Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Today's School Lunch

Enjoy, kids!

"Boston school food contractor plans new facility to whip up fresh entrees" by James Vaznis Globe Staff  March 13, 2017

The food service contractor for Boston’s public school system announced Monday that it plans to open a facility next month in Dorchester where it can make fresh hot meals, a move that should delight students who hate eating the previously frozen entrees served up in most schools.

Whitsons Culinary Group currently makes about 165,000 meals per week for Boston students at its facility in Islip, N.Y., where individual servings are flash-frozen and then trucked to Boston.

Whitsons said it plans to lease the former Katsiroubas Produce property at 40 Newmarket Square, where it will employ 75 people. It plans to make most entrees fresh, although items like pizza would be pre-frozen.

“We are really excited about being able to offer fresh meals to Boston school students,” Karen Dittrich, director of marketing for Whitsons, said in an interview.

More than half of Boston’s public schools now serve the previously frozen meals because they lack full-service kitchens — the buildings were constructed decades ago when most students would bring their own lunch. Cafeteria workers warm up the meals in large convection ovens.

A growing number of students, parents, educators, and elected officials have pushed for more fresh food in schools, saying the frozen meals symbolize everything wrong with the city’s lunch program.

Monday’s announcement prompted a tepid response from the school system and city leaders.

Whitsons made its announcement as its three-year contract with the school system is about to expire. The school system is in the process of soliciting bids for a new vendor. Whitsons is expected to submit a proposal.

The school system initially reacted with a guarded statement, saying the Boston public school system “anticipates further conversation with Whitsons to better understand how the company’s new location will impact the quality of meals for our students.”

Pressed for more details, district spokesman Daniel O’Brien elaborated later in the day.

“It appears to be a wonderful opportunity, but right now we have had no formal discussions on implementing changes to our food service program,” O’Brien said.

“The Boston Public Schools are always open to new ways to increase access to healthy fresh and locally produced meals for our students.”

The company said Monday night that it had no formal discussions with the district about the new facility before making its announcement.

City Councilor Ayanna Pressley, who has been pushing for more fresh school lunches, said the timing of the announcement was odd, given that the school system is seeking bids for a new food-service contract.

She said she learned about the announcement in Monday’s press release.

“I don’t know if it is a step in the right direction,” Pressley said of Whitsons’ decision to open a food production facility in the city. “We are still trying to figure out who the best vendor will be.”

The company says it intends to prepare hot entrees, sandwiches, and salads using “wholesome, natural and organic ingredients, including many items that are sourced from local food vendors and farmers.”

“Our new facility will enable us to deliver freshly prepared breakfast, lunch, and after-school snack options for Greater Boston,” said Paul Whitcomb, president and chief executive officer of Whitsons.

The new location means that Whitsons will relocate a smaller operation on Quincy Street in Dorchester, where it had assembled sandwiches and snack packs, to the new facility. About 30 people work there.

Although Boston is the only school system in Massachusetts for which Whitsons provides prepackaged meals, the company is hoping to add other school systems in the state as customers, pointing out that other school systems also have schools without kitchens.

The company said it hopes to start producing some meals by June and be in full operation by the fall.

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Just don't drink the water, kids.

I'm glad you ate first because this will cause you to lose your appetite:

"St. Paul’s School admits 13 staffers engaged in ‘sexual misconduct’" by Michael Levenson, Jonathan Saltzman and John R. Ellement Globe Staff  May 22, 2017

Thirteen former faculty and staff members at St. Paul’s School in Concord, N.H., engaged in sexual misconduct with students over four decades, according to a report released Monday that faulted administrators for ignoring and even concealing the widespread abuse.

In the sheer numbers of teachers implicated, the abuse at St. Paul’s, a prestigious boarding school, ranked as among the most pervasive that has been substantiated at a New England private school.

Isn't that where Labrie went to school?

The report faulted administrators who it said were often more interested in preserving the school’s reputation than protecting students from assaults and, in some cases, rape by respected faculty members. The report was particularly critical of an investigation the school commissioned in 2000 that failed to address multiple claims of abuse that alumni had brought to school leaders.

School leaders on Monday apologized to the school community and credited survivors for pushing St. Paul’s to acknowledge the misconduct, which occurred between 1948 and 1988.

“We offer our most sincere apology to survivors for the wrongs that were done to them at St. Paul’s School,” Rector Michael G. Hirschfeld and Archibald Cox Jr., president of the board of trustees, wrote in a letter to the St. Paul’s community. “The failures uncovered in this report have hurt every member of our school community, none more so than the survivors of these abuses.”

St. Paul’s is the latest prep school to investigate claims of misconduct following a 2016 Boston Globe Spotlight story that reported on allegations of abuse by more than 200 victims at 67 private schools in New England.

That movie in the works?

The investigation, which was led by former Massachusetts attorney general Scott Harshbarger, did not receive or review any allegations of misconduct by teachers after 1988. School leaders said, however, that more victims may come forward.

“If they do, the situations will be investigated,” said Cox, son of the famous Watergate prosecutor, also a St. Paul’s graduate. “This doesn’t stop now.”

It does for me. Ick!

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Related: A Peekel at Phillips Exeter

You don't have to be a geniu$:

"In a significant advance in the study of mental ability, a team of European and American scientists announced Monday that they had identified 52 genes linked to intelligence in nearly 80,000 people. These genes do not determine intelligence, however. Their combined influence is minuscule, the researchers said, suggesting that thousands more are likely to be involved and still await discovery. Just as important, intelligence is profoundly shaped by the environment. Still, the findings could make it possible to begin new experiments into the biological basis of reasoning and problem-solving, experts said. They could even help researchers determine which interventions would be most effective for children struggling to learn...." 

I can't imagine why!

Also see:

Barnard chooses a leader whose research focuses on women
Texas mulls transgender bathroom bill

I'm wrestling with which door to use.

Body found in Franklin identified as Michael Doherty
It’s a wet and waterlogged commencement at BC
Malden school defends controversial hair policy it suspended

Isn't that racism?

Related: Marching Backward Briefly

I'm going to have my own lunch now.

TB Travels

"Health agency spends more on travel than on AIDS" by Associated Press  May 22, 2017

LONDON — The United Nations health agency has routinely spent about $200 million a year on travel expenses, more than what it doles out to fight some of the biggest problems in public health, including AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined, according to internal documents.

Last year, the World Health Organization spent about $71 million on AIDS and hepatitis. It devoted $61 million to malaria. To slow the spread of tuberculosis, WHO invested $59 million. Some health programs do get exceptional funding — the agency spends about $450 million trying to wipe out polio every year.

Dr. Margaret Chan, director-general of the WHO, traveled to Guinea this month to join the country’s president in celebrating the world’s first Ebola vaccine.

After praising health workers in West Africa for their triumph over the lethal virus, Chan spent the night in the top-tier presidential suite at the beachside Palm Camayenne hotel. The suite, equipped with marble bathrooms and a dining room that seats eight, has an advertised price of $1,000 per night.

WHO declined to say if it paid for Chan’s stay at the Palm Camayenne in Conakry, but noted that host countries sometimes pick up the tab for her hotels.

At a time when the cash-strapped agency is pleading for money to fund its responses to health crises worldwide, it has struggled to curb travel costs.

Senior officials have complained internally that UN staffers break new rules that were introduced to curb expansive travel spending, booking perks like business class plane tickets and rooms in five-star hotels with few consequences.

‘‘We don’t trust people to do the right thing when it comes to travel,’’ Nick Jeffreys, WHO’s director of finance, said during a September 2015 in-house seminar on accountability — a video of which was obtained by the Associated Press.

Despite WHO’s numerous travel regulations, Jeffreys said staffers ‘‘can sometimes manipulate a little bit their travel.’’ The agency couldn’t be sure people on its payroll always booked the cheapest fares or that their travel was even warranted, he said.

‘‘People don’t always know what the right thing to do is,’’ Jeffreys said.

Ian Smith, executive director of Chan’s office, said the chair of WHO’s audit committee said the agency often did little to stop misbehavior.

Earlier that year, a memorandum was sent to Chan and other top leaders with the subject line ‘‘actions to contain travel costs’’ written in capital letters. The memo reported that compliance with rules requiring travel to be booked in advance was ‘‘very low.’’ The document also pointed out that WHO was under pressure from its member countries to save money.

In a statement, the agency said ‘‘the nature of WHO’s work often requires WHO staff to travel’’ and that costs were reduced 14 percent last year compared to the previous year — although that year’s total was exceptionally high due to Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

They have failed you and the next outbreak is already on the way.

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So where is the TB coming from?

"Lynn clinic works to bring tuberculosis out of hiding" by Felice J. Freyer Globe Staff  February 21, 2017

LYNN — Antonio Frias has a TB infection that he may have carried, without knowing it, since before he left the Dominican Republic 30 years ago. His case was detected because the health center is taking a rare, aggressive approach to tuberculosis by identifying and treating infected people before they become sick.

And a recent $1.5 million federal grant to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health — the only one awarded in the country — will vastly expand that effort.

Tuberculosis, one of humankind’s oldest foes, has been killing people for tens of thousands of years and today infects one-third of the world’s population. It can attack any part of the body, but most often starts in the lungs, leading to bloody coughs, weakness, fever, and night sweats. But tuberculosis is little seen and little understood in the United States, where it is often misdiagnosed as pneumonia.

Treating active TB is an expensive ordeal, costing $17,000 per person, on average. Depending on how sick they are, patients often need to be hospitalized or isolated. They must take as many as nine pills a day for nine months or longer, and a public health nurse visits every day to make sure they do so. Failure to take all the medication until the infection is stamped out can lead to strains of tuberculosis that are resistant to medications, a big problem overseas. In contrast, latent TB can be treated with one or two drugs taken for four months, at an average cost of $500 per person.

In Lynn, the main medical provider for a city of immigrants, one-third of Lynn’s population is foreign-born, with most coming from countries where tuberculosis is endemic. Across the country, about two-thirds of tuberculosis cases occur in people born overseas. 

That's what comes with being a sanctuary state -- and they blame Trump for the health costs!

Still, it was an American-born doctor whose illness helped the city get ready. In 2015, a Lynn Community Health Center physician, Dr. Kelly John Holland, developed an active case of TB.

“That triggered hysteria in the community,” Haptu said, because the doctor had come in contact with so many people. The health center ended up screening more than 1,000 contacts.

While traumatic, the Holland case was also an opportunity to educate the community about the difference between latent and active TB. “That kind of helped our mission,” Haptu said.

Melis Celmen, project manager for the CDC grant, said one challenge will be overcoming the stigma tuberculosis has among immigrants.

“When patients hear TB, they get scared,” Celmen said. “The patients start crying, ‘Oh, did I do anything bad?’ ”

Deborah A. McManus, the TB clinic’s nurse manager, said: “We have to ensure they understand that all they did was breathe.”

I would hold mine if I were you.

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Maybe we should keep the Haitians here for their own health.

Opening an E-Mail

It's from your retirement account at Fidelity:

"He says he invented e-mail. Dispute him at your own risk" by Hiawatha Bray Globe Staff  February 14, 2017

Shiva Ayyadurai, a boyish-looking 53-year-old, holds four degrees from MIT, including a doctorate in biological engineering, and runs several startup companies out of a Cambridge office building, but the Belmont resident is lately better known for going to court to defend his proudest achievement: creating in 1978, at age 14, an electronic communication program that he called EMAIL.

Ayyadurai said,  “The concept of an Indian immigrant creating e-mail in Newark, N.J., blows the mind of certain people . . . The white liberals who do this don’t even know they’re being racist.”

What makes Ayyadurai fighting mad, however, is being called a liar. It’s happened a lot, especially since 2012. That’s when The Washington Post ran an article saying that the Smithsonian Institution had recognized Ayyadurai as the inventor of e-mail. A number of Internet pioneers reacted with fury. The Post posted a lengthy correction. And ever since, Ayyadurai’s claim to e-mail fame has been routinely treated by his critics with dismissive contempt.

But Ayyadurai has begun fighting back, suing Internet news sites that disparage his claim. He won a $750,000 settlement from the now-defunct Gawker after it lost a $140 million libel judgment to pro wrestler Hulk Hogan.

Armed with the same attorney Hogan had in the Gawker case, Ayyadurai has now filed a $15 million libel suit against technology blog Techdirt, for articles that called his claim “false” and “bogus,” and accused Ayyadurai of “flat out lying.”

“You can’t call someone a fraud, a liar, and a fake and hide under the First Amendment,” Ayyadurai said.

Techdirt did not respond to requests for comment, but has said it intends to fight Ayyadurai in court.

Ayyadurai’s pugnacious nature may be due to his early upbringing in India. Born in Mumbai to parents of a lower social caste, he remembers not being allowed to enter the home of a boyhood friend, and the friend’s mother giving him water in a different cup from other members of the household.

“It still bugs me, almost 48 years later,” he said.

Despite their low status, Ayyadurai’s father was an engineer, while his mother became a statistician. The family came to the United States in 1970, where Ayyadurai excelled in school, mastering calculus by age 14 and enrolling in a computer program for promising high school students at New York University. His mother got him a job in the computer services department of her employer, the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, now a part of Rutgers University. The department director, Leslie Michelson, wanted an electronic version of their paper-based interoffice mail, but didn’t have time to work on the project.

“It occurred to me right away, why don’t we challenge this kid?” said Michelson, who still works at Rutgers’ research computing department. “He was very, very bright.”

About a year later, Ayyadurai had written 50,000 lines of code and called the result EMAIL. Soon the university was using it to exchange messages across its campuses. Michelson insists it was the first e-mail program of its kind, and is outraged by those who call Ayyadurai a liar.

But among technology historians, e-mail is one of those “inventions” that seems to have more than one inventor, or no one inventor at all; rather they contend modern e-mail developed from a series of innovations that began when Ayyadurai was an infant. One early innovator declined to be interviewed, fearing litigation from Ayyadurai.

For example, a system called MAIL was developed at MIT in 1965, to allow multiple users of large mainframe computers to send messages to each other.

The Pentagon developed the Internet thru MIT!

In 1971 Ray Tomlinson, an engineer at Bolt, Beranek & Newman in Cambridge, developed software to enable two separate computers to exchange messages over an electronic network. Tomlinson famously came up with the idea of using the “@” symbol in e-mail addresses.

To many in the field, Tomlinson’s work is generally considered the ancestor of subsequent e-mail systems. In 1975, John Vittal of the University of Southern California developed MSG, the first relatively easy-to use electronic messaging program, with now-familiar features like the ability to forward messages to others.

“It seems to me that his case has been pretty thoroughly dismissed,” said Haigh, the Internet historian.

His critics note Ayyadurai got a copyright, not a patent. Back then, federal courts generally held that software could not be patented. Ayyadurai filed for a copyright as the next best thing. But that covers only the code he wrote. It doesn’t prove he was first to conceive the technical concepts that make e-mail systems work.

“The problem with copyright is it only protects that literal work,” Ayyadurai admitted. “It doesn’t protect the design and the ideas. That’s unfortunate.”

Nonetheless, he insists that his copyrighted e-mail software was the first to bring together all the key features of modern e-mail in a single program. The forerunners, Ayyadurai said, were little more than instant messaging apps by comparison.

He has degrees from MIT in computer science and electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, visual studies, and biological engineering. In 1994, Ayyadurai launched a company that eventually became EchoMail, helping large businesses manage incoming messages, boasting American Express and Nike as clients in its heyday. These days, a much-downsized EchoMail runs out of Ayyadurai’s Cambridge office building, mainly serving small- to medium-sized customers.

His other startups include CytoSolve , whose software is designed to simulate a drug’s interaction with human organs, like the heart or liver.

Another Ayyadurai venture, Systems Health, provides training in “systems biology,” a health care technique that combines Western medical practices with traditional Asian techniques.

But being the “inventor of e-mail” remains a central part of his identity. It’s on the cover of two books he has written about e-mail, and even adorns a sign in the lobby of his Cambridge building for his office, coupled with a picture of him from high school days.

“My parents didn’t leave the caste system of India to come to a different version of it in America,” he said. “The American Dream lives in the truth about e-mail’s origin in Newark, N.J., and I will defend and fight for that truth, until the end.”

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$elf-$erving Soon-Shiong

"How the world’s richest doctor gave away millions — then steered the cash back to his company" by Rebecca Robbins, March 6, 2017

The world’s richest doctor had just made a $12 million gift to the University of Utah. Members of the university community were urged to come thank him. And so, a crowd gathered.

For months, Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong would continue to reap praise for his generosity in publicity put out by the university. Not mentioned in any of the tributes: $10 million of his donation would be sent right back to one of his companies. And the contract for his gift was worded in a way that left the University of Utah with no other choice.

The university health system did get free and valuable information for genetics research through the deal. But a STAT investigation has found that Soon-Shiong benefited even more from his charitable donation.

He got reams of patient data to help him build a new commercial product meant to assess patients’ risk of rare and inherited diseases. He got a stream of cash for one of his struggling companies.

And the deal made it possible for his company to inflate, by more than 50 percent, the number of test orders it reported to investors late last year while updating them on interest in a flagship product, a diagnostic tool known as GPS Cancer. Soon-Shiong’s team counted genetic sequencing ordered by the University of Utah in those order numbers — even though the work for the university did not have anything to do with diagnosing or recommending treatments for cancer patients.

Even in the world of academic donations, which the wealthy often use to burnish their image or advance pet causes, the arrangement stands out as highly unusual.

STAT has previously detailed how Soon-Shiong’s high-profile cancer moonshot initiative achieved little scientific progress in its first year, instead functioning primarily as a marketing tool for GPS Cancer....

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Related:

Soon-Shiong’s company stock falls 23 percent following STAT report

Soon-Shiong made ‘implicit threat’ to spur investment in NantHealth, media company says

Emails show how a billionaire’s philanthropy boosted his business

Soon-Shiong’s NantHealth reports $184 million loss for 2016

So much for bringing back print newspapers.

Also seeUtah watchdog launches probe of Patrick Soon-Shiong’s controversial donation

Private Dick

"Ex-police sergeant who faced 40 complaints wins investigator’s license" by Jan Ransom Globe Staff  February 28, 2017

A former Boston police sergeant who amassed 40 complaints from residents, colleagues, and supervisors over two decades with the department and resigned after agreeing to a suspension is now a state-licensed private investigator.

Martin B. Kraft, a 32-year veteran, resigned from the department in 2015 and received a private investigator’s license last year. He announced his new business, Kraft Investigations Group, on social media in March. After the Globe inquired about Kraft’s license, State Police scheduled a hearing on his application for March 3.

They killed a Vietnam veteran's business?

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Another guy they ran out of town:

"‘Whitey’ Bulger’s former FBI handler eligible for parole in 1982 slaying" by Shelley Murphy Globe Staff  March 14, 2017

Former FBI agent John J. Connolly Jr., the once-decorated FBI agent who grew up in the same South Boston housing development as James “Whitey” Bulger and recruited him as an informant, was not in Florida when John Callahan, a Boston businessman, was killed, but jurors found Connolly leaked information to Bulger and Stephen Flemmi that prompted the gangsters to order the death of Callahan, an accountant and former gambling company executive with ties to Bulger’s gang.

Only problem is Bulgar wasn't allowed to bring up his informant status during the trial.

Flemmi testified Connolly warned him and Bulger that the FBI wanted to question Callahan and that the businessman would probably implicate them in the 1981 slaying of World Jai Alai owner Roger Wheeler in Oklahoma, as well as two other slayings in Boston. A Bulger associate, John Martorano, testified that at the urging of Bulger and Flemmi, he lured Callahan to Florida and shot him to death.

Connolly’s sentence for the murder came while he was already serving a 10-year prison term for a 2002 federal racketeering conviction. In that case, a federal jury in Boston found that Connolly helped Bulger evade capture by warning him he was about to be indicted....

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Related: Bulger Found Guilty

Also see: Fitzpatrick’s Fibs

Just working my way back to the present without getting in too Depp about Bulger.

"2 N.H. residents die in police chase in Maryland" Associated Press  March 20, 2017

Two people were killed in Maryland after a 50-mile, high-speed police pursuit of a pickup truck reported stolen in New Hampshire, authorities said.

Officials said Maryland Transportation Authority Police tried to stop a Chevrolet Silverado on Sunday morning on Interstate 95 north of the Fort McHenry Tunnel in the Baltimore area. Authorities say the Laconia, N.H., police reported the truck stolen Friday.

The driver failed to stop, leading police on a pursuit for about 50 miles into northeastern Maryland.

The pursuit ended when the driver of the Chevrolet, 28-year-old Stephen Reinholz of Laconia, lost control. The truck struck a guard rail and went down an embankment.

Reinholz and a passenger, 28-year-old Kaili Pierce of Concord, N.H., died at the scene, officials said.

Also, a pileup on the Florida Turnpike Sunday evening killed two people.

Police identified the victims as a 20-year-old woman and a 19-year-old man who were traveling in the same vehicle, which was struck from behind.

The seven-vehicle crash occurred near Howey in the Hall, northwest of Orlando. Police said nine people were taken to hospitals after the pileup.

Traffic was backed up for 10 miles in the northbound lanes after the accident, according to the Department of Transportation.

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"Maryland student held without bond in fatal stabbing" Washington Post  May 23, 2017

WASHINGTON — The University of Maryland student arrested in a fatal stabbing that authorities are investigating as a possible hate crime was ordered to remain in jail without the possibility of bond but could be considered for GPS-monitored release at a later date.

Sean Urbanski, 22, made his first appearance before a judge Monday since his arrest in the weekend slaying of Bowie State University student Richard W. Collins III, 23.

Urbanski’s lawyer, William C. Brennan, told the judge that ‘‘alcohol and substance abuse may have played a significant role in all of this.’’

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"Arrest made in murder of Worcester woman" by John R. Ellement Globe Staff  March 20, 2017

A man is being held without bail Monday over allegations that he killed a a 49-year-old Worcester woman who worked in that city’s public school system.

The body of Sandra Hehir was found in her Congress Street apartment Feb. 5, and authorities later said she had been strangled.

Jose Melendez, 54, of Worcester, is charged with her murder, and the Worcester district attorney’s office said DNA recovered from the crime scene had connected him to the case.

Melendez, who also uses the names Alvarado and Segura, had been arrested last week on a warrant out of Lynn. He had defaulted on probation in a 2014 breaking and entering case, prosecutors said. He also faces charges in two Worcester drug cases for allegedly giving police a false name.

The suspect was arraigned on Monday in Worcester District Court, and he will return to court April 13....

If the globe had returned to it I would post more but....

--nomore--"

Also see:

Masked man robs bank in Lowell

FBI offers reward for information on dangerous fugitive

Cambridge man arrested after gun found in car

Jewelry Store

"Hundreds of workers at company behind Jared, Kay say culture fostered harassment" by Drew Harwell The Washington Post  February 28, 2017

Hundreds of former employees of Sterling Jewelers, the multibillion-dollar conglomerate behind Jared the Galleria of Jewelry and Kay Jewelers, claim that its chief executive and other company leaders presided over a corporate culture that fostered rampant sexual harassment and discrimination, according to arbitration documents obtained by The Washington Post.

Declarations from roughly 250 women and men who worked at Sterling, filed as part of a private class-action arbitration case, allege that female employees at the company throughout the late 1990s and 2000s were routinely groped, demeaned and urged to sexually cater to their bosses to stay employed. Sterling disputes the allegations.

The arbitration was first filed in 2008 by more than a dozen women who accused the company of widespread gender discrimination. The class-action case, still unresolved, now includes 69,000 women who are current and former employees of Sterling, which operates about 1,500 stores across the country.

Most of the sworn statements were written years ago, but the employees’ attorneys were only granted permission to release them publicly Sunday evening. One of the original women who brought the case, those lawyers said, died in 2014 as proceedings crawled on without resolution.

The statements allege that top male managers, some at the company’s headquarters near Akron, Ohio, dispatched scouting parties to stores to find female employees they wanted to sleep with, laughed about women’s bodies in the workplace, and pushed female subordinates into sex by pledging better jobs, higher pay or protection from punishment.

Though women made up a large part of Sterling’s sales force, many said they felt they had little recourse with their mostly male management. Sterling spokesman David Bouffard told The Post in a statement Monday that company officials ‘‘have thoroughly investigated the allegations and have concluded they are not substantiated by the facts and certainly do not reflect our culture.’’

More than 1,300 pages of sworn statements were released Sunday and feature company-approved redactions that obscure the names of managers and executives accused of harassment or abuse, but a memorandum by the employees’ attorneys supporting their motion for class certification, filed in 2013, revealed that top executives including Mark Light, now chief executive of Sterling’s parent company, Signet Jewelers, were among those accused of having sex with female employees and promoting women based upon how they responded to sexual demands.

Many of the most striking allegations stem from the company’s annual managers meetings, which former employees described as a boozy, no-spouses-allowed ‘‘sex-fest’’ where attendance was mandatory and women were aggressively pursued, grabbed and harassed.

Looks like Enron.

Multiple witnesses told attorneys that they saw Light ‘‘being entertained’’ as he watched and joined nude and partially undressed female employees in a swimming pool, according to the 2013 memorandum.

Routine sexual ‘‘preying’’ at company events ‘‘was done out in the open and appeared to be encouraged, or at least condoned, by the company,’’ Melissa Corey, a manager of Sterling stores in Massachusetts and Florida between 2002 and 2008, said in her declaration.

Ellen Contaldi, a Sterling manager in Massachusetts between 1994 and 2008, said in her declaration that male executives ‘‘prowled around the (resort) like dogs that were let out of their cage and there was no one to protect the female managers from them.’’

‘‘I didn’t like being alone, anywhere. I used to dread going’’ to the meetings, Contaldi told The Post in an interview. ‘‘If you were even remotely attractive or outgoing, which most salespeople are, you were meat, being shopped.’’

That's where my printed Globe put a stop to it.

‘‘It was like nobody knew right from wrong, and there was nobody trying to show anybody right from wrong,’’ Contaldi added. ‘‘There was no discipline. There was no consequence. You were on your own.’’

Former employees who sought help or reported abuse through an internal hotline alleged in their declarations that they were verbally attacked or terminated. Kristin Henry, a five-year Sterling employee who said she was 22 when an older district manager tried to kiss and touch her at a managers event, told The Post she was falsely accused of theft and quickly fired after reporting his advances to superiors at Sterling.

The case, Jock et al. v. Sterling Jewelers, was filed before the American Arbitration Association, one of the nation’s largest arbitration organizations. Kathleen Roberts, the case’s arbitrator and a retired federal magistrate, is forbidden by association rules from speaking with the media. Like other arbitrations, the case before Roberts is conducted in private and is legally binding. While arbitrator decisions are appealable, there are very limited grounds on which decisions can be overturned. The confidential nature of the case has made it difficult to determine why it has taken so long to resolve.

In a 2015 decision to grant class-action status to the women, Roberts wrote that the testimony includes references to ‘‘soliciting sexual relations with women (sometimes as a quid pro quo for employment benefits), and creating an environment at often-mandatory Company events in which women are expected to undress publicly, accede to sexual overtures and refrain from complaining about the treatment to which they have been subjected.’’

‘‘For the most part Sterling has not sought to refute this evidence,’’ Roberts wrote. Instead, she wrote, ‘‘Sterling argues that it is inadmissible, irrelevant and insufficient to establish a corporate culture that demeans women.’’

The case could deeply tarnish a business that sells billions of dollars worth of jewelry a year through romance-centered marketing campaigns such as ‘‘Every Kiss Begins with Kay.’’ Signet told shareholders in an annual report last year that it would have to ‘‘pay substantial damages’’ if it lost the case.

Sterling’s mall outlets and storefronts account for a large chunk of America’s jewelry market, as well as more than 18,000 jobs across all 50 states. Its parent company, Signet, which is domiciled in Bermuda but headquartered in Ohio, is the world’s largest retailer of diamond jewelry, selling more than $6 billion of jewelry, watches and services in 2015, company filings show.

Joseph Sellers, a partner at the Cohen Milstein law firm and lead counsel for the case, told The Post in an interview that the former employees’ statements provide ‘‘breathtaking evidence of ways in which women were mistreated in the workplace.’’

‘‘It was terribly demeaning to them as women,’’ Sellers said, ‘‘not just because they themselves were mistreated but because they saw how their co-workers were treated as sexual objects.’’

I'm not saying what happened here is right, far from it; however, it's not only Kay and the other jewelers that sell sex in their marketing campaigns. The jewelers are only the glint of what is a countrywide culture, not just corporate. 

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When Heather Ballou left her job at a small jewelry store and moved to a Kay retail outlet in Pensacola, Florida, in 2000, she believed she had made the right move to advance her young career. Sterling seemed to offer high standards, a professional atmosphere and managers willing to groom and mentor new employees, Ballou, a class member in the arbitration, said in an interview with The Post.

As she worked her way up to store manager, though, she said, she became increasingly disturbed at the frequency of sexual harassment from the company’s crude ‘‘boys club.’’ At a managers meeting in 2005, a district manager promised to help transfer her to a better store if she had sex with him, she said in her sworn statement. That night, she did, believing she was ‘‘backed into a corner’’ and had no other way to advance.

‘‘Looking back, I can’t believe I did some of the things I had to do,’’ Ballou, 41, told The Post, adding that in the moment she thought: ‘‘You suck it up and do what you have to do for your family. You need this job.’’

Ballou attended four of Sterling’s multi-day managers meetings, where attendance was mandatory for managers at company stores nationwide. The events, which were mostly held in Orlando, included daytime work seminars but were infamous for their wild parties at night, employees said. It was common practice, former employees said, for executives and high-level managers to ply subordinates with alcohol

That's when I blacked out.

One night, Ballou told The Post, she saw a top executive watching as female managers in varying stages of undress splashed in a hotel pool. ‘‘He had a drink in one hand and a cigar in the other, just taking it all in, like, ‘I am the king and this is my harem,’ ‘‘ she told The Post. She was prevented by her attorneys from naming which executive was involved, because of the condition of the arbitration documents’ release. The 2013 class-action motion states Light took part in a pool-related incident similar to the one Ballou described.

Henry, who attended the 2005 meeting, said she was retrieving her shawl from a hotel room when a male district manager who was her father’s age, and whom she had been told to treat like a mentor, forcibly tried to kiss and touch her. Stunned, she left immediately afterward and called her parents for advice.

‘‘I was so embarrassed,’’ she told The Post. ‘‘I was afraid of what would happen next, how I would be treated, if it was something he would tell other employees about.’’

A few days later, she called an internal hotline to report the encounter, believing her identity would be protected. But within days of her report, a regional boss visited her store for two days, interviewed her co-workers and reviewed surveillance video before accusing her of stealing a gold necklace and $100 in cash. She told The Post she showed the boss evidence that she had not stolen anything, but Sterling fired her, a few days before she was set to receive an annual commission payment worth roughly $30,000, she alleged.

Because she was fired and accused of theft, she told The Post, she was unable to find a job at another jewelry store. Now 34, she works as a nurse in Florida.

‘‘Friends to this day ask: What ever happened to that job? And it’s one of those situations: Do I tell the truth? Or do I say I just moved on, to save myself the embarrassment?’’ she told The Post. Seeing Kay commercials, she said, continues to unnerve her.

‘‘They’re still hiring younger women, and I worry about those women,’’ she told The Post. ‘‘I worry about what might happen to them.’’

Julia Highfill, a nine-year Sterling manager in Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi, said in her sworn statement that the company ‘‘did not have an effective or serious mechanism by which female employees could complain about their mistreatment.’’ After calling the company to report that a district manager had arrived to work late and reeking of alcohol, she alleged that he called soon after to warn her against calling again. He told her, ‘‘Anything you say, I’m going to know,’’ she recalled in an interview.

Men who are not part of the class also filed sworn statements alleging Sterling was a hostile workplace for women. Richard Sumen, who worked for Sterling in Ohio from 1992 until 2005, said in his declaration that a group of managers and officers commonly known as the ‘‘good ole boys’’ was infamous for ‘‘protecting and promoting their friends, and wild escapades of sex, drugs, excessive drinking and womanizing.’’ He recalled one former Ohio-based executive saying, ‘‘Why pay women more when they just get pregnant and have families?’’

In his sworn statement, Sumen also recounted an incident at corporate headquarters in which an executive pointed to a female secretary and asked a district manager, ‘‘Are you doing her?’’ The secretary looked visibly uncomfortable, Sumen said, but the executive said again, louder, ‘‘I want to f---ing know if you are f---ing doing her.’’

Sumen told The Post that he remained troubled by what he called Sterling’s discriminatory corporate climate. He wrote in his 2008 declaration, ‘‘This culture of sexism and womanizing was so prevalent that female management employees were pressured to acquiesce and participate.’’

---

This culture seemingly arose in a company whose sales force was mostly women. More than 68 percent of Sterling’s store managers are women, the company told The Post. Three of Signet’s 10 executive officers are women. A job-recruitment video calls Sterling ‘‘your place to shine’’ and promises an ‘‘exciting and fulfilling career.’’

Light was made Sterling’s chief executive in 2006 and presided over an eight-year growth streak during which the company’s sales more than tripled. Light, now 54 and chief executive of Signet, earned about $7.4 million in salary, stock and bonuses in fiscal 2016, up from $2.4 million in 2014, company filings show.

Signet, the parent company of Sterling, Zales and other jewelry brands, has struggled in recent months because of disappointing holiday sales, investors’ worries over how much of its jewelry is bought on credit, and a scandal during which Kay customers alleged diamonds they had brought in for cleaning were swapped for lesser-quality stones. The company denied the diamond-swapping allegations. Its share price has dropped by half since its late-2015 peak.

Since 1998, Sterling has forced all employees to agree to arbitration - a no-judge, no-jury resolution system that allows companies to keep potentially embarrassing labor disputes and case records mostly confidential.

The nonprofit American Arbitration Association, where the Sterling case is being heard, allows companies to refuse arbitrators they believe will not fairly rule on their case.

Some companies have argued that arbitration allows them a quicker path to resolving employee disputes beyond traditional courts. Workers effectively consent to the rules when they sign agreements requiring arbitration as a condition of their employment, as seen with Sterling’s contracts.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said in a report last year that mandatory arbitration policies ‘‘can prevent employees from learning about similar concerns shared by others in their workplace.’’

Ballou, who left the company in 2009, is hoping the case leads to more than back pay. Now 41, the single mother is back in school studying to become a registered nurse and working as an office manager for a real estate company, where she told The Post she ‘‘hasn’t encountered an inkling’’ of what she saw at Sterling.

‘‘What’s sad is that I was there for so long, it was almost like when someone is in an abusive relationship: You think that’s what normal is,’’ she told The Post.

‘‘I can’t even go into a Kay anymore. It just turns my stomach,’’ she added. ‘‘Even seeing those ‘Every Kiss Begins with Kay’ commercials revolts me, thinking of what’s behind them. All the good things they do, all the lovely things they promise. It’s a lie.’’

She told The Post she wanted to speak out in hopes that it could help other women, as well as her 8-year-old daughter.

‘‘I was a victim, and I didn’t have anyone to speak for me,’’ Ballou said. ‘‘As humiliating as it was, it was worth it, because now maybe it won’t happen to her.’’

--more--"

So what happened?

CES Show and After Party

The great thing is a bus with Google-funded Wi-Fi and Chromebook laptops on the seat backs takes you over to the arena:

"From vibrating pillowcases to smart pajama belts, sleep tech is flooding the market" by Megan Thielking, STAT

LAS VEGAS

At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, fake beds abound.

Companies from across the globe are clamoring to give attendees a chance to kick off their shoes and test out the latest in sleep technology. It’s hard to get too cozy with thousands of tech fanatics milling around the exhibit floor — but manufacturers are doing their darndest.

They’re showcasing snooze-inducing headphones and smart pillowcases, beds with built-in foot warmers, and belts that track every toss and turn. There are smart alarm clocks designed to make it as pleasant as possible to drag yourself out of bed on a Monday morning. There’s even an app that can record your snoringand everything you say in your sleep.

Well, if that isn't enough to keep you awake at night.

All of this is supposed to make you sleep better.

But it’s not clear what you’re supposed to do with all the data that these products generate.

I'm sure some agency or firm will find a u$e.

“There’s an inherent problem because the consumer world has come up with all these ways to monitor your body signals, but the clinical world didn’t come up with a way to answer all the questions it brings about,’’ said Michael Breus, a psychologist who specializes in sleep disorders.

Here’s a look at the gadgets hitting the sleep-tech market — and the evidence behind them:

Buckle in before bed?

Sleep trackers are growing more high-tech. Take 2breathe, a smart device that you’re supposed to strap around your waist before bed. The $180 device can sense your breathing and play tones to help you fall asleep, and it shuts off automatically when it senses you’re snoozing. It’s tied to an app that fills you in bright and early every morning on how you slept.

Or, at least, it shoves a bunch of data points at you.

“You got 18 percent REM sleep and 24 percent light sleep. So what?’’ said Breus, who also appears regularly as a sleep expert on “The Dr. Oz Show.’’

Clinicians in sleep medicine are asking the same question.

“Such devices may have a role in giving us some idea about how the night’s sleep was, but I am not sure if consumers can directly interpret the results,’’ said Dr. Gholam Motamedi, a neurologist at Georgetown University Medical Center who has studied sleep medicine.

There is limited evidence that wearable trackers can encourage users to get more sleep each night. One recent study of 565 drug company employees who used activity trackers for a year found that while users didn’t get more physical activity, they were sleeping an average of 30 minutes longer each night by the end of the year.

“People didn’t realize how little they were sleeping, and it wasn’t until it was in front of them and aggregated that they realized,’’ said Laura Pugliese, deputy director of innovation research at the New York-based Healthcare Innovation & Technology Lab and one of the study’s authors....

That's when I rolled back over.


--more--"

Related: "Fitbit, whose devices encourage people to walk 10,000 steps each day, now wants to put them to sleep as well. The company said data collected by the millions of Fitbit trackers in use show that people are averaging less than seven hours of sleep a night, the amount recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And the Z’s people do get aren’t necessarily the right kind of sleep. So Fitbit will offer deeper sleep tracking on some of its devices."

You know, you harping on the issue isn't going to help me fall asleep.

If you do happen to drag yourself out of the sack....

"Driverless cars get trade show treatment in Las Vegas" by Hiawatha Bray Globe Staff  January 04, 2017

LAS VEGAS — At one point, as the car began turning right on a preprogrammed route, a group of pedestrians started crossing, directly in the path of the vehicle. A human driver would halt his right turn, wait for the pedestrians to cross, and perhaps sigh with annoyance. The Ioniq did exactly the same, only with no complaints.

Why does he hate humans?

Related: "Two elderly women were struck and killed crossing a busy street in Sandwich on Cape Cod Monday afternoon, police said...." 

I'm glad his chauffeur didn't do that.

The car even knew when it was legal to make a right turn on a red light, which turns out to be a significant challenge. The only way to be sure is to rely on a map database that contains extremely detailed information about every road and intersection. The Ioniq prototype is a hybrid car, not a pure electric, which fends off another problem with self-driving cars — all those computers, cameras, and radars need a lot of juice....

That's when I pulled into the breakdown lane.

--more--"

You could call Uber, but maybe a bus would be better:

"MBTA app maker sued in San Francisco" by Hiawatha Bray Globe Staff  May 22, 2017

Elerts Corp. of Weymouth, which makes a “see something, say something” security app for riders of MBTA buses and trains, was hit by a class action lawsuit filed Monday in a San Francisco federal court. The plaintiff alleges that an Elerts app offered by the Bay Area Rapid Transit District can be used to track locations and identities of users without their permission.

Ed English, the chief executive of Elerts, said he’d first heard of the lawsuit when contacted by The Boston Globe, and therefore could not comment. But he added, “It’s certainly not our intention to track anybody.”

But?

Elerts supplies security apps to 12 US public transportation systems. These apps are supposed to let users anonymously report suspicious activity to transit police agencies. But Pamela Moreno, the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, claims that the San Francisco app collects the unique digital ID of the user’s cellphone and the phone’s location. It transmits this data at regular intervals, even when the phone’s owner is not using the app, according to the lawsuit. Armed with this information, BART can “de-anoymize” the data and find the true identities of app users, thereby violating their privacy.

The suit seeks damages in excess of $5 million.

--more--"

Do you take your chances with a bike or boat?

"At CES, the weird takes center stage" by Hiawatha Bray Globe Staff  January 05, 2017

LAS VEGAS — The oddest and most interesting new products on tap are imports from beyond the sea. In fact, all of them came from just two countries — China and France.

For instance, there’s the Kerastase Hair Coach, a smart hair brush from L’Oreal Group. It wouldn’t work on me, the booth lady told me in heavily accented English. My hair . . . it is too short. But she said that those with flowing locks could now brush their way to healthier, prettier hair.

The spokeswoman pointed proudly to a silvery disk in the center of the brush. A microphone, she said. It could tell the condition of a user’s hair just by listening to it as he brushes. There are also motion sensors that track how hard you brush and how many strokes you use. The brush handle vibrates if you’re doing it wrong. And a smartphone app lets you keep a permanent record of your hair brushing habits. How much? Somewhere around $200 when it goes on sale this fall. 

I think I'll shave my head, you know, the Michael Jordan look.

What is it with the French and brushes? A few yards from the Kerastase booth, a Parisian company called Kolibree displayed the Ara, an electric toothbrush with artificial intelligence. It’s not the first toothbrush that uses a Bluetooth connection to your smartphone to track brushing habits. But Kolibree claims the Ara’s sensors can detect if you’ve missed a few spots. A smartphone display shows every insufficiently brushed tooth in your head, highlighted in a nasty yellowish-brown that’ll send you scrambling back to the bathroom.

Well, I don't want to be so self absorbed with my appearance, and now I have to stop brushing.

It seems a bit much, but at $129, the Ara is in the same price range as other fancy dental devices.

Putting the dentists out of business.

Related: "Nelson Wood’s attempt to do the right thing — for himself but also, he believes, for his patients — has collided with an unnerving reality: Opioids are ingrained in the culture of dentistry, and his decision has been bad for business. Wood’s story is a case study of the pressures dentists face to prescribe potent pain pills, even as research shows most of their patients would do just fine with over-the-counter medications...."

My favorite odd product from France is Eugene, a barcode scanner you attach to a wall in your home, directly above the trash can. That’s right: you scan your trash as you throw it away.

 And your carbon tax based on refuse comes to.... XXX.

This one only sounds crazy. With Eugene, an app on your smartphone keeps track of the packaged foods your family is eating, so you can track your consumption of salt, sugar, or fat. Eugene uses your discards to create shopping lists — yes, you did use up all the laundry detergent — and lets you instantly order more from Amazon or other online retailers. It even tells you whether your empty packages should be recycled.

But it has its limits. Eugene won’t read the label on a package of ground beef or that bunch of bananas you bought, so it can’t track your family’s consumption of fresh fruits, vegetables, or meats.

Still, strange as it seems, Eugene could catch on with the millions who are careful about what they eat and what they throw away. It’s expected to hit American shores by year’s end, at a price of about $100. 

You throw away food? I will if it's rotted, but other than that I choke down corporate gruel rather than waste food. There are people on this planet dying of starvation every day and they throw away food in the land of plenty.

Someday they will regret the waste.

Drones have been a fixture at CES for several years, and by now they should be boring, but not just yet. 

Oh, they no longer buzz and whine so you can snooze right through it?

Zero Zero Robotics of Beijing captured my attention with its Hover Camera Passport, a $600 drone that hangs in the air shooting super-sharp 4K video or high-resolution still images. The Passport can be manually steered through a smartphone app, but it’s also got an “auto-follow” setting that lets it recognize the face and body of the user and follow him around, shooting pictures all the while. Think of it as a flying selfie stick.

OMG!

The $elf-ab$orption being pushed here (as well as the ancillary spying) is di$gu$ting (investors are bulli$h).

But the strangest drone here does its hovering underwater. The PowerRay from China’s PowerVision Group might be the weirdest fishing accessory since Dan Aykroyd pitched the Super Bass-O-Matic blender on “Saturday Night Live.” It’s a sleek, science-fictiony looking thing that can dive as deep as 98 feet, while remaining connected to the surface through an electronic tether. The fisherman steers it with a smartphone or tablet, or with a set of virtual reality goggles.

Didn't China find one of those things and scramble ships and planes before handing it back over to the U.S.? The U.S. sent a battleship in response, but it broke down (Cleopatra!) in the Panama Canal. You know, it's hit or miss.

The PowerRay can transmit 4K video, or readouts from an integrated fish-finder that can be popped out and used separately. It’s also got a nose-mounted attachment where the fisherman can hang a baited hook. Now he can steer the drone straight for the nearest school of fish, and record a video of some poor salmon getting an unwanted invitation to dinner.

Bizarre? You bet. But the PowerRay would also make a fine tool for nonviolent underwater photography, or for scientific research. But you’d better apply for a grant first. The company hasn’t officially announced a price yet, but a man at the CES booth reckoned that it will sell for between $2,000 and $3,000.

So far, Europe and Asia are out front in the CES oddball sweepstakes, but the show’s just getting started. By week’s end, I expect plenty of striking new gadgets stamped “Made in America.” Either that, or I’m calling the White House....

They won't answer.

--more--"

"Local companies pitch the next big tech thing" by Hiawatha Bray Globe Staff  January 06, 2017

LAS VEGAS — Will Graylin’s already had his share of success. A couple of years ago he came to CES with LoopPay, a system to let people use their smartphones to make credit card payments. Samsung Corp. bought the company and used the technology to create the Samsung Pay service on the company’s Galaxy S line of smartphones.

Graylin is still a general manager of Samsung Pay. But he’s also executive chairman of ONvocal, a Northborough startup that’s created what Graylin calls “a wearable voice assistant.” 

Samsung? What else you got?

The device, OV, is a sleek Bluetooth wireless headset that works with Amazon.com’s Alexa speech control system. Alexa connects to a home’s computer network and the Internet, and it lets users control many common devices — audio equipment, TVs, heating and air conditioning systems, even cars — with simple verbal commands.

And leaves you open to hackers, or so we are told.

OV lets users issue any of these commands by touching a button and speaking. So this headset does a lot more than play music. A user can start his car remotely, turn off the television, and lower the thermostat to 68, just by saying the words. And OV also works with two other popular speech control systems, Apple’s Siri and Alphabet Inc.’s Google Now.

OV, at $399, goes on sale this month.

A much bigger local company, Boston’s Liberty Mutual Group, came to Las Vegas last year with RightTrack, a system that lets the insurer track their customers’ driving habits with an electronic device plugged into their cars. Customers who drive slower and more carefully are entitled to cheaper rates.

This year, Liberty Mutual wants to make safe driving a game that anybody can play. The company’s new HighwayHero app is a free download for Apple and Android devices. The app uses the phone’s motion detection chips to measure speed, acceleration, and braking, to determine whether the user is driving carefully. Users can compete with each other in local competitions to choose the safest driver in that community. In 16 US states — not including Massachusetts — Liberty Mutual will reward the safest drivers with lower insurance rates.

Here's my stop (it sold for how much?)-- as profits faltered the chief executive of Liberty Mutual, earned nearly $17 million (good thing they rebounded while cutting back).

WiTricity Corp. of Watertown, a maker of wireless battery charging systems, has worked with computer giant Dell Technologies to make a laptop that never needs plugging into a power outlet. The Dell Latitude 7285 incorporates WiTricity’s AirFuel system, so its battery can be recharged simply by placing the laptop on an AirFuel charging pad.

Last month, WiTricity struck a deal with General Motors to develop car-sized charging pads for feeding wireless power to electric cars.

Immedia Inc., a microchip design company in Andover, scored a major hit last year with Blink, a high-resolution Internet-linked home security camera powered by two standard AA batteries. The company says it’s sold 250,000 of them so far. At CES, Immedia has introduced a stack of new devices in a bid to become a full-service provider of home security hardware.

These include a weatherproof outdoor version of the original Blink camera; entry sensors to protect doors and windows; a keypad to arm or disarm the system; moisture sensors to detect plumbing or roof leaks; and a control hub that connects the Blink devices to a cellular data network and has battery backup in case of power outages. A starter kit of Blink products costs $339, plus an additional $19.95 monthly fee to have a security company monitor the user’s home.

I just blinked, did I miss something?

Perhaps the most unusual offering from Greater Boston comes from Cambridge Sound Management, an 18-year-old company in Woburn that makes sound generation gear to suppress unwanted noises. Many business offices use such equipment to hide distracting sounds and help workers concentrate.

Now Cambridge Sound Management has created its first product for the home. Nightingale is a $249 system that features two audio devices that are plugged into a room’s electrical outlets. Together they generate a “sound blanket” that suppresses outside noise by flooding the room with waves of peaceful sound.

Now THAT is what all the people standing under American bombs need!

Each Nightingale can be programmed to suit the acoustic qualities of a particular room. And multiple devices can be installed throughout the house and controlled through a smartphone app. The Nightingale can also be integrated with popular smart home devices such as the Amazon Echo, allowing users to turn it on and off with voice commands.

It’s a pretty elaborate answer to the quest for a good night’s sleep. But Cambridge Sound Management hopes it’s exactly what restless people have been waiting for....

Still searching.

--more--"

Related:

"Samsung Monday officially revealed Bixby, its new voice assistant and Siri rival. Bixby will debut on the Samsung Galaxy S8, which the firm is unveiling later in March, the company said in a blog post. Samsung has voice recognition, called S Voice, on its Samsung phones, but analysts have been expecting a more sophisticated AI since last year. Bixby can control your phone more thoroughly than other voice assistants. According to Samsung’s post, Bixby should let you operate compatible apps completely by voice. Bixby also shouldn’t get confused if you want to mix and match voice and touch controls. In plainer English, it sounds like Bixby is also supposed to be more conversational. If it can’t understand the way you’ve phrased a request, Samsung said, it will do what it can, and then ask follow-up questions. That way, users don’t have to phrase things perfectly to be understood. Siri can sometimes provoke rage when you’re asking it to do something complex — only to get a, ‘‘Sorry, I missed that’’ in return. Of course, we won’t know how well any of this works until Bixby’s public debut on the S8 next week. But if Samsung can deliver the big promises it has made, it would offer far more to users than Siri does...."

Does it spy on you like their TVs?

It's a "new arms race in Internet access."

"And now, a second act for film and vinyl" by Hiawatha Bray Globe Staff  January 19, 2017

Most of us were perfectly happy when vinyl records and cassette tapes gave way to CDs, MP3s, and streaming music, and digital cameras overtook film. The electronic substitutes are easier to use and cheaper too, but increasingly consumers are willing to put up with the messy imperfections of analog media over the cool precision of digital. They’ve come to enjoy the clicks and pops of a worn phonograph record, or the flamboyant, exaggerated colors of images captured on celluloid instead of silicon. There’s also something of a retro-cool factor at work, and increasingly tracking down old albums or seeing movies in original film format is a social thing among friends....

That's when I skipped to the next song.

--more--"

Hey, I'm walking here:

"Many police officers say they don’t bother citing jaywalkers. Technically, they could be arrested for disorderly conduct but no self-respecting cop would bother taking the time to book someone for such an offense, said one city police officer who has been cursed at for chiding jaywalkers on Causeway Street...."

Better pick up the pace:

"New Balance steps into the fit tech world with $300 smartwatch" by Hiawatha Bray Globe Staff  January 10, 2017

It’s a smartwatch called RunIQ, powered by chips from Intel Corp. and software from Alphabet Inc., parent company of Google. Introduced last week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the RunIQ, which goes on sale in February, is just the first in an upcoming family of digital products to help elite athletes record and analyze every aspect of their workouts.

Market leader Fitbit of San Francisco makes slim wrist bands that are priced from $60 to $250 and can track a runner’s speed, distance, and heart rate. Fitbit has 23 percent of the global market, according to IDC. Tech giant Samsung is heavily marketing its latest version of Gear Fit 2, a $130 device with similar capabilities.

Meanwhile the higher end of the wearables market hasn’t taken off. Apple and Google had gambled that the next big thing in consumer tech gadgetry would be the smartwatch — a wrist-mounted, touchscreen-controlled computer for the wrist, stuffed with many of the same features found on smartphones — and priced their products in the same league as the New Balance RunIQ, $300 and up, but the Apple Watch accounted for less than 5 percent of the global market for wearable devices, and the tech giant reported selling 1.1 million watches in the third quarter of 2016.

New Balance said it is targeting RunIQ at serious runners who want to get better and are willing to pay a premium price for a smartwatch that helps them do it.

“We looked at the marketplace,” New Balance executive vice president Chris Ladd said, “and realized there’s a huge hole.”

Just twisted an ankle!

--more--"

And now we are off and running....

"At 70, Schwarzman parties with camels, cake, and Trump’s entourage" by Amanda Gordon Bloomberg News  February 14, 2017

NEW YORK — There were camels in the sand, a gondolier in the pool, a giant birthday cake in the shape of a Chinese temple — and Gwen Stefani to help sing ‘‘Happy Birthday’’ at midnight.

Blackstone CEO Steve Schwarzman’s 70th birthday party Saturday in Palm Beach, Fla., was a memorable affair, according to guests who attended.

‘‘You walked into what used to be the tennis court, and there was a balcony with trapeze artists,’’ art dealer Larry Gagosian said. ‘‘The level of detail and creativity, it was extraordinary. Steve loves parties.’’

Guests said they were impressed by the production by the event-design firm Van Wyck & Van Wyck, whose clients have included Madonna, Calvin Klein, and David Koch for his own 70th.

‘‘It was brilliantly stimulating,’’ Koch said. ‘‘You learned a lot about Asian theater. There were acrobats, Mongolian soldiers, and two camels. It was a little bit of everything.’’

The guest list also was a little bit of everything, reflecting the billionaire’s vast personal, professional, philanthropic, and, increasingly, White House connections.

Representing President Donald Trump’s sphere were daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner and incoming cabinet members Steve Mnuchin, Wilbur Ross, and Elaine Chao.

A decade ago, Schwarzman’s lavish 60th birthday bash in Manhattan was highly chronicled, later becoming a symbol of Wall Street’s excess just before the financial crisis wiped away almost $10 trillion in market value. This time, it was far removed from the media, tucked behind security to keep out would-be protesters. But comparisons are still possible.

Last time: The cavernous Park Avenue Armory, built for military drills and society balls during the first Gilded Age. This time: Schwarzman’s own house on what’s come to be called an American Riviera.

Last time: Patti LaBelle and Rod Stewart. This time: Stefani did a set and afterward danced with Schwarzman, and ‘‘Jersey Boys’’ performers sang Frankie Valli songs.

Last time: There were moments that felt like a roast. This time: A video focused on his philanthropic endeavors. The party was ‘‘a warm and wonderful reflection of Steve’s generous support’’ of education, said Richard Levin, the former president of Yale. ‘‘His friends take pleasure in the good work that he is doing for children, institutions, and global harmony.’’

Last time: Remember that beautiful fur coat on Melania Trump? It was New York in February, on a weeknight. This time: No bundling required, with many folks golfing and swimming all day before a balmy night and fireworks alongside a full moon.

Bank bosses present included Jes Staley of Barclays and Michael Corbat of Citigroup. Investing titans Henry Kravis, David Rubenstein, and Howard Marks paid respects.

Also present were philanthropic recipients and leaders, and Olympians whose training Schwarzman sponsored. Susan George, executive director of the Inner-City Scholarship Fund, and Nigel Thrift, executive director of the Schwarzman Scholars program, were there.

And for some glamour: Donatella Versace, Sloan Barnett in Yves Saint Laurent, Jean Pigozzi who came up from Panama, Nicolas Berggruen, the Hiltons, Philippe Dauman, and Francois Delattre, France’s representative to the United Nations.

The president was staying nearby at his own seaside estate turned private club, Mar-a-Lago, but didn’t attend. Many people, it seems, needed a little Palm Beach respite.

‘‘The world is an uncertain place, a lot of people are unhappy with a lot of other people, there are a lot of things that people are upset about,’’ said Marks, of Oaktree Capital. ‘‘So it’s nice to have an evening where everybody’s happy, harmonious, and upbeat.’’

Yes, life is nice when you are a member off the privileged and elite cla$$.

--more--"

Did you see who couldn't make it?

Others on the gue$t li$t:

"List of billionaires includes a few locals" by Mark Shanahan Globe Staff  March 21, 2017

The rich are getting richer, and if you don’t believe us just check out Forbes.com’s new list of the world’s billionaires.

(Blog editor rai$es gla$$, takes $wig, rai$es gla$$ again while roaring)

The number of people with 10- to 11-figure fortunes now stands at 2,043, which is 233 more than last year. There are a lot of familiar names on the list, including Microsoft’s Bill Gates, who ranks as the world’s wealthiest human with $86 billion in the bank. (That’s $9 billion more than Gates had last year.) Other names you might recognize include Berkshire Hathaway’s Warren Buffett ($75.6 billion) Amazon.com’s Jeff Bezos ($72.8 billion), and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg ($56 billion.)

Buffet just ate here and Zuckerberg has been in Maine.

More than a few of these fabulously rich folks have local ties, including Medford native and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose $47.5 billion in the bank is good enough for 10th on the list. Dorchester-bred casino magnate Sheldon Adelson ranks 20th, with $30.4 billion, and Fidelity’s Abigail Johnson is 75th, with a fortune of $14.4 billion. Boston Latin School alum and former Viacom CEO Sumner Redstone is No. 288 on the list with $5.4 billion, while Jim Davis, boss of the Boston-based sneaker company New Balance, is No. 315, with $5.1 billion. Owners of Boston sports teams also make the list: Pats poobah Robert Kraft is tied for 315th, with $5.1 billion, and Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs is No. 402, with a fortune estimated at $4.3 billion.

Lower on the list is Red Sox/Boston Globe owner John Henry, whose $2.5 billion is good enough for 814th; Seth Klarman of Baupost Group at No. 1,376 with $1.5 billion; car dealer Herb Chambers at No 1,567 with $1.3 billion; and Sunbeam TV’s Ed Ansin at No. 1,678 with $1.2 billion.

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I'm $ure they threw plenty of money around:

"KKR gets record $13.9 billion for North American buyout fund" by Melissa Mittelman Bloomberg News  March 07, 2017

NEW YORK — KKR & Co. amassed $13.9 billion for its latest private equity fund, the most ever raised for a buyout pool focused on North America.

The firm gathered the maximum $12.5 billion agreed to with investors and added $1.4 billion from its balance sheet and employees, according to a statement Monday from New York-based KKR. The fund, its 12th focused on the region, will target traditional buyouts as well as minority stakes, growth investments, and toe-hold positions in public companies, KKR said.

Private equity firms raised $589 billion of capital in 2016, according to Bain & Co.’s global private equity report published last week. While that’s 2 percent less than in 2015, the industry has continued to raise more than $500 billion every year since 2013 as investors seek to redeploy money returned to them from profitable buyout deals.

Advent International finished collecting $13 billion last year after just six months in the market, topping its $10.8 billion predecessor fund. Thoma Bravo, which focuses on software and technology investments, closed on $7.6 billion in September, double the size of its previous fund. And software-focused Vista Equity Partners has received billions of dollars in demand beyond the $8 billion target for its latest fund, people with knowledge of the process have said.

Big buyout firms aren’t showing signs of slowing down. Silver Lake is seeking $12.5 billion for its fifth main fund, people familiar with the matter said in December, and Apollo Global Management LLC has started collecting commitments for its next global private equity fund, which is expected to match or exceed the size of its current $18.4 billion pool. Meanwhile Carlyle Group LP executives have said they plan to raise $100 billion for various funds from 2016 to 2019, while KKR’s new pool is the biggest ever focused on North America....

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Did you see the paintings on the wall?

The talk of the party:

"‘Hamilton’ Ponzi schemers’ victims said to include Dell, Tudor Jones" by Bloomberg News  February 07, 2017

NEW YORK — When US officials busted a Ponzi scheme that centered on marked-up tickets to the hit Broadway musical ‘‘Hamilton’’ last month, prosecutors described phone calls about a ‘‘big name’’ investor who’d demanded his money back.

As it turns out, there were several big names, including billionaires Paul Tudor Jones and Michael Dell, among the 125 people who had unwittingly poured cash into the sprawling scam, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

What, were they turned away at the door?

The ringleaders would encourage patrons to put money in a pool to buy blocks of tickets for the hottest concerts and plays, the government said. The most prominent was ‘‘Hamilton,’’ whose popularity pushed prices to the highest in Broadway history. Victims were promised their money back and at least a 10 percent profit.

Isn't that called ticket $calping?

It’s rare that any Ponzi scheme ensnares business luminaries so highly skilled in the art of scrutinizing investment pitches. But to veteran securities lawyers, the case has some of the hallmarks of an affinity fraud such as Bernard Madoff’s — in which a con man’s familiarity can help instill trust.

Or the election of a president?

‘‘When the promise of a quick buck is being made by someone you socialize with, it’s all the more tempting.’’ said Paul Ryan, a former Securities and Exchange Commission attorney. Still, ‘‘the idea that there were blocks of Hamilton tickets available for purchase should have been a giveaway.’’

Three men have been charged. One is Joseph Meli, a New York event promoter and Hamptons socialite who once ran a $3,000-a-ticket concert series in the enclave. His codefendant, Steven Simmons, was allegedly the middleman tasked with raising money from investors for hedge funds. A third, Mark Varacchi, pleaded guilty to fraud on Wednesday.

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Now all you need to do is find a bed for the night.