Express closing stores, along with a new corporate strategy

Express closing stores, along with a new corporate strategy.

A nother struggling retailer has succumbed to store closures; this time, it is fashion apparel company Express (EXPR). Express announced the closures on Wednesday, along with a new corporate strategy.

Express said it has plans to close about 100 stores by 2022. The retailer already closed nine locations in 2019 and said it will close 31 by the end of January and another 35 by the end of January 2021.

While Express did not indicate which locations would be closing, it did say that it expects to see a sales reduction of $90 million by 2022. Express reported that it had 411 mall-based stores and 215 outlet stores as of Nov. 2, according to a public filing (via USA Today).

With the news that it would be closing stores, Express narrowed its Q4 guidance. Comparable sales for the company are expected to be down 3% with adjusted net income in the range of $11 million to $12.5 million. Express also expects a tax restructuring charge of between $6.5 million and $7.5 million during the fourth quarter.

“Our expected results show the third consecutive quarter of sequential improvement in our comp sales trends,” Tim Baxter, CEO at Express, said in a statement. “I am encouraged that the new initiatives we have put in place are resonating with our customers.”

“Today we are unveiling our new corporate strategy, called The EXPRESSway Forward, and we are focused on profitable growth. My expectation is that we will return to a mid-single-digit operating margin through a combination of low-single-digit comp sales growth, margin expansion and cost reductions. This will of course take some time, but we have a clear path,” he added.

As part of its new EXPRESSway Forward strategy, Express is looking to improve engagement with its current customer base as well as bring in new customers with a relaunched loyalty program and private label credit cards in Fall 2020 as well as a series of other initiatives.

Express is also taking the popular path of curated apparel for customers to offer more versatility, along with reinvigorating its brand with new self-expression and confident strategy for both men and women.

Shares of Express stock were up 17.8313% as of 11:40 a.m. EST on Wednesday.

The Witcher Netflix record, is a big hit. However

The Witcher Netflix record, is a big hit. However.

Netflix has officially announced that its fantasy series, The Witcher, is a big hit. However, some of its popularity is due to how streamer recently changed up how it measures its viewing metrics. In a fourth-quarter earnings call, Netflix said that during its four weeks on the platform, 76 million member households watched The Witcher.

However, as explained by The Hollywood Reporter, the company previously counted a view as a member account watching at least 70 percent of one episode or 70 percent of a feature-length film. Now, it’s cut that time down to as little as two minutes.

Essentially, if any user clicks on The Witcher on Netflix, that’s “long enough to indicate the choice was intentional,” according to a footnote in the earnings report. With these new metrics, the streamer now says The Witcher may score the platform’s biggest first season ever.

“Our new methodology is similar to the BBC iPlayer in their rankings based on ‘requests’ for the title, ‘Most Popular’ articles on The New York Times, which include those who opened the articles, and YouTube view counts,” the company also noted in the report. “This way, short and long titles are treated equally, leveling the playing field for all types of our content including interactive content, which has no fixed length.”

The Witcher stars Henry Cavill as Geralt of Rivia, a white-haired, yellow-eyed witcher widely known as a war hero and urban legend. The series, which premiered on Dec. 20, is based on the work of author Andrzej Sapkowski, who first started creating the fantasy world in 1992.

While the show received some mixed reviews after its premiere, it’s clearly become a popular choice for Netflix viewers, although there were repeated gripes that the show’s multiple timelines were too confusing. Netflix even responded with an official timeline of the show’s events to help clear things up for casual viewers.

Some of the show’s success has been attributed to the Game of Thrones-sized hole left in the TV landscape after HBO’s sword-and-sorcery epic concluded this past spring. Obviously, comparisons between the two series were all but inevitable, but Cavill has managed to keep things in perspective.

“I think comparisons are always going to be made and it’s fun,” said Cavill, via ET. “It’s fine when they’re two ends of a spectrum in a fantasy genre. But that’s like saying someone’s going to be the next Tom Cruise. No one’s going to be the next Tom Cruise.”

The Witcher was renewed for a second season prior to its first season’s debut, which is currently available to stream on Netflix.

Tulsi Gabbard sues Clinton for alleged ‘Russian asset’ smear

Tulsi Gabbard sues Clinton for alleged ‘Russian asset’ smear.

Democratic presidential candidate Rep. Tulsi Gabbard sued former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Wednesday for allegedly defaming her by suggesting the Hawaii congresswoman is a “Russian asset.”

“Clinton’s false assertions were made in a deliberate attempt to derail Tulsi’s campaign,” said the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.

The suit claims that Gabbard has suffered “actual damages” of ”$50 million — and counting” from Clinton’s comments. But the suit does not cite a specific amount of damages it is seeking.

Clinton, the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee who previously was a senator from New York, said in an October interview that an unnamed Democratic presidential candidate was “the favorite of the Russians.”

Clinton did not mention Gabbard, a four-term congresswoman, by name in that interview with the podcast “Campaign HQ With David Plouffe.”

But Clinton’s spokesman, Nick Merrill, said after the interview that “If the nesting doll fits,” when asked if she had been referring to Gabbard, who is also a major in the Army National Guard and a combat veteran of Iraq.

Merrill later said in a tweet that Clinton was referring to the Republican Party grooming Gabbard. But it is Russians, not the GOP, who are known for making nesting, or Matryoshka dolls.

Clinton, wife of President Bill Clinton, lost the 2016 election to Republican nominee Donald Trump.

The report by special counsel Robert Mueller as well as a probe by the Senate Intelligence Committee have both found that Russian agents tried to damage Clinton’s candidacy, and that they tried to promote the third-party candidacy of Green Party nominee Jill Stein in order to harm Clinton’s chances of winning the White House.

When asked about the suit, Merrill told NBC News on Wednesday, “That’s ridiculous.”

The suit suggests that Clinton smeared Gabbard with a false accusation in “retribution” for Gabbard’s endorsement of Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders in his 2016 candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination.

“Clinton — a cutthroat politician by any account — has never forgotten this perceived slight,” said Gabbard’s suit, which also names the congresswoman’s presidential campaign committee as a plaintiff.

Clinton “lied about her perceived rival” for reasons that could include “personal animus, political enmity, or fear of real change within a political party Clinton and her allies have long dominated.”

Clinton “did so publicly, unambiguously, and with obvious malicious intent,” the suit claimed.

DC Trump inaugural committee illegally enriched president’s hotel (News)

DC Trump inaugural committee illegally enriched president’s hotel (News).

The attorney general for the District of Columbia on Wednesday sued President Donald Trump’s official inaugural committee, as well as the Trump Organization and the Trump International Hotel in Washington, alleging they worked together to illegally enrich the Trump family business.

The suit claims that the nonprofit inaugural committee violated laws barring the use of charitable funds to enrich private individuals when it agreed to pay Trump’s hotel more than $1 million for the use of ballroom space during the January 2017 inaugural festivities.

The lawsuit alleges that the Trump inaugural committee knowingly misused its funds when it paid $175,000 per day to reserve the ballroom of the Trump hotel for four days during the president’s inauguration week but held only two events there, one of which was only for Trump’s adult children and their guests.

“District law requires nonprofits to use their funds for their stated public purpose, not to benefit private individuals or companies,” said District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine in a statement Wednesday. “In this case, we are seeking to recover the nonprofit funds that were improperly funneled directly to the Trump family business.”

According to the legal complaint, the contract the Presidential Inaugural Committee, or PIC, had with the Trump Hotel for event space “violated the PIC’s articles of incorporation by causing the PIC to pay amounts to the Trump Hotel that were unfair, unreasonable and unjustified and that acted ultimately to confer improper private benefit on the Trump Entities.”

“District nonprofit law required the PIC to seek out and pay reasonable fair market value for services rendered. The PIC did not do so, instead choosing to host its events at the Trump Hotel and pay far more than market value, ultimately for the private benefit of the Trump Entities.”

A spokeswoman for Trump Hotels defended the pricing, saying in a statement that “the rates charged by the hotel were completely in line with what anyone else would have been charged for an unprecedented event of this enormous magnitude.”

Much of the lawsuit appears to hinge on the question of whether the Trump inaugural committee agreed to book a block of rooms at the Trump hotel. According to the lawsuit, “it was the Trump Hotel’s usual policy to provide event space for free or at reduced rates when a group agreed to rent out a large block of rooms.”

This policy is consistent with hotel industry practices, and with the terms of contracts that Trump’s inaugural committee inked with other luxury hotels during the inauguration.

According to emails contained in the legal filings, the inaugural committee’s director, Rick Gates, verbally agreed in meetings with the Trump hotel’s manager that the committee would be responsible for filling up 80% of the guest rooms in the hotel during the days when they were renting event space.

Yet despite Gates’ agreement to fill a block of rooms, the Trump Hotel still charged, and the inaugural committee paid, event space fees of $175,000 per day for ballroom space.

A spokeswoman for Trump Hotels defended the pricing, saying in a statement that “the rates charged by the hotel were completely in line with what anyone else would have been charged for an unprecedented event of this enormous magnitude.”

The lawsuit also contained two contracts that the inaugural committee had signed with comparable Washington hotels during the same week in early 2017. They showed that the inaugural committee had reserved blocks of rooms, and in exchange, the hotels had either waved event rental fees altogether, or charged only $20,000 for an event space.

The Trump Hotel’s final contract with the inaugural committee, however, contained no mention of the room block that the Gates had agreed to reserve, even though it was referred to in emails.

The lawsuit is merely the latest in a series of controversies surrounding how the Trump inaugural committee raised and spent its funds in late 2016 and early 2017.

Trump’s inaugural committee raised more private money for inaugural events than any president in modern history, around $107 million. But it put on significantly fewer official events than Trump’s predecessor. In 2008, Barack Obama raised and spent just over $50 million on 10 official inaugural balls. Eight years later, Trump’s committee raised more than $100 million, and spent it on just three official inaugural balls.

Questions about the cost overruns have dogged the Trump inaugural committee for years, although aides who worked on the events say the money was spent in good faith, and everything was just very expensive.

Emails contained in Wednesday’s lawsuit support these claims and show that inaugural event planners strenuously objected to how much the Trump hotel was charging for space.

In one email from Gates to Ivanka Trump in mid-December, he told the president’s eldest daughter, who was an executive at the Trump Organization, that both he and the chief event planner had “concerns” about the price the Trump hotel had quoted for the event space.

“First, the cost itself seems quite high compared to other property. Second, I am a bit worried about the optics of PIC paying Trump Hotel a high fee and the media making a big story out of it,” Gates wrote.

Now, three years later, the inaugural committee has been disbanded, and its last remaining funds have been donated to charity. In place of funds from the committee, the District of Columbia is asking the judge to make the Trump Organization and its Washington hotel turn over the amount that the inaugural committee spent on event space, $1,033,757, and that it be given to charity.

Family members offer $20,000 for information (Details)

Relatives of two missing children are offering a $20,000 reward for information leading to the recovery of Joshua “JJ” Vallow and Tylee Ryan.

Larry and Kay Woodcock, JJ’s biological grandparents, made the announcement in Rexburg, Idaho, on Tuesday after meeting with local and federal law enforcement. JJ Vallow, 7, and Tylee Ryan, 17, haven’t been seen since September. Authorities said the children’s mother, Lori Daybell, and her new husband, Chad Daybell, have refused to cooperate with investigators and have repeatedly lied about where the children are.

“I’m hoping this will allow one person — one person — to simply say, ‘I saw them, I know where he’s at,’ so we can bring JJ, so we can bring Tylee back,” Larry Woodcock said of the reward. “Please give them back to us. They are the most unbelievable children you’ll ever meet.”

The Daybells have been named persons of interest in the case, which spans several states and may also involve the recent deaths of both Chad and Lori Daybell’s former spouses.

The couple has since issued a statement through an attorney, saying they love their son and daughter and look forward to addressing “allegations once they have moved beyond speculation and rumor.”

The Woodcocks, who live in Lake Charles, La., met with Rexburg police and members of the FBI on Monday. They said they are holding on to the belief that JJ and Tylee are alive, and they created a website where members of the public can see pictures of the children and give tips to where they may be found.

“Nobody has said anything contrary to that, and we hope and believe they are alive,” Larry Woodcock said. “That’s the reason for the reward.”

Lori was previously married to Kay’s brother, Charles Vallow, who had adopted JJ, and the family lived in Chandler, Ariz. Larry Woodcock said they always believed Lori was a wonderful mother to the children, until things began to change a while ago.

“There’s a timeline change with Lori, and it started a few years back,” he said. “Lori was a good mother when JJ was young — you couldn’t ask for a better mother — she loved Charles. I don’t know what caused this conversion.”

Kay Woodcock said her brother had previously confided in her that he thought Lori — who was then still married to him — was having an affair with Chad Daybell. The Woodcocks said they were also worried after hearing that Lori had told others that she wanted both Charles and JJ out of her life, and that concern grew when they learned Lori had threatened Charles. Then, Kay said, Charles told her Lori had joined a “doomsday cult.”

“He was highly concerned about it: Her emotional state, her mental state, and the fact that she had made threats about him. It all culminated into that cult that she’s in. It’s doomsday big time,” Kay said.

In July, Charles Vallow was shot and killed by Lori’s brother, Alex Cox, in Chandler. Cox told authorities the shooting was in self-defense after Vallow hit him with a baseball bat. But that case remains unresolved, and Cox himself died of unknown causes in December.

“Charles was wary of Alex for a long time,” said Kay Woodcock. “Alex has reputation of no conscience. He would do things for Lori that were just, well, I’m one of six children and none of my brothers are going to murder anyone for me.”

Lori later married Chad Daybell, who himself had lost a spouse just two weeks earlier. Tammy Daybell, 49, died Oct. 19 in her Idaho home of what was listed in her obituary as natural causes. But the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office is now questioning that claim, and has had her remains exhumed for an autopsy.

The Woodcocks said they used to talk to JJ frequently through video chats and phone calls, but that they were only able to talk to him three times after his father died on July 7. Lori Daybell and the children reportedly moved to Rexburg, Idaho, around August.

“We don’t know why we weren’t allowed more access to him, but we reached out constantly — email, voice mail, text, whatever — and never got a response so that was very concerning to us,” Kay Woodcock said.

“The last call was an awkward call,” Larry Woodcock said. “It was like someone was watching him and directing him.”

Report: The best companies to work for in Germany in 2020

New analysis has revealed which companies – according to employees – rank as Germany’s top employers. Iconic car manufacturer Porsche tops the 2020 best company to work for ranking, followed by Infineon Technologies, Robert Bosch and McKinsey & Company.

In its yearly analysis, researchers from recruitment and review site Glassdoor analysed thousands of employee reviews for hundreds of companies in Germany, and using an overall rating, they compiled a list of the country’s top employers. Employee reviews span a host of workplace factors, including the attractiveness of the job, corporate culture, the quality of leadership, working conditions, compensation & benefits, work-life balance and career opportunities.

The 25 best companies to work for in Germany:

1. Porsche
Sector: Automotive
Founded: 1931
Head office: Stuttgart
Main rivals: Audi, BMW, Daimler
Average employee score: 4.5

2. Infineon Technologies
Sector: Electronics manufacturing
Founded: 1999
Head office: Neubiberg
Average employee score: 4.5

3. Robert Bosch
Sector: Computer hardware & software
Founded: 1886
Head office: Gerlingen, Baden-Württemberg
Average employee score: 4.4

4. McKinsey & Company
Sector: Management consulting
Founded: 1926
Head office: New York (US)
Main rivals: Boston Consulting Group, Bain & Company
Average employee score: 4.4

5. SAP
Sector: Computer hardware & software
Founded: 1972
Head office: Walldorf, Baden-Württemberg
Average employee score: 4.4

6. Daimler
Sector: Automotive
Founded: 1886
Head office: Stuttgart
Main rivals: Audi, Porsche, BMW
Average employee score: 4.4

7. European Central Bank
Sector: Banking
Founded: 1999
Head office: Frankfurt
Average employee score: 4.4

8. Airbus
Sector: Aviation & defence
Founded: 1970
Head office: Toulouse (France)
Main rivals: Boeing, Embraer
Average employee score: 4.3

9. Capgemini
Sector: IT services & consulting
Founded: 1967
Head office: Paris (France)
Average employee score: 4.3

10. Siemens Healthineers
Sector: Healthcare services
Founded: 1847
Head office: Erlangen
Average employee score: 4.3

Report: Germany partially withdraws troops from Iraq

Germany has reduced the number of its troops stationed in Iraq due to growing regional security concerns, the Bundeswehr confirmed via a press release on Monday.

Overnight, 35 German soldiers were brought to either Kuwait or Jordan, the military said.

“These forces can be brought back at any time if training in Iraq is to resume.”

The German military contingent in the country will be “temporarily thinned out,” with around 30 out of the 130 personnel serving in the country to be redeployed to neighboring countries, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer had said in a letter to their ministries.

The transfer mainly applied to soldiers stationed in Iraq’s capital, Baghdad, and Taji to the north.

Iraq’s parliament voted for anti-IS coalition soldiers to leave the country following the fatal drone attack on Qassem Soleimani.

The German Bundeswehr supports regional efforts against Islamic State in Iraq, providing military training, Tornado reconnaissance jets and tanker aircraft for air-to-air refueling. Most of Germany’s soldiers in Iraq are stationed in the northern Kurdish region of the country.

“Naturally we will respect any sovereign decision of the Iraqi government,” said Maas, while warning that the reduction of international forces could lead to Islamic State gaining a stronger foothold in the region and cause “greater instability” in Iraq.

DW political correspondent Thomas Sparrow said one reason that Germany was reducing troop numbers was “the security of German soldiers, similar to what NATO has already done.”

The fear is that some soldiers being trained by German troops sympathize with Iranian and Iraqi militias and could turn the weapons on the service personnel training them.

Sparrow said another reason is that the German government has removed them while it awaits a final decision by the Iraqi government on foreign coalition forces fighting IS in Iraq.

The redeployment is intended only as a temporary measure, with the letter from Maas and Kramp-Karrenbauer saying, “In principle, we are prepared to continue providing our proven support within an internationally coordinated framework as long as this is something that Iraq wants and is in a situation to permit it.”

“When the training is able to resume, the military personnel can be reinstated,” the ministers added.

Report: The cost of Germany turning off nuclear power

Back in 2011, Germany decided that it was done with nuclear power. The Fukushima Daiichi plant had just melted down in Japan, and the threat of disaster seemed overwhelming. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government, which had intended to keep Germany’s plants open, did an about face and voted to shut down all of the country’s 17 plants by 2022 The only politicians opposing the measure were those who wanted to shut down the plants even faster.

At the time, nuclear provided a quarter of German electricity. In the years since, Germany has closed 11 plants, and is scheduled to shutter the remaining six in the next two years.

Multiple studies since then suggest that Germany did more harm than good. In the latest of these studies, a working paper recently published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, three economists modeled Germany’s electrical system to see what would have happened if it had kept those nuclear plants running. Their conclusion: It would have saved the lives of 1,100 people a year who succumb to air pollution released by coal burning power plants.

Nicki Minaj wax figure Germany, internet is protesting Madame Tussauds

Nicki Minaj wax figure Germany, internet is protesting Madame Tussauds.

Madame Tussauds is the world’s most popular wax museum, and it’s long been lauded for its exceptionally great presentations. The London based house also has other museums in prominent North American and European cities. One of which is in Berlin, Germany, where they just unveiled a Nicki Minaj wax figure. An image of the sculpture in question has gone viral online and is the recipient of an enormous amount of backlash after fuming fans became vocal about their critiques. Madame Tussauds’ work usually blows it out of the water but this latest wax figure, which was inspired by the music video for Nicki Minaj’s mega-hit single “Anaconda” was surprisingly not likened to the Platinum-selling rapper.

While the wardrobe and accessories were perfect, the wax figure’s countenance failed to follow suit. The sculptors gave Nicki’s face a much narrower and more elongated profile which negated the resemblance. The similarities became blurred regardless of the similar facial features because of the mere fact that the shape was completely off. “That’s nickihontas,” one fan said seemingly of the figure’s bone structure. Even Queen Naija stepped in to say, “This ain’t it Germany.. this head is too long,” the singer wrote.

The museum exhibited a recent wax figure of Kris Jenner that was probably some of their most magnificent work. The figure looked so similar to the famous matriarch it was uncanny. Madame Tussauds has also unveiled very impressive figures of artistes like Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift, and more. Fans are livid that Nicki Minaj’s wax figure did not come out with the same brilliant finish that Madame Tussads’ reputation dictates.

It’s a shame because Madame Tussauds has created excellent work recreating the rapper in the past. I wonder what happened this time. Do you think even Nicki Minaj asked, “Who the f…?” when she saw her latest wax figure?

Report: DNC blocks virtual caucuses in Iowa and Nevada

The Democratic National Committee formally decided Friday not to move forward with virtual caucuses in Iowa and Nevada amid cybersecurity concerns.

The DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee agreed by voice vote to adopt the recommendation from DNC Chairman Tom Perez that the virtual caucuses should not take place since they would not be secure or reliable. Both states had devised plans to allow people to participate in the caucuses by phone to fulfill a DNC requirement that states provide an absentee voting option.

The virtual caucus had been an effort to expand access to the caucus process as Democrats choose their nominee to take on President Donald Trump. While Nevada had developed an early voting option which could satisfy the absentee voting requirement, Iowans on the committee’s call Friday said they were working to develop a new plan.

“We are, over the last week and continuing today and the days ahead, continuing to look at what options may be available to us given the time that is left,” Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Troy Price said.

Iowa’s caucuses are set to take place in less than five months on Feb. 3, while Nevada’s will take place Feb. 22.

Artie Blanco, a DNC committee member from Nevada, noted that both states made significant progress on their plans without guidance from the DNC or the rules and bylaws committee.

“It is impossible to find a technology secure enough for a virtual caucus to protect against a hacking attempt,” Blanco said. She also later reminded committee members how to correctly pronounce Nevada.

The virtual caucus plans had been lauded by state leaders for expanding voters’ access in the nominating process. Former Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid had expressed confidence in a July interview that come caucus time the party would “have all the kinks worked out” for the virtual caucus.