Friday, March 16, 2018

Dog Barking

They started the other day but I couldn't talk about it:

"United Airlines might have mistakenly sent a Kansas-bound German shepherd to Japan" by Martine Powers The Washington Post  March 14, 2018

It’s been a frightening week for dog owners considering putting their pet on plane.

First, there was a report Tuesday that a puppy died on a United Airlines flight after a flight attendant demanded that the dog’s owner stow him inside the overhead compartment for the duration of a three-hour flight.

Now, this: A Kansas-bound German shepherd may have mistakenly been shipped to Japan by — you guessed it — United Airlines.

I was about to guess Russia.

Meanwhile, a US senator has asked United explain its high rate of animal deaths, deepening the carrier’s latest public relations crisis over a dog that perished in an overhead bin.

He plans to file a bill.

Eighteen of the 24 animals that died on a major US airline last year were in United’s care, Louisiana Republican John Kennedy wrote in a letter to United president Scott Kirby on Wednesday. By comparison, Delta Air Lines Inc. and American Airlines Group Inc. each reported two deaths, the senator said.

“This pattern of animal deaths and injuries is simply inexcusable,” Kennedy wrote. “For many people, pets are members of the family. They should not be treated like insignificant cargo.”

Why not? They treat people that way.

I'm not trying to be callous; however, the uproar regarding animals as opposed to the mass-murdering wars, etc, well, the ma$$ media attention just seems out of proportion is all.



There were 85 pet deaths on flights in 3 years. United had 41 of them

That's 85 too many. Anyone who has read this blog knows I value ALL LIFE!

In ICUs, a furry friend to comfort patients

Speaking of furry friends:

"Stocks finished mostly lower Thursday after a midday rally faded. Without any major economic reports or further development on issues like tariffs, stocks drifted up and down. The market was coming off two days of losses, and while stocks briefly moved higher midday, they couldn’t sustain any momentum. Monsanto fell after Bloomberg News reported US authorities have concerns about its sale to Bayer and toymakers Hasbro and Mattel sagged as Toys ‘R’ Us moved toward shuttering its US stores....."

They can't merge with anyone?

"Toys R Us to close all 800 of its US stores" by Abha Bhattarai Washington Post  March 15, 2018

Toy store chain Toys R Us is planning to sell or close all 800 of its US stores, affecting as many as 33,000 jobs as the company winds down its operations after six decades, according to a source familiar with the matter.

The news comes six months after the retailer filed for bankruptcy. The company has struggled to pay down nearly $8 billion in debt — much of it dating back to a 2005 leveraged buyout — and has had trouble finding a buyer.

There were reports earlier this week that Toys R Us had stopped paying its suppliers, which include the country’s largest toy makers. On Wednesday, the company announced it would close all 100 of its stores in Britain. In the United States, the company told employees that closures would occur over time, and not all at once, according to the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the sources was not authorized to discuss internal deliberations.

Toys R Us, once the country’s preeminent toy retailer, has been unable to keep up with big-box and online competitors. The recent holiday season dealt another blow to the embattled company, which struggled to find its footing even as the retail industry racked up its largest gains in years.

Toys R Us, based in Wayne, N.J., has been struggling for years to pay down billions of dollars in debt as competitors such as Amazon, Walmart, and Target win over an increasingly larger piece of the toy market.

‘‘The liquidation of Toys R Us is the unfortunate but inevitable conclusion of a retailer that lost its way,’’ Neil Saunders, managing director of the research firm GlobalData Retail, wrote in an e-mail. ‘‘Even during recent store closeouts, Toys R Us failed to create any sense of excitement. The brand lost relevance, customers, and ultimately sales.’’

At its heyday, Toys R Us had a towering flagship store in New York’s Times Square and a ubiquitous icon, Geoffrey the Giraffe.

‘‘We know that customers are willing to pay more for an enjoyable experience — just look at the lines at Starbucks every day — but Toys R Us has failed to give us anything special or unique,’’ said Kelly O’Keefe, a Virginia Commonwealth University professor. ‘‘You can find more zest for life in a Walgreens.’’


"How Toys ‘R’ Us became the island of misfit toys" by Janelle Nanos Globe Staff  March 15, 2018

Toys ‘R’ Us didn’t wanna grow up. But perhaps if it did, it would not have gone from dream destination for a generation of children to retail island of misfit toys.

A confluence of factors led to the announcement this week that all its US stores will be closed or sold, including a debt-laden takeover in 2005 just as online shopping was beginning to take off. While the Amazon effect was a factor, industry insiders say that what put the nail in the store’s coffin is simple enough for a kid to understand: It stopped being fun to shop there.

“If you look back 15 or 20 years ago, it was an amusement park, but now you go in and it’s a department store,” said Ben Row, a strategic account executive at Bigtincan, a Waltham maker of retail software. “It’s not immersive, there aren’t demo toys out, and it’s not a play experience. Parents used to be able to bring their kids there and actually entertain them. Now it’s just shopping.”

Over time, Row said, the company stopped connecting with customers on an emotional level. For children of the ’80s — the last generation to grow up without the Internet — its failure feels a bit like a gut punch.

Toys ‘R’ Us opened 70 years ago as a small store in Washington, D.C., selling strollers and cribs. In the early ’90s, kids across the nation dreamed of winning its annual sweepstakes, the Super Toy Run, in which a lucky child would be set loose in a store for a five-minute free-for-all, filling shopping carts with as much as they could carry. The company’s ever-present jingle, imprinted on the neurons of a generation, also played on parents, who were forced to contend with the fleeting nature of childhood every time their offspring opined: “I don’t wanna grow up, I’m a Toys ‘R’ Us kid.”

The liquidation could leave 30,000 employees out of work and over 735 storefronts across the country vacant. More than a dozen stores are within Greater Boston.

Analysts have long said the root of the brand’s demise can be traced to the buyout by investors Bain Capital, KKR & Co., and Vornado Realty Trust for $6.6 billion, a deal that left the retailer buried in debt. Repaying the loans ate up most if not all of its profit each year.

At the time of the takeover, the company was the biggest standalone toy seller in the country, with $11.6 billion in annual sales, but was beginning to feel discount retailers such as Walmart and Target on its heels.

Over time, Toys ‘R’ Us investors focused on paying creditors, leaving little money for the company to invest in modernizing its stores or technology. Stores began to feel dingy, disorganized, and dated, said Tushar Patel, chief marketing officer of Kibo Commerce, a retail software company. The company now has $5 billion in debt. “It wasn’t the classic case of Amazon stole our market share and sales,” he said. “It’s that people aren’t coming to our stores and when they come it’s a horrible experience,” Patel said.

Meanwhile, discount retailers increasingly scooped up market share, in part by selling toys for lower prices and making up the revenue elsewhere.

Of course, Amazon has also scaled up its toy sales in the past two decades and has dedicated vast resources to ensure parents can secure the hottest toys in time for the holiday season without having to face the shopping crowds. In fact, the e-commerce giant learned the business firsthand by partnering with Toys ‘R’ Us after the toy store struggled to fulfill online orders in 1999. In 2000, they signed a 10-year deal that made Toys ‘R’ Us the exclusive online source of Amazon’s toys and baby products. At the time, the chain’s website redirected to Amazon.

But that deal fizzled after Amazon realized that there was more money to be made beyond the partnership, and started selling toys and games on its own. Toys ‘R’ Us won a lawsuit against Amazon, but it left the company years behind in its ability to compete online. It wasn’t until 2017 that Toys ‘R’ Us said it would invest $100 million to revamp its website.

It was already too late.....

Hey, "no one said growing up was easy."


You would have thought they would have learned by now. 

Must be why the CEO retired amidst the "expansion."

Turn on that radio, will ya'?

"IHeart and Toys R Us take different paths in bankruptcy" by Jon Chesto Globe Staff  March 15, 2018

Call it a tale of two bankruptcies.

IHeartMedia and Toys R Us are two old-economy businesses with leading positions in their respective industries, as well as billions of debt largely due to private equity ownership, and Boston investment firm Bain Capital had a stake in both of them.

That debt eventually brought both companies to bankruptcy court for relief. But their paths diverged this week. IHeart, the country’s No. 1 radio station operator, entered an orderly restructuring, with no immediate changes expected. Toys R Us, meanwhile, moved to liquidate its US stores.

IHeart’s debt levels totaled more than $20 billion, about four times what Toys R Us owed to creditors when it initially filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. But iHeart continued to have a strong cash flow, while Toys R Us said it expected to run out of money in two months.

“The basic problem with that they just had too much debt for their earning capacity,” said Ben Branch, a recently retired professor at UMass Amherst’s Isenberg School of Management. “Once you got rid of the debt, the rest of what’s left can be profitable. Toys R Us was not in that situation.”

Both bankruptcies can be traced to massive private equity deals known as leveraged buyouts, which involved large amounts of debt. They were inked before the credit markets crashed in the Great Recession.

Private equity firms Bain and KKR & Co., along with real estate investor Vornado Realty Trust, acquired the Toys R Us chain in 2005, in a deal valued at $7.5 billion. Toys R Us did offer the possibility that as many as 200 of its strongest US stores could be packaged with its Canadian operations in a sale, possibly allowing the storied brand to survive in some form.

The news out of Toys R Us headquarters sounded dire. But iHeart, in announcing its Chapter 11 filing this week, essentially said it would be business as usual. Bain and another Boston private equity firm, Thomas H. Lee Partners, acquired a majority stake in iHeart, then called Clear Channel Communications, in 2008 in a deal valued at nearly $24 billion. Most of the company’s $20-billion-plus in debt dates back to that deal.

Bain and TH Lee are expected to hold a roughly 10 percent stake in iHeart, as part of an agreement negotiated with lenders, after the company emerges from bankruptcy. The investment firms are also expected to break even on their initial investment, in large part because they bought some of iHeart’s debt at a discounted rate.

The company had been making about $1.8 billion a year in debt payments. Mark Williams, a finance lecturer at Boston University, said paring that back should free up iHeart management to invest more in its operations.

“Taking half that debt away will increase the viability of this company,” Williams said. “The bankruptcy is a reset button for iHeart. It allows them to partially undo a bad decision that was made by the leveraged buyout folks, Bain and Thomas Lee, when they paid too much for iHeart and lopped on too much debt.”

The bankruptcy comes at a time of tumult for Boston’s radio market..... 



Better check the tower because the reception cut out:

"As Boston adds glass towers, birds find more lethal obstacles" by Tim Logan Globe Staff  March 15, 2018

The proliferation of glassy towers is making Boston a more dangerous place for birds, according to a prominent environmental group, and it wants the city and developers to do something about it.

Mass Audubon is calling attention to the issue — long a concern of urban bird advocates — as the owners of One Post Office Square push ahead with plans to replace the 41-story tower’s concrete facade with glass panels. The group worries the $250 million project could be a deadly magnet for birds that mistake its reflective surface for open sky.

“It’s a huge problem,” said Heidi Ricci, a senior policy analyst for Mass Audubon. “Building collisions are one of the major leading causes of death for birds.”

The number of bird fatalities related to buildings is difficult to measure precisely, but a 2014 study in the ornithological journal Condor estimated that between 365 million and 988 million birds die each year by crashing into buildings nationwide. Among nonnatural causes of bird deaths, only cats account for more fatalities.

I heard it was a billion, but the ‘‘dark cloud does have a silver lining,’’ so fly away little birdie, fly fly fly.

On average, each skyscraper kills 24 birds a year.

It’s not clear just how many birds die in Boston because of collisions with buildings. Owners of several of the city’s tallest glass towers — including 200 Clarendon in Copley Square (formerly the John Hancock building) and Millennium Tower in Downtown Crossing — said it’s not something they track.

How many are they cleaning off the sidewalk?

A “Lights Out Boston” campaign promoted more than a decade ago by Mass Audubon and the Menino administration urged managers of tall buildings to turn off lights overnight during peak migration season, a practice some still follow. But since then, bird crashes have been little discussed even as dozens of glass-paneled buildings have been built across the city.....

It's harder to hear the chirping over the barking.


Time to go outside:

Cape Cod residents spend night at shelters as outages persist

Trio of storms means long hours for workers

Here’s how to keep your food safe during a power outage

That story has been relegated to the back of the B section, but you wouldn't know that.

Wilmington hits snow jackpot for nor’easter

How climate change in the Arctic could hurt Boston winters

By making them worse?

Baker bond bill would borrow $300 million to address climate change

Might not be a good idea if you have learned anything!

Boston Yeti started as a winter stunt. Now, it’s something of a civic duty

Speaking of legends:

Stephen Hawking, ground-breaking physicist, dead at 76

There is a question as to whether it was even him, but why?