Barnes & Noble reviewing offers to buy company
By CATHY BUSSEWITZ
AP Business Writer
Thursday, October 4
NEW YORK (AP) — Barnes and Noble is weighing its options after several parties expressed interest in buying the struggling bookseller.
The company said Wednesday that its board appointed a special committee to review the offers, including one from its founder and chairman, Leonard Riggio, who is credited with turning Barnes & Noble into a bookselling giant.
Shares in New York-based Barnes & Noble Inc. stock shot up 23 percent in after-hours trading following the announcement. They had closed Wednesday down 30 percent for the past year.
Once demonized for killing off local bookstores with its superstores, Barnes & Noble has been struggling in recent years with competition from Amazon and changing consumer preferences.
“If they can pull something out to save the company that would be great, but they have a real uphill climb,” said Craig Johnson, president of Customer Growth Partners. “They’ve hung in there despite Amazon and all the rest of it. But the bookstore that solely sells books and periodicals is unfortunately a relic of the past.”
Despite the strong headwinds facing brick and mortar retailers, some analysts believe there’s still a place for bookstores in readers’ hearts.
“Consumers want unique experiences and escapes — we think they are finding that in independent bookstores,” said David Schick, managing partner at Consumer Edge Research. “Consumers want to feel a connection to their stores. We do believe Barnes & Noble can make some enhancements that could matter, but it will take time and investment.”
According to FactSet, Riggio owns 19 percent of the company and is its largest shareholder. He said he will vote in favor of any transaction recommended by the committee.
Riggio served as CEO from when Barnes & Noble was founded in 1986 through 2002 and then again from late 2016 through April 2017.
Whoever buys the company will have to find a way to bring something more to the table besides selling books, which are often available cheaper elsewhere, Johnson said.
“If it is Riggio, if he had some secret sauce to reinvent the bookstore for the 21st century, why hasn’t he done that in his time there?” Johnson asked.
The company also says it’s adopting a shareholder rights plan after noticing an unidentified party or parties rapidly accumulating its stock. The so-called poison-pill plans are often used by companies to defend themselves against hostile takeovers by diluting the value of a would-be acquirer’s investment.
Amazon to cut bonuses, stock benefits as it raises wages
By JOSEPH PISANI
AP Retail Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — Amazon made a big splash this week with its $15 an hour minimum wage announcement, but lost in the fine print: Existing warehouse workers will no longer receive stock in the company or collect bonuses.
The online giant says next month it will end bonuses, which paid workers extra based on their attendance and warehouse productivity, as it boosts its minimum wage.
Amazon will also phase out its restricted stock unit program, which gave shares to workers if they stayed with Amazon for a certain amount of years. Amazon says it will replace it with a program next year that will allow workers to buy stock, but didn’t provide details.
Amazon.com Inc. says “compensation will be more immediate and predictable” with the changes.
The company said its other benefits, such as 401(k) retirement accounts and health insurance, were not changed.
Houston City Council short circuits proposed robot brothel
By JUAN A. LOZANO
HOUSTON (AP) — A Canadian company’s plan to open a so-called robot brothel in Houston has been short circuited by city leaders.
Houston’s City Council on Wednesday updated one local ordinance to specifically ban individuals from having sex with an “anthropomorphic device,” a device that resembles a human being, at a sexually-oriented business. But the change wouldn’t ban the company from selling the dolls for use elsewhere.
The company, KinkySdollS, had previously said it wants to open a “love dolls brothel” in Houston in which people would be able to use its human-like dolls at a business that has drawn comparisons to the robotic hosts on the science fiction series “Westworld.”
It would have been the company’s second location. The first location opened in 2017 in Toronto. On its web site, the company says it provides an “adult love dolls rent before you buy service.”
On its web site, KinkySdollS says its human-like dolls, which can speak and feel warm to the touch, are available for sale or rent. The dolls can cost more than $3,000 each.
KinkySdollS, didn’t immediately return emails seeking comment Wednesday.
Before the City Council unanimously approved the change to the ordinance, council member Greg Travis called the proposed robot brothel “weird” and “gross.”
Travis said he believed that most residents don’t want the business to open in Houston.
“We are not sin city,” Travis said.
Officials said they are not trying to legislate morality with the updated ordinance.
Mayor Sylvester Turner said a business could sell such robotic devices but individuals couldn’t use them at the premises before buying them.
“We want businesses to come. But then they’re some that we say, ‘You know it’s fine if you go someplace else,’” said Turner, who has been part of a chorus of local leaders and community groups that have pushed back against the robot brothel, which would have been the first such business in the U.S.
Elijah Rising, a Houston-based nonprofit focused on ending sex trafficking, has started a Change.org petition asking that the business be kept out of the city. The petition has received more than 13,500 signatures.
The city ordinance that was updated deals with the regulation of adult arcades and adult mini-theatres in Houston and classifies a robot as an arcade device.
Turner said the change in the ordinance was not targeted at any one particular business but targeted “at this type of behavior than any business of this kind would engage in.”
Houston has long had a culture that’s resistant to regulation and remains the only major U.S. city without zoning. Turner has said that this lack of zoning might have been one of the reasons why the owners of the robot brothel thought to try to open it in Houston.
Construction of the site for the proposed robot brothel had already begun but was stopped after city inspectors visited the location and determined the business owners didn’t have the proper permits, Houston’s public works department said last week.
The business has made no attempts to purchase permits for the construction work that occurred previously, but all work has stopped, Houston public works department spokeswoman Erin Jones said in an email Wednesday.
Follow Juan A. Lozano on Twitter at www.twitter.com/juanlozano70
Butte’s historic Dumas Brothel auctioned for $29K
BUTTE, Mont. (AP) — The historic Dumas Brothel in Uptown Butte has been sold at a tax deed auction for $29,000.
The Montana Standard reports David and Charlee Prince, who own a construction company in Forsyth, were the highest bidders Wednesday.
The auction, with an opening bid of $10,100, was held because the previous owner owed more than $5,800 in back taxes on the property.
The Princes, who described themselves as history buffs who dabble in ghost hunting, say they aren’t sure what they are going to do with the property, but they plan to maintain its historic nature.
They were in town this week when they heard about the sale.
The Dumas Brothel was the longest operating brothel in the United States when it was shut down in 1982. It opened in 1890.
Information from: The Montana Standard, http://www.mtstandard.com
The Columbus Symphony presents SPACED OUT: A SCI-FI MOVIE MUSIC SPECTACULAR!
Saturday, November 17, 8 pm
Ohio Theatre (39 E. State St.)
This musical celebration of sci-fi film favorites includes selections from Star Wars, Back to the Future, The Incredibles, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Strauss’ mighty Also sprach Zarathustra (used in 2001: A Space Odyssey), and more. Tickets are $26-$69 and can be purchased at the CAPA Ticket Center (39 E. State St.), all Ticketmaster outlets, and www.ticketmaster.com. To purchase tickets by phone, please call (614) 469-0939 or (800) 745-3000. www.columbussymphony.com
ICYMI: Rob Richardson out-raises Republican opponent in penultimate filing deadline
Wednesday, October 3, 2018
COLUMBUS, OH – Today, Democratic nominee for Ohio Treasurer Rob Richardson announced yet another filing amount surpassing his Republican opponent, State Rep. Robert Sprague. Richardson raised $203,777.42 to Sprague’s $161,60200. This puts Richardson at a roughly 2:1 advantage when it comes to cash on hand, with $1,422,461.71 to Sprague’s $625,443.71.
“We’re very proud of our numbers today, which are indicative of the continued support we’ve received from people who want to see real accountability in government” said Richardson’s Campaign Manager, Chris Myers. “We’ve continued to pick up steam going into the home stretch, and I’m confident the trend will continue up until election day.”
Rob Richardson is a former chairman of the University of Cincinnati Board of Trustees, where he established the U.C. Scholars Academy for students in the Cincinnati Public School District. He also founded the first Next Lives Here Innovation Summit and led the development of the 1819 Innovation Hub where students, faculty, and staff collaborate with entrepreneurs, startups, and others in the private sector.
Richardson has been a longtime advocate for workers as a marketing construction representative. He also serves “of counsel” with the law firm Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings, where he practices in securities litigation.
Voting Rights Advocates Urge Election Officials to Fund Early Voting Ads
October 4, 2018
Election Board’s abrupt decision to abandon plans for ads does a disservice to voters
COLUMBUS — A coalition of Ohio voting rights organizations sent a letter today to the Franklin County Board of Elections, encouraging officials to reconsider their sudden move to pull back funding for television and radio advertising promoting the Nov. 6 general election and opportunities to vote early before Election Day. The board deadlocked on a proposal to spend up to $275,000 on advertising, a reversal in recent trends. In 2014 and 2016, the board spent $658,000 and $325,000, respectively.
“At a time when many voters may be confused about where to find credible, accurate information about their voting rights, the Franklin County Board of Elections’ role in public education is critical,” said Mike Brickner, Ohio State Director for All Voting is Local. “Misinformation can spread easily, and elections officials are uniquely positioned to ensure voters know their rights.”
“One of the most common reasons voters are disenfranchised is due to confusion over the rules and deadlines,” said Camille Wimbish, election administration director, Ohio Voter Rights Coalition. “The board spent more than twice as much in the last gubernatorial election than what was proposed at their board meeting. To completely defund advertising leaves a massive hole in voter education efforts.”
“Our democracy is strengthened through strong voter turnout, but first voters need clear information on electoral logistics,” said Jennifer Miller, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Ohio. “Empowering and educating voters is money well spent, and we encourage Franklin County to continue such outreach this election.”
Groups note in their letter that media coverage often focuses on campaigns and issues — not on the rules and deadlines for voting. Meanwhile, partisan groups and campaigns often focus their efforts on voters in their political party, meaning independent, third-party, and infrequent voters could be most disadvantaged by the board’s decision.
Infrequent voters who have missed at least one election may not have received an absentee ballot application from Secretary of State Jon Husted. The coalition estimates that there may be as many as 162,000 such voters in Franklin County.
About the Ohio Voter Rights Coalition
The Ohio Voting Rights Coalition (OVRC) is a non-partisan network of local, state, and national voting advocates. Members supporting this proposal include: ACLU of Ohio, Advancement Project, All Voting is Local Ohio, Council on American-Islamic Relations Ohio—Columbus Chapter, Common Cause Ohio, Fair Elections Center, League of Women Voters of Ohio, Northeast Ohio Voter Advocates, and Policy Matters Ohio.
All Voting is Local fights for the right to vote through a unique combination of data-driven organizing, advocacy and communications. It is a collaborative campaign housed at The Leadership Conference Education Fund, in conjunction with Access Democracy; the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation; the American Constitution Society; the Campaign Legal Center; and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
Central Ohio students to create video documentary for education conference
COLUMBUS — Students from Chillicothe City Schools have been selected to produce a video documentary of the upcoming Ohio School Boards Association (OSBA) Capital Conference and Trade Show. The annual statewide education conference, Nov. 11-13, draws more than 9,000 public education stakeholders to the Greater Columbus Convention Center.
The Chillicothe High School students gain real-world experience by filming conference events and conducting interviews with attendees, speakers, OSBA leaders and others before producing a 10-minute documentary, which will be streamed on OSBA’s website (www.ohioschoolboards.org) and used to promote the conference.
Instructor Vanessa George leads the Chillicothe students in the Pickaway-Ross Career & Technology Center’s media arts program. Students not only produce shows in the studio but also film athletic events, including instant replays on the scoreboard at football games, and other school activities.
The student’s work is seen on Horizon Cable TV and YouTube at http://links.ohioschoolboards.org/89764.
In April, the students’ Cavs News won first place in the News Cast category at the annual Student EMPixx Awards at Ohio University’s Southern campus. Around 200 students from 10 area high schools competed for awards.
“Pickaway-Ross Career & Technology Center is proud of the accomplishments of Ms. George and her students, as they continue to weave in real-world experiences to round out the high-quality training the students receive,” Superintendent Dennis L. Franks said.
“In career-technical education, we encourage the partnership with the business community and incorporate actual work-based examples to help drive home concepts learned in the classroom. This opportunity to work with OSBA is just another fine example of the work we encourage for our students and reinforces the opportunities a career-technical education has for our students.”
In its 63rd year, the Ohio School Boards Association leads the way to educational excellence by serving Ohio’s public school board members and the diverse districts they represent through superior service, unwavering advocacy and creative solutions.
New materials are powering the battery revolution
October 4, 2018
Research is finding better ways to make batteries both big and small.
Assistant Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, North Carolina State University
Veronica Augustyn receives funding from the National Science Foundation, Department of Energy, and Research Corporation for Science Advancement.
North Carolina State University provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
There are more mobile phones in the world than there are people. Nearly all of them are powered by rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, which are the single most important component enabling the portable electronics revolution of the past few decades. None of those devices would be attractive to users if they didn’t have enough power to last at least several hours, without being particularly heavy.
Lithium-ion batteries are also useful in larger applications, like electric vehicles and smart-grid energy storage systems. And researchers’ innovations in materials science, seeking to improve lithium-ion batteries, are paving the way for even more batteries with even better performance. There is already demand forming for high-capacity batteries that won’t catch fire or explode. And many people have dreamed of smaller, lighter batteries that charge in minutes – or even seconds – yet store enough energy to power a device for days.
Researchers like me, though, are thinking even more adventurously. Cars and grid-storage systems would be even better if they could be discharged and recharged tens of thousands of times over many years, or even decades. Maintenance crews and customers would love batteries that could monitor themselves and send alerts if they were damaged or no longer functioning at peak performance – or even were able to fix themselves. And it can’t be too much to dream of dual-purpose batteries integrated into the structure of an item, helping to shape the form of a smartphone, car or building while also powering its functions.
All that may become possible as my research and others’ help scientists and engineers become ever more adept at controlling and handling matter at the scale of individual atoms.
For the most part, advances in energy storage will rely on the continuing development of materials science, pushing the limits of performance of existing battery materials and developing entirely new battery structures and compositions.
The battery industry is already working to reduce the cost of lithium-ion batteries, including by removing expensive cobalt from their positive electrodes, called cathodes. This would also reduce the human cost of these batteries, because many mines in Congo, the world’s leading source of cobalt, use children to do difficult manual labor.
Researchers are finding ways to replace the cobalt-containing materials with cathodes made mostly of nickel. Eventually they may be able to replace the nickel with manganese. Each of those metals is cheaper, more abundant and safer to work with than its predecessor. But they come with a trade-off, because they have chemical properties that shorten their batteries’ lifetimes.
Researchers are also looking at replacing the lithium ions that shuttle between the two electrodes with ions and electrolytes that may be cheaper and potentially safer, like those based on sodium, magnesium, zinc or aluminum.
My research group looks at the possibilities of using two-dimensional materials, essentially extremely thin sheets of substances with useful electronic properties. Graphene is perhaps the best-known of these – a sheet of carbon just one atom thick. We want to see whether stacking up layers of various two-dimensional materials and then infiltrating the stack with water or other conductive liquids could be key components of batteries that recharge very quickly.
Looking inside the battery
It’s not just new materials expanding the world of battery innovation: New equipment and methods also let researchers see what’s happening inside batteries much more easily than was once possible.
In the past, researchers ran a battery through a particular charge-discharge process or number of cycles, and then removed the material from the battery and examined it after the fact. Only then could scholars learn what chemical changes had happened during the process and infer how the battery actually worked and what affected its performance.
X-rays generated by a synchotron can illuminate the inner workings of a battery. CLS Research Office/flickr, CC BY-SA
But now, researchers can watch battery materials as they undergo the energy storage process, analyzing even their atomic structure and composition in real time. We can use sophisticated spectroscopy techniques, such as X-ray techniques available with a type of particle accelerator called a synchrotron – as well as electron microscopes and scanning probes – to watch ions move and physical structures change as energy is stored in and released from materials in a battery.
Those methods let researchers like me imagine new battery structures and materials, make them and see how well – or not – they work. That way, we’ll be able to keep the battery materials revolution going.
Lee Chen: With regard to “Cars and grid-storage systems would be even better if they could be discharged and recharged tens of thousands of times over many years, or even decades.” there are proponents of large-scale (one or two farad) capacitor use as vehicle batteries whom are easily found on youtube. Some of them have been demonstrating this use for several years already. I would have done so myself had I still an experimental vehicle to test the idea upon.
James Zesch: The battery industry is already working to reduce the cost of lithium-ion batteries, including by removing expensive cobalt from their positive electrodes, called cathodes.