TRENTON US Sen. Robert Menendez has now raised and spent approximately $1 million on legal bills amid Justice Department and congressional investigations.

The legal defense fund that Menendez (D-NJ) set up in January disclosed its donations and expenses today for the period of July 1 through Sept. 30.

The senator raised $357,750 during that period from 65 donors, and spent $290,644, according to forms publicly disclosed on the IRS website.

Menendez raised $308,000 and spent $258,387 through the defense fund during the previous quarter. Before that, he spent more than $400,000 form his campaign account on legal fees.

Menendez is facing investigations by the FBI and Senate ethics committee over whether he did political favors for Florida-based eye doctor Salomon Melgen, a major campaign donor.

Menendez has admitted taking three flights on Melgens private jet that he did not reimburse until much later. Eventually, he paid Melgen $58,500 from his personal savings for two flights, and $11,250 from his campaign fund for one flight he said he did not discover until years later.

Menenedezs donors include Michael Kempner, who heads the prominent public relations firm MWW, insurance executive John Graham, and attorney Michael Perrucci.

Menendezs fund paid $156,597 to the law firm Coburn and Greenbaum, $18,494 to the Brand Law Group and $109, 553 to the firm McDermott, Will and Emery.

The fund also paid $5,000 to fundraising consultant Samantha Maltzman.

Matt Friedman may be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Follow him on Twitter @MattFriedmanSL. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

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When Pinky Thakkar, an engineer, first moved from Mumbai to San Jose in the Bay area, she pronounced the place San J-ose instead of San H-ose. Not being able to pronounce names and places correctly was a cause for embarrassment and a big challenge for her and her friends from abroad.

For people in foreign lands, it is often difficult to learn the nuances of a new language, place, its cuisine, and culture. Learning the pronunciation of new names, places and words is however a necessity, as a relationship often begins with a name. You could find the correct pronunciation in a dictionary perhaps. But short of asking others, there are few resources to find the correct pronunciation of a person's name in particular.

That's what led Pinky to create a free website that would be a "dictionary of name pronunciation" and would be dedicated to help people pronounce names correctly. She called this website Pronounce Names and launched it in 2006. It provides a platform where people can submit the pronunciation of a name, look them up and pronounce them correctly. They can even request for the pronunciation of names not listed in the site.

Pronounce Names is like Wikipedia. You submit the pronunciation of a name and it is live instantly. It aims to offer extra useful information about a name as well, such as its origin, meaning, alternate spellings, etc.

Pronounce Names currently has over one million visitors a month and its Alexa ranking in the US is under 10,000. They penetrated the market through SEO and word-of-mouth publicity. And its not just people in foreign lands who find the site useful.

The Many Uses Available

People working in many varied industries find the site useful:

  • call centers
  • sales and marketing
  • hospitality
  • recruiters
  • interviewees
  • professors

It gives them the confidence to call out a new name and lay the foundation for a new relationship. Its users also include eBay, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Fidelity Investments, etc.

It currently includes phonetic spellings and audio recordings of more than 100,000 names. Pronounce Names is available as an Android application as well. They also have plans to launch an iPhone app and to add functionalities like reverse look up.

When the website was first launched, there was no competition. But now its competitors include inogolo, Hear Names, and Google. The company was entirely bootstrapped through personal savings and income from another business, 360 Biometrics. Pronounce Names is currently able to generate enough income to cover its expenses. Their monetization is through Google AdSense, and according to Thakkar, they get two to three emails per week from advertisers asking for advertising space on their website.

Pronounce Names has one full-time employee and four part-time employees. Two of them are over 65 years of age and Thakkar says she thoroughly enjoys working with them. What was most gratifying, however, was when a principal of a deaf school wrote to her telling how his students were able to learn the correct pronunciation of a name and to address people with confidence.

It is such testimonials from visitors that make her journey most worthwhile.

The world is increasingly becoming a smaller place with more and more people migrating for better opportunities, experiences, and education. It is therefore becoming quite commonplace to come across a new name of a person, place, or even a dish and you can rely on Pronounce Names to get it right the first time.

Language Photo via Shutterstock

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Ask anyone who follows innovation what topics are hot and it is likely most of them will say crowdfunding. By now, sites like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo have created thousands of loyal followers. In recent months even the real estate industry has entered the scene.

What is Crowdfunding?

Crowdfunding involves the use of the internet and social media to raise equity or debt capital, typically from a large number of investors, each of whom chooses to invest a relatively small amount. Typically crowdfunding can take two forms: private crowdfunding, through which private entities seek to raise capital from individuals who qualify as accredited investors under regulations of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC); or public crowdfunding, through which public offerings registered with the SEC are marketed primarily to retail investors.

Crowdfunding has potential to change the way a lot of industries work. In real estate crowdfunding, providers and consumers of equity or debt capital can join to finance specific investments or investment entities. (See our recent post on crowdfunding in real estate.)

Its impact will undoubtedly be felt across the retail industry. In a selective pool of crowdfunding sites culled by Entrepreneur magazine contributor Sally Outlaw, four of the top ten crowdfunding sites have some type of retail industry application.

Crowdfundings Ripple Effects Through Retail

Why does crowdfunding have such potential to impact retail?

First, crowdfunding otherwise democratized the process for entrepreneurs who may not be able to make their way into the Shark Tank. Rather than dipping solely into personal savings or a securing a line of credit, anyone looking to lease larger space, hire more staff, purchase equipment or create more inventory can now raise capital from more than just friends and family. It also allows midsized brands (of which there are many in retail) the opportunity to grow more quickly. Vehicles like CircleUp help mid-market companies too small for private equity and too large for commercial banks the opportunity to flourish.

Next, since crowdfunding opens the doors to anyone as a potential investor, it allows participants to target money to businesses in which they truly believe. The success of the brand will not just generate a profit but offer the investor a deeper level of engagement with the brand. Crowdfunding turns that pool of interested parties or loyal customers into valuable stakeholders who can really become brand ambassadors.

Where are We Headed?

While gaining in popularity, as with any new platform, theres more validation to be done. An article in The New York Times recently described some ethical issues raised by asking already-paying customers for more money. There is a potential big reward, but some risk too, in using crowdfunding to boost brand equity. Entrepreneurs and business owners will need to assess the readiness of their potential investor base and their own willingness to assume that risk.

Regardless of industry, crowdfunding is here to stay. Whether youre an investor looking for a worthy cause or a passionate purveyor of unique goods, growing a business could be as close as a click of the mouse or a swipe of the tablet.



IBM and PRO BTP Use Analytics to Fight Healthcare Insurance Fraud and Abuse-- Deployed in the cloud the platform enables the fight against fraud and abuse in optical and dental care-- The solution will be deployed in other medical specialties and life and protection insurance

PR Newswire

ARMONK NY Oct. 16 2014

ARMONK NY Oct. 16 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced that it signed a seven-year agreement with PRO BTP one of the primary welfare institutions in France to fight healthcare insurance fraud.Built with IBMs Smarter counter fraud Software and Services the new SOLON cloud business solution uses advanced analytics to detect fraud patterns and suspicious activity qualify them in real time and decide how they should be treated.

The growth of electronic transactions has given rise to new opportunities for fraud and abuse. For example improper payments today represent between 5 and 7 percent of all reimbursements made today by PRO BTP.The new SOLON platform allows the insurance provider to identify issues at the moment of payment for optical and dental reimbursements. As a result PRO BTP will be able to reduce the volume of fraudulent transactions reduce costs and improve service.

It is very important for PRO BTP to ensure that membership fees are actually used to cover the needs of members and to decrease the cost of insurance said PRO BTP CEO Paul Grasset. This is the goal of the platform developed with our partner IBM which has proven expertise in fighting fraud.

Delivered in the cloud the SOLON platform uses IBMs advanced analytics solutions and services to analyze millions of data points held by PRO BTP and identify and predict suspicious claims and activity in real-time across both optical and dental domains.During a recent pilot using 21 months of PRO BTP data the platform was able to identify suspicious activity in 9 percent of optical and 14 percent of dental insurance claims amounting to EUR14 million in potential losses. This detection was achieved through the use of IBMs predictive analytics solutions and the integration of numerous sources of data.

Silvano Sansoni Vice President Industries and Business Development IBM France added: We are delighted to bring our deep knowledge of data management and our expertise in counter-fraud and abuse solutions and services to PRO BTP. This is a joint development partnership and the outcome of huge IBM investments. It supports this new idea that fraud cannot and must not be considered as a cost of doing business.

The two companies plan to extend the SOLON platform to other medical specialties such as hospitalization pharmacy audiology and prosthesis benefits as well as life insurance.

About PRO BTPA social protection group for the Construction and Public Sectors PRO BTP serves 3.5 million members and 208000 businesses. With A non-profit and joint management principles PRO BTP offers benefits and services to employees retirees craftsmen and construction companies in the area of pensions health care savings insurance social action and holidays.

The Group has a network of 114 local advice agencies located throughout France to welcome inform and advise its members.

In 2013 PRO BTP was the countrys leading professional social protection group with activities amounting to 6.5 billion euros of which 3.7 billion resulted from pension contributions and 2.7 billion in contributions relating to personal insurance (life and individual protection insurance supplemental health insurance and personal savings).

About IBM For more information about IBMs Smarter counter fraud initiative visit www.ibm.com/smartercounterfraud.

Follow the conversation on Twitter at #counterfraud

Contact:Sandrine DuruptIBM Media Relations+33-1-5875-1795 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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SOURCEIBM

PR Newswire
http://www.prnewswire.com/

Last updated on: 16/10/2014