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Late night TV show wars heat up, Fox rumored to nab ex-NBC host

After a week of haggling and jokes below the belt, NBC has agreed to pay former late night TV host, Conan O’Brien US $40 million to walk away from The Tonight Show in favor of Jay Leno.

The two comedians went head-to-head after the network announced its plans to bring Leno onto its flagship late night show. O’Brien fought back with words and through brilliant comedy to build pressure but after the way he was mistreated by his former network, he deserves every penny.

His fresh rebuttals and slam-dunks will be missed. But apparently it won’t be long before we may see him on the tube again. Rumors have been circulating about Fox approaching O’Brien about making a deal as earlier as this week, according to a report in the Toronto Star.

“(O’Brien is) a very compatible fit for our brand,” Fox Entertainment President Kevin Reilly told reporters at the Television Critics Association’s press tour last week. “He’s one of the few guys on the planet who has demonstrated he can do one of these shows every night.” Chances like this don’t come around very often and insiders are hinting that if Fox wants Cohan now’s the time to make a move.

Celebrating Martin Luther King Day

Today, on Martin Luther King Day people around the world honor a great civil rights leader. But few remember that he had a three-part agenda. And as we try to help in devastated, poverty-stricken Haiti, the forgotten parts are more important than ever, argues Norm Beach his The Star article. I couldn’t help be agree.

After all, King is mostly remembered for his fight to end racism. Through his powerful and compelling speeches, he challenged us to think about the equality of all people but also to avoid foreign wars and help end poverty abroad. I

With the election of President Barack Obama as a true sign of a change in America, the U.S. has a way to go. It is still engaged in two wars—not exactly a peacemaker—and if Hurricane Katrina showed the world anything, the U.S. hasn’t done much to help its own poor, let alone other impoverished, developing nations.

If King is still watching from above, America has one down and two more to go.

Surviving the post-holiday grind

After the last candy canes is eaten, candles and tree lights turned off, many people find January to be the toughest month to endure, which why more experts are called to assist employees with family, financial and mood problems, according to a report in the Globe and Mail.

There are many reasons for January blues with the first being, of course, stresses after the family-centered holiday to which many find to stressful and intensive. According to LifeWorks, calls for help to employee assistance providers typically double in January. Of the 1,000 calls to LifeWorks for assistance last year in January, 28 percent related to family and personal relationships, 25 percent for mental health, 10 percent for legal counsel, 7 percent for finances and finally, 7 percent for job stress.

Under the current economic state, it is understandable that many people are feeling a pinch in their wallet. Job security is no longer considered a given in most sectors with the exception of perhaps, the public service but even the Obama administration has trimmed down its government workers to a core. That’s why more and more people are seeking financial planners for help with budgeting.

Ironically enough, one would think that the family-centered holiday would induce a split for couples struggling to stay together. But the numbers say this is not the case at all. In fact, before the recession before analysts noticed couples with marital problems were opting to work it out with counseling to keep the marriage going.

Finally, the obvious downturn in the temperature is enough to dampen one’s mood. It doesn’t help if you are sensitive to the lack of sunlight or, Seasonal Affective Disorder. People can benefit from simply spending time outdoors and during tough times, a little walk outside does wonders to clear the head.

Ringing in the New Year

With the start of another year and my recent engagement (to a lovely French beau), I found myself attending a “total wedding show” with friend who is actually in the midst of planning her big day. When walking around the glorified household, beauty and everything-bridal exhibits one couldn’t help but wonder how this materialistic allure of the bridal fantasy in North America all began.

Historically speaking, DeBeers ran the most successful diamond advertising campaign in the mid-20th century, opening new markets not only in North America but internationally as well. Amazingly enough, the shop owners took notice and started capitalizing on this emerging bridal industry, making what was once a high-class event for the riches available to the masses. Hence, we know have your choice of texturized invitations, facilities decorated to the nines, a decked out party bus for transportation and of course, the wedding planner to coordinate it all.

To me, it seems like a whole lot of hype that can potentially turn what is supposed to be a period of bliss and happiness into time of stress and resentment. It should really be all about celebrating that couple’s milestone—and hopefully, a once in a lifetime event.

Why insurance companies are grinning

With the Senate’s historic vote yesterday, 60 to 40 in favor of passing the health bill, which includes among many things, a provision that requires all Americans to purchase insurance—pushing several thousands of Americans who haven’t yet acquired coverage, into the welcoming hands of insurers.

This successful passing of the health bill is indefinitely a victorious win for President Barack Obama, despite it being a far cry from what he initially set out to have become law. It is a positive thing for the American people, too, who now have the government supporting the every citizen’s right to basic care. A new tax-base system with basically make the higher earners pay for the healthcare for the poor. The middle to upper income groups, however, will be required by law to purchase their own insurance.

This predicament leaves the giant insurance companies grinning ear to ear. In the dollar sense, they are the biggest winners from the healthcare reform so far. But the real success of the bill remains on how the consumer –and the ultimately voters—perceive this new law to be.

As William Shakespeare once wrote, “things are neither good nor bad; but thinking makes it so.”

Goodbye cubicles, hello interactive office space

A major shift in how we work is coming to a workplace near you.

So long are the days of hierarchical, power-driven office settings, where the higher up and closer you are the CEO predetermines the location of where you work from. Leaders on the cusp of innovation are opting for an interactive workspace designs that promote collaboration.

This might look more like an IKEA catalogue than your cubicle-ladden building: a casual lounge atmosphere with a living room feel; open space for casual gathering and information sharing.

Research shows that people are most innovative when they work in small groups, or in pairs. The Michigan-based office furniture company, Steelcase, a global leader in the industry, found that interactive spaces that morph into `I space` and `You and I space` are perfect for promoting collaboration. These so-called `interactive hubs` not only foster creativity through informal brainstorming, but also improved communication, as workers can easily confer with colleague. At the same time, there is space for the individual to work productively on his or her own.
And the timing could be better.

In the midst of a stimulus packages, layoffs and buyouts, workers are under pressure to perform better and produce more. But what does this mean for the brass up top? In truth, every organization is looking for ways to improve communication, break down silos and help people work well together. It`s necessary for innovation and it makes good business sense.

Inspired by the flexibility of Web 2.0 open-source movement, these open-concept interactive hubs in the workplace are popping up in businesses around the world, including IBM (http://www.thestar.com/business/article/715280–changing-spaces), and even clusters of organizations who call themselves, `agents of change,` share a communal space as members in the Center for Social Innovation (http://socialinnovation.ca/) . Perhaps it is a sign that society is becoming truly embedded with our technology, as it influencing the very manner in which we work. But if it truly promotes collaboration and innovation with a networking and interactive approach, why don`t more companies adopt it in the workplace?

If you have a comment or want to share an example of this concept in your workplace, tell us!

What happens when sex doesn’t sell?

You know the publishing industry sales hitting a new low when even sex doesn’t sell.

Hugh Hefner’s flagship magazine, Playboy, is cutting its base rate by 38 percent, as a result of slumping ad sales and circulation declines. Starting in the New Year, Playboy will also be combining its January and February issues. With the appointment of its new CEO, Scott Flanders, a big shake up at the icon men’s magazine has been promised due to its troubles with advertising and circulation revenue. A report in Media Week hinted at further strategic changes at Playboy including, job cuts, outsourcing and even an outright sale. While this sort of industry news isn’t uncommon these days, as so many print publications are sinking. But what does it mean when even sex doesn’t sell anymore? One has to wonder how and when business leaders of print-based publications will not only make the big leap to go all-digital, but also find a new model, considering the traditional one is evidently, defunct.

The recession made me fat.

Apparently the credit crunch has affected more than just bank accounts– now it’s after waistlines. A recent German study showed a strong correlation between indebtedness and obesity.

You’d think it would be the other way around (less money, less food), but researchers found 25 per cent of the 949 indebted participants were medically obese, as compared to 11 per cent of the other 8,318 study participants who weren’t.

Over-indebtedness was associated with a 1.97 times higher odds for being overweight and 2.56 times higher odds for obesity (after adjusting for age, sex, education, income and health factors such as depression and smoking). The authors speculated those deep in debt may gain weight since their ability to choose nutritious foods is limited by their budget.  Fatty, low-yield foods are often less expensive compared to healthier options.

What does this mean for Canadians? Now that we’re tightening our expenses, let’s not loosen our belts. Personally, I choose to consider this study a friendly warning.

The sinkable General Motors

When news came in that 100-year-old General Motors was filing for bankruptcy, I can’t say I was altogether surprised. Though plenty were hoping for the Disney ending, the market had spoken long before the announcement last week.

As I read through various GM obituaries, I came across an interesting comment from Stephen Pope, chief global strategist at Cantor Fitzgerald in London. He said the bitter reality of the bankruptcy “is a bit like the Titanic sinking.” In my opinion, he couldn’t have made a better comparison.

It’s the classic tale of hubris, the fall that cometh after pride. And if we look to history, we should know this is what happens when humans get a little too arrogant.

Like the “unsinkable” Titanic, GM was a company marvelled for its size. For over seven decades, it was the global sales leader, year after consecutive year. The growth seemed sustainable until the markets changed direction in the mid-2000s. After redirecting resources to develop a range of light trucks and SUVs, fuel prices increased dramatically and An Inconvenient Truth tagged along.

What did consumers do? We bought smaller cars. And while other car companies (i.e. Toyota, Honda) moved quickly to cater to the new compact trend, GM was slow to react. In fact, they stayed the course, offering the same trucks and SUVs only with better fuel economy.

And that’s where they made their critical mistake. GM believed they didn’t have to follow market trends, that consumers would buy GM vehicles no matter what. They got too proud.

So, here we are. Thousands have lost their jobs, employment insurance is through the roof, U.S. and Canadian governments are stepping in and the economy is feeling the pressure.

At the risk of sounding insensitive, what did GM expect?

Unlike most cautionary tales, not all is lost for General Motors. The company has been declared “too big to fail” and spared its due demise. Receiving a multi-billion-dollar aid package, GM will undergo rigorous restructuring to come back to the market as a profitable and competitive company.

There are lessons to be learned here, but I’m not exactly sure what they are, which throws a wrench in my conclusion. I’d like to think that GM is another example of how overconfidence is its own revenge, but it seems the only ones who were hurt in this situation are the frontline workers.

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