Bitcoin believers undeterred by missing millions

Bitcoin’s true believers aren’t worried in the least about the demise of Tokyo-based Bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox.
An in-person who’s who of the virtual currency industry convenes Tuesday and Wednesday as Bitcoin investors, entrepreneurs and evangelists gather in San Francisco, combining mega brainpower and investment qualities.
The CoinSummit positions itself as the place to be for insight into the future of the virtual currency. Among the attendees are are 10 Bitcoin startup companies appearing in the Startup Showcase.
To give an idea of  the kind of person attracted to the forum, here is one biographical sketch on the website: Wences Casares, Co-founder and CEO, Lemon.com
Wences is a serial entrepreneur and the Founder and CEO of Lemon.com, which was recently acquired by Lifelock.com. Wences was previously the co-founder and CEO of Patagon.com, which was sold for $750 million to Banco Santander.
So it probably wouldn’t matter if he lost a few million dollars in an effort to further the Bitcoin cause. For players such as Casares, however, the outcome seems to sway in his favor.
Netscape founder Marc Andreessen told the Wall Street Journal he plans to keep investing in Bitcoin despite recent financial and legal issues surrounding the virtual currency.

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They may not be “Tall Firs” but Harry & David manages to tip-off March Madness in fine fashion

The “Tall Firs” were Oregon’s gift to the first NCAA basketball tournament, won by the Ducks in 1939.
Now 75 years later, with March Madness unfolding in earnest today, Harry & David is sending 875 dwarf pines to Ohio, where it operates a satellite operation.
Harry & David has recycled more than 31,000 tons of materials since 1989, eliminating more than 37 million catalogs, resulting in a paper reduction of 35 percent.
Here’s hoping those pines persevere through the snowy winters.

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An Oregon Department of Justice has produced a scathing report following its audit of Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum.
The DOJ raises a variety of issues, including the organization’s treatment of IRS guidelines for charitable organizations.
The DOJ’s investigation began after a whistleblower reported concerns that the museum had transferred more than $700,000 to Evergreen International Aviation, a for-profit company.
“Although the money was repaid with interest shortly after DOJ’s inquiry began, the department had already identified additional areas of concern and the investigation continued,” DOJ reported today.
Here is the complete Oregon DOJ report

 

 

 

 

 

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Dutch Mafia should toot its horn a little louder

Anyone who motors between Sacramento and Seattle has doubtlessly seen a Dutch Bros. drive-thru along Interstate 5.

Now we have conclusive evidence Dutch Bros. has put Southern Oregon on the map — the Age of Coffee Empires, so to speak, map. Business Insider reports on the North American coffee kingdoms dominated, of course, by Starbucks.

It makes perfect sense, however, for our region to produce a major coffee franchise player when you consider the godfather of Starbucks and Peet’s, Alfred Peet, resided at Rogue Valley Manor during his twilight years.

After discussing the various regional players, columnist Rob Wile admits: “We’ve never heard of Dutch Bros.”

That comes as no surprise to someone who once heard a New Yorker exclaim: “Oh, Oregon! That’s out by Nebraska.”

From this vantage point — and I make no apologies for ordering a Dutch Bros. Annihilator – Dunkin’ Donuts is to coffee what Spam is to filet mignon.

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Where Oregon ranks as tax deadlines approach

Oregon’s ranks No. 40 out of 51 (including the District of Columbia) states on Wallet Hub’s 2014 list of Best States to be a taxpayer list. The organization evaluated eight types of taxation in order to determine states with the highest and lowest tax rates; how those rates compare to the national median; and which states offer the most value in terms of low taxation and high cost-of-living adjusted income levels.
Oregon, with an overall taxation rate 21 percent above the national average, dropped two notches when cost of living was factored in.
From the top: Wyoming (-66% below the national tax average), Alaska (-60%), Nevada (-52%), Florida (-48%), South Dakota (-46%).
From the bottom: New York (+40% above the national tax average), California (+37%),  Nebraska (+36%), Connecticut (+31%), Illinois (+29%), Wisconsin (+29%). 

And just in case you have a short attention span, here’s a reminder about the NSA worth reading from the Silicon Valley Business Journal

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What we learn about ourselves from marketers

Admittedly I need to tighten up the spam filter, but sometimes misfired missives let me know things I never knew about myself.
Got an email from Anna Marevska last night, and I’m guessing hundreds if not thousands of other reporters heard from Anna too.
Anna went on to tell me I have a profile in Cision’s media database, allowing public relations and marketing professionals to find out about me and my areas of expertise.
“We want you to have control over your listing — to ensure that you receive the pitches you want, when you want them. Please review the listing below, and confirm or amend as necessary,” Anna wrote.
Such emails are common, and most ignored.
As I read my brief “profile” it became clear what the folks operating the Cision data base make things up as they go. That’s somewhat surprising for an organization portraying itself as a global firm backed by investors with deep pockets.
Where the Cision minions lost me was my reporting territory: Hampshire and Franklin counties and Metro East. There are no such counties in Oregon and I couldn’t find Metro East even if I used a Garmin.
Until someone at Cision can explain how I came to cover Hampshire and Franklin counties and Metro East, future emails from Anna and her compatriots will go straight to the spam file.

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Chamber CEO chats-up non-partisan action

Brad Hicks, CEO of The Chamber of Medford/Jackson County, spoke about his organization’s efforts to endorse and support pro-business candidates on both sides of the aisle during the annual Dorchester Conference in Seaside.
Here are some excerpts from Hicks’ remarks at the Republican conclave on Sunday:

What I, and other Chamber leaders, wanted to know was whether we were the only ones who thought we should approach advocacy work differently. Turns out that a majority of our members wanted us focused on that work as well. We had to agree on some basic things, that a good state would encourage competitive business, demand reasonably low taxes and have a highly qualified workforce and were we moving in that direction or in the opposite direction? We considered the sort of issues we’ve discussed here this weekend and more and asked tough questions — If companies like Nike and Harry & David weren’t born and raised in Oregon, would they move here? If we told them we regularly have the highest fuel prices in the country, that we are now tied with Hawaii for the highest personal income tax, that our tax structure needs an overhaul, that the O&C debate leaves rural Oregon hanging by a thread and that even though we regularly have a Democratically controlled House, Senate and Governor’s Mansion we still don’t support higher education or transportation infrastructure even though we talk about their critical importance to our economy’s success, would they come anyway?

We have incredible advantages in Oregon, and yet don’t don’t seem to be able to capitalize on them. I recently read, I think in Forbes ranking of business friendly states and the factors that make up business friendly states, and Oregon was ranked No. 33 for quality of life. For those involved in economic development you know that’s what we sell. So we’ve got some challenges to say the least.

In effect, what I and other Chamber leaders were saying to our board was this: If you want to change the policy, you’ve got to change the people. We studied and discussed and polled and prepped for 18 months before we were finally ready with a recommendation to the board that it was time to form a PAC to elect pro-business candidates to public office. With much fanfare, hand-wringing it went to a vote of the board, and was promptly defeated. So, we fell back, regrouped created a separate organization called ChamberPAC with its own board and set of bylaws, taking the controversial work of candidate endorsements off of the Chamber Board’s agenda and it passed unanimously. At the time our board approved this step into the future only 6 percent of Chambers in the United States had Political Action Committees. Today, over a decade later, it is a little over 30 percent and growing.

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Consolidation figures to reshape retail landscape

On the heels of RadioShack announcing it will close 1,100 — or 20 percent — of its stores, office supplier Staples said Thursday it will shutter 225 of its nearly 1,850 stores.
There was no word earlier this week what stores Fort Worth, Texas-based RadioShack planned to close, with three stores in Medford and another in Ashland, chances are at least one is on the bubble.
Framingham, Mass.-based Staples also kept specifics of its decision to itself. The lone Southern Oregon store is in the Southside Center at 45 E. Stewart Ave., in Medford.
Then there’s Cerberus Capital’s pending deal to buy Safeway for $9.2 billion that would create a supermarket giant with a more than 2,400 stores, including four Albertsons and three Safeway stores between Central Point and Ashland.
All those corporate moves figure to reshape Jackson County’s retail map in some manner.

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AT&T spends millions to improve its network

AT&T Mobility wants you to know its wisely investing your monthly cell phone dollars.
The wireless giant said it has poured more than $350 million into network enhancements between 2011 and 2013 to provide better fourth- and third-generation data service in Oregon
While declining to quantify a baseline figure, AT&T spokesman Andy Colley said customer data usage has soared 70 percent in the past 12 months.
In 2013 alone AT&T upgraded its network 446 times including new cell sites, increased wireless and wired network capacity, and new broadband network connections.
We’re sure the customers in and around Prospect are thankful, too, even if meant going for several weeks with spotty service while a new tower was built last summer.
Ashland and Medford were among the 13 markets added to AT&T’s Long Term Evolution network last year.

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So a half-century after instigating the death of hundreds of newspapers, the FCC is recanting. Well at least easing rules on cross-media ownership, which decoupled newspapers from broadcast partners at a time when it would’ve kept competition alive in two- and three-newspaper towns.

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Washington community college ordered to destroy pre-production Viper. I kept looking for an Onion logo, a Snopes link or April Fools reference, but this appears for real.

Survey demonstrates American’s general inability to interact (or is that interface?) with the tech world. Personally, I think this extends to about anything that doesn’t deal with pop culture.

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Oregon No.12 nationally in union membership

Newly released data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows 208,000 Oregonians belonged to a union in 2013.
Although that’s the12th most in the nation by percent of the workforce, it is down from 15.7 percent in 2012.
Union members accounted for 13.9 percent of wage and salary workers in the state compared to 11.3 percent nationally.
The BLS reported another 15,000 Oregonians were represented by a union or covered by an employee association or contract while not being union members themselves.

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Admittedly, there are no bigger fans of Daylight Saving Time than me. I’d simply make a rule that sundown was no earlier than 8 p.m. any time of the year. Yep, it would mean a lot of moving the clock back and forth, but I’d get a lot more done after work around the house.
Here’s a state Agriculture Department piece on DST.

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The folks at Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Southern Oregon are marking National Consumer Protection Week with some tips on ways to improve your level of financial protection:
Protect personal information –  There is a reason identity theft has topped the list of complaints to the Federal Trade Commission for more than a decade. It now includes taxes, medical records and establishing an identity in a child’s name. While it can’t be eliminated, consumers can and should take steps to protect themselves. The FTC has tips for prevention on its website
Review your credit report – Credit reports are not only the gateway to loans, mortgages and credit cards, but are often reviewed by landlords, cell phone providers and utility companies. The report reflects a person’s financial track record, and can strongly influence a lending decision. Consumers can access a free copy of their credit report once every 12 months from each of the three bureaus, Experian, Equifax and TransUnion, by going to www.AnnualCreditReport.com
Have an insurance review – Set an appointment with your insurance agent to confirm that the coverage is adequate, and review opportunities to save on premiums.
Get to know your credit card –  Many people don’t realize that certain protections are part of their credit card agreement.  For instance, the Fair Credit Billing Act allows consumers to seek a refund if a product purchased was unsatisfactory. Cards may also offer return protection and extended warranties. There are many Federal laws in place to protect your rights when interacting with a credit card company.  For a list of credit protection laws, go to this site
Know your rights – The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau restricts unfair, deceptive or abusive acts or practices, promotes financial education and accepts complaints. Submit issues with a financial product or service to the CFPB online at here

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There was more to the tragic tale of Glen Spahr

Count this as an addendum to a story I wrote a couple of weeks ago about the long-term impact of teachers’ strike in a community.
One element was the response of teachers in Coos Bay to the death of a Jacksonville substitute teacher during the 1987 strike on the coast. Glen Spahr, 57, was killed in an early-morning traffic accident in Coquille.
It was only one in a series of tragedies to befall the family.
Larry Smith, a retired Jacksonville Elementary School teacher emailed me with the rest of the story a few days ago.
“I had the two Spahr children, Sally and David, in my fifth grade classroom at Jacksonville,” Smith wrote. “Wonderful kids from a wonderful, hardworking family. Glen had been a teacher, but then got the contract to wash UPS trucks each evening in Grants Pass. The family would help.”
In the meantime they had bought the old Opp Mine property on the edge of Jacksonville and had completely remodeled the premise, he wrote. “They loved history.”
And Bernice Spahr, he noted, was really into family history.
“Then one tragic night, while they were out for the evening, their restored, historic house burned to the ground,” Smith wrote. “They lost everything. Mrs. Spahr suffered a heart attack and ended up in the hospital.”
The moved into a manufactured home on the property so they could stay in Jacksonville.”
“Then Glen lost his UPS contract,” Smith wrote “He started subbing for the Medford district and elsewhere. Financially, he needed the work, so he took the sub job on the coast. And as you know, he was killed in a horrid accident.”
But that was only the beginning, noted Smith, who keeps tabs on former students.
Near the beginning of 2001, Sally Sphar died of cerebral palsy. On Nov. 28, 2001, Glen Spahr’s son David died in an auto accident while driving home from work Ferndale, Wash. He was exiting the freeway and collided with a semi-truck. David Spahr was 33 and had several children of his own, noted Smith.

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So where do taxpayers spend their refund dollars? This MarketWatch report provides the answer.


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