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What you should know about American co-ops

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Co-op Month, celebrated all through October, reminds Americans of the important role co-ops play in the economy.

Did you know that one in three Americans is a proud member of a cooperative, and that consumer cooperatives have over 343 million members across the country?

Here’s why co-ops are integral to our economy.

They foster economic stability
Cooperatives tend to be much more stable than traditional companies. A 2007 study by the World Council of Credit Unions showed that cooperatives in the United States had a much higher five-year survival rate than traditional firms: 90 percent compared to five percent.

In addition, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation reported that credit unions were five times less likely than banks to fail during the financial crisis, even doubling their lending to small businesses between 2008 and 2016.

Long-term survival allows co-ops to grow along with their communities and to adapt to the changing needs of their members.

They’re everywhere
Cooperatives come in many forms, largely because their structure is beneficial to a wide range of economic activities.

For example, over 2,000 American agricultural co-ops of all kinds have enabled producers to band together and ensure their financial stability while providing quality products to their customers.

Credit unions, on the other hand, are a staple of our financial landscape because their democratic organization allows them to put the needs of their members first.

They support communities
American co-ops generate over $25 billion in wages a year and create jobs for entire communities. Their unique structure and organization ensure that every worker is invested in the success of the co-op and this keeps members motivated.

Since members take part in the decision-making process, these companies also contribute to a stronger sense of belonging and community.

Find out more about Co-op Month at coopmonth.coop.

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3 reasons to start a cooperative

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If you’ve been thinking about launching a business, you may want to consider structuring it as a cooperative. Depending on your goals, it may be the best way to develop your project in the long term. Here are three reasons to start a co-op.

1. You hope to meet a particular need
Most co-ops are created with the aim of responding to the needs of their members. It may be to remedy a lack of accessibility to certain goods, to make services more affordable for the community or to help small producers achi¬eve financial stability. Workers, consumers and producers alike can form cooperatives.

2. You want to support your community
Co-ops have the potential to energize local economies. This is mostly because, unlike traditional companies, their main goal is to allow communities to come together and improve their overall situation in a way that helps stabilize and improve the local economy as a whole. This is hugely different than merely trying to increase profits for a handful of investors.

3. You value long-term stability
Democratic decision-making plays a large role in allowing co-ops to survive longer than traditional companies. Each member contributes their own knowledge and expertise, allowing decisions to benefit from varied and complementary perspectives. This allows members to feel like they’re really part of the company and increases the likelihood of sound choices being made for the future of the co-op.

Cooperatives offer many advantages over traditional companies. Their collaborative nature allows them to make the most of their members’ experience and expertise. If you’re interested in learning more about co-ops, visit ncbaclusa.coop.

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Shoplifting 2019: Low risk, high reward

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According to the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention (NASP), about 27 million people — 10% of the U.S. population — steal more than $13 billion worth of goods from retailers every year.

That’s about $35 million per day.

With 10 million people caught shoplifting in the last five years, that means one in every 11 persons in the U.S. will steal something from a store at some point in their lives. With only one of every 48 of them apprehended — and only half of those are ever prosecuted — it’s no wonder why shoplifters view their illegal industry as “low risk, high reward.”

Some companies regard shoplifting losses as a “cost of doing business,” merely passing along its extra expenses to the consumer in the form of higher prices. But most retailers resist that route, each for their own reasons. So do small businesses who, to remain competitive or simply stay in business, fear the risk of raising their prices.

Shoplifting appeals to men and women equally. About 25% of them are underage. Of the 75% who are adults, most say they started shoplifting in their teens.

In 29 states, the felony threshold for shoplifting/larceny is $1,000 or more. In states where it’s less than that (like $950 in California), shoplifting cases are a misdemeanor, which means less police involvement and minimal punishment, if any at all.

As a result, in recent years shoplifters have become more brazen with their escalating vocal abuse and threats of physical behavior during theft attempts. The people most at risk are store employees and customers, according to Mark Doyle, producer of The Annual Retail Survey.

Every year, all the numbers prove retail theft gets worse with no end in sight, Doyle says. In eight of the last 10 years, the number of shoplifters and dishonest employees has increased, and so has the amounts of money recovered from those arrested.

Now, according to Organized Retail Crime (ORC), the nation’s ever-expanding drug crisis has created a desperate need for cash by users. They, too, become shoplifters.

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High tech companies: Lots of jobs and skills in demand

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They are the elite positions of the 21st century: Tech jobs, where the magic happens in companies that have changed the world.

The surroundings can be glamorous like Apple’s spaceship headquarters or the Googleplex, where talent is rewarded with big bucks and a bevy of tasty benefits.

How do you get there?

First and foremost, be great at something. Pick an area that truly grabs your soul. Some engineers love hardware, the systems and components that drive devices. Narrow that down: Become an expert at cameras, audio, system architecture.

Get the right training. It’s not always about college. Nearly every Apple ad specifies a degree, but also says ‘equivalent experience.’ For example, if you know Linux servers inside and out, Apple could be the place for you. One tech employee said he got his job at Google, in part, because of his chess championships.

Develop something. Learn scripting languages (Python, Bash, Perl, Ruby, for example) and apply your knowledge on personal projects.

When your knowledge matures, get online with other experts and discuss your projects.

If an interview does come your way, be ready. Google, Apple and Microsoft, for example, don’t have you fill out a form and throw a resume at them.

Being interviewed for such a job is in itself a research project. Interviews can be a week long or more. Candidates will be asked to solve relevant problems on their feet. Software engineers might be asked to write code, for example.

Remember that, as with all large companies, tech companies will conduct a review of your social media and do a background check. Keep your social media clean: Don’t bad mouth former employers or talk politics. Keep posts upbeat.

Learn about the company. Be prepared to ask questions.

Highlight your projects and be prepared to show your passion for them.

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The tiny get-rich-quick idea that worked big time

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While growing up in the tiny country town of Cricklade in north Wiltshire, England, Alex Tew was known as a maverick entrepreneur. At the age of eight, he already was peddling hand-drawn comics at school for $5 each–including a chocolate bar “freemium.”

According to The Hustle newsletter, in August 2005, Tew, then 21 and needing college money, was in bed jotting down schemes for selling something cheap for a million dollars. Among his absurd ideas was a pouch for chewed gum that he called the “Gum Slinger.”

Suddenly, an idea glowed in his head:

He would create a website that sold ad space for $1 per pixel. Advertisers would buy a 100-pixel block for $100 to promote their logos or images with its hyperlink.

Tew designed the website in two days, spent $50 in domain fees, then introduced his brainchild to cyberspace. It was new. It got press. It caught on.

In 30 days, “The Million Dollar Homepage” made $250,000. It was attracting 65,000 hits a day. By the end of October, it had made another $500,000 from nearly 1,500 advertisers.

By New Year’s Eve, Tew had sold 999,000 pixels and auctioned off the last thousand on eBay for $38,000 from MillionDollarWeightLoss.com.

His four-month earnings: $1.04 million.

Tew’s fundamental idea of selling pixels on the Internet was something countless other people could have done. However, Tew beat them to it, and everyone was wondering why they didn’t think of it first.

Among his subsequent ventures, in 2012 Tew co-founded the meditation app, “Calm.” Five years later, Calm was named Apple’s App of the Year.

According to Inc.com, Calm is now worth more than $1 billion.

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Women’s office fashion can be fun

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Wondering what to wear to work that isn’t gray, black, or–gasp–a pantsuit?

Here are some suggestions that bring the fashion to “office fashion”:

Above all, keep your industry in mind. Although casual is more acceptable than ever before, that doesn’t mean it’s always appropriate. An attorney, for example, will don a more business formal outfit than many other professions.

Work-appropriate clothing sometimes can be casual, but it should not be revealing. Women should skip off-the-shoulder and low-cut tops, just as men should not wear shorts or t-shirts with political messages.

Incorporate pops of color. You can wear those gray dress slacks but add a bright shirt and fun shoes and accessories.

Depending on your office environment, have some fun with statement pieces in your jewelry, which doesn’t need to cost a fortune. Bold, even chunky, pieces can add some personality to your outfit without overwhelming your professional look. When in doubt, however, stick with classics.

Closed-toe shoes are typically considered best for work. Again, it depends on your surroundings and what is considered acceptable. But if you do go with open toes, pay attention to those tootsies and how they’re groomed.

Avoid matchy-matchy. The idea is for your colors and pieces to complement one another, not to match.

Again, it’s important to understand your needs as well as HR’s requirements. If you’ve got a dress code, by all means abide by it–unless you plan on job-hunting.

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Book Review: Is Online Interaction Worth Our Privacy?

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Although it’s easy to shop online these days–and communicating with others is faster than dialing a phone number–it all comes with a price.

Our privacy.

So warns Shoshana Zuboff, a Harvard Business School professor emerita who has written “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for the Future at the New Frontier of Power” following decades of scrutinizing labor and power in the digital marketplace.

With scant resistance from the law or society, Zuboff writes, surveillance capitalism is very close to shaping the digital future and–in the process–ruling social order.

In its book review, the New York Times notes that instead of serving the needs of people, surveillance capitalists make billions more by monitoring, purchasing, and selling the characteristics of peoples’ behavior. Simultaneously, the fundamental production of goods and services is being governed by “behavioral modification.”

Comparing companies like Google and Facebook to the slaughter of elephants for their tusks, Zuboff writes that instead of being the product, the public is the “abandoned carcass” from the wrenching of raw material from the daily experiences of humans.

Such big tech platforms continue to sell advertising, but now it’s targeted by the behavior information gleaned from users.

The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for the Future at the New Frontier of Power
Author: Shoshana Zuboff
Publisher: PublicAffairs
Pages: 704

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Upcoming Events

Oct
15
Tue
10:00 am Acrylic Painting: An Individuali... @ Art in the Valley
Acrylic Painting: An Individuali... @ Art in the Valley
Oct 15 @ 10:00 am – 12:30 pm
Acrylic Painting: An Individualized Approach @ Art in the Valley
With an emphasis on individuality and creativity, this acrylic painting class welcomes all skill levels. Some concepts we will explore include various paint application techniques, color theory, and composition. Within these basic parameters, we will[...]
Oct
16
Wed
10:30 am Art Class “Fall is Here” @ Art in the Valley
Art Class “Fall is Here” @ Art in the Valley
Oct 16 @ 10:30 am – 12:00 pm
Art Class "Fall is Here" @ Art in the Valley
We are offering classes for children ages 7-12 who would enjoy expressing themselves through art. The students will expand their creative side with drawing, painting and constructing, using various mediums such as acrylic, pastels, watercolor[...]
7:00 pm Author Jeff Hunt book signing @ Warren Rifles Confederate Museum
Author Jeff Hunt book signing @ Warren Rifles Confederate Museum
Oct 16 @ 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm
Author Jeff Hunt book signing @ Warren Rifles Confederate Museum
Author Jeff Hunt will be presenting and signing copies of his books from the Meade and Lee Series at multiple events in the state of Virginia. The first event is at 7:00 pm on Wednesday,[...]
Oct
17
Thu
1:30 pm The Fundamentals of Oil Painting... @ Art in the Valley
The Fundamentals of Oil Painting... @ Art in the Valley
Oct 17 @ 1:30 pm – 4:00 pm
The Fundamentals of Oil Painting - Fall 2019 @ Art in the Valley
This class will focus on proven approaches for successful oil paintings. Subject matter will be the student’s choice. No previous painting experience with oils necessary. The class will introduce students to fundamental concepts of color[...]
Oct
18
Fri
10:00 am R-MA Homecoming @ Randolph-Macon Academy
R-MA Homecoming @ Randolph-Macon Academy
Oct 18 @ 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
R-MA Homecoming @ Randolph-Macon Academy
Randolph-Macon Academy will welcome alumni and their families back to campus on Friday and Saturday, October 18th and 19th, during the annual Homecoming weekend. Events that are open to the general public include the Homecoming[...]
1:30 pm The Fundamentals of Acrylic Pain... @ Art in the Valley
The Fundamentals of Acrylic Pain... @ Art in the Valley
Oct 18 @ 1:30 pm – 4:00 pm
The Fundamentals of Acrylic Painting - Fall 2019 @ Art in the Valley
This class will focus on proven approaches for successful acrylic paintings. Subject matter will be the student’s choice. No previous painting experience with acrylics necessary. The class will introduce students to fundamental concepts of color[...]
Oct
19
Sat
10:00 am R-MA Homecoming @ Randolph-Macon Academy
R-MA Homecoming @ Randolph-Macon Academy
Oct 19 @ 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
R-MA Homecoming @ Randolph-Macon Academy
Randolph-Macon Academy will welcome alumni and their families back to campus on Friday and Saturday, October 18th and 19th, during the annual Homecoming weekend. Events that are open to the general public include the Homecoming[...]
10:30 am 2nd Annual Peak Leaf Music & Bre... @ Valley Roots Farm
2nd Annual Peak Leaf Music & Bre... @ Valley Roots Farm
Oct 19 @ 10:30 am – 7:00 pm
2nd Annual Peak Leaf Music & Brewers Festival @ Valley Roots Farm
Join us for the 2nd annual Peak Leaf Music & Brewers Festival! Come party on Saturday, October 19th, 2019, for a day of live music, local brews, local merchants, and local food trucks; all for a[...]
1:00 pm Workshop: An Introduction to Col... @ Art in the Valley
Workshop: An Introduction to Col... @ Art in the Valley
Oct 19 @ 1:00 pm – 6:00 pm
Workshop: An Introduction to Color Theory @ Art in the Valley
This one day workshop will be an introduction to color theory as it applies to image-making. We will talk about primary, secondary and tertiary colors and how to mix them from a simple palette for[...]
5:30 pm 7th Annual Front Royal Zombie Walk @ Bing Crosby Stadium
7th Annual Front Royal Zombie Walk @ Bing Crosby Stadium
Oct 19 @ 5:30 pm – 8:30 pm
7th Annual Front Royal Zombie Walk @ Bing Crosby Stadium
Put on your best zombie costume and practice your best shambling limp, because it’s time for the annual FRONT ROYAL ZOMBIE WALK! The Walk will begin at Bing Crosby Stadium at 6pm sharp. We will[...]