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    What are you thankful for?

    Americans punctuate each year with the Thanksgiving holiday as a way of perpetuating a 390-year-old tradition begun by a rag-tag group of our forebears. That first time, in 1621, thanksgiving day wasn’t the proper noun it became. It was just a day set aside by a few dozen humans who risked everything, actually lost most of it, were hard-by to any number of dangers that could cost them the rest, but still felt compelled to be thankful for what they had.

    Photo credit to HBC Realty Group

    Be thankful for the clothes that fit a little too snug, because it means you have enough to eat.

    Be thankful for the mess you clean up after a party, because it means you have been surrounded by friends.

    Be thankful for the taxes you pay, because it means you’re employed.

    Be thankful that your lawn needs mowing and your windows need fixing, because it means you have a home.

    Be thankful for your heating bill, because it means you are warm.

    Be thankful for the laundry, because it means you have clothes to wear.

    Be thankful for the space you find at the far end of the parking lot, because it means you can walk.

    Be thankful for the lady who sings off key behind you in church, because it means you can hear.

    Be thankful for the alarm that goes off in the early morning, because it means you are alive.

    And finally, here is mine: I’m thankful for small business owners - the most courageous and most important modern-day pilgrims I know.

    When cause-and-effect met humanity and changed the world

    As the 17th century dawned, cause-and-effect was merging parallel universes.

    In the Old World, a decision by a group of Leiden Separatists put them on a circuitous journey. Meanwhile, in the New World, a manchild named Tisquantum was born to the Wampanoag Indians.

    Both the Separatists and Tisquantum became very important to America’s future, but not before their lives would change and intertwine in ways not to be imagined by either.

    Photo credit to BGCNT.net

    Photo credit to BGCNT.net

    Seeking religious freedom, the Separatists crossed Europe and then the Atlantic. On their odyssey they would steel their convictions, which proved handy in the New World.

    Incredibly, Tisquantum crossed the Atlantic six times, first as a hostage and later as an interpreter. On his odyssey, Tisquantum learned Old World languages that, combined with his New World survival skills, would contribute to his rendezvous with destiny.

    During their journeys, both experienced a name change: The Separatists became Pilgrims and Tisquantum became Squanto. And as the Pilgrims prepared for their first Atlantic crossing, Squanto made his last.

    Arriving at his birthplace in 1619, Squanto found that his entire village and family had been wiped out by an epidemic. On the day after Christmas, 1620, with the Mayflower Compact in hand, the Pilgrims came ashore at what is now Massachusetts, on a place they named Plymouth, after the city where their voyage began.

    The Pilgrims’ first winter in the New World was brutal; less than half of the 102 colonists survived to spring. Then on March 16, 1621, an Indian named Samoset walked up to the Pilgrims and said, “Hello, English.” Very soon he recognized these sad-looking folks needed help from someone who spoke their language better.

    The two universes finally converged and cause-and-effect met humanity as Samoset brought Squanto to the Pilgrims.  In one of the great moments of serendipity, it turns out “Plymouth” was the very spot of Squanto’s ill-fated village.

    Squanto spent the rest of 1621 befriending the Pilgrims and teaching them how to survive in the New World. It’s clear that his contribution was critical to the survival of these important American forebears.

    When the courage and convictions of one group of individuals converged with the humanity of two others, something special happened: Part of the foundation of the most benevolent nation in history was born. This week we give thanks for these individuals and the blessings that have accrued to us 393 years later.

    Write this on a rock … One person can make a difference. Happy Thanksgiving.

    Jim Blasingame is author of the award-winning book, The Age of the Customer: Prepare for the Moment of Relevance.

    RESULTS: What should be the priority of Obama and the GOP?

    The Question:
    As President Obama and the Republican majority begin their work, what should be their priority?

    24% - Fix Obamacare
    10% - Immigration reform
    27% - Reform the tax code
    5% - Foreign policy
    34% - I’ll take anything if they’ll just work together

    Jim’s Comments:
    It looks like the big interest is in Obamacare and tax reform.  But more of you just threw up your hands and chose “I’ll take anything, if they’ll just work together.” That sounds like an indictment to me. What do you think?

    Sadly, from the looks of things this week, we’re going to get anything but working together.

    Celebrating two milestones

    If you will permit me, today I would like to talk about a couple of milestones of which we’re kind of proud.

    On Monday, November 17, 1997, I began broadcasting The Small Business Advocate Show for two hours Monday through Friday, and ever since that first day the program has been nationally syndicated. This week we’ll celebrate our 17th anniversary and the beginning of our 18th year on the air.

    In January 1998, we began simulcasting our show on the Internet, which makes us one of the pioneers of Internet streaming. We’ve been archiving our show since 1999, including multiple on-demand streaming options. In 2007 we added the ability to podcast all current and archived interviews.

    This Monday will be my 4,421st live broadcast since we began — including all the holidays (next week I’ll broadcast my 18th consecutive live Thanksgiving Day show). Since that first broadcast, I’ve conducted over 17,600 live interviews with small business experts and entrepreneurs. When you hear me talking about making sure that you’re passionate about the business you start, if you didn’t already, now you know I practice what I preach.

    From the beginning, my primary programming goal was to focus on the fundamentals that are important to successfully starting, operating and growing a small business, and to make all of the things we do available to you for free. On that last note–the free one–I must say thanks to our outstanding corporate partners, without whose support the free part would not be possible. I especially want to thank our Presenting Sponsor, Insperity, for ten great years together.

    For my work on behalf of you over the years, I’ve received a number of national awards from organizations such as the U.S. Small Business Administration,FORTUNE Small Business magazine, TALKERS magazine, the American Chamber of Commerce Executives, the Association of Small Business Development Centers, Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council, and New York Enterprise Report.

    Also this week, we’re celebrating the 15th anniversary of this publication, The Small Business Advocate NEWSLETTER. This week’s edition, Volume XVI, Issue 1, represents 780 consecutive weekly issues since 1999. Thanks for being a loyal subscriber.

    Finally, thank you for your support, comments, many words of encouragement and especially the honor and privilege of being your Advocate. I’m already looking forward to the rest of our journey together. More than anything else, I want you to know how proud I am of you as a small business owner and what you have accomplished.

    Nothing I do as The Small Business Advocate is about me — it’s all about you, my heroes, small business owners, regardless of where you live on planet Earth.


    Why you should care about the net neutrality debate

    As policy battle lines are being drawn in Washington, there’s one important issue being debated that might not stay on your radar like Obamacare and immigration.

    It’s called “net neutrality,” and I’m concerned it might not get the attention it deserves, even though it could have significant long-term implications. My goal here is to simplify net neutrality so you understand how it can impact your business and how to join the debate.

    The term is pretty intuitive. Net neutrality means all Internet traffic gets treated the same, which is what we’ve had for over 20 years; there’s essentially no government regulation of the Internet and no Internet taxes. Also, there’s no preference for, or discrimination against any sender or receiver of email, web pages, music or movies, regardless of bandwidth used via fixed or mobile networks.

    Photo credit to SavetheInternet.com

    Photo credit to SavetheInternet.com

    Three groups have a stake in net neutrality: carriers, content producers and a regulator.

    Carriers fill two roles: 1) Local Internet service providers (ISP) connect you to the Internet; 2) national networks, like AT&T and Sprint, own the “backbone,” the physical infrastructure - fiber - that hauls digital traffic between ISPs. Carriers want to charge different rates based on content quantity and speed, which is contrary to net neutrality. Without targeted revenue for their finite bandwidth inventory, they argue, innovation and investment will stall.

    Content producers include Google, NetFlix, Facebook and virtually every small business. If you have a website, sell a product online, conduct email marketing or have an instructional video on YouTube, you’re a content producer. Content producers love net neutrality because turning the Internet into a toll road increases business costs and could make small businesses less competitive.

    The regulator is the Federal Communication Commission (FCC), led by Chairman Tom Wheeler. Some content producers have asked the FCC to defend net neutrality. But here’s what that request looks like to a politician: President Obama wants the FCC to reclassify and regulate broadband Internet connection as a utility, which is not the definition of net neutrality.

    Net neutrality is complicated because it’s easy to appreciate both business arguments. Plus, some even have a stake in both sides of the issue, like a cable company that owns TV stations and movie studios. But inviting the government to referee this marketplace debate is a Faustian bargain because what government regulates it also taxes, and once started, won’t stop.

    Write this on a rock … A regulated and taxed Internet is not net neutrality.

    RESULTS: What’s your experience with consumer confidence during the holidays

    The Question: Photo credit to Spokesman
    Some surveys indicate improving consumer confidence going into the holidays. What’s your current experience?

    8% - Definitely increased customer activity and sales.
    22% - Increased customer activity with some increase sales
    56% - Customer activity and sales are about the same so far
    14% - Our customer activity and sales have decreased.

    Jim’s Comments:
    We’ve been polling small business owners about the economy about four times a year since the Great Recession ended, and we’ve never been able to get more than a third of our respondents to say their economy was doing good or great. As you can see, last week’s poll was no different. Only about 30% said things were somewhat or definitely improving, with the other 70% saying the economy they saw was about the same or worse.
    With the results of the recent election changing the power dynamic in Washington, it will be interesting to see if the response to this question will change in a few months. One thing is for sure, with the GOP in control of Congress and a Democrat in the White House, it will now be clear who to blame about any political issues that might negatively impact the economy. With the lines drawn as they now are, there’s no place to hide.