apart.? And the GOP suspects it might get some help from moderate Democrats less concerned about protecting Obama?s legacy than winning reelection.

    It?s just the latest act in a play that saw McConnell give more than 100 floor speeches critical of Democratic reforms and paper Capitol Hill with more 225 messaging documents in the 10 months before Obamacare?s passage. Away from the public spotlight, McConnell worked his caucus hard to convince them to unite against the law, holding a health care meeting every Wednesday afternoon. GOP aides said they could not remember a time before, or since, when a Republican leader held a weekly meeting with members that focused solely on one subject.

    ?What I tried to do is just guide the discussion to the point where everybody realized there wasn?t any part of this we wanted to have any ownership of,? McConnell recounted. ?That was a nine-month long discussion that finally culminated with Olympia Snowe?s decision in the fall not to support it. She was the last one they had a shot at.?

    Indeed, some Republicans remember opposition forming organically as it became clearer where Democrats were headed, crediting McConnell for crystallizing the issue. Asked who unified Senate Republicans against Obamacare, Corker recalled, ?I think it happened over time.? As time moved on, it just seemed that this train was going to a place that was going to be hard to support.?

    McConnell had finally won his long-fought battle to unite the conference against Obamcare. And some Republicans credit McConnell with being first to that fight.

    ?He had the Obama administration?s number before almost anyone else,? Hatch recalled. ?He began laying the groundwork for this fight very early, in private meetings and so forth, and really was the first one on our side in the ring, throwing punches just about how bad it was for families, businesses, and our economy.?

    ?There?s been no stronger fighter against this disastrous law than Mitch McConnell,? he added.

    And as McConnell?s war continues, Democrats have begun positioning themselves for the next battle. Leading up to last week?s three-year anniversary of the law?s passage, Democrats held press events touting its benefits, claiming more than 100 million people have received free preventive services; 17 million children with preexisting conditions have been protected from being denied coverage; and 6.6 million young adults under 26 have been covered by their parents' plan.

    Democrats wisely rolled out many of the easiest, most-popular Obamacare benefits first. The next few years will see the implementation of provisions that are both more complicated and controversial, like creating state-based insurance exchanges where people can buy coverage. Asked about the political ramifications of possible implementation problems, Democratic Sen. Max Baucus, a chief architect of Obamacare, sidestepped the question saying, "My job is to do my best to make sure this statute works to help provide health care for people at the lowest possible cost."

    Far from a full-throated assurance that everything will run smoothly, Baucus?s answer hints at the dangers Democrats face as Obamacare comes online.

    And with the law moving from the largely theoretical to the demonstrable, the health care debate is poised to return to intensity levels not seen since before the law passed.

    For congressional Republicans, it?s probably their last, best chance to turn opposition into political gain.

    And much of that job falls to McConnell, a brilliant defensive coordinator who will have to play flawless offense if he hopes to take control of the Senate next year.


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