Iraqi Kurds, battling Islamist threat, press Washington for arms

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The semi-autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq is pressing the Obama administration for sophisticated weapons it says Kurdish fighters need to push back Islamist militants threatening their region, Kurdish and U.S. officials said.

Appearance vs. Authenticity

Many employees are encouraged to “just be yourself,” only to find their authenticity — and their career ambitions — constrained by unwritten office rules about appearance, speech and behavior. Professionals of color, especially, find there is a much narrower band of acceptance, and the constraints bite harder. Because senior leaders are overwhelmingly “pale and male” — professionals of color hold only 11 percent of executive positions in corporate America — upcoming professionals of color often feel they have to scrub themselves of the ethnic, religious, racial, socioeconomic and educational identifiers that make them who they really are.

One such long-simmering identifier that recently exploded into the public eye: hair.

When Today co-host Tamron Hall recently appeared with unprocessed hair, her natural-style sparked a firestorm on the blogosphere. Three months earlier, the U.S. Army announced an updated grooming policy that prohibited certain natural-hair styles, such as cornrows, braids, two-strand twists and dreadlocks. Some soldiers and members of the Congressional Black Caucus claimed that the new regulations targeted African-Americans serving in the military.

This is no tempest in a teapot. As Erin C.J. Robertson explained in a recent blog,
“… in America, black hair has been and remains highly political. It has been used as a yardstick, for blacks and whites alike, to measure beauty, respectability and worth.”

Although rarely fought in such a public forum, skirmishes over appearance versus authenticity flare up almost daily in the corporate arena, where how you look is a key element in executive presence (EP). As I explain in my new book, Executive Presence: The Missing Link between Merit and Success, performance, hard work and sponsors may get top talent recognized and promoted, but “leadership potential” alone isn’t enough to boost even the most qualified men and women into top jobs and prime opportunities. Moving up in an organization depends on looking and acting like a leader, on being perceived as having “executive presence.” According to research from the Center for Talent Innovation (CTI), EP constitutes 26 percent of what senior leaders say it takes to get that next promotion.

EP rests on three pillars: gravitas, communications skills and appearance. And while most senior executives (and coworkers) see appearance as unimportant in the long run — think of Mark Zuckerberg’s signature hoody — the fact is, it is a critical first filter through which gravitas and communication skills are evaluated. That explains why high-performing junior executives often get knocked out of contention for key roles and promotions: Get appearance wrong and you’re struck off the list. Conversely, cracking the appearance code opens doors and puts you in play.

But what if conforming to your organization’s definition of EP clashes with your sense of self?

CTI research found that 41 percent of professionals of color feel they need to compromise their authenticity in order to conform to EP standards at their company, 37 percent more than their Caucasian counterparts. More than 30 percent of African-American women reported having experienced style-compliance issues.

Such statistics are a call for change. CTI research shows that when people feel they cannot bring their whole selves to work, they feel disengaged and unmotivated. They burn out or leave. No organization — whether it’s a corporation or the U.S. Army — can afford to lose the contributions of any group of talent, especially over something as trivial as a hairstyle.

As our economy grows ever more globalized, and competition for market share intensifies, companies are under ever-greater pressure to innovate — both to retain market share and to capture new markets in emerging economies and underserved markets. New CTI research shows that an inherently diverse team — one that includes members who are female, nonwhite or of non-European origin, or LGBT — boosts the team’s innovative potential by providing critical insights into the unmet needs and wants of overlooked or underserved end users like themselves. In other words, your inherent difference can make you a valuable asset to teams — and leaders — who can benefit from the unique perspective that difference confers.

Ultimately, the authenticity conundrum can be solved by enabling others to recognize the value that difference brings. In today’s hyper-competitive world, the organization absolutely needs you to bring your whole self to work.

At the same time, there’s no doubt that we still have a long way to go. Tell us what you think: If you want to be perceived as leadership material, do you suppress your difference or embrace it? Is assimilation a smart career strategy or a sell-out, a compromise to your authenticity or just a compromise?

Office for iPad updates add PDF exports, better keyboard and font support

Microsoft at long last released Office for the iPad in March, in keeping with CEO Satya Nadella’s “cloud first, mobile first” approach to competitors’ platforms. OneNote had already been available for some time, but it was the first time Word, Excel, or PowerPoint had been available as native iPad apps. Today Microsoft updated all four applications, following the hasty addition of printer support about a month after the initial release.

All four apps can now export files as PDFs, crop pictures inline, and reset changes made to pictures. Word, Excel, and PowerPoint can also use third-party fonts, presumably in addition to the Microsoft- and Apple-supplied fonts that come with iOS and the Office apps themselves. Excel, Powerpoint, and OneNote pick up more features that will be appreciated by heavier users of the desktop Office apps. From the release notes:


  • Flick to select: flick a cell’s selection handle in any direction to quickly and easily select all the data in a row or column.
  • External keyboard support: using an external keyboard is even easier. Use the same keys to input data and move around a worksheet as you would on your PC or Mac.
  • PivotTables: interact with PivotTables that have source data in the same workbook.
  • Print options: more paper sizes and scaling options give you more control over the layout when printing your workbooks.


  • Presenter view: view and edit speaker notes, see your next slide, or jump to other slides while presenting.
  • Play media: play videos, sound effects, and background music while presenting.
  • Insert video: insert videos from your Camera Roll.
  • Presenter tools: now you can erase highlights and drawings on your presentation.
  • Hyperlinks: add links to your presentation or edit existing ones.


  • Protected sections: now you can lock or unlock password-protected sections created in OneNote for Windows.
  • Organize notebooks: now you can move and reorder pages and sections and manage subpages.
  • Formatted text: copy and paste formatted text between applications—whether it’s an article from Safari or a document in Word, any content you paste into OneNote will look great!
  • Creating notebooks: now you can create notebooks and save them to OneDrive for business. Have multiple accounts? No problem! It’s easy to select exactly where you want to store your new notebook.

Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote are all available in the App Store for any iPad running iOS 7. A Microsoft account is required to view files in all of the applications. A current Office365 subscription is required to edit files in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.

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This Law School Grad Made A Serious Case For Pizza And Won!

This soon-to-be-lawyer made what will surely be her greatest appeal ever over humankind’s most basic freedom — her right to a piece of the pie. Pizza pie, that is.

In an email sent to HuffPost, this recent law school grad from New York explained that she visited the student lounge at her school in hopes of snagging a cheesy reprieve from studying. Though she graduated in May, she said she was entitled to the pizza through her activities fee that doesn’t expire until August. When she was turned away by a staff member, she fought back the only way a law student would.

In the witty email below, written to Student Affairs and titled “Since When Is Free Pizza Not Free Anymore,” the brave would-be Erin Brockovich fights for what’s right. Of course, her compelling case won her free pizza on the dean.

law school email

The law school grad wrote in the email above:

I’m a recent BLS alum studying for the bar exam, paid $100K to attend this school and $21 to the Dean’s Challenge, and was denied a slice of free pizza today from one of your staff members wearing a purple shirt today because he said the pizza was only for 2Ls.  Since when did free student lounge pizzabecome free for only 2Ls?!

Thank you.

To which the dean responded:

Hey- when can we grab a pizza on me?  Before or after the bar to celebrate?
Bring a few friends.

As thousands of sleep-deprived, stressed-out law school graduates took the bar exam this week, this interaction above proves that despite the potential of being jobless and in debt, a three-year, $100,000 education pays off in all the ways that matter — namely being equipped to plead your case for the silly most important things in life.

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Veterans Affairs Employees Falsified Data To Hide Delays, USA Today Reports

WASHINGTON, July 31 (Reuters) – Employees at more than 100 medical centers run by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs falsified appointment data and hid evidence of delayed medical care, according to a USA Today analysis of government data.

Some 109 VA medical centers distorted data on the length of time veterans had to wait before receiving medical care, while 110 kept separate, secret records of the delays, the USA Today analysis of a VA internal audit found.

The VA on Tuesday said it was recommending disciplinary action against six employees involved in data manipulation at VA centers in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and Fort Collins, Colorado.

“Employees who have been found to have manipulated data, withheld accurate information from their supervisors, and affected the timeliness of care veterans receive do not reflect VA’s values, and their actions will not be tolerated,” Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson said in a statement on Tuesday.

The VA’s “Nationwide Access Audit,” released in June, was commissioned to investigate allegations that the department had covered up delays in veterans’ medical treatment. It examined scheduling practices at over 700 VA facilities.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned at the end of May over the veterans healthcare delay scandal. He is being replaced by Bob McDonald, 61, a former Procter & Gamble Co chief executive whose nomination was confirmed this week. (Reporting by Rebecca Elliott; Editing by Sandra Maler and Jim Loney)

Strengthened Senate NSA Reform Measure Is ‘A Good First Step’

nsa-red Earlier this week, Sen. Patrick Leahy introduced a strengthened version of the USA FREEDOM Act to praise from tech companies, privacy groups and the New York Times editorial board. As that initial applause settled, Rep. Zoe Lofgren argued on Thursday that the legislation would only rein in parts of the nation’s intelligence apparatus. Read More

Free, France’s T-Mobile, Wants To Acquire T-Mobile For $15 Billion

Xavier Niel France’s disruptive telecom company, Free, just announced that it wanted to acquire T-Mobile US. The WSJ first broke the story. Free then confirmed the bid in a press release. Sprint was already in talks with T-Mobile for a potential acquisition. Now, Free (also known as Iliad) is offering $15 billion in cash for 56.6 percent of the American company at $33 per share. Overall, Free says… Read More