For our weekend business and political readers:

THE GENDER GAP
A World Economic Forum report released on Thursday says, “The U.S. has a larger gender gap than 22 other countries including Germany, Ireland, Nicaragua and Cuba.”

The report rates 136 countries on gender equality, and factors in four categories: economic opportunity, educational attainment, health and political empowerment.

Places like Cuba and Nicaragua also have a far greater percentage of women serving in their legislatures than in the U.S.

Which country and region score the highest on gender surveys and why does the U.S. score so low?  CNN Money has full details at this link.

THE BEST SMALL PUBLIC COMPANIES
Forbes once again has ranked the top 100 small companies in America.

The last five years have been a traumatic one for American businesses, which lived through the Great Recession that kicked off at the end of 2007. Companies have dealt with sluggish GDP growth and rising employment. But the most nimble companies have thrived during this time, and they span all sectors of the economy for aerospace to auto parts to retail. The companies that met the challenge qualified for Forbes’ 35th annual list of America’s Best Small Companies.

All the public companies on Forbes’ list have sales under one billion and are ranked based on return of equity, sales growth and earnings growth over the past year, as well as the past five years. Also factored in are stock performances versus each company’s peer group during the last 12 months.

For a complete look at the list and more details on the methodology used, go to this link.

ENTREPRENEURS NEED ADVICE
Harvard Business Review has a key recommendation for entrepreneurs leading start ups, especially those with big potential: Set up an advisory board.

Scaling an enterprise is hard work, and you only stand to benefit from drawing on perspectives, experience, and networks that augment your own. A group of advisors committed to your success not only provides a sounding board to test and strengthen your ideas, it gives you access to important competencies and resources.

But the Review says many entrepreneurs find the task “daunting” and in many cases are not clear about how to effectively manage an advisory board.

HBR has compiled its expert’s wisdom for setting up an advisory board into five key tips that include everything from transitioning out board members to goals. Go to this link for the complete list.

TWITTER MAKES BIG HIRE
Fast Company reports Twitter has hired Vivian Schiller, chief digital officer for NBC News, who will be joining the social network in January. Schiller will oversee news and journalism partnerships at Twitter.

The company originally posted a job listing for a Head of News and Journalism role back in May, seeking candidates with “a strong vision for the broad potential of Twitter and news.” Responsibilities in the job description included “devising and executing the strategies that make Twitter indispensable to newsrooms and journalists, as well as an essential part of the operations and strategy of news organizations and TV news networks.”

To learn more about Schiller and expectations for her new role at Twitter, click on this link.

THE HEALTH INSURANCE QUAGMIRE
Private contractors told a House committee this past Thursday that “insufficient testing” of the online sign-up on the health insurance marketplace led to problems with the Obamacare health exchanges.

Private contractors in charge of building the federal online health insurance marketplace testified Thursday that the administration went ahead with the Oct. 1 launch of HealthCare.gov despite insufficient testing.

In their first public remarks since the debut of the problem-ridden insurance exchange, executives of the main IT companies told members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee that full tests of the Web site that should have been carried out months in advance, but began just two weeks before its rollout.

“It was not our decision to go live,” said Cheryl Campbell, senior vice president of CGI Federal, which handled most of the project.

So who made the decision to go live, why did the testing start so late and what is being done now to fix the mess?

The Washington Post has the full story and analysis at this link.

MORE OBAMACARE TAKEAWAYS
Using blunt and to the point language, POLITICO has its own “takeaways” from this past Thursday’s hearing with the IT company responsible for building the online health insurance marketplace. Here’s an example:

The main value of the hearing was to give the public a sense of who these contractors were. And what they saw was a group of self-praising, unapologetic corporate officials who talked in bureaucratic terms, passed the buck on the breakdowns — and said the website is getting better all the time.

And POLITICO says there were no apologies.

One word never uttered by any of the contractors: “Sorry.”

For more “takeaways” from the hearing about the bumbling website that is costing $600 million-plus, click on this link.

IMMIGRATION & THE GOP
Without a Republican embrace of immigration reform, some “big-money Republican donors” are warning GOP leadership of long-term ramifications, reports The Wall Street Journal.

Frustrated by their party’s handling of the standoff over the debt ceiling and government shutdown, (donors) are stepping up their warnings to GOP leaders that they risk long-term damage to the party if they fail to pass immigration legislation.

Some donors say they are withholding political contributions from members of Congress who don’t support action on immigration. Many donors said they have taken their concerns directly to House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor.

All of this is widening the split between the traditional GOP and tea party members, “unwilling to fund the government without concessions from Democrats and Republicans who thought those tactics ill-advised.”

For the complete story, go to this link.

VOTER ID IN TEXAS
TV station KIII reports Texas’s new voted ID law has hit some snags, especially with women “if the name on your driver’s license differs from the name on your voter registration card, even a little bit.”

The problem came to light Monday, when a local district judge had trouble casting a ballot.

“What I have used for voter registration and for identification for the last 52 years was not sufficient yesterday when I went to vote,” 117th District Court Judge Sandra Watts said.

So what was the problem and how do the precincts get around it even though it slows down the election tally?  Go to this link to find out.

MCDONALD’S ‘TWEAKING’ DOLLAR MENU
Who hasn’t stared at that dollar menu longing for fast food at a bargain? CNN Money reports, “It’s the end of McDonald’s Dollar Menu as we know it.”

All of this because sales are sagging.

Last week, the fast food giant reported disappointing same-store sales, up less than 1% worldwide for the quarter compared to the prior year.

The company fared poorly outside of the U.S., with same-store sales dropping 1.4% in the Middle East, Africa and the Asia/Pacific region. Operating income plunged 12% in China, Japan and Australia because of an “ongoing challenging environment.”

So what will the menu be called now and how will it change?

You can go to a store on Nov. 4 when it rolls out, or you can click on this link for all the advance details.

‘CIRQUE de SOLEIL WITH LINEBACKERS’
The NFL is expanding its foray into London for the 2014 season with three games among six teams reports Bloomberg Businessweek. One of them will be the Jacksonville Jaguars.

NFL teams have crossed the Atlantic for at least one regular season game since 2007, drawing average attendance of 82,000 at the 90,000-seat Wembley. It’s an open question whether the quick-hit attraction can translate into lasting interest — especially now that the league is committed to exporting one of its worst products in the lowly and regularly traveling Jaguars.

“So what is the interest in American football in the U.K.,” asks Bloomberg? A sports business professor from “across the pond” was queried to find out and you can too by punting to this link.

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Larry Brannan