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Windows can be a death trap for birds—after all, their eyesight makes it difficult or impossible to distinguish between glass and clear flying space. Millions of birds crash into windows along their annual migratory paths and the collisions kill somewhere between 365 million to nearly one billion birds in the United States alone each year. 

Volunteers and scientists throughout the years have collected the fallen birds around the country every spring and fall to rehabilitate  injured birds and document the dead.  The bodies contain valuable scientific information, especially when they are compared over time.

[Related: How to help birds avoid crashing into your windows.]

A study published March 28 in the journal Molecular Ecology is helping scientists better understand the relationship between birds and the multiple microbes in their guts by using these unique specimens.

“In humans, the gut microbiome—the collection of bacteria, fungi, and other microbes living in our digestive tracts—is incredibly important to our general health and can even influence our behavior. But scientists are still trying to figure out how significant a role the microbiome has with birds,” co-author Heather Skeen, a biologist and research associate at Chicago’s Field Museum, said in a statement.

Different mammal species tend to have their own signature microbes living in their gut. The microbes help them digest food and fight disease, with evidence that these relationships can go back millions of years. Researchers have been finding that bird microbiomes likely play by a whole different set of rules.

“Bird gut microbiomes don’t seem to be as closely tied to host species, so we want to know what does influence them,” said Skeen. “The goal of this study was to see if bird microbiomes are consistent, or if they change over short time periods.”

Skeen focused on four common species of songbirds called thrushes, but there are dozens of species found throughout Chicago after crashing into the city’s buildings. She took samples from 747 birds over three years and included samples from the thrushes summer breeding grounds in Manitoba in Canada and the Midwestern states of Michigan and Minnesota.

To get inside of the bird bellies, she made a small incision into the abdomen to reach the bird’s intestines and squeezed out what was inside.  She then transferred bird poop from the intestines to specialized filter paper cards that preserve DNA. The genetic material was then sent away for bacteria classification. 

[Related: Puffy unicorn stickers could save millions of migrating birds each year.]

“Analyzing the bacterial DNA present in the poop allowed us to determine exactly what kinds of bacteria were present,” said Skeen. “It turns out, there were about 27,000 different types of bacteria present.”

The team looked for trends in the bacteria present across the whole sample, and found that the different bird species didn’t seem to have their own unique set of microbes—unlike mammals. Instead, time was the clearest link between the birds and the bacteria present in their microbiomes. Gut microbiomes had significant differences in the composition of the bacteria season to season and year to year.

A drawer full of thrushes in the Field Museum’s collection, killed crashing into city windows. CREDIT: Heather Skeen.

The results suggest that bird microbiomes might have more to do with their environment than the inborn, consistent relationship that is seen in most mammal species. 

Shannon Hackett, associate curator of birds at the Field Museum and a co-author of the paper, says the museum has been scooping birds killed by buildings for 40 years and that this study helps show why museum collections are valuable for research

“At the time, people were like, ‘What the hell are you doing?’ But the fact that he’s been doing this for forty years means we have a unique opportunity to study birds across fairly short periods of time. We have more than 100,000 window-killed birds at this point, it’s an incredibly rich resource,” Hackett said in a statement. “And as technology evolves and new scientists like Heather come up, we broaden what we’re able to do with these resources.”

Some ways to help birds avoid crashing into your windows include using decals and films on them that are invisible to birds while also letting light in, supporting bird-safe buildings, and turning off interior lights at night.

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Razer Firefly Review: What Cardboard Can Teach Us About A $60 Mousepad’s Pure Luxury

The Firefly is a light-up mousepad. And it’s $60. That’s all you really need to know to decide whether you think it’s amazing or insanity.

By and large, the mousepad is an irrelevant affectation. It’s a fashion statement. Its job could be outsourced to any decent-sized piece of cardboard. And so when Razer sent over a Firefly review unit—yes, even after reading my article on the announcement—I decided to test my theory. I took a piece of cardboard off the Razer Firefly box and compared it to the Firefly. Here’s what I found:

Set-up time

The Razer Firefly: The Razer Firefly is easy enough to pull out of the box and slap on your desk. And if this were a normal mousepad, you’d be done.

But the Razer Firefly is no normal mousepad. It demands power, in the form of a six-foot USB cable sticking out the rear. This necessitated my routing the cable behind my desk, crawling underneath, and trying to find a free USB slot—a harder task than you might think, considering the number of peripherals I have plugged into my computer.

Piece of Cardboard: This was much easier. Even with muscles atrophied by years of video games I managed to rip a hunk of cardboard off the Firefly’s box and put it on my desk. No wires necessary.

Step 1: Tear off cardboard flap.

Step 2: Put it on desk.

I did end up taping the edges down at some point because the cardboard kept moving around, but that also didn’t take much time or effort.

Advantage—Piece of Cardboard: While taping the piece of cardboard to my desk was a bit of a hassle, at no point in the process did I need to bend over or crawl under a desk. Also, it doesn’t take up one of my precious USB slots.


The Razer Firefly: The Firefly looks pretty much like a standard matte-black mousepad—a 14-inch by 10-inch rectangle of hard plastic, with the Razer logo in the top-right corner.

Oh yeah, and a big honking piece of plastic welded to the top where the USB cable exits.

Piece of Cardboard: “Hobo chic” is how I would describe this piece of cardboard, if I were desperate to explain to someone why I’d taped a piece of cardboard to my desk. I am not that desperate, so I feel comfortable saying it looks like trash. Which it is. I literally taped trash to my desk.

This is my modded Razer Firefly – Cardboard Edition.

Advantage—Razer Firefly: The Firefly wins this one by default. It looks pretty good even unplugged, though its rigid structure means I can’t roll it up when not in use (like a normal mousepad).


The Razer Firefly: As I mentioned, the Firefly has a cable fastened into the top. There is no way to detach the cable.

A closer look.

This is frustrating for a few reasons. 1) The cable on the mousepad occasionally tangles with the cable on the mouse and screws up your nice, fluid movements. 2) The mousepad is essentially immobile, because you’re never going to bother unplugging this thing from your computer to move it to a new computer or take it on the road with you. 3) If the cable breaks, your gorgeous light-up mousepad is now just a normal mousepad. Joke’s on you.

Piece of Cardboard: It doesn’t have any cables.

Advantage—Piece of Cardboard: I already have a million cables attached to my desktop. The fewer, the better.


The Razer Firefly: Aside from the cable’s occasional interference with your mouse cable, the Firefly is a damn good mousepad. And by that, I mean I’m 90 percent sure this is the same surface Razer uses in its $40 Razer Destructor 2 mat. I’ve never used the Destructor 2, but I eyeballed Razer’s product photos and it seems the same. My Zowie AM mouse glides across this thing no problem.

But honestly my Zowie AM mouse also glides across Zowie’s $30 G-TF mousepad, glides (with a bit more effort) across a cheap cloth mousepad I got from VistaPrint, and even glides across my wooden IKEA desk.

Piece of Cardboard: Oh, and my Zowie AM glides across the piece of cardboard too. If I let go of the mouse while moving, it definitely comes to a stop on the cardboard quicker than it does on the Firefly. This piece of cardboard is no precision-engineered low-friction surface. But it does its job.

On the other hand, you’re unlikely to notice the difference unless you’re a low-DPI-and-large-hand-movements person. As a high-DPI user I’m not in the habit of making large sweeping motions across my mousepad, so any old surface works perfectly fine for inch-to-the-left-inch-to-the-right usage. Of course, if you are a low-DPI user you’re also a prime candidate for snagging your mouse cable on the Firefly’s cable or cable housing. Win some, lose some.

And to be honest, I noticed even less of a difference in glide performance once I switched to using Razer’s own DeathAdder mouse. My Zowie AM is lightweight and built for quick movements. The heavier DeathAdder took some effort to move both on the Firefly and on the cardboard.


The Razer Firefly: The Firefly’s lighting effects are bit more understated than Razer’s promo shots made it seem. The Razer logo in the top-right lights up, as does a strip of LEDs around the left, front, and right of the mousepad. And I should be clear—the side lighting is on the facing edge, not on the top. You actually barely notice the lights when you’re sitting up close to the mousepad. It’s more stylish from far away.

It’s also single-zone lighting, meaning you can’t have a different color for the logo and the sides, or different parts of the sides. It also means you can’t turn off a part of the lighting, so if you want the sides to light up you’re forced to light the logo also.

Zone one lighting means Razer’s tri-snake monster thing is always staring at you.

Colors are vibrant, but accuracy is middling when using Razer’s Synapse software to configure. I’ve had greens register as a brilliant shade of turquoise on the Firefly, for instance, and it’s sometimes hard to tell if you’ve made any difference at all when switching between similar hues.

Like other Chroma devices, you get Razer’s standard effect presets—breathing, spectrum cycling, static, and wave.

Piece of Cardboard: There are no lights. It is a piece of cardboard. On the other hand, you could buy one of these rolls of LEDs off Amazon and stick it to the cardboard if you so desired. You could even use the LEDs to tape the cardboard to your desk instead of using cheap masking tape like me.

Pictured: Zero lights.

Advantage—Razer Firefly: I mean, I assume you’re buying the Firefly because it has pretty lights. The cardboard (surprise!) doesn’t have lights on it.


Piece of Cardboard: …Still doesn’t have lights.

Advantage—Tie: It’s cool this mode exists, but the fact it’s restricted to people who own both the Firefly and a compatible Razer mouse means the potential market is pretty small. And for everyone else, the Firefly is pretty much on a par with the piece of cardboard.


The Razer Firefly: Holy hot damn, for a second I almost forgot the Razer Firefly costs a whopping sixty dollars. Yes, a sixty-dollar mousepad.

Piece of Cardboard: I guess technically this cardboard also cost sixty dollars, considering I tore it off the Firefly’s box. However, I feel confident you could use pretty much any old piece of cardboard lying around your house with similar results. You could even print this article out on paper, tape it to your desk, and use this article as a mousepad.

Advantage—Razer (The Company): You know what? If Razer can convince you to spend sixty dollars on a mousepad, more power to them. Personally I think it’s silly.

Bottom line

Does the Firefly look cool? Sure. Does it function as a mousepad? Yes. Does it light up? Without a doubt. Razer is not misrepresenting the product it has made. But I cannot fathom a world in which I’d choose to spend sixty dollars on this. The Firefly is better than a piece of cardboard, but it’s not sixty dollars better. There are plenty of other PC upgrades I could make for that money—or plenty of games I could add to my Steam library, for that matter.

Four stars for execution Razer, but I still think this is an occasion where we need to heed the words of the immortal Ian Malcolm of Jurassic Park: “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether they could, that they didn’t stop to think if they should.”

Primary image chop-job courtesy of me, the Samsung Galaxy S6, and five minutes in Pixlr.

What Data From 100 Million Calls Can Teach Marketers About Rebounding From Covid

This post was sponsored by CallRail. The opinions expressed in this article are the sponsor’s own.

Many industries were hit hard by the pandemic, but few were as impacted as marketing and ad agencies.

Only the travel and hospitality industry faced steeper declines, with a 39% drop.

In a recent CallRail report that looks at the collective data of more than 100 million calls across small businesses, including marketing and ad agencies, total customer call volume dropped 26% between the end of February and the middle of April as many businesses were forced to temporarily close.

But, as businesses reopen and consumers begin to resume many of their pre-lockdown habits and activities, our call data is continuing to reveal new insights for marketing agencies that can be useful as they look to get business back on track.

What Call Data Reveals for Marketing

Marketing budgets are one of the first items on the chopping block during an economic downturn, and this pandemic has been no exception.

At the outset of lockdowns, 76% of experts said they expected to see cuts in marketing budgets, according to Gartner.

Many businesses froze their marketing budgets and it’s had an impact on marketing agencies.

CEO of Publicis, Arthur Sadoun, noted, “In March, the rate of decline has been more dramatic than anything we have seen in the past.”

These declines had a significant impact on marketing agencies, with 66% saying they experienced a decrease in overall revenue due to COVID-19.

Call duration went back up to pre-pandemic levels as businesses reopened.

It has continued to climb since, with call duration at 2.9 minutes at the end of August – an 11% increase from before the pandemic.

“Also, many closed or slowed operations, and are now working to get back into full gear as much as possible. As a result, marketing in many industry segments has increased.”

What Should Agencies Do Next?

The increase in call activity indicates that companies are ready to re-engage in marketing to their customers.

Research shows that for 85% of consumers, brand loyalty goes out the window during a crisis, and some of the customers who try a new brand will be converted.

This makes it essential that companies that cut back or froze their marketing efforts during the early stages of the pandemic reboot those efforts.

And marketing agencies can play a critical role in helping companies retain or recapture customers.

More than half of companies use eight or more channels to engage their customers.

While no one has a crystal ball, it is clear that an integrated, consistent customer experience is as important as ever.

Customers are dependent on the web now that in-person contact is more limited, but calls are the next best thing to face-to-face conversations.

Align Clients’ Marketing Efforts

CallRail call data is signifying that customers want to do business, and businesses want to market and get the word out that they’re ready for customers.

It also indicates the important role phone calls play in the new normal of contactless transactions.

Agencies that are poised to help businesses in today’s physically distanced environment will rebound better than those that aren’t.

Omnichannel tactics – across online and offline points of contact – provide consistent customer experience and allow you to make more informed marketing decisions based on data.

For example, CallRail provides real-time call statistics so you can track the results of your campaigns, whether from the web or offline sources.

Any integrated strategy should include phone engagement because calls are essential, while face-to-face interaction is inconvenient or even impossible.

Marketing agencies can be key to making sure this happens effectively.

Integrated marketing allows you to improve outcomes for clients by viewing data insights holistically.

One of the keys to providing a quality customer experience is consistency across environments and the ability to make improvements in real-time.

The CallRail platform optimizes marketing and increases ROI on PPC, SEO, and offline ad campaigns, demonstrating why it’s important to be able to collect and analyze data no matter how clients are engaging with their customers – whether it be in person, online, or by phone.

To get more insights into the business impacts of COVID-19, download CallRail’s complete report, 100M phone calls show how SMBs are adapting in a pandemic.

Image Credits

Featured Image: CallRail. Used with permission.

They Created A More Hygienic Toilet Seat. Here’s The Poop

BU Alums Create a More Hygienic Toilet Seat

Kevin Tang (Questrom’22) (from left), Andy Chang (Questrom’21, CAS’21), and Max Pounanov (ENG’23) with their Cleana commercial toilet seat. Photo by Justin Nardella (Questrom’22)


They Created a More Hygienic Toilet Seat. Here’s the Poop Alums launch Cleana, a new company that seeks to make dirty toilet seats a thing of the past

Benjamin Franklin once said that the only certainties in life are death and taxes, but we might add a third: dirty public bathrooms. But now, thanks to the ingenuity of three BU alums, that no longer needs to be the case. After years of hard work, they’ve created a new kind of mechanical toilet seat designed to help prevent common everyday messes caused during urination. Their company, Cleana, is set to begin shipping its first seats in the coming months. 

“We wanted to make things that were practical, simple, affordable, and accessible enough to the point where they actually became a standard,” says Kevin Tang (Questrom’22), cofounder and CEO of Cleana. “We want to make sure that this is something everyone can have.”

Tang has been working on the project since 2023. The team also includes Max Pounanov (ENG’23), the company’s COO, and Andy Chang (Questrom’21, CAS’21), its CFO. The three met through start-up events hosted by BU’s BUild Lab IDG Capital Student Innovation Center and MIT’s Entrepreneurship Center. (Their chief technology officer just graduated from MIT). What drew them together was a desire to solve problems that affect lots of people, which led them to the bathroom. 

Cleana isn’t the first company to make and market automatic toilet seats, but unlike competitors, Cleana’s seats are engineered simply and are relatively inexpensive ($95 versus the $1,000+ that competitors charge). There are no complicated controls or settings. You simply attach the seat to a toilet bowl like any other and you’re ready to go: the seat raises or lowers (after a customizable time delay) without batteries or electrical input, using an ingeniously designed pneumatic system. The seats are also treated with a microbial coating, providing additional sanitation. 

“Our mission statement is: we just want to make dirty toilet seats a relic of the past,” Chang says.

Cleana took home first place in the Tech Track of Innovate@BU’s New Venture Competition back in 2023, netting $18,000 in non-dilutive funding. The founders partnered with organizations like Gillette Stadium, Stanford University, Pennsylvania State University, and Detroit Metro Airport to develop testing sites. The company has also attracted the attention of investors like Robert Vail, the head of innovation at Boston Beer Co. and a member of the School of Hospitality Administration Dean’s Advisory Board, and John Barrett, executive director of the Worldwide Cleaning Industry Association.

Andy Chang (Questrom’21, CAS’21) working on a Cleana toilet seat prototype. Photo by Justin Nardella (Questrom’22)

Cleana offers two models: a commercial seat and a residential seat. The commercial seat, made for public bathrooms, automatically raises after every use, eliminating unwanted splashes during urination. A user can lower the seat by hand or foot, and once a person has done their business and stands up, a timer kicks in and the seat goes up after 30 seconds. Tang says that as part of their research, they conducted a self-report survey of several hundred people and found that 75 percent of men responded that they never raised the toilet seat before urinating in a public bathroom. In testing the commercial seat at Lucky Strike Fenway, the popular local entertainment venue, Tang says the auto-lift feature kept the seat about 88 percent cleaner.

The design for the residential seat came after hearing stories about people falling into toilets and getting injured and dropping their phones and other valuables in the bowl and pets drinking from the bowl when the toilet seat and lid were left up after use. Cleana’s residential seat automatically lowers both seat and lid after each use. 

“The real challenge is, can you deliver [a product] in a way that it doesn’t become contrived and complicated,” Tang says.

The company plans to begin shipping the first of its commercial seats this fall. Among the customers already signed up: local grocery chain Roche Bros. Preorders for the residential seat are available here.

“It’s one of those things that touches everyone’s life—from behind, if you will,” Tang says with a laugh.

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Top Finance Manager Skills An Mba Can Teach You

Financing is one of the key requirements for starting a business. Adequate capital and efficient financial management are required throughout the business’s life and upon the business’s sale or liquidation. Funds must be managed, regulated, and monitored according to procedures at every stage of the business lifecycle. Companies that manage their finances better experience exponential growth, while those that do not manage their financial resources and operations well typically experience losses or declining profits.

What is Finance Management?

Financial management is creating a business plan and keeping all departments on track. It usually requires two years of full-time study and demonstrates a deep understanding of the subject. Sound financial management allows the CFO or vice president of finance to provide data to create a long-term vision and make informed decisions about where to invest, how those investments are financed, and liquidity. It can provide insight into profitability, liquidity, and more.

Earning a Master of Business Administration is an impressive achievement for potential employers. Running a business requires a thorough understanding of proper money management, and an MBA in Financial Management provides that. A typical coursework might cover best practices for making money, keeping money, and spending money in a business context. This program may include areas focused on regulation, taxation, reporting, operations, and management systems.

The Major Skills About Finance Management an MBA can Teach

An MBA in Financial Management includes many technical skills such as financial management, artificial intelligence in business, digital fraud and risk analysis, and data visualization in finance. Industry knowledge and skills will enable you to secure key positions in banking, insurance, fintech, financial services, and start-ups. Here are some holy grail skills an MBA can also teach −

Financial Reporting

This refers to the revelation of financial results to the Board of Directors and stakeholders like your investors, consumers, and regulators. Financial reports help us comprehend how a company has performed over some time. It may sound effortless, but finding contenders with good financial reporting skills can take time and effort. Financial companies are looking for applicants with a high aptitude for financial reporting.

Time Managing

Whoever has an MBA from a top university is acquainted with the latest problem-solving techniques and may have exceptional communication skills. Employers today want to hire individuals who value their time and know how to use it. This property boosts productivity, reduces anxiety, and helps create an engaging work environment.

Analytical Thinking

Being a finance expert requires you to be a critical thinker. It’s about analytically analyzing a problem and coming up with the best solution to that problem. You’ll need to be able to deal with many different issues involving both technical and interpersonal aspects of finance. As an employee who thrives on creative problem-solving, you will have some valuable ideas to help your organization grow.

Analytical thinking is used in various domains, including risk assessment, economic analysis, financial planning, etc.

Business Intelligence

Businesses need finance specialists to help them make wise and well-informed choices. Because they’re required to be good at forecasting prospective revenue and predicting inventory and associated information, it helps if they have experience using enterprise resource planning systems such as SAP/Oracle ERP. These tools are crucial for managing inventories, making long-term plans, and assigning staff time to various projects.

Financial Transactions Modelling

Financial modeling involves using abstract approaches to create a model of how financial situations behave in the real world. It’s part of that process to build a quantitative model that accurately represents the asset or investment strategy. One of the most common uses for financial models is to estimate the value of a proposed project. They can also be used to establish spending limits or to simulate different scenarios. As a senior-level job applicant, you can count on being tested on your knowledge of financial modeling during the hiring process.

Managing Cash Flows

Eighty-two percent of companies fail due to ineffective management of their cash flow. Cash flow management is how companies assess, track, and manage the cash they receive after subtracting what they spend. This is vital for firms looking to avoid financial setbacks and develop lucrative and long-term plans. After all, if you need more money coming in, it’s easier to reinvest in long-term growth for your business.

Data Management

Data management is essential to an organization’s success in analyzing data and making decisions based on gathered information. It plays a key role in the management of an organization’s data and plays a key role in making sure that the right information is being saved, stored, and analyzed.


Becoming a finance manager, with the expectation of more responsibilities shortly, requires more than knowing accounting and finance. You’ll need a broader understanding of healthy business growth and how to push it forward.

In business, financial management is managing a company’s finances to ensure that the company is successful and compliant. The MBA in Financial Management creates entrepreneurial and innovative leaders who embrace new ways of thinking and pursue niches in the market. They create an innovation culture that focuses on potential rather than cost savings. These entrepreneurial skills are invaluable to growth-oriented organizations. An MBA will equip you with the innovative and entrepreneurial skills to improve your products and services and make a difference in getting your company in the right direction.

The Great Arctic Melt Opens Up A Lot Of Questions

The Great Melt: This animation of images taken over time by NASA satellites shows Arctic sea ice declining for the past 30 years. The year to year rate of decline 11.5 percent per decade. Via The Bridge. Image Credit: NASA/Goddard Scientific Visualization Studio

Global warming is remaking the Arctic, with changes like ice-free sea lanes across the Arctic Ocean in summer, or no-longer-so-eternal permafrost on land, unprecedented in human history.

How much one laments or celebrates these changes probably depends on where one’s values fall across a scale extending from “untouched wilderness” at one end to “lucrative oil field” at the other. But it’s indisputable that they’re creating new opportunities for scientists to learn more about the region than they’ve been able to in the past–and a new sense of urgency.

“The Arctic in the Anthropocene: Emerging Research Questions,” is a report by the National Research Council that tries to identify the questions brought on by the Great Arctic Melt. It was released last month in pre-publication form.

The Arctic is changing so fast, we’re unlikely to have many second chances at fixing mistakes.

I’ve only skimmed the surface of this report so far, but already can tell it has a lot to offer. Stephanie Pfirman, an environmental scientist at Barnard College, Columbia University, who co-chaired the committee that created the report, spoke with me briefly about it as well.

If you haven’t heard the word “Anthropocene” before, it is a recently-coined name for the current period in Earth’s history, when human actions are having a planet-scale impact. Putting the word “Anthropocene” in the report’s title, Pfirman told me, was a way to expand its scope beyond the typical confines of scientific reports about global warming and the Arctic. “Anthropocene is about more than just human influence on the planet,” she said. “It’s also about human interactions, ingenuity, and capacity to solve problems.”

New questions

The sections on the “evolving Arctic” and the “connected Arctic” cover relatively well-identified questions, known unknowns that include: How do and will the new levels of heat in the Far North change weather patterns in other parts of the world? And as the region’s geopolitical importance increases, can Arctic native peoples gain greater political power, and a new degree of self-determination?

More novel are the sections that ask questions about the “hidden Arctic,” as in “what we may find now that we have access to new areas, new technologies,” says Pfirman, “but also what we may lose forever”; the “managed Arctic” of unprecedented expansion in the land and other resources available to human inhabitants of the region; and the “undetermined Arctic” of uneven research funding, spotty monitoring tools, and other barriers that complicate efforts to study and understand the changes.

The Arctic’s own special qualities seem to have propelled the report’s cross-disciplinary framing of the questions. Breaking through old boundaries that have divided disciplines may be more important than ever, because the Arctic is changing so fast, we’re unlikely to have many second chances at fixing mistakes.

“The need for actionable Arctic information has never been greater,” said Pfirman. “Whether or not they have the information, people are making decisions now.”

6/17/14 Update: Don’t have time to read the whole report? Here’s the official video:

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