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Grain, a research group that supports small farmers, says pension funds - often managed by private companies on behalf of unions, governments, individuals and employers - are investing US$100bn (£62.4bn) in commodities, with some $5bn-$15bn reportedly going into farmland acquisitions.  
 
"We usually read about Gulf states or China investing in farmland, but some of the biggest investors are much closer to home," said Henk Hobbelink, one of Grain's co-founders. "As a percentage of the total funds they manage it is not large, but in terms of their impact on small farmers it has a tremendous impact."  
 
International investment in farmland in developing countries, such as Sudan and Ethiopia, has sparked accusations from Grain and other NGOs of "land grabs" that often fail to deliver the promised benefits of jobs and economic development, while contributing to environmental and social problems in the poorest countries in the world. Grain also says the new surge of money will push up global food prices that will hit the poor and rural communities the hardest.
Getting a song on the pop charts takes big money.  
 
Def Jam started paying for Rihanna's recent single, "Man Down," more than a year ago. In March of 2010, the label held a writing camp in L.A. to create the songs for Rihanna's album, Loud.  
 
At a writing camp, a record label hires the best music writers in the country and drops them into the nicest recording studios in town for about two weeks. It's a temporary version of the old music-industry hit factories, where writers and producers cranked out pop songs.  
 
"It's like an all-star game," says Ray Daniels, who was at the writing camp for Rihanna.
Republican presidential contender Tim Pawlenty has put forth a plan in which he hopes the US economy will grow at 5% a year for decades.  
Such growth, Pawlenty suggests, will solve all of our problems. (And in the meantime, in Pawlenty's plan, we'll get to enjoy lower taxes to boot!)  
Over the short-term, economies certainly can grow 5% a year, or even faster. And Pawlenty's projected growth rate seems achievable in part because, in 2006 and 2007, the global economy grew at 4.5% a year. Thanks to that happy growth spurt, in fact, economic growth of 5% a year seems not just achievable but normal.  
But lest we all become too enamored of the idea that we can grow at 5% a year forever, it's worth pointing out that we can't. Over the long term, this growth rate is not just unlikely--it's impossible.  
Nothing can grow at 5% a year for long without eventually overwhelming everything else.
It struck me one day, as I was searching, that even in the largest technical bookshops in some of the largest industrialized cities in the world, such as Tokyo or Singapore, we are hard-pressed to find an aisle for operations. Sure, there is no shortage of advice on strategy, but there is a very real dearth on the tactics that are needed to put the strategy into place. And, honestly, if we don’t know the tactics, then how on earth can we really know the strategy that goes with the tactics? Strategy and tactics are interrelated.  
 
I find this very strange, there is no shortage of advice on the thinking/talking part of business, but there is a very apparent shortage on the people and doing part of business. Nevertheless, the information does exist, it is pragmatic, and it is very successful. We just need to know where it is, and we just need to know how to make use of it.  
 
This website is about the Theory of Constraints – how to substantially improve an organization, any organization, by moving a group of people towards a common shared goal. It is an application-based view of Theory of Constraints. The intent is to make much of the available background and practice more readily accessible while presenting it within the broader context of other parts of the general management literature and also my personal experience.
The secretive business havens of Cyprus and the Cayman Islands face a potent rival: Cheyenne, Wyoming.  
 
At a single address in this sleepy city of 60,000 people, more than 2,000 companies are registered. The building, 2710 Thomes Avenue, isn't a shimmering skyscraper filled with A-list corporations. It's a 1,700-square-foot brick house with a manicured lawn, a few blocks from the State Capitol.  
 
Neighbors say they see little activity there besides regular mail deliveries and a woman who steps outside for smoke breaks. Inside, however, the walls of the main room are covered floor to ceiling with numbered mailboxes labeled as corporate "suites." A bulky copy machine sits in the kitchen. In the living room, a woman in a headset answers calls and sorts bushels of mail.
Price in a trice
If the inflationistas are right, where should they look for signs of accelerating price growth? Many are suspicious of official numbers: John Williams, the boss of an inflation-statistics website called ShadowStats.com, claims American inflation has been underestimated for decades because the Bureau of Labour Statistics (BLS) regularly changes its basket of goods on the ground that consumers shy away from expensive items. And official data are slow to come out.  
 
Help is at hand from the internet. The Billion Prices Project (BPP) estimates daily inflation in 70 countries. Rather than physically checking prices in supermarkets, it uses software to monitor 5m products sold by several hundred online retailers. It reflects a trend for using the web to predict economic indicators before official figures are released. The Bank of England is now using data from Google searches to gauge economic sentiment (terms such as “estate agent” are good indicators of housing transactions, for example). The search giant is working on its own price index based on online shopping.
Few countries are more important to the global economy than China. But its reputation as an unstoppable giant -- as a country with an unending supply of cheap labor and limitless capacity for growth -- masks some serious and worsening economic problems.  
 
China’s labor force is aging. Its consumers save too much and spend too little. Its political and economic policy tools remain crude. Its state bureaucracy seems likely to curb spending just as exports weaken, and thus risks deflation. As U.S. consumers retrench, and as the global commodity bubble begins to dissipate, these fundamental weaknesses will combine in a way that’s unlikely to end well for China -- or for the rest of the world.  
 
To start, China is much more vulnerable to an international slowdown than is generally understood. In late 2007, my firm’s research found that too few people in China had the discretionary spending capability to support its economy domestically. Our analysis showed that it took a per-capita gross domestic product of about $5,000 to have meaningful discretionary spending power in China.
It’s been more than 30 years since the airline industry was deregulated in 1978. Since then it’s lost nearly $60 billion on U.S. operations, though most of the losses have come since 9/11. The airlines were already in trouble before the attacks happened. The plunge in demand and resulting liquidity crisis led to billions in government cash and loan guarantees– the first true bailout of the 21st century, and certainly a sign of things to come in the next decade.  
 
In a paper published last month, Berkeley economist and overall airline guru Severin Borenstein examines some of the most common explanations for the airline industry’s dismal performance, and why experts and deregulation advocates failed so badly to predict what would happen after deregulation 30 years ago.  
A few key stats:
The power of Google to determine what information we see, and when, is enormous. Apparently, the U.S. government is worried Google has abused that power.  
 
The Federal Trade Commission is on the verge of opening a formal civil investigation to see if Google has stifled competition on the Web. The FTC has been unofficially watching Google's business practices for months. So far, it seems, the anti-trust watchdog doesn't like what it sees. The Wall Street Journal says the FTC is about to issue subpoenas to Google to get more information. It has also talked to a number of Google's competitors, who I am sure will be more than willing to demonstrate why the search giant is too powerful.
Cheesy Anti-Union Video All Target Employees Must Endure
Rarely has the backdrop been so lousy. The U.S. is printing money to pay its bills. Europe is coughing up change to pay the neighbors' bills. Oil prices are climbing as the Middle East burns, and gold, that reliable barometer of fear, is rising almost by the day. And yet. American companies are flush with cash. Corporate revenue is growing, profit margins are widening, and stocks -- especially big ones with juicy dividends -- are relatively cheap.  
 
That delicious irony hasn't been lost on the members of the Barron's Roundtable, whose opinions we rounded up by telephone in the past week or so. In view of the alternatives, chiefly negligible bond yields, U.S. stocks just might be "the best house in a decent neighborhood," as Oscar Schafer observed.  
 
The Roundtable crew is unanimous in seeing slower economic growth in the year's second half. As a result, these money managers and market savants have turned notably more defensive since our annual get-together in January at the Harvard Club of New York. These days they are far fonder of consumer-staples, health-care and utility stocks than the shares of companies that make things that rust in the rain.
On 8 June, a Scottish banker named Alexander Fordyce shorted the collapsing Company’s shares in the London markets. But a momentary bounce-back in the stock ruined his plans, and he skipped town leaving £550,000 in debt. Much of this was owed to the Ayr Bank, which imploded. In less than three weeks, another 30 banks collapsed across Europe, bringing trade to a standstill. On July 15, the directors of the Company applied to the Bank of England for a £400,000 loan. Two weeks later, they wanted another £300,000. By August, the directors wanted a £1 million bailout. The news began leaking out and seemingly contrite executives, running from angry shareholders, faced furious Parliament members. By January, the terms of a comprehensive bailout were worked out, and the British government inserted its czars into the Company’s management to ensure compliance with its terms.  
 
If this sounds eerily familiar, it shouldn’t. The year was 1772, exactly 239 years ago today, the apogee of power for the corporation as a business construct. The company was the British East India company (EIC). The bubble that burst was the East India Bubble. Between the founding of the EIC in 1600 and the post-subprime world of 2011, the idea of the corporation was born, matured, over-extended, reined-in, refined, patched, updated, over-extended again, propped-up and finally widely declared to be obsolete. Between 2011 and 2100, it will decline — hopefully gracefully — into a well-behaved retiree on the economic scene.
What happens when a 28-year-old British currency trader who previously sold a hair care business teams up with an international trio of informatics professors who publish an academic paper that purportedly unlocks the potential for Twitter to predict stock market moves?  
 
They launch Europe's first social media-based hedge fund, of course!  
 
Derwent’s secret formula originates in academia. In a widely read paper, Indiana University's Johan Bollen, who is advising the fund, along with Indiana colleague Huina Mao and the University of Manchester’s Xiao-Jun Zeng, used two different mood tracking tools to analyze the text content of nearly 10 million Tweets. The first tool, OpinionFinder, is an open-source software package hosted by the University of Pittsburgh. The second is an algorithm developed by the authors that is based on the “Profile of Mood States,” a methodology used by psychologists to monitor the effects of treatment changes or the impact of drug regimens on patients’ mood states. The authors expanded the 72 mood descriptors in the standard POMS questionnaire to a universe of 964 terms—a far richer mosaic of the range of human emotion, they say—by tapping Google to analyze “word co-occurrences” in 2.5 billion sequences of terms scanned by the search engine on publicly accessible web pages. The researchers’ expanded lexicon was then mapped to six mood dimensions: Calm, Alert, Sure, Vital, Kind, and Happy.
There is a new and very interesting study out from McKinsey on this topic. If you get past the press release, however, and give it a closer read it is consistent with stagnation hypotheses, contrary to some claims. The study shows a few things:
The economic differences among the country’s various religions are strikingly large, much larger than the differences among states and even larger than those among racial groups.  
 
The most affluent of the major religions — including secularism — is Reform Judaism. Sixty-seven percent of Reform Jewish households made more than $75,000 a year at the time the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life collected the data, compared with only 31 percent of the population as a whole. Hindus were second, at 65 percent, and Conservative Jews were third, at 57 percent.  
 
On the other end are Pentecostals, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Baptists. In each case, 20 percent or fewer of followers made at least $75,000. Remarkably, the share of Baptist households making $40,000 or less is roughly the same as the share of Reform Jews making $100,000 or more.