9.28.2016

Fentanyl: From China to the Heartland




For Small-Town Cops, Opioid Scourge Hits Close to Home

Excerpt:


Fentanyl is supercharging the longstanding problem of drugs in small towns. Police, forensic labs and prosecutors are struggling to identify and safely intercept new narcotics that can sicken or kill anyone who handles them, and to combat trafficking networks that sometimes extend many hours away. Death rates from overdoses are now higher in rural areas than in big cities, reversing a historic trend.

“It’s hard to imagine how it could have gotten worse than the heroin we were dealing with,” says Brad Schimel, Wisconsin’s Attorney General. But “the fentanyl has taken this to a new level.”

Fentanyl and other synthetic opioids aren’t just more powerful than heroin, they are cheaper and easier to produce, made from chemicals instead of fields of poppies. Nationwide, 13,882 drug seizures tested positive for fentanyl in 2015, more than double the 2014 number, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.
...

While Appalachia and the Northeast have been hardest hit by the new opioids, the upper Midwest is also reeling. On the other side of a bridge from Superior, in northern Minnesota, police working for a tri-county task force have intercepted 64.5 grams of fentanyl so far in the third quarter, enough of the deadly narcotic to kill 32,000 people, up from 12 grams in the second quarter. Officials in and around Fargo, N.D., are grappling with a rash of fentanyl-related overdoses this year, including among high-school students who were snorting the drug through nasal-spray bottles.

In some cases U.S. dealers or addicts are ordering fentanyl or chemically similar drugs online, directly from suppliers in China, which the DEA says produces much of the world’s synthetic opioid supply. The agency says a growing number of local dealers have bought pill presses to turn powdered fentanyl into counterfeit painkillers.

Chinese suppliers are also sending large quantities of fentanyl or its chemical ingredients to Mexico, where cartels mix the drug into the heroin supply and smuggle it to U.S. cities, says the DEA.

The big-city dealers who bring fentanyl-laced heroin to the Upper Midwest dip in and out of town, and often recruit local addicts to help them hide or sell drugs, making then tougher to catch, police say.

In the twin towns of Superior, Wis., and Duluth, Minn., separated by a small bay at the end of Lake Superior, the business is seriously taxing local law enforcement. “They’re using more and more middle people to distance themselves from the sale,” says Jeffrey Kazel, commander of the tri-county task force and a lieutenant in the Duluth, Minn., police department.

For the sellers, some with gang ties, targeting smaller towns is a smart marketing move. The customers have the means to pay, and there’s less of the cutthroat rivalry that leads to frequent shootings in many urban centers. The return is also greater. A gram of heroin that sells for $50 to $100 in Chicago fetches up to $200 in Northern Wisconsin or Minnesota, law-enforcement officials say.
Comment: Image source top is  the WSJ article (image snip). Bottom is image snip from Banyan Treatment Center . Source of image below



9.27.2016

John Stumpf - Carrie Tolstedt Clawback



Wells Fargo Chief to Forfeit $41 Million in Wake of Scandal

Excerpt:

As John G. Stumpf, the chief executive of Wells Fargo, prepares to face a congressional tribunal on Thursday for the second time in two weeks, questions are intensifying about the bank’s sham accounts scandal and its lethargic response to it.

And late Tuesday, with the focus of the criticism spreading from the bank’s chief executive to its board, the company’s directors took action. Announcing an investigation into the bank’s sales practices, the board said Mr. Stumpf would forfeit approximately $41 million worth of stock awards, forgo his salary during the inquiry and receive no bonus for 2016.

The Wells Fargo board also announced the immediate retirement of Carrie L. Tolstedt, the former senior executive vice president of community banking, who ran the unit where the fake accounts were created. She will forfeit $19 million in stock grants, will receive neither a bonus for this year nor a severance, and will be denied certain enhancements in retirement pay, the board said.

Comment: Appropriate.  Image source for Tolstedt

9.21.2016

John Stumpf's survival chances




Warren Buffett to Fox Business: I'll Remain Silent on Wells Fargo for Now

Excerpt:

If history is any guide, Buffett can't be thrilled about the ethics lapse.

25 years ago this month, Buffett testified before a Congressional sub-committee regarding the Salomon Brothers bond scandal. Buffett had become a major shareholder in Salomon when it was revealed that traders had been submitting false Treasury bond bids in order to skirt trading rules. Buffett swiftly took over as CEO and fired a number of management.

At the time, he said during the testimony, "Lose money for my firm and I will be understanding; lose a shred of reputation for the firm, and I will be ruthless."
Whipping Wells Fargo - The bank blundered, and the politicians will make it pay.

Excerpt:

Now we see that even bread-and-butter retail can lead to political retaliation as Senators call for Mr. Stumpf to resign and demand a criminal investigation. Readers know that unauthorized accounts are an affront to customers, but Senate progressives on Tuesday described sales targets as inherently evil. Senators also want executive-pay clawbacks, though the scandal has hardly dented bank earnings.

Mr. Stumpf, who will be lucky to survive as CEO, is learning the hard way that as long as banks remain public utilities they are a lousy business.
Comment: "Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.B) holds a near 10% stake in Wells Fargo (WFC). The Oracle of Omaha has been a longtime fan of the company but his silence may speak more loudly after Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf gave a rocky performance on Capitol Hill before the Senate Banking Committee Tuesday morning. " My view below:


Wells Fargo once a "most admired" company! Since breaking of the scandal, Wells Fargo has lost $ 25 Billion in Market Capitalism. "“The stock has gone from loved to loathed in two to three weeks"


Wells Fargo is absolutely getting hammered on social media. Snip from Facebook below:

Updated: Multiple fired Wells Fargo employees report to CNN that they were fired after calling ethics hotline.






9.19.2016

Basil Hayward Calendar - 1946










Ebay find: Basil Hayward Calendar - 1946. I am his grandson. Basil died in December 1949 from a broken neck when I was 4 months old


1946 Wall Calendar Artwork by Russell Sambrook, Basil Hayward Alto Michigan

The artist Russell Sambrook (1891 – 1956)

9.16.2016

Wells Fargo: A Disconnect in Visions and Values



Wall Street Journal: How Wells Fargo’s High-Pressure Sales Culture Spiraled Out of Control

Excerpt:

They say many branch managers routinely monitored employees’ progress toward meeting sales goals, sometimes hourly, and sales numbers at the branch level were reported to higher-ranking managers as many as seven times a day. Tension about how to meet the sales targets was common.

“If somebody said: ‘This doesn’t make sense. Where are you getting these sales goals?’ then [the response] was: ‘No, you can do it’ or ‘You’re negative’ or ‘Oh, you’re not a team player,’” says Ruth Landaverde, a former Wells Fargo credit manager in Palmdale, Calif.


She says she often got the same response whenever she said a customer didn’t need another credit card. “The answer was: ‘Yes, they do,’” she says. She quit after being warned she wasn’t reaching her sales goals, she says.

Employees at a Wells Fargo branch in Lincoln, Neb., had a daily goal to open two new checking accounts and make eight other product sales, says Steven Schrodt, who worked there from 2010 to 2012.

Managers asked employees who had fallen short of the targets if they could open accounts for their mother, siblings or friends, according to Mr. Schrodt and other former employees. He says he opened about 15 accounts for friends and family members. Mr. Schrodt says he decided to leave Wells Fargo because the sales pressure was too stressful. He is now in law school.


John Stumpf: The Vision and Values of Wells Fargo

Excerpt:

Our progress has not been perfect. The expectations of others, and the even higher expectations we have of ourselves, have not always been met. When we make mistakes, we admit them, we learn from them, and we keep moving forward with even more understanding and a deeper commitment to doing what’s right.

We first published a Vision & Values booklet in the early 1990s as Wells Fargo’s predecessor, Norwest Corporation. Since then, we’ve grown from a small regional bank into a national company with a growing global presence.

Today, many of our team members trace their heritage to legacy companies that are now part of the Wells Fargo brand. Each of these companies brought with it new geographies, new capabilities, and inspiring stories. All have found a common cause in adopting our vision and values.

We believe in our vision and values just as strongly today as we did the first time we put them on paper, and staying true to them will guide us toward continued growth and success for decades to come.

As you read more about our vision and values, you will learn about who we are, where we’re headed, and how every Wells Fargo team member can help us get there. We’ve become one of the nation’s largest financial institutions, serving one in three U.S. households and employing approximately one in 600 working Americans.

We have team members in 36 countries, serving 70 million customers in more than 130 countries around the world. Forbes magazine ranks us among the top 10 publicly traded companies in the world based on a composite of sales, assets, profits, and market value. And we are consistently ranked as one of the world’s most respected banks by Barron’s magazine and one of the world’s most admired companies by Fortune magazine.

The reason for this is simple. We’ve never lost sight of putting our customers first and helping them succeed financially. Regardless of our growing size, scope, and reach, our common vision and distinct values form the fabric that holds us together wherever we are, whatever we do. As members of the same team, it doesn’t matter what our respective responsibilities are, our levels or titles, what businesses we’re part of, or where we live and work.
Comments:
  • I am both a retiree from Wells Fargo (21 years) and
  • I am a happy customer for 20 years
  • I have personally never witnessed a violation of Well Fargo's Vision and Values but I was in IT for my entire time.
  • I do have a close family member who quit as a Wells Fargo teller because he felt undue pressure to sell products
  • In my time as a customer, they have never pushed a product on us. 
  • I believe that the nefarious activities have been relatively rare. But in a large company the numbers are likewise large: 1.5 M accounts and .5 M CC accounts. The number of fired employees is likewise large, 5,300! But that was over 5 years and with 300,000 employees the number is statistically small.
  • Nevertheless the scandal is real. 
  • With any organization, whether a church, government, or business, there will be bad apples
  • Upper management must more deeply impress the Vision and Values to the lowest levels and ensure that sales goals do not force this disconnect.


9.06.2016

The Monsters Among Us - "Meat Computers"?




Atheist Jerry A. Coyne: Why you don't really have free will

Excerpt:

You may feel like you've made choices, but in reality your decision to read this piece, and whether to have eggs or pancakes, was determined long before you were aware of it — perhaps even before you woke up today. And your "will" had no part in that decision. So it is with all of our other choices: not one of them results from a free and conscious decision on our part. There is no freedom of choice, no free will. And those New Year's resolutions you made? You had no choice about making them, and you'll have no choice about whether you keep them.

The debate about free will, long the purview of philosophers alone, has been given new life by scientists, especially neuroscientists studying how the brain works. And what they're finding supports the idea that free will is a complete illusion.

The issue of whether we have of free will is not an arcane academic debate about philosophy, but a critical question whose answer affects us in many ways: how we assign moral responsibility, how we punish criminals, how we feel about our religion, and, most important, how we see ourselves — as autonomous or automatons.

But before I explain this, let me define what I mean by "free will."

I mean it simply as the way most people think of it: When faced with two or more alternatives, it's your ability to freely and consciously choose one, either on the spot or after some deliberation. A practical test of free will would be this: If you were put in the same position twice — if the tape of your life could be rewound to the exact moment when you made a decision, with every circumstance leading up to that moment the same and all the molecules in the universe aligned in the same way — you could have chosen differently.

Now there's no way to rewind the tape of our lives to see if we can really make different choices in completely identical circumstances. But two lines of evidence suggest that such free will is an illusion.

The first is simple: we are biological creatures, collections of molecules that must obey the laws of physics. All the success of science rests on the regularity of those laws, which determine the behavior of every molecule in the universe. Those molecules, of course, also make up your brain — the organ that does the "choosing." And the neurons and molecules in your brain are the product of both your genes and your environment, an environment including the other people we deal with. Memories, for example, are nothing more than structural and chemical changes in your brain cells. Everything that you think, say, or do, must come down to molecules and physics.

True "free will," then, would require us to somehow step outside of our brain's structure and modify how it works. Science hasn't shown any way we can do this because "we" are simply constructs of our brain. We can't impose a nebulous "will" on the inputs to our brain that can affect its output of decisions and actions, any more than a programmed computer can somehow reach inside itself and change its program.

'Meat computers' And that's what neurobiology is telling us: Our brains are simply meat computers that, like real computers, are programmed by our genes and experiences to convert an array of inputs into a predetermined output.

Recent experiments involving brain scans show that when a subject "decides" to push a button on the left or right side of a computer, the choice can be predicted by brain activity at least seven seconds before the subject is consciously aware of having made it. (These studies use crude imaging techniques based on blood flow, and I suspect that future understanding of the brain will allow us to predict many of our decisions far earlier than seven seconds in advance.) "Decisions" made like that aren't conscious ones. And if our choices are unconscious, with some determined well before the moment we think we've made them, then we don't have free will in any meaningful sense.
Heinrich admits killing Jacob Wetterling

Excerpt:

Heinrich detailed how he kidnapped and killed Jacob. Heinrich told the courtroom how on that fateful night he was driving through St. Joseph around 8 p.m. when he noticed three boys on bikes with a flashlight. He pulled into a driveway after they passed him.

Heinrich testified that he jumped out of the car wearing a mask and holding a .38 revolver. He ordered them into a ditch and asked their names and ages. "I told Trevor and Aaron to run away, don't look back or i'll shoot. " Heinrich recalled.

The defendant described how he handcuffed Jacob and put him in the passenger seat of his car. Heinrich had a police scanner in his vehicle, and after hearing police respond to the kidnapping he decided he'd better drive back to Paynesville. He recalled Jacob at one point asking him, "What did I do wrong?" He took a series of backroads that wound through small central Minnesota communities until he reached a sewage pond road and drove to a gravel pit by a grove of trees. There, he forced Jacob to disrobe and masturbate him until the boy told Heinrich he was cold.

Jacob asked to be taken home, but Heinrich recalls telling the boy it was too far. On the way back to the car he noticed a police cruiser on the road nearby. Heinrich said he panicked, pulled his revolver and put two rounds inside. "I raised the revolver to his head, clicked once with no bullet in the chamber. Shot him twice after that. " He admitted firing into the back of Jacob's head after asking the boy to turn around so he could go to the bathroom.

The details got worse. Heinrich described how Jacob was still crying after the first shot, so he fired again. After driving back to his home and staying for a couple of hours, Heinrich testified that he returned to the gravel pit and dragged him approximately 100 yard to bury him. The defendant says his own shovel was too small so he stole one from the construction site. He then spotted a Bobcat digger with keys in it, and used the machine to dig a large grave for Jacob. When asked by a prosecutor if he returned to the burial site one year later, Heinrich said yes, and detailed how he dug up and collected Jacobs remains and put them in a garbage bag. He moved them to an unspecified site nearby. " Found a spot and dug a hole with a trenching tool about 2 feet deep. and put the bones in that hole and the jacket on top," he told the court.
Comment: Top image from Kare11 article (screen snap). Source of Jacob Wetterling = Missing Persons of America . Human brain source

What would morality look like without free will?

Excerpt:

Coyne argues that people have no choice over their behaviors because that is simply the output of their genetic material and environment. If this is the case, then there is no sense of moral responsibility. As Coyne says, Bernie Madoff, who scammed people for millions, is no different from Nelson Mandela, who helped bring freedom to a nation. Because this is the case, we cannot punish based on personal choice. We should, however, punish based on future deterrent. Here is where Coyne’s argument falls apart.

Why? Why should we deter someone from murdering or committing other crimes? Coyne says we should continue to punish criminals as that adds to the environment of others and can make them choose differently later. But the question remains as to why we would want them to choose in a certain way. If there is no sense of morality, as it would only be the by-products of our brains, why would we care what other’s do, particularly if it does not effect us personally?

Final comments: I have atheist friends and family who are fine, moral individuals. So I am not saying that atheists are killers! But there is a disconnect for atheists because if there is no soul, no moral absolutes based upon a higher Being; what makes the Monsters' acts immoral?! Wiki on Jerry Coyne here.

8.12.2016

"Buddy Fox" calls into Ruby Tuesday earnings call





Ruby Tuesday's (RT) CEO JJ Buettgen on Q4 2016 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

Excerpt:

Operator [Operator Instruction] Our next question comes from Buddy Fox with Geneva Roth Holding Corporation.

Buddy Fox I just have one question. Do you think your revenues are negatively impacted by Harambe’s death and if yes, do you have any plans to mitigate it?

JJ Buettgen Excuse me, can you repeat your question please? Impacted by what?

Buddy Fox By Harambe’s death and if yes, do you have plans to mitigate it?

JJ Buettgen I am sorry, I don’t know we have a bad connection, I couldn’t quite hear the question.

Operator He has lost connection. We will turn to Bryan Hunt with Wells Fargo.
Comment: Image sources: Ruby Tuesday, Harambe. See also Twitter link and related article.