Thursday, July 13, 2017

Investors Beware Of Sketchy Advice

Editor's note: Jeff Apel, the author of this article, is a longtime journalist and friend of mine. We both worked together at The Grand Island Independent. He has a passion for horses. He works at a casino.

 By Jeff Apel

Shortly after moving to Lexington, Ky., in 2005, I was at a bar when a man walked by and gave me a thumbs up regarding my Nebraska hat. Turns out, Bill graduated from Lincoln Northeast High School and was a huge Husker fan.

Bill had just moved to Lexington to take a job with the cable company. His wife hadn't made the move yet, so Bill and I hung out together at the racetrack and a bar or two.

Bill and his wife, Sherry, eventually bought a really nice house. One thing about Bill was he never could keep a job very long.

I'd stop by the house every now and then, always afraid to ask what Bill might be doing for income. At one point, an elderly relative parked his RV in the backyard and lived in the house.

When the horse economy tanked in early 2000s, Lexington, as the horse capital of the world, was hit hard. Out of work again, after a 2-year stay selling phone systems, Bill asked if I would be willing to help him write a book about how to run a call center, something he had lots of experience in.

I balked because there was no pay involved.

As time went on, Bill mentioned occasionally that, if things got worse, his wife had an aunt living in Lincoln that they could stay with. I couldn't imagine making such a move so I got bill a job in Carmel, Ind., at a company that a casino friend owned. Sherri was supposed to work there as well.

True to form, Bill took off one day, never showing up again. My friend mentioned that Bill kept asking to see the books, saying something about the bottom line didn't add up. His request was denied.

With their home now in foreclosure, Bill and Sherri did move to Lincoln to live in the basement of a house owned by the aunt and her husband. When they arrived, they posted pictures of themselves on Facebook, saying how glad they were to be back in Lincoln and spending time with the family again.

Someone asked Sherri where they were living. She responded that herself and Bill put their belongs in storage in Kentucky and moved in with the aging aunt and uncle to help out. Sherri said she and Bill generously agreed to live downstairs in the house that the uncle purchased for tax purposes.

Not true at all but it sure sounds good. The uncle has owned the house for years, long before Bill and Sherri moved in along with two dogs and two cats.

Bill sent me an email once, telling my to be careful about my gambling in terms of owning horses because it was a high-risk investment. After laughing, I assured him I had enough money on hand to make such a bet.

Unlike him.

Now I see Bill is offering friends investment advice. One guy sought him out on Facebook, asking him if bonds or stocks were a better investment. Bill has got people buffaloed into thinking he's Warren Buffet II who downsized his life style for the benefit of his in-laws.

Man, if those seeking an expert opinion only knew the financial past of the man they were dealing with. He already declared bankruptcy once in his life so foreclosure was basically his only option.

I still send Bill emails when a horse I co-own makes a few bucks. We talk about living in Nebraska, our days in Lexington and he always promises me a job if I ever want to move back to Lincoln.

Nice guy. Just don't ask him for any financial advice.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Westar Energy Stock Declines 5% On New Merger Deal

Stock in Westar Energy (WR) fell -5% today after disclosing a new deal to merge with Great Plains Energy (GXP).
Boards of directors for both companies approved a new merger deal that creates a holding company to be owned by Westar at 52.5% share and Great Plains at 47.5% share.
Stock in Westar fell because some shareholders are disappointed they aren't receiving a premium for their stock in the deal. A previous deal, rejected by the Kansas Corporation Commission, required Great Plains to pay $60 per share for Westar in a combination of cash and stock. The new deal includes no premium. In mid-morning trading, stock in Westar fell to $50.36 per share, down $2.80 per share.
A joint statement by the two companies says, "Under the terms of the agreement, Westar Energy shareholders will exchange each share of Westar Energy common stock for a share in the new holding company. Great Plains Energy shareholders will receive .5981 shares of common stock in the new holding company for each Great Plains Energy share. The transaction has a total equity value of approximately $14 billion. It is structured to permit a tax-free exchange of shares. No transaction debt will be incurred. The exchange ratio reflects the agreed-upon ownership split between the two companies. Following completion of the merger, Westar Energy shareholders will own approximately 52.5 percent and Great Plains Energy shareholders will own approximately 47.5 percent of the combined company. The agreement provides that, upon closing, the new holding company expects to set its initial common dividend at a level which maintains the current dividend for Great Plains Energy shareholders. This will result in approximately a 15 percent dividend increase for Westar Energy shareholders."
The companies also said, "The new, combined company will provide electric utility service to approximately one million Kansas customers and nearly 600,000 customers in Missouri. The combined company will have a new name, yet to be established. “The logic of combining these two companies is compelling. We are confident we have addressed the regulatory concerns with our originally-proposed transaction. We appreciate the Commission welcoming a different way to combine these two companies, preserving the unique value available only through this particular business combination,” said Mark Ruelle, president and chief executive officer of Westar Energy. “This merger creates a stronger company for our customers and a much more valuable company for shareholders, with no additional acquisition debt, along with sustaining commitments to Topeka and Kansas. It is a win-win. For our shareholders, it means a large increase in their dividend. We also expect significant earnings accretion and a larger and stronger earnings growth platform than we could achieve on our own. The company and its utilities will continue to have strong investment grade credit ratings.” 
Westar Energy and Great Plains Energy will merge to form a new holding company, which will operate regulated electric utilities in Kansas and Missouri. Operating headquarters will be in both Topeka, Kansas, and Kansas City, Missouri. Corporate headquarters will be in Kansas City, Missouri. “We are pleased to announce a revised agreement with Westar Energy that we believe directly addresses regulatory concerns with our originally-proposed transaction, while increasing the long-term value and upside opportunity for our shareholders, customers, communities and employees,” said Terry Bassham, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Great Plains Energy. 
Upon closing, Ruelle will become the non-executive chairman of the new company board. Bassham will serve as president and chief executive officer of the new company and will also serve as a member of the board of directors. Senior management roles will be shared by executives from both companies. Among these are: Westar’s current senior vice president and chief financial officer (CFO), Tony Somma, will become executive vice president and CFO. Kevin Bryant, current Great Plains Energy senior vice president of finance and strategy and CFO will become executive vice president and chief operating officer. Greg Greenwood, Westar’s senior vice president of strategy, including regulatory affairs, will become the new company’s executive vice president of strategy and chief administrative officer, responsible for regulatory affairs and merger savings, among other responsibilities. 

Monday, June 26, 2017

Scientist and Mystic Elmer Green Leaves Library of Metaphysical Archives and Books

Colleagues of Elmer Green Plan To Create Library of Metaphysical Archives at His Home at Ozawkie

By Michael Hooper

OZAWKIE, KAN --  A Menninger scientist who combined Eastern meditation techniques with Western medicine left instructions in his will for establishing a library near Ozawkie, Kan.

                                          Elmer Green

Colleagues of Elmer E. Green -- a pioneering scientist in the fields of biofeedback and consciousness -- are planning to create a library at his home at Perry Lake.

Green, who died at age 99 on March 5, 2017, was a world class sailor, pianist, chess player, author and a director of the Voluntary Controls Program at the Menninger Foundation. Green was a physicist who studied Eastern mystics and yoga masters like Swami Rama and delivered lectures on biofeedback around the world. He worked over 30 years at Menninger in Topeka before the institution moved to Houston in 2003. He taught biofeedback as a process whereby electronic monitoring of a normally automatic bodily function is used to train someone to acquire voluntary control of that function. In the 1960s and 70s, that was revolutionary idea, but today biofeedback is more accepted by the scientific community, largely because of research by Green and his associates, said Jeff Nichols, a medical doctor who worked with Green at Menninger.

Elmer Green was one the greatest scientists to ever work at the Menninger Foundation, Nichols said. He was able to bridge mind/body medicine with psychoanalytic theory at the Menninger Clinic – identifying the unifying emphasis on bringing the unconscious to consciousness leading to self-regulation and self-mastery.  

“He was a pioneer in the science of consciousness. The library was his final project,” said Nichols, executor of the Elmer Green estate.

Peter Parks, a Topeka therapist who worked for Green at Menninger, said Green left specific instructions to create a board of directors for the Elmer E. and Alyce M. Green Foundation. The board has applied for 501(c)3 status as a nonprofit organization. The board of directors includes Parks, Sarah Bremer Parks, Jeff Nichols, Karen Malik, Celia Coates and Lesley Carmack. Under that umbrella, there will be the Elmer E. Green Transpersonal Library and Archive.

“It is definitely in his house,” Parks said. “He was very clear about that location.” His house is located on a hill facing the northeast corner of Lake Perry, near Ozawkie, Kan. The location is abundant with trees, animals and birds. Parks said the library will be a “private library and archives with a focus on promoting the science of consciousness studies.” 




                   Carolyn Scripps examines Elmer Green's books.       

Green’s collection includes numerous scientific and metaphysical books including all six volumes of Henry Steel Olcott's "Old Diary Leaves: The Only Authentic History of the Theosophical Society,” and books by Alice Ann Bailey, "Treatise on the Seven Rays," "A Treatise on White Magic," and "A Treatise on Cosmic Fire." He has an early copy of “The Tibetan Book of the Dead” by Dr. Walter Y. Evans-Wentz, who popularized Tibetan thinking in the Western world.

“What Elmer was part of was the merging of the spiritual traditions and practices of the East and the scientific methods and practices of the West,” Nichols said. Subsequent research in mindful meditation has demonstrated numerous health benefits, Nichols said. Westerners who use biofeedback, meditation, mind control, and self-healing techniques owe a debt of gratitude to Green.

There is a collection of science fiction books, catalogs of trips, lectures and research papers on biofeedback and transpersonal psychology, journals and correspondence with his wife Alyce and other colleagues at Menninger and the around the world.

Parks said Green left some money for the purpose of supporting the library. The board is in the process of raising funds. There should be well over $100,000 to get the library going. Green predicted that the library will no longer be needed after 125 years. By that time, humanity will have evolved enough to control greed, deception and destruction of the Earth and Humankind, Green said.

“Elmer believed there is an evolutionary process taking place with humanity, that human beings are actually making progress,” Parks said.

Elmer was 23 when he married Alyce, who was 10 years older and had two children from a previous marriage, Patricia Norris and Doug Boyd. The late Doug Boyd wrote several books including “Swami Rama” and “Mad Bear: Spirit, Healing, and the Sacred in the Life of a Native American Medicine Man.” 

Elmer and Alyce had two children together, Sandra Gey and Judith Green. Patricia Norris has known Elmer Green for 74 years. He married her mother Alyce when Norris was about 7 years old.

Patricia Norris said it would be more accessible to donate his library to a university like the University of Kansas, which has extensive collections of Kansas authors in its Spencer Library. Norris said that her sister Sandra Gey’s husband Fredric C. Gey, information scientist at the University of California, Berkeley, concluded that most of it is already available through the Internet. Most of the books, like the Olcott books, are available online at the Theosophical Society in America.

“Who would travel to Ozawkie to find a copy when they can utilize this service?” Gey wrote.

Roy Menninger, former president of Menninger, was supportive of Green’s efforts. Menninger approved Green's budget, his projects weren't cheap.

“Setting up the library in a remote but beautiful spot is classic Elmer: his own ideas were strongly held. I hope the enterprise is successful,” Menninger said.

        Alyce Green and Roy Menninger share a moment together

There is something special about Green’s home near Perry Lake, said Carolyn Scripps, his personal assistant who cared for Green during the last three years of his life and helped him organize his library.

Scripps said Green built his house on Lake Perry to be close to water and nature. He and Alyce lived there together for many years. 

“The library is a sanctuary, a haven for the body, mind and spirit,” Scripps said. “It’s a  supportive place to nurture the highest and best possible in a human being.”

It is true many, but not all of his books can be found in libraries and online. But, they do not have the extensive margin notes of a scholar who has studied these texts throughout his lifetime, Scripps said. Some books from Green’s teacher, Will J. Erwood, are not available anywhere else. There are also first-edition signed books sent by authors who appreciated Green’s contribution to the science of consciousness. These books are about topics like out-of-body experiences, meditation, near-death experience, acupuncture and energy healing.

While living at Perry Lake, he wrote “The Ozawkie Book of the Dead: Alzheimer’s Isn’t What You Think It Is,” a three-volume set that documents his time taking care of Alyce while she suffered from Alzheimer’s. The books are also an autobiography of their lives.

Green was raised in Duluth, Minn. He was an honor student and prom king, who loved music and considered being a concert pianist. Instead he earned a bachelor’s in physics at the University of Minnesota and worked as a physicist at the Naval Ordnance Test Station at China Lake, Calif. He worked in optics, electronics and computing. Using high speed cameras, he took pictures of missiles in flight. It was while working there that he and his colleagues took pictures of several unidentified flying objects and turned them over to the government, but such pictures were never seen again, Norris said. Green earned his PhD in biopsychology from the University of Chicago.



                                       The ketch Daphnie

Green took his family on a 52-foot ketch sailboat called The Daphne and sailed across the Atlantic from England to the Caribbean in 1958. At one point during rough seas, the boom fell on him and knocked him off the boat. Norris’ first husband motored back to look for him and found him in the water. After the trip, he looked for a place to work on either coasts so he could be close to the ocean waters, Norris said.

               Newspaper clipping of crossing the Atlantic Ocean.
                                   
A researcher at the Menninger Foundation contacted Green, who drove out to Topeka to meet him. When Green saw the tower building on the campus of the Menninger Foundation, he was certain he belonged there because he had had a dream vision of the distinctive tower some time before. Green was hired in 1964 and placed in charge of biomedical equipment in the research department.

Around 1970, Green and his colleagues examined Swami Rama at Menninger and measured his ability to voluntarily control bodily processes, such as heartbeat, blood pressure, and body temperature that are normally considered to be non-voluntary. Swami Rama was able to put his heart in Atrial Flutter on his own volition.

Green wanted to show that an ordinary person could use his own mind to control aspects of the body. He found that it was possible to use your mind to warm your hands, a sign of a relaxed body. The process involves meditation and specifically asking the body to move blood into the limbs. One patient who had a history of migraine headaches was able to warm her hands using this mind-control process. As a result, her migraine headaches went away. “Of the first 13 people we tried it on, it worked on 12 perfectly,” Green said in an interview, “Elmer Green: Reflections on His Life,” which can be found on youtube.

Margaret Olwine, a medical writer for The Kansas City Star, had been taking Valium for her hypertension in the 1970s. She took training sessions on biofeedback and was able to warm her hands, and, in the process, lowered her blood pressure. So she stopped taking Valium, according to "Beyond Biofeedback," written by Green and his wife, Alyce, published in 1977. Olwine lived to age 95. 

Sarah Bremer Parks said hundreds of individuals participated in biofeedback research and clinical work at Menninger with beneficial results without the side-effects associated with pharmaceuticals.  

Peter Parks said Green believed a person struggling with anxiety and depression can use meditation to gain self regulation, self awareness, and, ultimately, self-reliance. Meditation quiets the mind, calms the emotions and strips away stress from outside influences. Then it is possible to listen to the wisest part of the self, and in that place, there is answers. Green didn’t tell people how to live. He helped people find out for themselves, because they often had the answers inside if only they could relax and listen.

Green delivered lectures in Japan, Great Britain, the Philippines and Australia. He gave 40 lectures in California alone. He went on a 4,500 mile motorcycle ride through Europe with Alyce.

In 1973, the Kanpur News, Kanpur, India, wrote an article about Green during his visit there for a yoga conference.

“Through the practice of yoga one can control his physiological processes and thereby control 95 percent of the diseases,” Green said in the article. Green said yoga, which took its birth in the East, has now been recognized as a science in the West. Any kind of mental strain, stomachache, heart troubles and ulcers could be cured by yoga exercises, the article said.

Green was a founder of the Council Grove Conference on Consciousness And The Voluntary Control of Internal States, held annually at Council Grove, Kan., beginning in 1969. The first people invited to the conference included Carl Sagan, Abraham Maslow, Roy Menninger, Arthur Clarke, Sol Kramer and R.E.L. Masters. Early discussions were on the use of LSD in the treatment of mental illness, Christian mysticism, Tibetan Buddhism and hypnotism. The Council Grove Conference still meets annually.

“The convening of this conference was a groundbreaking event in 1969,” Nichols said.

Parks estimated Green taught his biofeedback techniques to several thousands of clinicians, doctors, psychiatrists and therapists in his 30-plus years at Menninger.


                                Elmer and Alyce Green

During his later years, Scripps said, Elmer liked to sit on the deck and look up at the stars.

In 1996, the American Institute of Stress honored Green with the Hans Selye Award, recognizing his achievements in biofeedback research.

Green was an accomplished scientist and mystic. His legacy is likely to live on a long time.

LaVetta Westphal-Rolfs said Green's 100th Birthday Party & Celebration of His Life will be from 2 - 4 p.m. Oct. 8, at The Unitarian Fellowship, 4775 SW 21st. St., Topeka. 

Monday, June 19, 2017

$100,000 For Winning Business Plan in Topeka

The Topeka Capital-Journal and six businessmen have launched an entrepreneurship contest designed after Shark Tank, Morgan Chilson wrote.

I am so impressed with this idea, I want to highlight it on my blog.

The Top Tank idea is the brainchild of six Topeka businessmen who partnered with The Topeka Capital-Journal to create a competition designed to highlight the capital city and, specifically, its downtown, Chilson wrote. Five of the businessmen made a financial investment to fund a $100,000 prize to the entrepreneur with the most compelling idea: Brent Boles, managing partner of Schendel Lawn &Landscape; John Dicus, chairman, president and CEO of Capitol Federal Savings Bank; Cody Foster, co-founder of Advisors Excel; Jim Klausman, president and CEO of Midwest Health Inc.; and Mark Ruelle, president and CEO of Westar Energy. Greg Schwerdt, president of Schwerdt Design Group, has offered to work with the final 10 entrepreneurs to help them put together a comprehensive package on their proposals by providing professional design services.



Top plan

Top Tank officially launches Sunday with a website where entrepreneurs will find an entry form due Aug. 31. Organizers hope to attract people from across the region to the competition.
A committee will narrow entries to 20 by November.


Contest Timeline

June 18th, 2017-Contest launch
August 31, 2017- Deadline for applications
Early November- The Top Tank finalists will present their business
proposal to the Top Tank Panel
Late November- Ten finalists will be notified they are moving on to the finals
February 2018- A Top Tank special event in downtown Topeka will bring
the finalists together with the Topeka community for networking opportunities. 
 A nationally respected speaker will lead to the grand finale: One Top Tank 
winner will walk away with $100,000, energized for hard work and with
 the resources to launch a Downtown Topeka business.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

My 80% Return In PotCoin


Source: Poloniex
My cost basis was 0.10163820 Bitcoin, worth $276 at the time of the trade. Fee was 25 basis points.
Potcoin recently traded at a price of 0.00006907 BTC X 2770 shares = 0.1913239 Bitcoin, or in dollars $518.00, a return of 87%.
Why did I buy Potcoin? I had a hunch that if pot sellers struggle with so much cash, they would prefer an alternative in a digital currency, which reduces the risk of carrying all that cash.
On its own Web site, PotCoin says, "PotCoin as a digital currency is an alternative payment network for cannabis users, merchants and industry professionals. The PotCoin network allows cannabis enthusiasts to interact, transact, communicate and grow together. PotCoin is a community run effort, by community members for community members."
PotCoins are transferred directly from person to person via the net, without going through a bank or clearing house. This means that the fees are much lower, you can use them in every country.
Why was PotCoin trading up 83% on Tuesday. Well, early that morning Potcoin.com reported it was sending Dennis Rodman back to North Korea. Rodman said he wanted to promote sports and peace. Rodman knows both President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un.
That's great, but North Korea and South Korea have been enemies for over a half-century. I appreciate Dennis Rodman trying to promote peace between North Korea, United States and South Korea, but I am not confident anything will change as a result of his trip. Even if he does accomplish something over there, his efforts will take time.
Does Rodman's trip sponsored by PotCoin.com justify an 83% climb in PotCoin? This sounds like a selling opportunity.
So I sold all my Potcoin at 0.00006619 Bitcoin, an 80% return after fees.
Shortly after selling my lot, the price of Potcoin fell 10%. I'm not surprised. The market cap on PotCoin is $38 million, and there were $14 million in volume of PotCoin in the past 24 hours, Tuesday's volume accounts for about a third of the market cap. I expect the Rodman news to wear off pretty quickly and by Thursday, this momentum play will be over.
I think PotCoin has a good idea, to serve the cannabis community. I hope it is successful. I will be watching its price, I may buy this cryptocurrency again.
But for now, my trade is booked and I will have to pay taxes on this short-term gain, when I file my 2017 tax return.
Conclusion
Cryptocurrency is the wild west of trading. Sales are completed in minutes, compared with stock trades' settlement in three days. On Poloneix, a person can do margin trading and lending. I could see people getting hurt if you are not careful. Market caps are small on some currencies, meaning a lack of volume could result in price declines. I have put about 1 percent of my wealth in the cryptocurrency space, in Bitcoin and Ethereum. Gains can be quickly taken away by market conditions. PotCoin's sponsorship of Rodman going to North Korea is laudable, but I don't think it justifies an 83% bump in price, so I'm out.
Disclosure: I am/we are long BITCOIN, ETHEREUM.
Additional disclosure: I may buy back PotCoin at a lower price
\

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Legislature Overrides Sam Brownback, Passes Budget

I'm thrilled to see the Kansas Legislature pass a budget and override Gov. Sam Brownback's veto. The voice of reason has won, Kansas now can afford to pay its bills. Brownback's experiment with trickle-down, Reagan-style economics has failed. The Legislature finally stood up to Brownback, whose tax plan was a piece of garbage.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Photo of Michael Hooper

Michael Hooper 2017





                                      Michael Hooper, Laguna Beach, Calif., spring 2017



                                                   With new $107.99 glasses from Zenni.


Thursday, June 8, 2017

Reading The Tea Leaves: Rail Volumes Say Economy Is Growing


Rail volumes are growing at Union Pacific, BNSF Railway and Canadian National Railway.
Canadian National Railway sees 35% increase in shipment of metallic ores.
Norfolk Southern is growing faster than CSX .
Railroad volume numbers are the tea leaves. Read these numbers correctly and you can predict trends in the economy.
Volumes at Union Pacific (NYSE:UNP), BNSF Railway (NYSE:BRK.A) (NYSE:BRK.B) and Canadian National Railway (NYSE:CNI) are growing, indicating something is really happening in the North American economy.


Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Jayhawk Theatre: Adding To Topeka's Cultural Renaissance.

Published April/May 2017 785 Magazine, page 12,


Capital Campaign Underway at Jayhawk Theatre 


Restoration of Jayhawk Theatre would add to Topeka’s cultural renaissance.

By Michael Hooper

Recent developments at the Historic Jayhawk Theatre, 720 S. Jackson, Topeka, are breathing new life into the 90-year-old theatre. The board’s volunteers and friends are working to revive the classic theater. Musicians, filmmakers and dancers have graced the stage in recent months, shining a spotlight on the theatre and its potential. Advocates believe a fully restored theatre would deepen the cultural renaissance taking place in Topeka.

“We believe a key component to downtown revitalization is the restoration of the Jawhawk Theatre,” said Jeff Carson, president of the Historic Jayhawk Theatre Board of Directors. “There is a lot of momentum for downtown Topeka. The Streetscape improvements really help. It’s all about quality of life. The Jayhawk Theatre is a big part of this.”

Click here to read more


Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Income For Millionaires

Yield pigs suffer losses chasing yields in REITs and oil.
A better approach is a portfolio of consumer and utility stocks anchored by the S&P 500 and Berkshire Hathaway.
Seth Klarman has wise words for yield pigs.
You've seen them: headlines promoting high-yielding stocks. Be careful; some of these high-yielding stocks may have to cut their dividends. Not all income is created equal. In this article I will discuss the challenges associated with high-yield securities. Income doesn't really matter if the portfolio is worth less today than a year ago. I will show you a portfolio of consumer and utility stocks anchored by the S&P500 and Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK.B). I like the defensive nature of utility and consumer stocks; they have low volatility and a history of modest returns, plus dividends.

click here to read more


Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Why Bitcoin Is Rising


Why Bitcoin Is Rising



 Includes: COIN

Summary

Over 700 crypto currencies exist. Bitcoin is used to buy other cryptocurrencies, which increases demand for Bitcoin.
Bitcoin is up 82% to $1700 on May 9 from $935 on March 24.
Japan approves Bitcoin as a legal form of payment April 1. Blockchain technology gives credibility to digital currencies.
Investors may want to consider investing a small percentage of their net worth in crypto currencies like Bitcoin. I started buying Bitcoin in February and plan to put about 1% to 2% of my net worth in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies by summer's end. I think Bitcoin could reach $2,000 by year end.

Friday, May 5, 2017

$380 Million Breakup Fee Is Year's Earnings At Westar Energy

Great Plains Energy (GXP) will have to pay $380 million break up fee to Westar Energy (WR) if it fails to consummate an acquisition of Westar.

“In the event we would need to pay a termination fee, the applicable fee would be $380 million,” said Lori Wright, of Great Plains Energy.

The $380 million fee would be slightly more than what Westar Energy earns in a year. The company earned  $347 million, or $2.43 per share, for 2016 compared with earnings of $292 million, or $2.11 per share, for 2015.

Great Plains Energy and Westar Energy recently filed a petition with the Kansas Corporation Commission requesting more time to consider a merger.

On April 19, 2017, The KCC denied approval of Great Plains Energy’s acquisition of Westar. 


The new petition for reconsideration requests additional time until May 31, 2017, to allow further discussions between Great Plains Energy and Westar to determine if a mutually agreeable revised transaction might be negotiated that resolves the concerns identified by the KCC, while preserving meaningful benefits for customers and shareholders.

If you read the original order denying the sale of Westar Energy, you get the idea that the Kansas Corporation Commission left no room for negotiation. It appears the KCC hates the deal, period.

Great Plains is trying to salvage the situation. The company does not want to pay a $380 million breakup fee. 

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Westar Energy & Great Plains Ask For More Time To Consider Merger

Great Plains Energy Incorporated (NYSE: GXP) and Westar Energy, Inc. (NYSE: WR) have filed a petition with the Kansas Corporation Commission for more time to consider a merger.

On April 19, 2017, The KCC denied approval of Great Plains Energy’s acquisition of Westar. 

The new petition for reconsideration requests additional time until May 31, 2017, to allow further discussions between Great Plains Energy and Westar to determine if a mutually agreeable revised transaction might be negotiated that resolves the concerns identified by the KCC, while preserving meaningful benefits for customers and shareholders.

If the companies are able to reach and announce an agreement, they will immediately engage with the other parties to the proceeding in order to address their concerns and set a new procedural schedule that allows all parties and the KCC adequate time to review the matter. 

“We continue to firmly believe that combining Great Plains Energy and Westar creates significant value for customers, employees and communities in Kansas and Missouri as well as for our shareholders. Since announcing this transaction, we have completed integration planning, and this work has only reinforced our belief in the value of this combination,” said Terry Bassham, chairman and chief executive officer of Great Plains Energy “By joining our companies, we together can establish a leading Midwest energy company that creates benefits for all stakeholders that neither company could achieve on its own.” 

Mark Ruelle, president and chief executive officer of Westar, said,  “A combination of these two companies and the efficiencies it would create helps address the headwinds of rising costs for our customers. We are hopeful we can reach a revised agreement that paves the way for the completion of our transaction and the realization of its many customer benefits.” 

Bassham said, “We have heard the Commission regarding the structure of the transaction, including its concerns related to purchase price, capital structure, quantifiable and demonstrable customer benefits, and staffing levels in Westar’s service territory. Given the unique benefits resulting from our combination, we believe it is appropriate to explore whether there is room to work with Westar and directly address these areas, while maintaining the shareholder value creation opportunity inherent in this merger. In any case, we would only pursue a revised agreement if we determined that it delivered more value than Great Plains was able to achieve on a stand-alone basis.”

Perhaps the biggest concern by the KCC is the amount of debt that Great Plains is taking on to buy Westar Energy in the $12 billion deal. Regulators feared that the entity would be unable to service the debt without raising rates on customers. The KCC saw no value for the customer in the original transaction.

The Kansas Corporation Commission's order rejecting the sale of Westar Energy to Great Plains Energy, citing a failure to meet its merger standards.

"The Joint Application is denied," The 51-page order says. "The Commission finds the proposed transaction is not in the public interest and rejects Great Plains' application to acquire Westar. Both Parties have 15 days from the date of electronic service of this Order to petition for reconsideration."

The order also said, "Great Plains Energy does not dispute that they will incur a large amount of debt to acquire Westar. Nor does it dispute it has no written plan to de-leverage. The Joint Application is deficient. It does not include plans showing which generation plants will be retired early. There are no examples of reduced spending through procurement savings and no evidence that customers will see any savings. The Joint Application simply does not give the Commission any assurances that it will be able to service the newly-incurred debt without raising rates or reducing services. Therefore, the Commission has no choice but to find the proposed transaction is not in the public interest. Accordingly, the Commission denies GPE's application to acquire Westar."


Sunday, April 30, 2017

Why Do We Strive For The Heavens?

By Michael Hooper

Throughout history, we can find countless examples of human beings trying to reach for the heavens. We hike up a hill to get a better view, or we climb a mountain because it’s there. We build a rocket and fly to the moon. NASA has remote control vehicles on Mars looking for places to probe and dig for samples of dust and rock. We have developed listening stations that capture sounds from deep space. We use high powered telescopes to search for life on other planets. Scientists recently discovered seven planets around a white dwarf 40 light years away, these planets may contain water and life forms.


The Telegraph

The higher we climb, the harder we fall. Yet we climb anyway.

For years a friend of mine and I wanted to ride bicycles to the top of a hill in northeast Kansas -- the site is a burial ground that dates back over 4,000 years, maybe longer.

It was 80 degrees on a rare February day, Brian Carr and I decided it was time, we got on our bicycles and started riding up and around the hills, climbing higher and higher. We entered a grassy field, and continued to pedal up along an old pioneer’s path, until we finally reached the summit. It was here we looked for a 4,000-year-old Indian burial ground, we could not find it. The abundant tall grass prairie had hidden the sacred site.

We laid down in the grass and looked at the sun. The tall grass prairie made a good bed, deer had rested here. The sky was light blue with sun dogs, dripping with shafts of purple rays. We could see all around us, the four corners of the Earth. An eagle, the guardian of the day, flew over us and hovered for a bit, letting us know he sees us. Below us in the valley, the Kansas River moves eastward along its slow glide to the Missouri River. A Union Pacific train engine, bright yellow with an American flag, pulls grain cars to the west. And to our view to the south, we could see the interstate with hundreds of cars and trucks traveling east or west. 

About 20,000 feet above us, I see multiple passenger jets flying to Denver or Kansas City or Minneapolis or Dallas, maybe Los Angeles. Literally thousands of people inside the planes and automobiles, passing overhead and below us -- all at the same time -- a sea of humanity moving. Here I connect to all the living peoples on Earth and to the people in the sky and the aliens living on those distant planets 40 light years away; they are with me here now in my mind, and someone is there now also thinking the same thing, looking at Earth from 40 light years away, thinking, you know, there is someone over there on that planet who thinks about these things and is now with us in the same thought.

This place was like a vortex to the universe.

After an hour lying in the sun, we decided to look for the burial ground. I glanced behind us and there it was, we were lying next to it all along. The place found us, she drew us in and she treated us with majesty and grace. Growing among its circle of stones was a thorny low lying bush, we stood outside the circle. Its stones looked worn from rain and winds of time. The stones carried the memories of the Indians who placed them here and returned here to remember their ancestors. The tribes of old probably liked this spot, I imagine they too felt its powerful vortex to all things in the universe.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Stormont-Vail Healthcare Earns Profit of $38.8 million

Stormont-Vail Healthcare has made profits in each of the last four years, while St. Francis Health Center has been struggling.

In 2015, Stormont-Vail Healthcare showed a net gain of $38.8 million on $591.5 million in revenue and $552.6 million in expenses, according to its 2015 Form 990 tax return. Stomont-Vail’s fiscal year runs from Oct. 1, 2014, to Sept. 30, 2015.

Stormont-Vail's gain or profit in the 2014 fiscal year was $34.7 million on $550.3 million revenue and $515.6 million expenses.

Stormont-Vail is a 586-bed acute care referral center in northeast Kansas, with about 4,400 employees, according to its Web site.

Stormont-Vail's total assets increased in 2015 to $664.2 million from $640 million the previous year. A negative trend is the increase in liabilities to $366.7 million from $332.8 million in the previous year.

Stormont-Vail’s 2012 tax return showed a profit of $20.7 million on $517.1 million in revenue and $496.3 expenses. And the 2011 tax return showed a profit of $50.4 million on $576.4 million revenue and $526 million in expenses.

Tax returns in the past few years have shown some losses at St. Francis Health Center. St. Francis suffered a $12.4 million loss in 2015, a $6.1 million loss in 2014 and a $1.46 million loss in 2013.

SCL Health says St. Francis has lost $117 million over the last five years. Brian Newsome of SCL Health says, St. Francis Health Center had a negative cash balance of $51.6 million as of March 31, 2017.

SCL Health is trying to sell St. Francis or close it by this summer. Stormont-Vail has said it is considering acquiring St. Francis. Prime Healthcare is also interested in the hospital, according to Gov. Sam Brownback.

Earlier this year, Brownback vetoed Medicaid expansion in Kansas.

On April 18, SCL Health issued a press release, saying it is looking for a new owner for St. Francis. Multiple options were considered over the last two years to avoid closing the hospital and are still being explored now. The system is eager to discuss any alternatives that can be accomplished swiftly and is willing to donate St. Francis to another organization that can take over operations. With or without another operator, however, SCL Health will cease operating the hospital this summer. 

Saturday, April 22, 2017

My Billing Nightmare With SCL Health

By Michael Hooper

In August 2013, my daughter went to the emergency room at St. Francis Health Center with terrible pains in her lower back. She was in the waiting room at the ER with some friends from high school when I arrived. When doctors finally examined my daughter, they discovered she was moving a kidney stone, this was causing all of her pain. 

About three hours after arriving, my daughter and I were sent home. Medical staff gave us the name of a St. Francis doctor who could treat her kidney stone issue. She was treated very well. Her doctor advised her to drink gallons of lemonade and water. She moved the kidney stone and never had another kidney stone moving through her since then. 

My insurance deductible was $6,000 per person. I received a bill for $4,248 from SCL Health.  I complained to SCL Health that I was overcharged $2,275 for a CT scan that was not needed. But SCL officials refused to change the bill. I talked to a patient representative. Then a director examined my daughter’s case file and wrote a letter to me saying he had reviewed the care given to my daughter and agreed we were overcharged. “We understand your concerns and will make an adjustment on your account of removing $2,275.48 for the CT scan," he wrote.

Wonderful. So then I sent a copy of his letter to SCL Health, asking them to lower my bill. You need to remove $2,275 from my bill, but the person I talked to said she was not authorized to remove that charge. Why not, I have proof that I was overcharged. I said if you don’t lower my bill I am going to the Kansas Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division with a complaint. She still refused. I wrote a letter to the AG, which wrote a letter to SCL Health asking for an explanation. Suddenly, SCL Health officials called me and got very cooperative and apologetic and lowered my bill.

But that is not the end of the story. I had agreed from the very beginning of the process to send $200 per month to SCL Health until my bill was paid off. SCL Health cashed one of my $200 checks but did not credit my account. Then I received a delinquent notice from SCL Health saying I missed a payment. The letter said, “If your account is not brought current by your next payment due date, the payment plan may be deactivated and your account is at risk of placement with a collection agency.”

So I called SCL Health to get this straightened out. I said I had actually sent a check, SCL Health cashed it but did not credit my account. An SCL Health official said I must prove I made payment by getting a bank statement or cancelled check. You mean, I am responsible for correcting your mistake? Yes, she said. So I went to the bank and gathered up evidence showing SCL Health took $200 from my account. This actually happened a second time while I was trying to pay off the debt.

In the end, I paid off the bill. The St. Francis medical professionals who treated my daughter did a fabulous job. But without the Kansas Attorney General, I would have been screwed by SCL Health. I finally wrote a letter to the AG thanking them for being there, and that the problem was resolved.

During this entire time, I was lucky to be self-employed with flexible hours so I could devote many hours per day to solving this financial crisis with my daughter’s stay in the Emergency Room at St. Francis. Just imagine, though, a person going through this process without the knowledge of the Consumer Protection Act and The Kansas Attorney General?

I’ve heard from several employees of St. Francis saying the billing problems with SCL Health in Denver continue. One person said his wife had a baby but didn’t get a bill for the medical services for four months. If bills go out too late, payments are delayed and this hurts cash-flow. The faster bills go out, the sooner you get money in the bank.

St. Francis paid $42.7 million in System Allocation expense to SCL Health in 2015. From 2013 to 2015, St. Francis paid a total of $102 million for services like billing and payroll and IT. That seems like an awful lot of money being paid to SCL Health for sub par services.