Current Affairs

Soccer and Money



Sports fans typically have only a passing interest in their favorite team’s financial state of affairs. They don’t really care if the billionaire owner can afford to upgrade his yacht or whether the front office convinces a sponsor to purchase one of those plush corporate suites.

Sports fans simply are looking for entertainment from athletes who try hard, hopefully win more than they lose and may even occasionally challenge for a title. Soccer, for example, is the world’s most popular sport, yet many professional clubs struggle to meet their financial obligations, according to Stefan Szymanski, author of Money and Soccer. They’ll never win a championship and can’t afford the star players that could really make a difference, but are loved by their adoring followers anyway.

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Is it possible to be completely objective and non-judgmental about others? If you see co-workers with dreadlocks, tattoos or a yarmulke, do you automatically make certain assumptions? What races through your mind when a disabled person navigates a supermarket aisle? How about the elderly lady who slowly and carefully backs out of a parking space … very, very slowly and very, very carefully?

Don’t worry – it’s perfectly normal to have a whole range of feelings about your fellows. You’re not prejudiced, intolerant or ignorant – you’re just human.

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Since we’re in the business of education, it’s only natural for getAbstract to applaud those committed to expanding literacy and knowledge while encouraging more adults to read.

Since 2011, organizers and volunteers with World Book Night have distributed free books to roughly 2.5 million people, mostly throughout the UK and Ireland. World Book Night 2016 will be celebrated this Saturday, April 23, generally believed to be the date of William Shakespeare’s birth and death.

In honor of World Book Night, getAbstract is going to award one-year Business Gold memberships to three lucky people. That’s a $299 value that entitles you to unlimited access to our business book, business article and talk summaries. All you have to do is tell us what you’re reading these days. Share your recommendations via Facebook or Twitter using the hashtag #worldbooknight and tagging @getabstract. You can post your reads until Sunday night.

Who knows, maybe your selection is already in getAbstract’s library – or will be someday.

In With the New



You would be hard-pressed these days to find a getAbstract summary that doesn’t warn against the curse of complacency. The evidence is overwhelming – ask any clear-thinking executive or consultant. Not even the world’s most successful organizations can afford to be satisfied with the status quo. Last year’s profits and products are old news. “Now” is the only thing that matters. Competition has never been as fierce, making innovation an absolute priority.

getAbstract has been an industry leader for years because we constantly look for new and better ways to serve our clients. So we’re excited to announce our latest product – business article summaries – a collection of the most relevant reports, articles and white papers from leading think tanks and bloggers worldwide. You won’t have to wait until important information appears in a book, publication or video. Material from prestigious organizations such as the World Economic Forum and the Brookings Institution will be at your fingertips.

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People love holidays such as Easter because it means getting away from the office and pursuing leisurely activities. Families have special meals together and enjoy each other’s company. There’s usually lots to talk about – current events, politics, sports, movies, etc.

If you’re a getAbstract subscriber, then it’s almost a sure bet you’ve recently read or listened to something thought provoking. And if you haven’t yet committed to joining the best online service for compressed knowledge, here’s just a little of what you’re missing from among our newest selections: Read the rest of this entry »


Yes, those footsteps behind you are getting louder and closer. Artificial Intelligence continues to close the gap on human intellect. And while advances in AI are ongoing, some are particularly remarkable and represent significant breakthroughs.

Computers have beaten people in chess, checkers and Jeopardy, but experts were skeptical that a machine could defeat a human being in Go, an ancient Chinese board game that requires intuition to master complex strategic variables. Well, chalk one up for the tech heads.

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Pump It Up



Pulling up to the gas pump these days is not the painful experience of a couple of years ago. Prices in most U.S. states are under $2 per gallon – the lowest since 2009. Yet the average American really doesn’t know why fuel costs have plunged so dramatically. One may venture that the oil supply is more plentiful, or that we have become less dependent on the Arabs. But the financial complexities of oil prices lie far beyond the grasp of the typical consumer.

Same thing with food prices. Why is that can of coffee 20 cents more this week? Did it rain too much in Brazil? Did the farmer have to hire additional workers? Did your local supermarket have to compensate for losses in another area?

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Dollars and Sense



Show us the money!

For years, a CEO’s performance was based on profitability. Is the company meeting or exceeding expectations? Are shareholders getting satisfactory returns? Is the board of directors happy? The bottom line was the bottom line.

Business is still about making money, of course, but the metrics for assessing a CEO are changing – and that’s a good thing. Look no further than the recently released Harvard Business Review annual ranking of the world’s leading chief executives. No. 1 on the list is Lars Sorenson of Novo Nordisk, a Denmark-based healthcare corporation that focuses on diabetes treatment. Yes, Novo Nordisk boasted some very impressive numbers, but the company also drew high marks for its proactivity concerning social and environmental issues.

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In the classic Arnold Schwarzenegger sci-fi thriller, Predator, a fearsome alien being utilizes sophisticated weaponry under a cloak of invisibility to systematically kill off a platoon of soldiers in the jungle.

Heavily armed with rifles, machines guns and bazookas, Schwarzenegger’s people seemingly are prepared for any type of conventional combat. But without warning this unforgiving foe appears out of nowhere and destroys everyone – except Arnold, of course.

Imagine a similar scenario in business. You’ve built a strong, successful operation and can hold your own against anyone. Then suddenly you’re ambushed by a competitor you never saw coming. Think Uber. The upstart wasn’t even a blip on the radar screen and now it’s putting a full-court press on the taxi industry.

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As the recent terror attacks in Paris have shown us, we are leaving behind an era of relative security and comfort, even in the western world. Terrorism threatens not only our bodies, but also our minds. These days, we are all out of our depth – our wits are paralyzed, while the terrorists grow stronger.

That’s why getAbstract would like to share with you some relevant and current information on terrorism – its causes, objectives and possible ways to defeat it. The following summaries are free to download, no strings attached:

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It’s About Time



Funny how the pendulum swings. During the Great Recession, businesses sliced and diced their workforces like Freddy Krueger at a junior high sleepover. Any perception of loyalty between employer and employee was pretty much destroyed. With the economy recovering, companies are working harder now to attract – and retain – individuals who have more options and aren’t afraid to exercise them.

The latest corporate perk? Unlimited time off. Read the rest of this entry »

A Giant Among Us



When it comes to industry dominance and profitability, everyone knows Google is a colossus. But the company is also a giant in the eyes of its workforce. In results from Glassdoor’s annual Employees’ Choice Awards, Google co-founder Larry Page was voted the best large company CEO. Glassdoor, the career website, bases its awards solely on anonymous input from employees.

Google also was ranked No. 1 in two other categories – best places to work and compensation and benefits – and No. 3 in cultures and values. Glassdoor’s large company category includes organizations with more than 1,000 employees. Page, who received a 97% approval rating, was followed by Nike’s Mark Parker (97%), H-E-B’s Charles Butt (96%), Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg (95%) and Ultimate Software’s Scott Scherr (95%). Employees in the United Kingdom also rated Page No. 1 (99%), followed by Ken Chenault (98%) of American Express, David Dyson (97%) of Three, Martin Bennett (97%) of HomeServe UK and Carolyn McCall (96%) of easyJet.

“Gaining the trust and approval of an entire workforce is one of the most difficult yet rewarding responsibilities for any leader,” said Robert Hohman, Glassdoor CEO and co-founder.

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You’re cruising home from work in your slick, late model, fully electric-powered sedan when suddenly the car on your right swerves into your lane, creases your front bumper and brings traffic to a grinding halt.

You swing open your door and climb out to investigate, only to discover that the offending vehicle is one of those new-fangled driverless numbers that operate autonomously. Great. Now how are you supposed to get the insurance information or fill out a police report without both sides of the story? And who is going to be held liable for damage or injuries?

Welcome to your future.

If you think this scenario is a science fiction fantasy from Isaac Asimov, then you are blissfully unaware of arguably the hottest topic in technology – artificial intelligence (AI). The very notion that machines potentially could pose a genuine threat to human beings is enough to unhinge even the most sophisticated minds among us.

Elon Musk, founder of the firm responsible for inventing and manufacturing the widely praised Tesla electric automobile, told an audience at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2014 that AI is akin to “summoning the demon,” according to “The Economist” magazine. Prominent British philosopher Nick Bostrom considers sophisticated artificial intelligence as an “existential risk” to humanity.

The recent sci-fi thriller hit, “Ex Machina,” cast an imposing light on the AI phenomenon, spinning the tale of a highly evolved female robot being evaluated for her human qualities and whether, in fact, she possesses consciousness. One of the film’s main characters predicts that the development of a robot that thinks, feels and acts like a human is inevitable.

“One day the AIs are going to look back on us the same way we look at fossil skeletons on the plains of Africa,” he says. “An upright ape living in the dust with crude language and tools, all set for extinction.”

Perhaps. But for now, a more level-headed approach can be found in John Frank Weaver’s Robots Are People Too, a getAbstract selection that’s drawing plenty of attention. The author, an attorney and expert on AI and the law, acknowledges the vast power and potential of artificial intelligence. Instead of lobbing doomsday warheads, though, Weaver intelligently discusses the ramifications of AI as it applies to creativity, privacy and cultural and legal issues.

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Were you one of the lucky few to attend the 2015 TED Conference in Vancouver last week? Voracious reader, philanthropist and Microsoft founder Bill Gates was on-hand to share some of his favorite books as part of his presentation notes. You might remember that we recently featured John Brooks’s Business Adventures – Bill Gates’s and Warren Buffett’s favorite business book. In his TED Conference review, Gates writes that “it’s certainly true that many of the particulars of business have changed. But the fundamentals have not. Brooks’s deeper insights about business are just as relevant today as they were back then. In terms of its longevity, Business Adventures stands alongside Benjamin Graham’s The Intelligent Investor, the 1949 book that Warren [Buffett] says is the best book on investing that he has ever read.”

In Joe Studwell’s How Asia Works the author challenges the belief that countries should leave economic development to market forces. He uses economic history to show that almost every advanced economy used protectionism at some stage to boost growth. He cites East Asia’s remarkable record to show why poor countries must remain steadfast in pursuing their goals, unswayed by trendy economic advice or pressure from their own entrepreneurs.

Our third pick from Gates’s TED list is Making the Modern World. Scientist and policy analyst Vaclav Smil’s approach is historical and multidisciplinary: He compares how algae, birds and beavers use materials to how humans use them, and traces human development from the first stone tools through the Bowflex machine. In his review, Gates notes that, “Smil is interested in the materials we use to meet the demands of modern life. Can we make enough steel for all those cars and enough concrete for all those roads? What are the risks if we do? In other words, can we bring billions of people out of poverty without destroying the environment?” Looking for a staggering statistic that might just keep you up nights? China used more cement in the past three years than the U.S. used in the entire 20th century.

You liked Bill Gates’s favorite books? You’ll find the full list on his blog Gates Notes.


Mark Zuckerberg is known for challenging himself with some pretty intense New Year’s “resolutions”, such as last year’s commitment to learn Mandarin in a year. This year the young Facebook founder decided to make 2015 the year he begins to read more. Not only that, but he is doing so publically via his new Facebook page A Year of Books (making it pretty difficult to quit!).

“I’ve found reading books very intellectually fulfilling,” Zuckerberg wrote. “Books allow you to fully explore a topic and immerse yourself in a deeper way than most media today. I’m looking forward to shifting more of my media diet towards reading books.”
Zuckerberg kicked off the project with Moisés Naím’s The End of Power: From Boardrooms to Battlefields and Churches to States, Why Being In Charge Isn’t What It Used to Be, and encouraged the 370,000 page followers to read along with him and get involved in a post-read Q&A with the author.

The reason for this choice? “It’s a book that explores how the world is shifting to give individual people more power that was traditionally only held by large governments, militaries and other organizations,” Zuckerberg wrote.

But that’s not all. “Mr. Naím, an economist who has been Venezuela’s trade and industry minister as well as editor in chief of Foreign Policy magazine, is a courageous writer who seeks to dissect big subjects in new ways,” wrote The Wall Street Journal in 2013 when the book was published. “At a time when critics of overreaching governments, big banks, media moguls and concentrated wealth decry the power of the “1%,” Mr. Naím argues that leaders of all types political, corporate, military, religious, union – face bigger, more complex problems with weaker hands than in the past.”

And in case you needed one more incentive, you might be swayed by President Bill Clinton who declared that “The End of Power will change the way you read the news, the way you think about politics, and the way you look at the world.”

Indeed the critical acclaim for The End of Power has been extensive and from a slew of formidable reviewers and viable critics. Now, with Zuckerberg’s endorsement, the book is gaining new attention, and we wanted to make sure that you knew that the summary was available in our library.