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Sunday, November 7, 2010

A New Superhero for today's economy

"The Adventures of Unemployed Man"

The New Superhero: The Adventures of Unemployed Man

Today's comic book superheroes have a new villain to battle: The Great Recession. That's the premise of a new comic book featuring The Unemployed Man and his sidekick Plan B. View an excerpt and share your ideas for a modern-day superhero. More»
From Marketplace Money, American Public Radio (hit more icon above).

For Profit Schools face new regs


  • New rules to clean up for-profit schools

    A University of Phoenix sign
    The Obama administration has just released a bunch of new rules aimed at for-profit colleges. Education correspondent Amy Scott talks with Tess Vigeland about how these rules will affect for-profits and why the most controversial rule was put off for a while. 
    A University of Phoenix sign. (ProAdSigns.com)
    More on EDUCATION
  • For this and other stories, click here.
  • For-profit schools may face new rules
    The U.S. Department of Education has been looking into recruitment and student debt loads at for-profit schools. And now officials have proposed a series of new rules. Amy Scott reports.
  • Examining U of Phoenix recruitment
    The University of Phoenix is fighting a lawsuit claiming it ripped taxpayers off by billions of dollars. Marketplace's Amy Scott and Sharona Coutts of ProPublica get info from a former Phoenix recruiter in the last of a two-part series.



Set-top boxes challenge cable


TV AND CABLE FEEL CHILL AS SET-TOP BOXES SIZZLE


New boxes help Acad, guilds think around corners
From Variety.com (click here for complete story and other news, subscription recommended).
Could the set-top box kill cable?
It's hard to turn the corner these days without someone thrusting a new gadget for your television at you. Apple and Google are among the more familiar names exploring the space, but they're just the tip of the iceberg. The arena also includes aspirants such as Roku, Boxee, Seagate, Asus and Western Digital. And the three major vidgame consoles are already delivering content.
ABI Research predicts the global market for digital set-top boxes will hit 226 million in 2015, up from 205 million this year. And that proliferation could mean trouble for traditional cable companies and broadcast networks, as younger auds increasingly expect to get their programming needs met whenever they desire and on whatever device they want to consume it. Viewers, in general, also increasingly resent paying for packages of content they don't want in order to get the bits they do.
Most of the attention in the set-top box world today is being focused on Apple TV and Google TV. Apple offers streaming rentals of television and movies, with support from some content producers (like ABC and Fox), but fierce opposition from others (including NBC and Time Warner). Google looks to combine the Web with traditional television.
Roku allows users to stream content from Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon, Pandora and MLB.TV. The Boxee Box, due this month, lets users stream movies, TV shows and original Web content to their television. All three major videogame consoles offer Netflix streaming, along with a variety of other entertainment options. And the boxes from computer hardware companies Seagate, Asus and Western Digital let users stream their own video files as well as offering some cloud-based services.

Bananna Republic, USA


For the full commentary go to the New York Times by clicking here.
by Damon Winter/The New York Times

In my reporting, I regularly travel to banana republics notorious for their inequality. In some of these plutocracies, the richest 1 percent of the population gobbles up 20 percent of the national pie.


But guess what? You no longer need to travel to distant and dangerous countries to observe such rapacious inequality. We now have it right here at home — and in the aftermath of Tuesday’s election, it may get worse. 
The richest 1 percent of Americans now take home almost 24 percent of income, up from almost 9 percent in 1976. As Timothy Noah of Slate noted in an excellent series on inequality, the United States now arguably has a more unequal distribution of wealth than traditional banana republics like Nicaragua, Venezuela and Guyana. 

C.E.O.’s of the largest American companies earned an average of 42 times as much as the average worker in 1980, but 531 times as much in 2001. Perhaps the most astounding statistic is this: From 1980 to 2005, more than four-fifths of the total increase in American incomes went to the richest 1 percent.

The richest 0.1 percent of taxpayers would get a tax cut of $61,000 from President Obama. They would get $370,000 from Republicans, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. And that provides only a modest economic stimulus, because the rich are less likely to spend their tax savings.


At a time of 9.6 percent unemployment, wouldn’t it make more sense to finance a jobs program? For example, the money could be used to avoid laying off teachers and undermining American schools.


Likewise, an obvious priority in the worst economic downturn in 70 years should be to extend unemployment insurance benefits, some of which will be curtailed soon unless Congress renews them. Or there’s the Trade Adjustment Assistance program, which helps train and support workers who have lost their jobs because of foreign trade. It will no longer apply to service workers after Jan. 1, unless Congress intervenes. 

So we face a choice. 

Is our economic priority the jobless, 

or is it zillionaires? 

For the remainder of the commentary go to the New York Times by clicking here.

Teenagers refuse to see the danger in texting while driving.

Despite solid evidence that talking on a cell phone while driving is as dangerous as drunken driving, and that texting or Facebooking while driving is far more dangerous, teenagers refuse to agree, as do many of their counterparts between 18 and 25.

While 56% of teenage drivers feel that drinking and driving is dangerous, only 35% feel that cell phone use in any form can be dangerous. The Harris Interactive Survey goes directly opposite to US Department of Transportation and state research and statistics that show that in 2008, when there were far fewer smartphones in the hands of teenagers, 16%, or almost one in five accidents involving teenager driver involved "distracted" driving.

Car crashes are the number one cause of teenage death.

Of fatal accidents involving drivers under the age of 20,  crashes 22% or almost one in four involved cell phones.

Thirty states have banned any use of a hand  held phone while driving.

Statistics also confirm that hands free devices do not decrease accidents and fatality, as the distraction is one of concentrating on the call instead of where a vehicle is going. As an example, a 2006 study from the University of Utah of drivers 22 to 34 years old did conclude that talking on a cell phone is as profound as driving while intoxicated. At the time smart phones, texting and cell phone penetration were limited or much lower than today.

Automobiles and trucks are lethal weapons, representing tons of potential damage, increased geometrically in potential damage and death through speed. Teenagers also tend to drive faster.

How fast is your phone, really?

Your phone is slow, really slow.

At least a good deal slower than the marketing advertising leads you to believe.

In fact the term G4 is being misused, by both Federal and international standards.

Way over blown!

G4 or wifi Internet speeds require meeting an international standard. All so called high speed G4's are way below the required speed, and in fact competing technologies may be slower than G3 or conventional cell coverage, depending on geography and the actual technology of transmission and reception.

For example AT&T with its iPhone or competing phones using G3 service are far faster than alleged G4's because of the type of band broadcast used, coming in at 15 to 17 megabits per second. Verizon is second at a maximum speed of 12, with T-mobile at 8 and Spring/Nextel crawls at 6.

The International Telecommunications Union requires 100 Megabits per second to carry the labels G4 or "high speed".

In the loose world of American marketing and sales, the term "high speed" has been bastardized down to  6 to 15 megabits per second, while the wold standard is ten times as high at 100.

Much of the talk is competitive feather puffing.

Most of the talk is to boost retail sales during what is really still a part of the recession.

The networks that promise speeds of 6 to 15 mbs, have yet to be built except in test markets (portions of the Las Vegas Valley as an example). Using LTE and the existing WiMax network systems in most portions of the country actually perform slower than existing basic cell tower technology.

Signal, number of phone 'services' used at a given time, type of function being used, available band width, total usage in any area at a given time, distance from towers, the technology built into the nearest tower, the speed of landlines used and other factors impact speed, so most speeds remain well below 10 to 20 mbs, or one fifth to one tenth of the minimum industry standard for "high speed" ranking.

Sources: Wall Street Journal, ABC, CES Briefs and Wired.

First posted 11-4-2010

Sunday Morning News and Views, Part III

Will Mexican-Americans back a Cuban-American Republican from Florida for president in 2012. The political pundits think so. I would be interested in your response and observations.


What Democrat may challenge Obama, a president who is a moderate despite the "liberal" paint brush used in Republican advertising. He is likely to find challenges from both the right and left branches of his own party. Which Republican will challenge Obama? Who stands the best chance of winning, as of today? Too much turf and too many decisions lie between today and that election to predict any final outcomes.


Note that Reagan, Clinton and Bush all faced low popularity two years into their first term, even lower than Obama, and the opposing party taking control of part or all of the Congress, yet earned reelection victories. In the cases of Reagan and Clinton the victories were decisive.


In tossing out moderates and those who actually govern, both parties may have left themselves weaker, not just at the national but on the local and state levels. Nevada elected Senate publicans unseated their own top leader, long time and very dedicated public servant Bill Raggio. He is no longer in a leadership position and no longer chairs or sits the much needed and powerful committees that will be faced with Nevada's 3 billion dollar operating deficit. His crime. As a Republican he choose the state over patrician politics. After it was clear that the party favorite was not going to be the Republican nominee for US Senate, he went for experience over inexperience and supported Democrat Harry Reid.


Nevada faces hard times, with a decrease in federal funds under a Republican right wing and Tea Party dominated House of Representatives. Meanwhile local tax income is down as Nevada continues to have the highest unemployment, foreclosure and top heavy mortgage status in the nation. Without money a state cannot provide basic and needed services. And what is basic and needed? It's in the eyes and minds of those who need and use those services. An early hit may be a lack of funds to pay for unemployment, education at all levels and programs that are actually essential when the very outside corporations Republican say they will attract make their site location and staffing decisions.


What services would you cut? Keep? And more important how would you finance them?


What should our governor elect do? How much can he do? If you were to write him today with advice, what would it be?

Sunday Morning News and Views, Part II

"It's our way or the highway"...It is now clear that Republicans are not willing to work for the nation and on key issues, unless Democrats convert to Republicanism. A Republican leader says that if Democrats keep Rep. Nancy Pelosi as their party chief in the House, then "it's almost as if they didn't get the message." Republicans dumped Democrats from their majority in Tuesday's elections - and that means Pelosi won't be speaker in the new Congress next year.

Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor, who's in line to be the No. 2 House Republican, says GOP lawmakers aren't willing to work with
President Barack Obama on what Cantor calls an "expansive, liberal agenda" the White House has pushed for two years.Meanwhile the assumed new Senate Minority Leader has said that the goal of his party is to do everything they can in the Senate to see to it that President Obama does not serve a second term. No talk of what they will do to immediately stem the lingering impacts of recession, top heavy housing, high unemployment or the war.

The Republican goal appears to be to do nothing for the people while building a political power base the will keep them "in power" for at least a decade. At least that is what has been declared by Republican leadership, as outlined two years ago in a PowerPoint presented to Republican leadership within a week of President Obama's victory in the presidential race. Both the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times have revisited that PowerPoint, finding that the actions of Republicans over the past two years ("just say no") and the policy of the past election were all forecast by master plan, which had nothing to do with the well being of the people or avoiding a potential depression.

Indiana Rep. Mike Pence, a potential GOP contender for the White House in 2012, says he'll make a decision after Jan. 1 about whether to enter the race. Pence, who's stepping down as the No. 3 House Republican leader, says he's "humbled" by encouragement that he consider running. In September, Pence finished first in a straw poll of social
conservatives who were asked to name the person they'd like to see as the 2012 nominee.

President Barack Obama is on the second day of a 10-day trip to Asia, but he's still fielding questions about Democratic losses in the midterm elections. Responding to students' questions at a college in India, Obama acknowledged that he needs
to make some "mid-course corrections" to work with Republicans and win over a frustrated electorate.

Iraqi Christians have gathered for Mass in the same church that just a week ago was the scene of a horrific bloodbath in which 58 of their bretheren died. Parishioners came Sunday evening to the church pockmarked with bullets to pay their respects to the over 50 fellow Christians who died after Islamic militants stormed the site and held about 120 people hostage. They read verses from the Bible and laid out candles in the shape of a cross on the church floor.The attack last Sunday was the worst violence against Iraq's Christian community since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.The BBC reports that under Sadam Hussain Christians were a protected minority, with most living middle class lives or wealthy. Despite the US promise that things would be the same, Christians are not under economic and very real attack by both sides in that country, and many claim the government itself. One survivor of the church attack told of how she remained under a table, hidden by a dieing priest and the bodies of her friends, unable to do anything despite being a doctor sworn to protect life.

At 92 Al Madden is probably the oldest person ever to play "Taps" at Arlington National Cemetery. He's been playing the bugle since he was 6, as the last request of his dieing World War I Vet Grandfather. NPR's Morning edition has in interview with him this morning worth an Internet click to listen to.

On this date in 1867 Marie Currie was born in Warsaw. With her husband,she discovered the element "Radium". In 1903 she became the first Nobel Prize winner, and in 1911 she received here second. She eventually passed away at the age of 66 from an illness caused by exposure to radiation.

Demolition is looming for a 105-year-old downtown Reno bridge made famous by stories of divorcees tossing rings into the Truckee River. A coalition of local officials agreed Friday that up to $1.8 million should be spend to begin design of a new Virginia Street bridge. The Reno Gazette-Journal reports construction of the $20 million project could begin in 2013 if funding is secured. The bridge causes major problems during floods. The double-arch concrete span acts as a bottleneck, capturing logs and other flood debris, and causing water to back up into the streets of downtown Reno. Mayor Bob Cashell says the bridge that was a major source of problems during the Truckee River's last major flood in January1997 "won't stand much longer."

It's election day in Burma and Greece. Both are significant, however the first national election in Burma in 25 years is loaded, with only two parties standing a chance and no international observers allowed. Both of those parties are aligned directly with the military currently in full control of the country.

IMDB: 20-year old site evolves with Internet

If you are like me the redesign of IMDB is annoying, because much of what I would use is now subscription based "premium" or harder to find in the menu's. That aside the company, now a division of a major on-line retailer, has grown to be essential for those in the industry. Of course those who were pre-IMDB find it annoying for inaccuracies, omissions, missrepresentations and even missed listings of talent or projects. What the heck...it's big business afterall...

From Variety.com

Today it has more than 100 million monthly users and is a ubiquitous tool for both fans and showbiz professionals. But when it began some 20 years ago, the Internet Movie Database wasn't even a website.
Col Needham founded IMDb, which celebrated its anniversary on Oct. 17, as a paper diary, eventually creating a simple software program that allowed users to search a limited catalog.
"There was no such thing as a website in 1990," says Needham, a movie buff who launched the software to help keep track of the movies he'd seen.
Occasional gripes about its accuracy and some frustration over its recent redesign notwithstanding, the site has become a go-to internet reference guide, scouting tool and marketplace. Many agents and talent managers use IMDb to check out potential clients. Filmmakers can track colleagues, or potential colleagues, by looking at their body of work.
IMDb's parent company, Amazon, uses the site to advertise DVDs and other merchandise it sells. The launch of IMDbPro, a more comprehensive subscription site aimed at bizzers, includes a Starmeter ranking tool and a resume feature that allows users to create an added reference for their body of work. Pro also offers contact information that helps users reach the reps of many industry professionals.

You've got a friend

Queen Elizabeth will be your friend.....at least on Facebook. Tomorrow the 84 year old monarch launches a Facebook Page to add to her Twitter, Myspace and Google presence.

Sunday Morning News and Views: Part I

Every western nation seems to have its own TV celebrity dance show these days. Britain has gone one step further. Millions of its inhabitants this weekend are eagerly following the fortunes of a highly unlikely ballroom star -- Ann Widdecombe, a 63-year-old former Tory minister known for her outspoken moralizing views. She's competing in the BBC's top rated "Strictly Come Dancing" competition. The Right Honorable Widdecombe (a prefix she holds as a member of the Queen's advisory Privy Council) has won huge popularity even though she is an appallingly bad dancer. Bookies at first put her chances of victory at 100/1. Now the odds are 9/1.

After two years of construction, Washington, DC's Arena Stage is opening its season in a spectacular new building. Arena is a founding member of the national regional theater movement, which is struggling with the grim economics of the recession. Arena Stage and other regional theaters are sturggling to survive and thrive.NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday took a look at the balance of audience favorities with new works and older works that have a message that needs to be heard.


Composer and lyricist Jerry Bock died last Wednesday at age 81. Together with Sheldon Harnick, Bock wrote the scores for the groundbreaking shows "Fiddler on the Roof," "Fiorello!" and "She Loves Me," among others.On many NPR programs this week, including "Fresh Air" and this mornings "Weekend Edition" the composer, his work and the evolution of the music are remembered.

The cost of education, cost of living, need for mutliple part time jobs or for a full time job augmented by part time work are all taking their toll. At the same time American business is seeking greater communication skills and other skills and knowledge in their workforce. to answer this need, and provide a much needed public relations boost for the corporation, Wal-Mart has started a partnership with an online university to offer college level courses to its employees at low cost. Employees can earn two and four-year degrees and use them to move up within the company.

Governor-Elect Sandoval is on Morning Edition This morning. He is in a dream world of returning to 2007 budget levels, cutting services and still attracting growth in small and new businesses without raising taxes,

Wall Street Journal Report's anchor tired to bait here guests on answers, but they defended the Fed buying treasury buying and the increase in jobs, from programs of the "old" congress and not the new Republican congress she supports. The middle class tax cut will be extended and maybe increased, but there remains a split on the extension of Bush Tax Cuts. Politico says they will be extended because those from high end liberal areas will be allies with conservatives on the issue. The deficit is a major issue to newly elected Republicans and Tea Party, but they oppose any tax increase. On job creation, will there be confidence and investment from comanies, who have a huge amount of cash on their balance sheets, and who have been investing overseas instead of domestically? Can we increase exports given the low cost of products from overseas, growth in emerging markets and a decrease in the value of the dollar. Japan and Europe, our normal market, are in the economic "dol drums" and the same to worse shape than we are. They discussed the Tea Party issues. The Republican Establishment believes that the Tea Party cost them the Senate. Also the Tea Party came with a populist message but were backed by big dollars and big business, which could lead to a real conflict in the near future.

he GOP picked up 60 seats in the House in the mid-term elections. Republican leaders are talking about a mandate, but the Democrats who remain are not about to give up their ground without a fight. The new house leadership and the Senate minority want to undo Obamacare, repealing health care reform. It is, according to experts form hospital groups and doctors organizations on Wall Street Journal Report, here to stay, with perhaps a slowing down (of the very benefits we need), and perhaps change in less popular issues. The issue will remain a rhetorical weapon being used by Republicans to defeat Obama, the sworn goal of the Republican minority leader in the Senate. Do not expect any progress from the new Congress, only obstruction and positioning to win the Senate and the White House in 2012. In other other words expect politics to take the place of the needs of the American people. In 2014 the very expensive but needed unlimited lifetime coverage, and discrimiantion will end for woman and those with pre-existing conditions in 2014. The pool will increase so that the Republican claims of increased premiums will only be short term, coming down when everyone is in the same pool. In the short term the insurance companies will be paying out incredible amounts of money and charging you for it with increased premiums. Of course in the end hospitals will beneift form a decrease in the emergency room being used for minor illness or injury, from not having to staff up for the constant battle with insurance companies (costing far more in end health care costs then even Congress has estimated), and improved preventative medical care at other levels.

As the recession, while officially over, drags on, be prepared for an even deeper drain on your pocketbook, one that could take months or even a year to show up on the grocery shelves. Grain prices have been shooting up for months. Corn, soybeans, wheat and other crops are at their highest price levels since inflation went crazy in the 1970s -- up as much as 70 percent in just the past month.


In India today, President Obama joined a group of high school students, celebrating Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights. Later, he held a town hall meeting with college kids, in the commercial capital of Mumbai. Aides say the President chose India as the first stop on his lengthy Asian tour to spotlight the high priority the U-S places on the relationship. It's also a chance for Mr. Obama to play salesman in one of the world's fastest-growing markets.He will be selling American jobs, goods and our position in the region, including our needed support for a country India seems in a constant state of war with, Pakistan.

Conan O'Brien heads back to late-night TV on Monday night. This time O'Brien on TBS, where the audience will be much smaller than the Tonight show, but also younger and more open to his free wheeling style of comedy and presentation.

Nevada New Gov on NPR, Deep cuts coming with no new tax promise

Republican Governor-Elect Brian Sandoval will soon become the first Latino governor of Nevada, but according to exit polls less than a third of Hispanics voted for him. Sandoval was interviewed this morning on NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday.


“It’s a common thing, the financial situation of the ability to balance the budget without raising taxes. We have to focus on the amount of money we have to spend rather than what we would like to spend. We have to start with the 2007 levels. There will be sacrifice but we have to bring the money back to 2007. We will be able to provide services for those people who need it. The worst thing you can do to struggling Nevada families and businesses is raise taxes. I am going to make Nevada attractive to businesses.”

“I am very proud of my heritage. Hispanics during the campaign have the same concerns as everyone else. People make their choices during the course of the campaign. I will work with the Hispanic Community during my term.”

The interview indicates that for many areas from Education to roads, health programs to social services hard times are ahead in Nevada on the gamble that things will improve. That’s if Sandoval can get his ideas past the legislature and future voters.

Go to NPR.org for the Sandoval interview and other Sunday Morning news from NPR.