GOP Frontrunner Carson Was Involved in Pyramid Scheme

By now everyone has heard about Ben Carson’s Egyptian pyramid story. Specifically, that the GOP 2016 presidential frontrunner believes that Egyptian pyramids were built by the biblical Joseph for the purpose of storing grain. This of course contradicts the archeological consensus that pyramids were in fact built to honor Egyptian royalty. Pharaohs and their families were mummified and their bodies stored with their most prized possession in tombs inside the pyramids. Biblical Archaeologist Jody Magness of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill notes “The use of the pyramids as tombs is verified by both written (literary) sources and archaeological evidence.”

Believe it not, there is another pyramid story involving Ben Carson that is even more outrageous that thinking that pyramids were built as giant grains silos.This one though does not involve Egyptian (or even Mayan) pyramids, but rather a financial pyramid scheme.

For years, the Republican doctor has been a spokesperson and proponent of nutritional supplements sold by a vertical marketing company called Mannatech (MTEX). The company has a questionable record of frivolous claims, for example that its pills can cure everything from cancer to Parkinson’s’ disease to cystic fibrosis. The company has even been forced to settle a deceptive marketing lawsuit filed in of all places Texas, a state not particularly known for its consumer rights advocacy record. Current Texas governor and former state’s attorney Greg Abbott’s office handled the case. After the $4 million restitution settlement (with an additional $1 in penalties), Abbott noted “Texas will not tolerate illegal marketing schemes that prey upon the sick and unsuspecting.”

Mannatech is in the multi-level marketing business, where independent sellers not on its payroll purchase its supplements for the purpose of reselling those supplements to other customers. As is the case with most multi-level marketing schemes, the company ends up making most of its earnings from selling its products to the sellers themselves, rather than actual users. 228,000 “members” have purchased Mannatech products in the last 12 months.

Carson already admitted to being paid $42,000 to speak at a Mannatech event in 2013 during a GOP debate. But the doctor was more than a paid speaker. He has touted the benefits of the product for years, even claiming that the supplements cured his own prostate cancer at a vertical marketing networking event filled with salespeople. In a video distributed to prospective sellers by the company, Carson states “Basically what the company is doing is trying to find a way to restore natural diet as a medicine, or as a mechanism, for maintaining health. That’s why I was drawn towards Mannatech because it recognized the influence on health of natural foods.”

It is not yet clear if Ben Carson was in fact a true believer in the Mannatech product or simply another con man in it to make as much money for himself as possible. He believes so many crazy things that perhaps we should give him the benefit of the doubt and conclude that he is simply just another genuinely crazy person seeking the Republican nomination for President.


Bethenny Frankel Advises Women To Beat Men in Business

Bethenny Frankel tells female entrepreneurs to be better than the men! Unfiltered and raw, the 45-year-old goes in hard and passionate about succeeding in male dominated industries. While many who know her from Bravo’s hit reality show Real Housewives of New York or have followed her highly publicized, nasty divorce from husband Jason Hoppy would never take any advice about handling men from this reality star, those who know business, money, and success are all ears when she speaks.

Capturing the hearts of millions around the world as the underdog on the Real Housewives of New York back in 2008, Frankel, just seven years ago, could not afford her rent or cab fare to get around the city. She rose to success in front of the Bravo cameras with her brainchild Skinny Girl Margarita, becoming a mogul worth over a reported $25 million. After countless doors slamming in her face, disappointing setbacks, and brutal rejections, Frankel found herself selling her brand to Beam Global for an undisclosed amount. Still owning the name Skinny Girl, the mogul expanded her brand into shape wear, appliances, and healthy snacks. Call her what you may, this native Jersey girl went from being a pitied, alienated cast mate amongst a group of elitist socialites with summer homes in the Hamptons to being the most respected self made millionaire calling her own shots.

While debates circulate throughout social media and numerous court documents still have fans questioning whether or not Frankel owes any credit or half of her Skinny Girl fortune to her soon-to-be ex-husband Hoppy, many wonder if Frankel’s long, drawn-out three year divorce proceedings has made her very bitter and hardened towards men. Because the liquor business is driven by men and marketed by men, Frankel knew she had to be a hundred times better than all the men in her industry. The mogul, according to CNBC, advised women in business to look at the wall in front of them and swim there first. Sharing with women around the world the tools and mindset needed to reach the top, Frankel does not sugarcoat or coddle. Urging women to stay on top of their game, keeping their eyes open at all times, and never discussing the glass ceiling, she travels the country speaking to forums filled with aspiring female entrepreneurs. Frankel prides herself on not being concerned with how much more money the man next to her is making, she drills down and refuses to rest to stay ahead of her competition.

Determined to keep her winning streak, Frankel is fighting tooth and nail to keep husband Hoppy from getting a dime of her fortune. The couple wed in front of millions of Bravo viewers back in 2010. Hoppy was there by her side as she was knocking on doors to launch her Skinny Girl idea. The cameras captured the highly emotional moment when Hoppy, after many negotiations on behalf of his wife, received the call that Beam Global purchased her brand. She persuaded Hoppy on camera to quit his pharmaceutical sales position to come work for her. Hoppy made it clear that he would agree to come work as partners with his wife, but not as her employee. Somewhere along the lines, the partnership and employee understanding was seriously lost as Frankel reported to the media that Hoppy relied heavily on her to make all the franchise decisions and financially take care of them both. Hoppy maintains that he helped negotiate the Beam Global deal that made her millions. He insists his wife has serious deep seated issues with men stemming from a volatile upbringing. Hoppy accuses his wife of using men and then tossing them out to win.

While many of Frankel’s fans do not agree with how she handles her men in her personal life, they salute her with respect as a business woman who knows how to play with the big boys. Whether she chews them up and spits them out or beats them to the wall first, Frankel is determined to win by any means necessary. And what her female fans love most about her…she really wants them to win, too.

By Meleika Gardner

Top Widgets for Optimizing Customer Experience

According to CEB, 94% of customers who have a good experience with their respective suppliers eventually turn out to be return-buyers. If this statistic is anything to go by, customer experience is undoubtedly one of the prime business pillars. In fact, Nielsen further proved this through a study which found out that over 55% of consumers are willing to dig deeper into their pockets just for a great customer experience. This means that even with higher priced commodities, customers will still prefer you over your competitors if you provide a better overall experience. 62% of businesses acknowledge this, and most of them are already capitalizing on customer experience to boost themselves ahead of their respective competitors.

So, how exactly can you join the bandwagon of elite businesses by improving your customer experience? In this information technology era, a significant number of businesses are judged by their consumers according to their respective web experiences. An online presence isn’t sufficient anymore- you need to further invest in your site’s overall customer experience. One of the most effectual strategies of achieving this is leveraging widgets. Here are some of the top ones you should consider using:

WordPress Feedback Form

WordPress is progressively growing in popularity particularly among small business, due to its business-friendly features- among which includes optimized widgets. The WordPress Feedback Form is one of the most predominant widgets leveraged across the board due to its simplicity and effectiveness. It’s a reliable method of collecting information from your customers regarding your products/services and their preferences. It comes in a simple, user-friendly interface that allows you to tweak according to your preferences and web design.

Zendesk Web Widget

Zendesk remains one of the top customer service platforms on the web, popularly used by both small and large businesses in a wide range of fields. One of the features that make it exceptionally effective is the Zendesk Web Widget, which embeds support options right into a site. Through it, customers can access a wide range of helpful support information, or contact forms in case they need to get in touch with customer service teams. The latest versions of the platform also come with an added live chat option, which connects customers directly to support agents for uninterrupted live chats.

Rating Widget

Consumers enjoy expressing their opinions on different products and services. To grant them such an opportunity, consider using the rating widget, which uses system of rating through stars. While a rating of 3 stars is considered average, five is “excellent” and one is “poor”. This widget will also increase customer confidence in your products according to the number and type of star reviews you get.

Other popular widgets that you could effectively combine with these three for exemplary customer experience include; Trendemon, Opening Hours, WP Video Lightbox, Q2W3 Fixed Widget, Testimonial, and Whatfix. These are just but a drop in the ocean of available widgets. To avoid falling in the trap of picking any just because developers promise outstanding results, begin by assessing your site’s and customers’ needs before embarking on set of widgets to optimize them.

Is Robert Reich Correct?

There’s a lot of rhetoric in Robert Reich’s new book, Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few, but perhaps the most poignant point the former Secretary of Labor made is that there’s no such thing as a “free-market.” That is to say that there’s no place extant in the US where private sector businesses exists unrelated to government.

It’s not a new idea, and on a subconscious level, most of us know that. Government bailouts, federal industry regulations, and the idea of corporate personhood are regularly discussed topics that exist solely because of government actions within the marketplace.

That, of course, leads to the discussion of what defines a free market. If, for example, one views it as the right of the individual to not be subject to undisclosed foods and chemicals that may pose potential harm but cut the cost for private food and drug producers, FDA guidelines and labeling standards may not be seen as an infringement of the free market. If, however, you view it as the right of the corporation to produce the highest quantity at the lowest cost, even if that means using some untested or potentially harmful components, you may see these regulations as free market restriction. HaJoon Chang does an even better job explaining this concept in relation to labor.

Let’s move past all of that for a minute, though. Assuming the nation could agree on a uniform standard for what comprises a free-market, would it actually be free?

Playing Politics

The short answer is no. That’s because those in power, whether by elected office or corporate office, are the ones that make the economic rules. It’s been that way since market systems first came into being. The ability of the market to be truly free means that market participants have the ability to try to create favorable conditions for their success, including doing things like contributing to political campaigns, creating special interest lobbies. A free market, one that truly has no government limits, by nature creates a spot for itself to influence the controlling forces and political agendas.

Reich breaks this down point by point starting with the building blocks of American capitalism, and pointing out key areas that need rewriting in order to create less “free” but more level playing field, including how public office campaigns are financed, how monopolies are regulated and dismantled, and what legal benefits are afforded to corporations. His argument is that reframing some of these business-friendly but not really free practices will make a more navigable space for businesses, consumers, and government to successfully interact.

Government As Business

I’m not going to make any friends here, and I before I take this stand I should really emphasize that while I am an enthusiast of both, I am neither a political nor economic expert. That being said, the government is a business, at least in a way.

A business, in its simplest terms, is an enterprising entity engaged in commercial, industrial, or professional activities. That’s true of both for-profit and not-for-profit companies. Let’s look at this on a local level, very broadly using the idea of security.

Security of home and self is a right, but it’s also an enterprise. Running a police department as a for-profit business creates some notable concerns, but it’s an entity that uses (ideally) trained professionals to provide a specialized service. It shouldn’t be a money-making machine, but that is a business. Employees are going to have interests, the department is going to need resources – there’s a whole market surrounding outfitting and preparing a PD from equipment to training to paperwork. As an entity that provides a service, these departments are going to have an interest in keeping the resources they need accessible to them.

Insofar as those things are true, municipal police departments act as businesses, even though they’re run by local government. In order to keep their resources at accessible levels, they need to be able to interact in the marketplace of which they are a part. Since both microcosms of government and governing bodies themselves have full markets surrounding then and ingrained in them, it’s impossible to separate out the influence of government in the marketplace. In fact, there are a lot of taxes and regulatory fees and fines that go right back into government pocketbooks to afford local governments a chance to provide these services.

So is there truly a free market? No. Can there ever be? That is a question for a skilled economist, but as Reich points out, there’s a lot of change necessary to make that happen, regardless of your definition of “free.”

How Big Data is Changing Agriculture

Among all the talk within the tech and startup community, there isn’t enough said about agriculture. If there’s any sector certain to remain lucrative year after year—well, just remember that no matter what changes occur in the economy, food is something that is always needed.

Agriculture may not be as sexy as something like software development or ecommerce, but it’s essential for all our lives. And it’s a well of opportunity for innovation-minded entrepreneurs who want to do something that’ll put them on the map.

What we are seeing across industries is a trend towards increasing productivity through digital technology. For example, Texas Lenders uses its online application process to help individuals obtain title loans more quickly and efficiently.

What Agriculture is up Against

Modern agriculture calls for innovation if only because of simple mathematics: by 2050, the earth is projected to have some 9.7 billion people on it—that’s 2.4 billion more than the 7.3 billion we currently have. If we want to be able to feed everyone, we’re going to have to find ways to increase agricultural output using the same amount of farmland. If we can’t, we’re going to be in serious trouble.

Fortunately, if past instances of human ingenuity are an indicator, we should be able to achieve it. The Green Revolution, which occurred roughly between the 1940s and 1950s,  gave us technologies like synthetic nitrogen fertilizer, improved crop varieties, and better irrigation systems and pesticides. All of these improved crop yields by over 50 percent over the course of the last half century.

Modern needs call for technologies that can produce similar results. Specifically, farms needs technology that can:

  • Optimize planting
  • Immediately identify disease outbreaks
  • Create better seeds and hybrids

In the era of the information-based economy, it’s no surprise that the solution to these needs is coming in the form of big data.

Big Data and Farming

There are already a handful of players in agricultural big data, and that number is growing as firms see the value of data capture and analytics tools on the farm. Trusted providers of farm equipment like John Deere and DuPont are already in on the big data game, creating farm tools like tractors and combines that acquire important farm information and then use it to inform work. Think self-driving, GPS-programmed tractors that not only move themselves, but do so at less than an inch of error.

Big data, when combined with precision agriculture, can produce higher yield while lowering costs. Monsanto, which started out as a chemical manufacturing company, has become one of the biggest names in agricultural big data today. FieldScripts, their main software, combines weather data, seed and root space analytics, and other systems to calculate soil productivity.

Monsanto, founded in 1901, has been in agriculture since the 1960s. Nevertheless, newcomers are finding success as well. Farmlogs is a startup whose software tracks soil composition, heat accumulation and rainfall. It plugs directly into combines and costs farmers $750 per year. Farmlogs is currently being used on a third of farms in America.

What’s the Future of Agricultural Big Data?

This new field is promising. There’s no doubt that farmers will universally adopt big data technologies; they’re going to have to if they want to remain competitive. The challenge technology providers face is convincing farmers that their products are safe. Many worry that the data collected in the cloud will be sold to competitors or regulatory agencies. Monsanto and other big data firms assure that isn’t on their agenda.

As the polar opposite fields of big data and agriculture and big data come together, our prospects for the future become brighter.



How the Keyraider Malware is Busting iPhone Jailbreakers

iPhone users have been jailbreaking their phones to access apps from the Apple store for free and unlock their phones’ capability to install third party applications. While this has been fairly beneficial,  it has exposed them to a malicious software, KeyRaider, that steals their identities among other things. Unfortunately, and rather interestingly, Apple Inc. cannot help these clients because the affected jailbroken phones prevent Apple security systems from accessing them.

Distributed by Cydia repositories, an online repository for apps designed to run on jailbroken phones, KeyRaider busts iPhone jailbreakers in a number of ways.

Data Robbing

According to Palo Alto Networks’ Unit 42, 225,000 valid Apple accounts originating from 18 countries such as China, countless purchasing receipts, certificates and private keys have been stolen by the KeyRaider malware. This cyber-crime was discovered when Palo Alto Network, alongside WeipTech, were analyzing suspicious user-reported iOS tweaks.

The malware is incorporated into software packages or jailbreak tweaks that allow new functions to run in iOS. Allegedly, a user using the username ‘mischa07’ seeds the malware into his personal app repository where the username serves as an encryption and decryption key for the malware.

The malicious software helps jailbreakers tune their systems, cheat on games and remove advertisements from applications. However, unknown to the jailbreakers is the fact that the malware also stealthily steals their identities to make purchases on behalf of other users.

Holding Users For Ransom

The malware has been reported to have made a ransomware attempt whereby, it locally disables any kind of phone unlocking operations, with or without the correct pass codes. This was realised after a user reported that his phone was unexpectedly locked and instructed him to contact someone over the QQ instant messaging service.  Upon further investigation, WeipTech found a command-and-control server used by the attackers to communicate with jailbroken phones in order to steal their account information. Unfortunately for the iPhone users, only half of these accounts were recovered before the attackers fixed this vulnerability.

Additionally, by using the stolen private key and certificate, the malware can hold the user for ransom. It sends a notification demanding the same without going through the Apple Server, rendering known ‘rescue’ procedures ineffective.

Other Similar Malware

MobileSubstrate APIs were abused by the KeyRaider malware by hooking arbitrary APIs in other iOS apps and system processes. This was an excellent platform given its history of hosting malwares. Unflod-also known as Unfold Baby Panda or SSLCreds- for example, used this platform to intercept SSL encrypted traffic and steal Apple account passwords. This malware was found by Reddit users and upon analysis by SektionEins, its operations were understood. In 2014, another malware, AppBuyer was discovered using the same platform and technique Unflod used to by apps from the App Store and steal user passwords. KeyRaider used these same techniques and took them a step further.

Jailbreaking is definitely a double-edged sword, opening up users to a world of free and unlimited apps but also to greater security threats. Consequently, WeipTech, an online service, has been set up to help people see if their accounts have been affected.