Blog Posts by Aaron Task

  • [$$] Investors and the Death of Mining Dividends

    A dividend cut this week by one of the world’s biggest mining companies brought home a new reality for investors: mining stocks can no longer be counted on for income.

    Reuters A lump of iron ore from the Pilbara region of Western Australia. Rio Tinto said it can no longer increase or maintain its dividend every year, the latest miner to do so amid collapsing commodity prices.

    Rio Tinto PLC, the Anglo-Australian miner, on Thursday scrapped its longstanding promise to maintain or increase its dividend every year and adopted a more flexible policy of tailoring its dividend to circumstances.​

    The move surprised investors, coming from a

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  • Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart on Bob Dylan

    Singer-songwriter Dave Stewart, 63, is co-founder of Eurythmics and author of “Sweet Dreams Are Made of This: A Life In Music (New American Library).” He spoke with Marc Myers.

    Dave Stewart

    When I was 13, I had to have surgery on my left knee due to a soccer injury. Back at home a few weeks later in Sunderland, England, I was forced to rest for six months. My brother gave me his acoustic guitar, and I began working out how to play things. One of the first songs I learned was Bob Dylan’s “Love Minus Zero/No Limit.”

    My brother and my cousin were both big music fans and had lots of great blues, R&B and folk records. In 1965 one of the albums my brother bought was Bob’s “Bringing It All Back Home,” which had just come out.

    Once I figured out “Love Minus Zero,” I played it for just about anyone who would listen. I even played the song in front of an

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  • Volkswagen Global Vehicle Sales Return to Growth

    BERLIN—Global sales of Volkswagen AG vehicles returned to growth in January on the back of resurgent sales in China, even as the company’s namesake brand declined in all other markets.

    Volkswagen sold a total of 847,800 cars, trucks and motorcycles in January, a rise of 3.7% from a year earlier, from its stable of brands that include Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche, Skoda, SEAT, and truck makers MAN and Scania.

    January’s sales report shows that Volkswagen’s strong position in China, and the continued strength of its premium brands Porsche and Audi are helping it cope with the erosion of its namesake brand in hard-hit emerging markets and the impact of its emissions-cheating scandal on sales in the U.S. and Europe.

    “Developments on world markets at the beginning of the year are mixed,” Chief Executive Matthias Müller said in a statement. “The situation in Brazil and Russia remains tense, China is regaining momentum and the trend in Europe is generally

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  • [$$] Fiction Chronicle: The Curse of the Cursed Genius

    Milo Andret, the main character of Ethan Canin’s fifth novel, “A Doubter’s Almanac” (Random House, 558 pages, $28), has an intrinsic gift for “spatial mapping”: “He’d long been able to picture the world, all of its six directions, his exact place in any three-dimensional topography.” This uncommon ability takes him to the mathematics program at UC Berkeley, where he specializes in topology, and later to an endowed professorship at Princeton, where he wins the prestigious Fields Medal.

    Spare a thought for the mathematician. Most are probably normal, pleasant people. But whenever they appear in books and movies, they are consigned to the role of Cursed Genius. Milo, at home in the “higher dimensions,” is incapable of caring about his fellow humans. “Happy isn’t even a real idea,” he proclaims. “It’s just like love. A reasonably skeptical person doesn’t even know what it means.” His lack of social graces, his growing alcoholism and his waning powers of

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  • [$$] Facebook’s Managing Director in India Steps Down

    A Facebook Inc. executive in India said Friday that she would step down, just days after a government regulator banned a key Facebook initiative in the country.

    Kirthiga Reddy, Facebook’s managing director in India, said in a Facebook post that she would help search for her successor and that it would be “business as-usual over the next 6-12 months.”

    Ms. Reddy said she is moving to the U.S. to enroll her daughters in school and is exploring “new opportunities at Facebook back at Menlo Park.”

    India is home to 130 million Facebook users, second only to the U.S. In her role, Ms. Reddy worked with advertisers around the world who wanted to reach Facebook users in India.

    Monday, Indian regulators banned the company’s Free Basics service, which offered free access to a limited basket of apps and sites, including Facebook. A Facebook spokeswoman said Ms. Reddy wasn’t involved in the company’s Free Basics efforts.

    “As

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  • Carrot Recipes That Really Raise the Root

    BUGS BUNNY’S accessory choices notwithstanding, brandishing a carrot hasn’t always been seen as an indicator of cultural savvy, or a taste for the finer things.

    For instance, in the 1934 romantic comedy “It Happened One Night,” Clark Gable fails to impress pampered heiress Claudette Colbert when he brings her an armful of carrots freshly pulled from the ground. The two are on the run and down on their luck, but to Ms. Colbert the very idea of a raw carrot is distasteful. Over the next day she eyes the carrots with increasing appetite but remains unable to wrap her mind around the vegetable presented in its natural state. Then, just as her love of life’s visceral pleasures—above all the strapping Mr. Gable—outstrips her snobbery, she picks up a carrot and starts nibbling on it. No one in the history of Hollywood, I’d venture to say, has eaten a vegetable with greater glamour or innuendo.

    At another point in the movie, Mr. Gable

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  • [$$] Kohl’s Eliminates Three Senior Leadership Positions

    Kohl’s Corp. has eliminated three senior leadership positions at a time when the department-store chain is battling sluggish sales and a depressed share price.

    The three executives holding the positions—chief digital officer, senior vice president of store environment and development, and senior vice president of communications and public relations—were informed of the decision on Thursday.

    A Kohl’s spokeswoman said the moves were part of a reorganization designed to make the company more agile.

    The reorganization comes as Kohl’s board of directors is weighing options that could include a partial or full sale of the business to a private-equity firm, people familiar with the conversations have said. These people cautioned, however, that the discussions were preliminary and Kohl’s board may choose to take no action.

    Like other department stores, Kohl’s has struggled with sluggish growth losing out to online rivals and

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  • [$$] Valentine’s Day Gift Guide

    1. Red Alert The perfect crimson shade with which women can imprint their lips. Rouge Pur Couture Lipstick, $36, yslbeautyus.com

    2. You Lit Up My Life Let Vladimir Nabokov be your Cyrano. “Letters to Vera,” (Knopf Double Day), $40, powells.com

    3. Gilty Pleasure Upgrade the gift of jewelry, free, by tucking a scribbled sweet nothing inside. Locket, $6,950, templestclair.com

    4. Eau Message Spritz your notes with this rich Jorge Luis Borges-themed scent. Fueguia 1833 Otro Poema de los Dones, $330, Casa Cavia, 54-11-4809-8628

    5. Proustian Pastries Homemade madeleines might just create remembrances for later. Lékué Madeleine Mold, $20, bedbathandbeyond.com

    6. Get the Lead Out Florally fragrant pencils for dreamy doodles. Viarco Scented Pencils, $10 for six, cwpencils.com

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  • [$$] Mattel Moves to Boost Its Operations

    The world’s largest toy company has some of its swagger back, though it still faces another tough year.

    Mattel Inc. executives on Friday said the company has been implementing concrete steps to bolster its operations from improving ties to retailers and patching up relationships with important partners such as Disney Co., to developing a better lineup of new toys and marketing materials.

    Taken with an sweeping organizational reboot, the executives said the measures should help reverse some of the self-imposed problems that hurt the company the past several years, though growth is still a year away.

    Mattel's famous fashion doll, Barbie is getting three new body types: curvy, petite and tall. The expansion of the Fashionistas doll line is a bid to appeal to today's girls and stem falling sales. Photo: Mattel Related Video

    “We have one more year of challenge,”

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  • [$$] The Nazi Who Lived in Ohio

    Not long after my 10th birthday, early in 1987, my teacher walked into class one morning and asked us to march, single file, to the gymnasium. There, on a wood-paneled television, we watched as a ruddy-faced man was led into a courtroom. We were soon to witness, she said, a trial we would remember for the rest of our lives.

    You can forgive my teacher her hyperbole. John (Ivan) Demjanjuk stood accused of being Ivan the Terrible, the fright of Treblinka, a sadistic guard who would torture Jews with his whip and his sword before forcing them into the gas chambers. To try such a man in Jerusalem, argued his prosecutors, was not merely a legal undertaking but also civic duty; it would teach young Israelis about the Holocaust just as Adolf Eichmann’s trial had instructed their parents a generation earlier.

    Very quickly, however, it became clear that Demjanjuk was no Eichmann. The bespectacled German was a high-ranking bureaucrat, the

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