Sunday, December 21, 2008

We are the change we have been waiting for

Is there an 'official' poet at every inauguration ?

You might think so but there is no such tradition, read the article to find out it's occurred at just 3 other ones .

I wonder who Obama would pick ?

Some itinerant folk poet, still singing the blues down in Mississippi ?

Some poor poet living in a cold-water flat on the lower east side ?

Surprise, surprise ... it's a woman
a black woman
a black woman professor
a black woman professor at an Ivy League college.
a black woman professor at an Ivy League college who is the head of the Yale Afro-American dept.
a black woman professor at an Ivy League college who is the head of the Yale Afro-American dept AND attended the most exlusive private schools when growing up, such as Sidwell Friends in D.C. , same school that his daughters will attend , as did Chelsea Clinton.

What a coincidence, to find that the best candidate is a bff .

The audacity of change ! What a bold unexpected move!

And we all know that Ivy grads and Profs are the best. How do we know it ? Because they themselves tell us :

Asked if she thought that the friendship played a role in her being picked for the inauguration, she said no. The Obamas have many friends and know other poets, she said.

“One of the things we’ve seen with every choice he’s made is that it’s based on what he perceives as excellence,” Ms. Alexander said. “I don’t think you would let friendship determine who you chose to do something like this. You can do lots of things to be nice to your friends — you can invite them to an inaugural ball. But I don’t think friends have to do each other this kind of favor.”

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Bias attack?

This write-up from the NYTimes.

I was curious about the ethnicity of the attackers. One brother survived OK so he would have known some characteristics of his attackers, if only their size and what they were wearing.

The modus-operandi of using baseball bats in the beating suggested to me that these were white guys.

Especially since the 3rd paragraph mentioned skin color as being the cause for the attack :

Speaking outside the hospital, Diego Sucuzhanay said his brother had been singled out for his “skin color and sounded a warning to other immigrants. “Today my brother is the victim, but tomorrow it could be your brother, your mother, your father,” Mr. Sucuzhanay said.

They finally get around to describing the attackers way down in the 11th paragraph, just in passing :

One of the men hit Jose over the head with a bottle, and the driver of the car swung an aluminum baseball bat at his head, the police said. He fell to the floor as the three attackers, who were black, continued kicking and punching him, the police said. The beating ended only when Romel held up his cellphone and said he was calling the police.

So what precisely about the victim's skin color caused the attack? That he was lighter than the attackers ?

And if the attackers had indeed been white this would've been prominently mentioned in the headline and then throughout the article starting with the first paragraph.

Can it be a bias attack if blacks attack Latins who they suspected were gay, when there are no 'majority' groups here to pin this on ?

Even though they yelled gay slurs at them as they were beaten and the brother indicated skin color played a part in defining who would be a victim , ' ... the police have described as a possible bias attack ...' . Possible ?

December 10, 2008

Family Keeps Vigil for Beaten Brooklyn Man

An Ecuadorean immigrant who was brutally beaten in Brooklyn last weekend in what the police have described as a possible bias attack was declared brain-dead on Tuesday, a law enforcement official said. But the man was being kept on life support while his family decides whether to donate his organs, the official said.

There have been no arrests in the attack, which came four weeks after the fatal stabbing of an Ecuadorean immigrant on Long Island by a group of teenagers who had been looking for a Latino to attack. The attacks have jolted nerves in the city’s Latino communities and have drawn wide condemnation from city officials and Ecuadorean community leaders, many of whom joined relatives of the Brooklyn beating victim on Tuesday.

At a press conference outside Elmhurst Hospital Center, where the man, Jose O. Sucuzhanay, was being treated, his brother Diego Sucuzhanay said he was alive but in critical condition. Family members were waiting for Mr. Sucuzhanay’s parents to arrive from Ecuador before making any medical decisions.

Hospital officials refused to comment on the victim’s condition, citing the family’s wishes. The law enforcement official, however, said that a death certificate had been filed.

Speaking outside the hospital, Diego Sucuzhanay said his brother had been singled out for his “skin color” and sounded a warning to other immigrants. “Today my brother is the victim, but tomorrow it could be your brother, your mother, your father,” Mr. Sucuzhanay said.

His brother, the co-owner of a real estate company, had “always worked to contribute something,” he said.

On Tuesday afternoon, a police helicopter hovered over the patch of Bushwick, Brooklyn, where Mr. Sucuzhanay lived and worked with his relatives, operating a family business that friends said was thriving. At the firm, Open Realty International, a flier on the door advertised financial services, including advice on taxes and investing.

“Bring your problems,” the flier said, “and leave without them.”

Early Sunday, less than a mile from where Mr. Sucuzhanay worked, he and his brother Romel were set upon by men the police said they believed were strangers.

The brothers were walking home from a bar, arms around each other, the police said. At the corner of Bushwick Avenue and Kossuth Place, three men riding in what a witness described as a maroon or red sport utility vehicle spied the brothers and shouted anti-gay and anti-Hispanic slurs.

One of the men hit Jose over the head with a bottle, and the driver of the car swung an aluminum baseball bat at his head, the police said. He fell to the floor as the three attackers, who were black, continued kicking and punching him, the police said. The beating ended only when Romel held up his cellphone and said he was calling the police.

On Tuesday, the police released a description of one of the men, saying he is 6 feet tall and thin, and wore a black leather jacket, boots, dark jeans and a dark baseball cap during the attack. The authorities said they did not have the license number of the car. The reward for information was set at $22,000.

Julia Osman, who worked with Mr. Sucuzhanay, visited him at the hospital on Monday. His face was so swollen that she could not see his eyes, and his head was wrapped in bandages. “He was kind, and cared about everyone who worked with him,” she said.

In the decade he has in the United States, Mr. Sucuzhanay rose from waiter to business owner. He got his real estate sales license three years ago, according to state records, and later started two companies and became the owner of several buildings, according to friends and public records.

“He was happy to have his own business,” said Cesar Alvarado, who owns a metal shop in Bushwick. Mr. Sucuzhanay’s office was a tenant of his, Mr. Alvarado said. “It was going well for him.”

Mr. Sucuzhanay, 31, well known in the local community. Herbert Velez, who worked with him to find an affordable apartment, said: “He works with everybody around here. He found a lot of people homes. He does whatever it takes to help someone.”

It was a family business, and the family was large: Mr. Sucuzhanay was one of 12 siblings. Walter R. Sinche, the executive director of the International Ecuadorean Alliance, a cultural organization, went to Open Realty to buy a house. The Sucuzhanays, he said, had a passion for real estate.

“Most of our community is working in the construction businesses,” he said. “Now they’re bosses, and own their own businesses.”

Tony Garcia, the owner of a competing real estate company across the street from Open Realty, said Mr. Sucuzhanay worked for him for about two years. Mr. Sucuzhanay had been hard-working and efficient, Mr. Garcia said. “People trusted him,” he said. “He was aggressive. He was good.”

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Indian Miracle

We rarely hear about this side of India. The intense proverty, stratification of society and endemic corruption.

No third world country can become a first world country without :
  • building an infrastructure. Electricity first, then sewage/drainage and transportation
  • have a strong legal system without patronage and bribery and corruption
  • breaking down their caste system
In the current worldwide recession it was thought that China and India would prevent the economic tsunami but it is now apparent that this view is a house of cards

December 7, 2008

Mumbai Attacks Politicize Long-Isolated Elite

MUMBAI, India — Last Wednesday, an extraordinary public interest lawsuit was filed in this city’s highest court. It charged that the government had lagged in its constitutional duty to protect its citizens’ right to life, and it pressed the state to modernize and upgrade its security forces.

The lawsuit was striking mainly for the people behind it: investment bankers, corporate lawyers and representatives of some of India’s largest companies, which have their headquarters here in the country’s financial capital, also known as Bombay. The Bombay Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the city’s largest business association, joined as a petitioner. It was the first time it had lent its name to litigation in the public interest.

The three-day siege of Mumbai, which ended a week ago, was a watershed for India’s prosperous classes. It prompted many of those who live in their own private Indias, largely insulated from the country’s dysfunction, to demand a vital public service: safety.

Since the attacks, which killed 163 people, plus nine gunmen, there has been an outpouring of anger from unlikely quarters. On Wednesday, tens of thousands of urban, English-speaking, tank-top-wearing citizens stormed the Gateway of India, a famed waterfront monument, venting anger at their elected leaders. There were similar protests in the capital, New Delhi, and the southern technology hubs, Bangalore and Hyderabad. All were organized spontaneously, with word spread through text messages and Facebook pages.

On Saturday, young people affiliated with a new political party, called Loksatta, or people’s power, gathered at the Gateway, calling for a variety of reforms, including banning criminals from running for political office. (Virtually every political party has convicts and suspects among its elected officials.)

Social networking sites were ablaze with memorials and citizens’ action groups, including one that advocated refraining from voting altogether as an act of civil disobedience. Never mind that in India, voter turnout among the rich is far lower than among the poor.

Another group advocated not paying taxes, as though that would improve the quality of public services. An e-mail campaign began Saturday called “I Am Clean,” urging citizens not to bribe police officers or drive through red lights.

And there were countless condemnations of how democracy had failed in this, the world’s largest democracy. Those condemnations led Vir Sanghvi, a columnist writing in the financial newspaper Mint, to remind his readers of 1975, when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi imposed emergency rule. Mr. Sanghvi wrote, “I am beginning to hear the same kind of middle-class murmurs and whines about the ineffectual nature of democracy and the need for authoritarian government.”

Perhaps the most striking development was the lawsuit because it represented a rare example of corporate India’s confronting the government outright rather than making back-room deals.

“It says in a nutshell, ‘Enough is enough,’ ” said Cyrus Guzder, who owns a logistics company. “More precisely, it tells us that citizens of all levels in the country believe their government has let them down and believe that it now needs to be held accountable.”

In India’s city of gold, the distinction between public and private can be bewildering. For members of the working class, who often cannot afford housing, public sidewalks become living rooms. In the morning, commuters from gated communities in the suburbs pass children brushing their teeth at the edge of the street. Women are forced to relieve themselves on the railway tracks, usually in the dark, for the sake of modesty. The poor sometimes sleep on highway medians, and it is not unheard of for drunken drivers to mow them down.

Mumbai has been roiled by government neglect for years. Its commuter trains are so overcrowded that 4,000 riders die every year on average, some pushed from trains in the fierce competition to get on and off. Monsoons in 2005 killed more than 400 people in Mumbai in one day alone; so clogged were the city’s ancient drains, so crowded its river plains with unauthorized construction that water had nowhere to go.

Rahul Bose, an actor, suggested setting aside such problems for the moment. In a plea published last week in The Hindustan Times, he laid out the desperation of this glistening, corroding place. “We overlook for now your neglect of the city,” he wrote. “Its floods, its traffic, its filth, its pollution. Just deliver to us a world-standard antiterrorism plan.”

None of the previous terrorist attacks, even in Mumbai, had so struck the cream of Bombay society. Bombs have been planted on commuter trains in the past, but few people who regularly dine at the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower hotel, one of the worst-hit sites, travel by train. “It has touched a raw nerve,” said Amit Chandra, who runs a prominent investment firm. “People have lost friends. Everyone would visit these places.” In any event, public anger could not have come at a worse time for incumbent politicians, who were at their most contrite last week. National elections are due next spring, and security is likely to be one of the top issues in the vote, particularly among the urban middle class. It remains to be seen whether outrage will prompt them to turn out to vote in higher numbers or whether politicians will be compelled to pay greater attention to them than in the past.

“There’s a revulsion against the political class I have never seen before,” said Gerson D’Cunha, a former advertising executive whose civic group, A.G.N.I., presses for better governing. “The middle class that is laid back, lethargic, indolent, they’ve been galvanized.”

For how long? That is a question on everyone’s lips. At a memorial service on Thursday evening for a slain alumnus of the elite St. Xavier’s College here, a placard asked: “One month from now, will you care?”

“It’s helplessness, what do we do?” said Probir Roy, the owner of a technology company and an alumnus of St. Xavier’s. “All the various stakeholders — the police, politicians — you can’t count on them anyway. Now what do you do?”

Tops, a private security agency, has plenty to do. It is consulting schools, malls and “high net individuals” on how to protect themselves better. Security was a growth industry in India even before the latest attacks. Tops’s global chairman, Rahul Nanda, said the company employed 73,000 security guards today, compared with about 15,000 three years ago.

Mumbai is not the only place suffering from official neglect. Public services have deteriorated across India, all the more so in the countryside. Government schools are notoriously mismanaged. Doctors do not show up to work on public health projects. Corruption is endemic. In some of India’s booming cities, private developers drill for their own water and generate electricity for their own buildings.

Political interference often gets in the way of the woefully understaffed and poorly paid police force. Courts and commissions have called for law enforcement to be liberated from political control. Politicians have balked.

The three-day standoff with terrorists was neither the deadliest that India has seen, nor the most protracted; there have been other extended convulsions of violence, including mass killings of Sikhs in Delhi in 1984 and of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002.

Yet, the recent attacks, which Indian police say were the work of a Pakistan-based terrorist group called Lashkar-e-Taiba, were profoundly different. Two of the four main targets were luxury hotels frequented by the city’s wealthy elite: the Taj, facing the Gateway of India, and the twin Oberoi and Trident hotels, a few miles west on Nariman Point. They were the elite’s watering holes and business dinner destinations. And to lose them, said Alex Kuruvilla, who runs the Condé Nast publications in India, is like losing a limb.

“It’s like what I imagine an amputee would feel,” he said. “It’s so much part of our lives.”

Last Wednesday, on the night of the candlelight vigil, Mr. Kuruvilla’s driver made a wrong turn. A traffic policeman virtually pounced on the driver and then let him go with a bribe of 20 rupees, less than 50 cents. Mr. Kuruvilla is not optimistic about swift change. “Our cynicism is justified,” he said.

Ashok Pawar, a police constable from the police station nearest the Taj, entered the hotel the night the siege began. It was full of gunfire and smoke. He could not breathe, and he did not know his way around. “It was my first time inside the Taj,” he said. “How can a poor man go there?”

In The Indian Express newspaper on Friday, a columnist named Vinay Sitapati wrote a pointed open letter to “South Bombay,” shorthand for the city’s most wealthy enclave. The column first berated the rich for lecturing at Davos and failing in Hindi exams. “You refer to your part of the city simply as ‘town,’ ” he wrote, and then he begged: “Vote in person. But vote in spirit, too: use your clout to demand better politicians, not pliant ones.”

“In your hour of need today,” he added, “it is India that needs your help.”

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Barriers broken

A good new, bad news story for the modern era. More good or bad ? Well, if it's about an underrepresented group, always emphasize the good part.

The headlines proclaimed exultantly, 'First woman to lead a Spacewalk'. Another glass ceiling broken !

Then many initial news reports about one of the astronauts who had 'lost' a toolbag during the Spacewalk, threatening the success of the mission. No mention of gender. Or race. Or religion. Or country of origin.

Certainly don't want to associate any underrepresented group with anything negative.

Now the details emerge and we have another barrier broken. The first woman to lead a spacewalk is also the first astronaut to lose equipment during a spacewalk. And no mention of her country of origin, her religion or the color of her skin?

November 19, 2008

Lost Tool Bag Forces Changes to Planned Spacewalks

Filed at 6:30 a.m. ET

HOUSTON (AP) -- Flight controllers were revamping plans Wednesday for the remaining spacewalks planned during space shuttle Endeavour's visit to the international space station, after a crucial tool bag floated out to space during a repair trip.

The briefcase-sized tool bag drifted away from astronaut Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper on Tuesday as she cleaned and lubed a gummed-up joint on a wing of solar panels on the space station. She and fellow astronaut Stephen Bowen were midway through the first of four spacewalks planned for the mission. The tool bag was one of the largest items ever lost by a spacewalker.

As Stefanyshyn-Piper cleaned up a large gob of grease that seeped from a gun used to lubricate the joint, the tool case somehow became untethered from a larger bag and floated away along with a pair of grease guns, wipes and a putty knife attached to it.

''What it boils down to is all it takes is one small mistake for a tether not to be hooked up quite correctly or to slip off, and that's what happened here,'' said lead spacewalk officer John Ray.

Stefanyshyn-Piper and Bowen finished the spacewalk in almost seven hours by sharing tools from Bowen's bag. Ray noted that Stefanyshyn-Piper showed ''real character and great discipline'' by continuing on. She was the first woman to be assigned as lead spacewalker for a shuttle flight.

''Despite my little hiccup, or major hiccup, I think we did a good job out there,'' Stefanyshyn-Piper said after returning to the space station.

Flight controllers are considering having the two spacewalkers share Bowen's pair of grease guns for the three remaining spacewalks on Thursday, Saturday and Monday. They could also use caulking guns meant for repairing the space shuttle. Another option is to have one spacewalker clean the joint while the other uses the grease gun to lubricate it.

For more than a year, the joint has been unable to automatically point the right-side solar wings toward the sun for maximum energy production.

Officials weren't worried the bag would hit the space station or the docked space shuttle because by late Tuesday it already was 2 1/2 miles in front of the orbiting complex, said flight director Ginger Kerrick.

''It is definitely moving away with every orbit,'' Kerrick said.

Inside the space station, crew members were so ahead of schedule in moving equipment delivered by Endeavour that shuttle flight planners were contemplating skipping an extra day at the outpost orbiting 220 miles above Earth.

The equipment includes a recycling system that converts urine into water, an extra bathroom, kitchenette, two bedrooms, an exercise machine and refrigerator that will allow space station residents to enjoy cold drinks for the first time. And the extra gear will allow the space station's crew to double to six next year.

The water recycling system was to be hooked up late Wednesday, and the first batch of urine would run through the system later in the week. Samples will be flown back to Earth for safety tests before astronauts can use it.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Job screening in the Obamanation

Change! Here it comes ... I guess my >$50 parking fines in D.C. last year will prevent everyone in my family from ever getting any gov't related job ... no NASA work for the son ... goodbye Smithsonsian internship for the daughter ...

Sorry about that kids !

And if my brother had a bad tax audit 10 years back I guess that ends it for me . Mom's sister probably hasn't paid her taxes in years (due to that newly defined medical condition, 'tax avoidance syndrome') so mom is out.

You might think that associating with American terrorists and radical America-hating preachers would also prevent someone from getting a gov't job, but it appears these screenings are only for those who are not being considered for executive positions. One rule for the rich and powerful, another for the great unwashed. Change is here at last!

The same political platform that believes it is invasive to check criminal suspects to see if they are illegal immigrants is now requiring job applicants to give every detail of themeselves, their family and their associations with friends on their application.

Where's the ACLU when you need it? Probably busy defending those illegal immigrants

November 13, 2008

For a Washington Job, Be Prepared to Tell All

WASHINGTON — Want a top job in the Obama administration? Only pack rats need apply, preferably those not packing controversy.

A seven-page questionnaire being sent by the office of President-elect Barack Obama to those seeking cabinet and other high-ranking posts may be the most extensive — some say invasive — application ever.

The questionnaire includes 63 requests for personal and professional records, some covering applicants’ spouses and grown children as well, that are forcing job-seekers to rummage from basements to attics, in shoe boxes, diaries and computer archives to document both their achievements and missteps.

Only the smallest details are excluded; traffic tickets carrying fines of less than $50 need not be reported, the application says. Applicants are asked whether they or anyone in their family owns a gun. They must include any e-mail that might embarrass the president-elect, along with any blog posts and links to their Facebook pages.

The application also asks applicants to “please list all aliases or ‘handles’ you have used to communicate on the Internet.”

The vetting process for executive branch jobs has been onerous for decades, with each incoming administration erecting new barriers in an effort to avoid the mistakes of the past, or the controversies of the present. It is typically updated to reflect technological change (there was no Facebook the last time a new president came to town).

But Mr. Obama has elevated the vetting even beyond what might have been expected, especially when it comes to applicants’ family members, in a reflection of his campaign rhetoric against lobbying and the back-scratching, self-serving ways of Washington.

“President-elect Obama made a commitment to change the way Washington does business, and the vetting process exemplifies that,” said Stephanie Cutter, chief spokeswoman for the Obama transition office.

Jobs with the mortgage-finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have served as lucrative incubators for Democratic and Republican administration officials. But those affiliations have become potentially toxic since the government seized both companies after years of financial irregularities that have stoked the economic crisis.

Not surprisingly, then, Question 18 of the Obama application asks whether “you, your spouse or any member of your immediate family” have been affiliated with Fannie, Freddie, American International Group, Washington Mutual and any other institution getting a government bailout.

Under “Domestic Help,” the questionnaire asks the immigration status of applicants’ housekeepers, nannies, chauffeurs and yard-workers, and whether applicants have paid the required taxes for household employees. (Those questions reflect controversies that tripped up President Bill Clinton’s first two nominees for attorney general in 1993.)

“Every transition is cumulative,” said Michael Berman, a lawyer and lobbyist who worked in the transitions of both Mr. Clinton and President Jimmy Carter. After reviewing the Obama application, Mr. Berman added, “I am very happy I am not seeking a job in the federal government.”

A former Clinton White House official who insisted on anonymity said in an e-mail message, “I believe it is considerably more detailed than we had to fill out in ’93. Interesting that they want spouse information on everything — means lots of folks are going to have to list the very prominent — and controversial — companies that their spouses work/lobby for.”

The first question asks applicants not just for a résumé, but for every résumé and biographical statement issued by them or others for the past 10 years — a likely safeguard against résumé falsehoods, one Clinton administration veteran said.

Most information must cover at least the past decade, including the names of anyone applicants lived with; a chronological list of activities for which applicants were paid; real estate and loans over $10,000, and their terms, for applicants and spouses; net worth statements submitted for loans, and organization memberships — in particular, memberships in groups that have discriminated on the basis of race, sex, disability, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation.

There are no time limits for some information, including liens, tax audits, lawsuits, legal charges, bankruptcies or arrests. Applicants must report all businesses with which they and their spouses have been affiliated or in which they have had a financial stake of more than 5 percent. All gifts over $50 that they and their spouses have received from anyone other than close friends or relatives must be identified.

Just in case the previous 62 questions do not ferret out any potential controversy, the 63rd is all-encompassing: “Please provide any other information, including information about other members of your family, that could suggest a conflict of interest or be a possible source of embarrassment to you, your family, or the president-elect.”

The answer could duplicate the response to Question 8: “Briefly describe the most controversial matters you have been involved with during the course of your career.”

For those who clear all the hurdles, the reward could be the job they wanted. But first there will be more forms, for security and ethics clearances from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Office of Government Ethics.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Limited Imagination

Interesting article until you get almost to the end.

You might've expected someone who is lamenting on out-of-control spending to suggest we either pay off the Federal debt or cut taxes after cutting grandma's benefits, but no, she suggests we shift those saved funds to pre-school programs.

Makes sense coming from someone at the Brookings Institute.

Great 'economic' take on pre-school ... ' It's like any investment that has a rate of return.'

But a good question from an interviewer should be ... 'Is it the Federal government's responsibility to pay for education, pre-school or otherwise?' ... and 'Where in the constitution does it say the Federal Gov't has this responsibility?' .

Why we need to cut seniors' benefits

Economist Isabel Sawhill says America's elderly are getting too big a slice of the taxpayers' money.

Interview by George Mannes, Money Magazine senior writer

(Money Magazine) -- Whether or not Congress or the Federal Reserve manages to solve the financial crisis, there will be an equally scary situation that has not yet made newspaper headlines.

The big three of entitlement programs - Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid - will wreak havoc on the country's finances (and yours) unless we scale them back, says Isabel Sawhill, an economist at the Brookings Institution and member of a bipartisan think tank trying to sound the alarm.

Question: You talk about fixing the unwritten agreement between younger and older generations - the "intergenerational contract." What's broken?

Answer: The existing contract assumes that the working-age population is going to be able to support the older population - the retired population - out into the future and should do so. And that's not a sustainable assumption.

Q. Why not?

A. Forty-two percent of federal spending now goes to three programs, with the major share to the elderly.

Two or three decades from now, those three programs will be as large as the federal government is today.

Let's say someone is now paying 25% of their income in taxes. To maintain the commitments we've made to the elderly, they would have to pay 50%.

Q. What's the solution?

A. We need those who can afford it to contribute more to their own retirement costs.

Take Social Security: Right now the benefit formula provides a pretty good retirement income to those who make more than $100,000 a year.

I don't think that the working-age population should continue to fund benefits for seniors who are so well off.

Q. And you want to spend this money instead on the younger generation?

A. Yes. We would reap enormous economic benefits from spending more on early childhood education. It's like any investment that has a rate of return.

If you do it when people are young, it's going to help make them more productive and enable them to earn a reasonable living.

Q. Wouldn't the AARP crowd scream bloody murder about benefit reductions?

A. I don't think all older Americans are opposed to investing in their children and grandchildren.

Q. So how do you sell this idea of spending less on the elderly and more on the young?

A. We have to change the debate, which has been focused on the idea that there's going to be generational warfare.

I'm trying to get away from that concept by talking about the fact that every individual, every generation, should expect more from their government when they're young and less from their government when they're old.

That's not generational warfare. That's common sense.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Misleading headlines

From the very long headline you would think that U.S. firms owed Mexican laborers back pay.

That idea wouldn't be clarified in the article until you got to the 7th paragraph, if you persisted in reading that far into the article.

At that point it states that the Mexican gov't was at fault and had withheld the money from it's own citizens when they returned to Mexico.

The Mexican gov't mistreating it's own citizens? The same gov't that assists them in their quest to go to the U.S. illegally to work and send money back ? The gov't that fights for these worker's rights to live and work in the U.S. ?

Nah... couldn't be .

October 16, 2008

Settlement Will Allow Thousands of Mexican Laborers in U.S. to Collect Back Pay

Tens of thousands of Mexicans who labored in the United States under a World War II-era guest worker program will be eligible to collect back pay under a settlement to a long-fought lawsuit.

From 200,000 to 300,000 laborers, called braceros, worked as farmhands or railroad workers from 1942 to 1946, and under the program, a portion of their pay was deducted and transferred to the Mexican government to be given to the workers when they returned to Mexico.

But many laborers said they never received the pay, and many never even knew that 10 percent of their salaries was deducted. In 2001, lawyers filed a class action lawsuit in California.

The lawsuit was dismissed twice, as courts considered whether too much time had passed and whether a lawsuit against the Mexican government could have standing in the United States. The American government and Wells Fargo Bank, initially named as defendants, were dismissed from the case.

Scores of elderly ex-braceros staged protests in Mexico, demanding compensation.

On Wednesday, lawyers for the braceros and the Mexican government said the Federal District Court in San Francisco had given preliminary approval to a settlement in the case.

Under the settlement, scheduled for a hearing on final approval in a few months, Mexico would give each bracero, or a surviving heir, $3,500.

“It’s an overdue redress for a very historic grievance,” said Joshua Karsh, a lawyer representing the braceros.

Joel Hernandez, the legal adviser for the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said: “We are happy that we were able to reach a settlement agreement with the plaintiffs. We think it’s very important to reach that stage in order to make it possible that any potential applicant may file an application for social support.”

Ramon Ibarra, now 86, said he did two stints as a bracero, laying track for railroads in Arizona and layering ice into trains carrying fruits and vegetables in Bakersfield, Calif. A widower who has lived in Chicago for 40 years, Mr. Ibarra said he would like to use the money “for my final rites and for my death that is very near” and called it “a victory of principles that allows me to be positive about continuing to live a little longer.”

The braceros, a name coined for people who worked with their arms (brazos), earned about 50 cents an hour, and advocates say many were unable to read their contracts to learn about payroll deductions or were too daunted to try to collect their money in Mexico. The Mexican government collected at least $32 million in deductions, but claims about how much was reimbursed vary.

In 2005, the Mexican government, without admitting liability, agreed to pay about $3,500 in compensation for braceros living in Mexico, but only 49,000 of the 212,000 applications received could provide documentation.

“It is very important to note that X number of people may claim” to be braceros, Mr. Hernandez said. But “many years have passed and they really have to prove that they belong to the braceros program.”

Since many braceros immigrated to the United States after returning to Mexico, an untold number of braceros and their descendants live in states like California, Illinois and Texas.

Mr. Karsh said that the plaintiffs lost their request for “much less stringent documentation requirements,” and that some braceros or their families may lack the paperwork or proof needed to collect in the settlement. Mr. Ibarra, for example, said he had no record of his employment.

But the family of Juan Castaneda Davila, who died in 1972, has documentation that he worked in farm fields and railroads in Kansas and Texas, said his daughter, Lourdes Ramos.

“I feel so-so” about the settlement, Ms. Ramos said. “They deserve more because they tried to help this country.”

Economic 'laws'

If only the 'laws' of economics were more like the laws of physics or the axioms of math we wouldn't have boom and bust cycles.

Thank goodness the experts at Wharton help explain these 'laws' to us laymen:

“The No. 1 thing that drives housing values is incomes,” said Todd Sinai, an associate professor of real estate at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. “When incomes fall, demand for housing falls.”

How come this doesn't work in reverse, that housing prices cannot rise faster than income ?

How come this doesn't work with colleges, where costs have outpaced inflation AND income for over 25 years?

How come economic 'laws' don't work like the law of gravity ?

And how come economic 'experts' can be wrong so often but still have jobs along with rising incomes ?

October 16, 2008

Home Prices Seem Far From Bottom

The American housing market, where the global economic crisis began, is far from hitting bottom.

Home prices across much of the country are likely to fall through late 2009, economists say, and in some markets the trend could last even longer depending on the severity of the anticipated recession.

In hard-hit areas like California, Florida and Arizona, the grim calculus is the same: More and more homes are going up for sale, but fewer and fewer people are willing or able to buy them.

Adding to the worries nationwide are rising unemployment, falling wages and escalating mortgage rates — all of which will reduce the already diminished pool of would-be buyers.

“The No. 1 thing that drives housing values is incomes,” said Todd Sinai, an associate professor of real estate at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. “When incomes fall, demand for housing falls.”

Despite the government’s move to bolster the banking industry, home loan rates rose again on Tuesday, reflecting concern that the Treasury will borrow heavily to finance the rescue.

On Wednesday, the average rate for 30-year fixed rate mortgages was 6.75 percent, up from 6.06 percent last week. While banks are moving aggressively to sell foreclosed properties, the number of empty homes is hovering near its highest level in more than half a century.

As of June, 2.8 percent of homes previously occupied by an owner were vacant. Nearly 1 in 10 rentals was without a tenant. Both numbers are near their highest levels since 1956, the earliest year for which the Census Bureau has such data.

At the same time, the number of people who are losing jobs or seeing their incomes decline is rising. The unemployment rate has climbed to 6.1 percent, from 4.4 percent at the end of 2007, and wages for those who still have a job have barely kept up with inflation.

In New York and other cities that rely heavily on the financial sector, economists expect that job losses will increase and that pay heavily tied to year-end bonuses will decline significantly.

One reliable proxy of housing values — the ratio of home prices to rents — indicates that in many cities prices are still too high relative to historical norms.

In Miami, for instance, home prices are about 22 times annual rents, according to analysis by Moody’s The average figure for the last 20 years is just 15 times annual rents. The difference between those two numbers suggests that a home valued at $500,000 today might be worth only $341,000 based on the long-term relationship between prices and rents.

The price-to-rent ratio, which provides one measure of how much of a premium home buyers place on owning rather than renting, spiked across the country earlier this decade.

It increased the most on the coasts and somewhat less in the middle of the country.’s calculations show that while it remains elevated in many places, the ratio has fallen sharply to more normal levels in places like Sacramento, Dallas and Riverside, Calif.

The current housing downturn is much more national in scope and severe than any other in the postwar period, partly because of the proliferation of risky lending practices. Today, foreclosures are running ahead of the downturn in the economy, a reversal of previous housing slumps.

“We are in uncharted waters,” said Brian A. Bethune, an economist at Global Insight, a research firm.

Colleen Pestana, a real estate agent in Orange County in California, said many people losing their homes in Southern California used to work at mortgage and real estate companies. Many of them bet heavily on real estate by upgrading to bigger houses every few years. Now, many are losing their homes.

At the same time, Ms. Pestana said, her clients who are looking to buy are having a harder time lining up financing. One of her clients recently had to give up on a home after the lender that had offered a pre-approved loan changed its mind — a frequent occurrence, according to real estate agents and mortgage brokers.

“I am working harder than I have ever had to work to get a deal together and keep it together,” said Ms. Pestana, who has been a real estate agent for seven years.

To cushion themselves from potential losses if homes lose value, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the mortgage finance companies that the government took over in September, have increased fees on loans made to borrowers who have good but not excellent credit records, even those who are making down payments as big as 30 percent.

Those higher fees are generally invisible to borrowers because banks factor them into mortgage interest rates. While the national average rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is now 6.75 percent, according to HSH Associates, mortgage brokers say the rates for many borrowers in the Southwest or Florida can be as high as 8 percent, especially for so-called jumbo loans that are too big to be sold to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. (Those loan limits vary by area from $417,000 to roughly $650,000.)

Higher interest rates result in bigger monthly payments, pricing some potential buyers out of the market. For example, monthly payments are $2,700 on a 6 percent 30-year, fixed-rate loan of $450,000. If the interest rate rises to 7 percent, those monthly payments jump to $3,000. All things being equal, when rates rise prices generally fall.

This month, Fannie and Freddie canceled a fee increase that would have applied to markets where home prices are falling, but the companies still have many other fees in place. In an effort to help drive down rates, the Treasury Department has announced plans to buy mortgage-backed securities issued by Fannie and Freddie. The government also recently increased the amount of loans the companies can buy and hold.

Still, those efforts will take time to have an impact and it is not clear whether they will be sufficient to get banks to lend more freely, especially in areas where jumbo loans make up a bigger percentage of lending, like New York and parts of California and Florida. Economists say that prices in those places will probably fall further.

In some of those places, price declines are being driven by a sharp increase in sales of foreclosed homes.

Hudson & Marshall, a Dallas-based auctioneer that holds sales for lenders, reports that banks are accepting prices that they refused to consider just 12 months earlier. In a recent auction of 110 foreclosed homes in the Las Vegas area, for instance, the auctioneer’s clients accepted 90 percent of the bids submitted by buyers, up from 60 percent a year earlier, said David T. Webb, a co-owner of the company.

Single-family home prices in Las Vegas have already fallen 34 percent from their peak in the summer of 2006, according to the Standard & Poor’s Case-Shiller home price index. Prices in San Diego have fallen 31 percent since late 2005.

While those declines have been painful to homeowners in those cities, economists said the quick decline might help the markets reach bottom faster than in previous housing cycles, said Edward E. Leamer, an economist at the University of California, Los Angeles. In a previous boom, home prices peaked in the Los Angeles area in 1990 but did not hit bottom until 1996. Prices remained near that low for more than a year before starting to climb again.

“In some areas of California, we are really at appropriate levels,” Mr. Leamer said of current home prices. But he added: “The risk is that we are going to get some overshooting, meaning that prices will be lower than they ought to be.”

In Florida, Jack McCabe, a real estate consultant, said that while some cities, like Fort Myers, are showing tentative signs of a rebound, others like Miami and Fort Lauderdale are still under pressure. Two homes on his street in Fort Lauderdale that sold for about $730,000 apiece in 2005 recently sold for $400,000 — a 44 percent decline.

“The rocket has run out of fuel, and now it’s plunged back down to earth,” he said.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Some corporate-speak

Corporations make up words and terms to try to sound more serious and significant. College students are taught to do this also, come to think of it.

Take these sentences from the following article. Can we express this more succintly and simpler?

“We were adversely impacted by continued weakness in the U.S. liquid refreshment beverage category, which resulted in disappointing performance in our domestic beverage business. We are taking important steps to revitalize our beverage portfolio.”

How about .. " We sold less soda than we expected, but we hope to sell more soda next quarter".

And isn't there some redundancy in the term 'liquid refreshment beverage category' . Aren't liquid refreshments also beverages, and vice versa?

But would the board of directors pay this woman multi-millions to be the CEO if she spoke like this ?

October 14, 2008, 7:32 am

Pepsi cutting back

Pepsico (PEP) is cutting back. The Purchase, N.Y., drinks-and-snacks conglomerate posted softer-than-expected third-quarter earnings Tuesday and set plans to cut 3,300 jobs as the economic slowdown and changing consumer tastes hit soda sales. Pepsi made $1.56 billion, or 99 cents a share, for the quarter ended Sept. 30, down from the year-ago $1.74 billion, or $1.06 a share. Excluding certain costs, earnings were $1.06 a share in the latest quarter, 2 cents shy of the Thomson Financial analyst consensus estimate.

“In the third quarter, our worldwide snacks and international beverage businesses performed well once again,” said CEO Indra Nooyi. “We were adversely impacted by continued weakness in the U.S. liquid refreshment beverage category, which resulted in disappointing performance in our domestic beverage business. We are taking important steps to revitalize our beverage portfolio.”

Pepsi will close six plants and cut 2% of jobs worldwide in a plan that aims to produce pretax savings of $1.2 billion. The company said it expects to make $3.67 or $3.68 a share for 2008, 6 cents below the Thomson Financial target, due in part to the recent surge in the value of the dollar, which reduces the company’s overseas profits. But Pepsi said it wouldn’t offer any guidance for next year till it posts fourth-quarter numbers in January, citing “macro economic turbulence and volatility in the currency markets.”

Monday, October 13, 2008

Bad mortgage - whose fault?

Sounds like she was mortgage-free in '97, when she was 78 years old. At this time she had lived in the same house for 26 years.

Then, for some reason she took out a mortgage . Who gives a 30 year mortgage to a 78 year old??? Obviously she was not working. Was she going to pay it back with her social security?

Why would she take it out in the first place? Was she hoodwinked into taking it by an unscrupulous mortgage broker? This might be the real story. What bank or mortgage company gave the loan?

Why would she refinance 'several times' since then ? Again, perhaps a high pressure mortgage salesperson was involved?

And what did she do with the tens of thousands of dollars she received?

She may be worthy of sympathy if she was badgered into these loans by unscrupulous salespeople. Then again perhaps she was a somewhat willing participant in the scam.

Widow puts face on home crisis

Shoots herself in foreclosure

Monday, October 13, 2008

Buzz up!

AKRON, Ohio | By the time deputies came to escort Addie Polk out of her home of 38 years, the 90-year-old had taken out her life insurance policy and placed it next to her pocketbook and keys in the neatly kept house.

She shot herself in the chest Oct. 1 before she could be taken away from the foreclosed house, which was worth less than its mortgage from the day she took out the loan.

A congressman called her the face of a national tragedy, the housing crisis that has affected millions of Americans. Neighbors were stunned and said they had no idea the widow had been about to lose her two-story home.

As she recovered, Mrs. Polk sounded a bit regretful. "She said that was a crazy thing to do," said neighbor Robert Dillon, 62, who visited her at the hospital.

Mrs. Polk's cause was taken up by Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich, a Democrat, and fueled blogs on reckless lending practices rampant during the housing boom. Mortgage finance company Fannie Mae dropped the foreclosure, forgave her mortgage and said she could remain in the home.

"You have to shoot yourself to get help," said a neighbor, Hannah Garrett, 76.

The Summit County Sheriff's Department concluded that Mrs. Polk shot herself over the foreclosure, Lt. Kandy Fatheree said. A revolver was inches from her, and the house was locked.

Mr. Dillon heard the gunfire Oct. 1, climbed through Mrs. Polk's upstairs bathroom window and found her lying in bed bleeding.

Mrs. Polk was recovering at Akron General Medical Center, and did not respond to a mailed Associated Press request for an interview. The hospital would not release information about her condition.

Mr. Dillon hadn't been aware of Mrs. Polk's financial situation but said she had indicated she couldn't afford roof or porch repairs.

Mrs. Polk's blue-collar neighborhood, overlooking a duck pond and a noisy highway near Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.'s world headquarters, is a mix of renovated and worn-out houses. Unlike some hard-hit areas, no for-sale signs were dotted along the brick street on a recent day.

Neighbors said Mrs. Polk, who has no children, drives herself to church services and goes out to dinner with friends on Sundays.

"She didn't act like she was under stress," Mrs. Garrett said.

Mrs. Polk took out a mortgage in 1997 and refinanced several times after that, court and property records showed. She took out a 30-year, 6.375 percent mortgage for $45,620 four years ago when the house was appraised at $31,230. That move put her in a position that, according to Deutsche Bank, up to 40 percent of borrowers, or 20 million households nationwide, could face within 12 to 18 months: Suddenly Mrs. Polk owed more on her house than it was worth.

While many households ran into that problem when once-soaring house prices declined, there was no bubble on LaCroix Avenue, located in a city whose population dropped 4 percent since 2000 amid declining manufacturing.

Fannie Mae, which had assumed the Countrywide Home Loan mortgage on Mrs. Polk's home, thinks a reversal of the foreclosure was appropriate given the circumstances, a Fannie Mae spokesman said. Fannie Mae filed the foreclosure on Sept. 6, 2007.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Offshoring Airline maintnenance

Look like there may be melamine in the jet fuel?

FAA Faulted for Lax Tracking of Airline Maintenance, Too Much Outsourcing

Saturday , October 04, 2008



Nine U.S. airlines outsourced more than 70 percent of their major aircraft maintenance last year, and federal aviation officials' oversight of repair facilities is lagging, according to a government report.

One-fourth of the outsourced maintenance is being handled by contractors overseas.

The Transportation Department's inspector general said the outsourcing, which has more than doubled in four years, was of concern because the Federal Aviation Administration has failed to closely track how much maintenance is farmed out and where it is performed.

Although the FAA has taken steps to improve, "the agency still faces challenges in determining where the most critical maintenance occurs and ensuring sufficient oversight," investigators said in the report issued this week.

In their effort to lower costs, the report said, airlines continue to shift their heavy airframe maintenance from their own in-house mechanics and engineers to hundreds of repair companies in the United States, Canada, Mexico and countries in Central America and Asia.

Nine major airlines examined by the inspector general outsourced 71 percent of their heavy air frame maintenance — repairs and servicing to an aircraft's body, wings and tail — in 2007, up from 34 percent in 2003. More than a quarter of that maintenance — 27 percent — was performed at foreign repair facilities.

The airlines examined in the report were AirTran Airways, Alaska Airlines, America West Airlines, Continental Airlines, Delta Air Lines, JetBlue Airways, Northwest Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and United Airlines. American Airlines, the nation's largest domestic carrier, was not included, the inspector general said, because it handles most maintenance in-house.

The FAA relies heavily on the airlines — and the repair facilities themselves — to make sure outsourced repairs meet the air safety standards and requirements of the individual airlines.

FAA requires each repair station to undergo a government inspection at least once a year, FAA spokesman Les Dorr said. The report says those inspections often are not being conducted by agency inspectors most familiar with standards and requirements of the airline whose planes are being repaired.

As much as five years lapsed between visits to some major maintenance facilities by inspectors assigned to individual airlines. Inspectors not assigned to a specific airline may not be familiar with the special maintenance requirements of that airline's planes, which are often customized.

The report cited a foreign facility, which repairs engines for an unidentified airline, that had not been inspected by an FAA inspector assigned to that airline in five years, a period in which the facility had repaired 39 of the air carrier's engines.

The report recommends FAA require airlines to provide more complete information on the extent and location of outsourced repairs, ensure air carriers and repair stations are better able to spot and correct problems, and improve the documentation of inspection results.

The FAA agreed it needs to do more. "We actually concur with all the inspector general's recommendations," Dorr said. "We have procedures in place that already address some of the recommendations, and we have some projects in progress that address others."

One safety expert, however, said the report underscores that FAA still has a long way to go toward resolving the outsourcing issue, which has been source of controversy for the agency for several years.

"What this report tells me is there is still a big problem with oversight — the FAA is not verifying that the oversight being provided by the air carriers is doing the job it's supposed to," said John Goglia, a former member of the National Transportation Safety Board.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Doctor - another job Americans won't do

OK... some questions any journalist can ask, but none seem to do, when such articles are put together :

  • Why are so many foreign doctors interning in the U.S. ?
  • Do U.S. Med schools produce too few graduates to meet the yearly needs for interns/residents in U.S. hospitals?
  • Are a lot less U.S. students applying to Med school? How easy is it to get into a U.S. Med School?
  • Why are there too few doctors in the country ? If there are too many in desired areas such as NYC then it stands to reason that costs may go down or many would not be able to make a living.
  • If there are too few home-grown doctors why don't existing Med schools ramp up enrollment?
  • If there are too few home-grown doctors why don't States create more public Med Schools to fill the need?
  • How about creating Med schools in rural areas, drawing from local people who would be interested in working either locally or in other rural areas?

October 1, 2008
Towns Need Doctors, and the Doctors Need Visas
Glossy chamber of commerce brochures from small towns and rural areas along Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River and in the Adirondack Mountains beckoned on tables in the Sheraton New York Hotel in Midtown Manhattan. But it was not the allure of hiking, fishing or wineries — or even the free cookies and coffee — that attracted scores of novice doctors to a job fair on Sunday.

It was the possibility of a green card.

Many of the doctors, residents at New York City hospitals, had come from abroad on visas, including the restrictive J-1 “exchange visa,” which requires them to return home for two years once they finish their studies unless they can get a waiver to work in a medically underserved area. New York State recommends about 30 doctors for J-1 visa waivers annually; typically half of the visas go to doctors working in neighborhoods like Washington Heights or the South Bronx and half to upstate communities that do not have enough physicians.

Getting such a waiver is akin to winning the lottery, and to apply for a ticket, doctors must have a signed employment contract, said Caleb C. Wistar, a State Health Department planner who was at the job fair to give advice. “This is the shining prize of working in underserved areas for people who are not citizens,” he said.

Visa politics helped turn the job fair into a matchmaking exercise. The 30 upstate hospitals that sent representatives, whose expenses were covered by the Greater New York Hospital Association, promoted their towns’ friendly neighbors and good schools. The immigrant doctors, willing to relocate for economic and professional opportunities, listened politely, then worked up the courage to ask what for many of them was the most pressing question: “Do you sponsor visas?”

Dr. Ranka Bulajic, a Serb, analyzed the job market by ethnicity: Eastern Europeans, she explained, were willing to work in colder climates like northern New York State or Oregon, while those from Africa or the Caribbean tended to prefer Alabama or Virginia. Dr. Jiwu Sun, who graduated from China’s prestigious Third Military Medical University, said that, at the age of 40 — and with a wife, two children and limited English — he was in no position to make demands of potential employers. Dr. Nadia Ferder, 34, who was born in the United States but grew up in Buenos Aires, said she did not want to return to Argentina because the economy was so bad that “lawyers, economists, doctors, architects, they are all driving cabs.”

Many studies show that newly trained American doctors, burdened with student loans and seeking status and challenges, gravitate toward urban centers. A 2007 study of physician recruitment by the Center for Health Workforce Studies at the State University of New York at Albany found that physicians practicing upstate were more likely to have come from outside New York than their downstate counterparts.

The study said that when doctors had trouble finding jobs, the main reason was their reluctance to look outside the most desirable locations, like New York City. While many American doctors aspire to work on Park Avenue, experts say, foreign-born doctors are willing to take more modest jobs as a way of establishing a toehold in the United States.

Dr. Romina Tollerutti, 31, who graduated from medical school at the University of Buenos Aires, said she learned English six years ago when she decided to come to the United States for her residency, and had struggled with the unfamiliar multiple-choice format of the medical-licensing exam. She and her husband, also a doctor, hope that fluency of Spanish will help make them more attractive to employers.

Dr. Tollerutti said that even as a third-year pediatric resident at Elmhurst Hospital Center in Queens, she was doing better financially than she would as a fully trained doctor in Argentina. “We are not saving money,” Dr. Tollerutti said. “But we have a cellphone, we have cable, I pay rent, and we have money to go out.”

Like other foreign-born physicians, Dr. Tollerutti said that having gone to a government-run medical school, where her tuition was free, made her more flexible in her job possibilities than many of her American colleagues who had to pay off staggering student loans.

Dr. Bulajic, 35, who earned her medical degree from the University of Kragujevac in Serbia and has Canadian citizenship, is doing her residency at St. John’s Episcopal Hospital in Far Rockaway.

She said New York City hospitals have their pick among residents and would rather hire a doctor with a green card than sponsor someone for a visa waiver. To work in Canada, she said, she would need another year of training. Her husband is an electrician, and they would prefer to live in an area where construction jobs are plentiful. But Dr. Bulajic is pregnant and her mother lives in Toronto, so a job in upstate New York sounded appealing, she said.

One of her competitors for a waiver was Dr. André Phillips, 27, from Barbados, who said he had earned his medical degree at the University of the West Indies campus in Jamaica, tuition-free, before landing a residency in internal medicine at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn. Dr. Phillips is scheduled to finish his residency in 2010, on a J-1 visa.

Dr. Phillips said he had been solicited by hospitals in the Dakotas, but would rather stay on the East Coast, closer to his family in Barbados. His goal, he said, was not to be rich but to be comfortable. “Money is not the reason I went into medicine,” he said, adding that he would be satisfied with “a nice three-bedroom house and a sedan.”

A recruiter from the Finger Lakes region said her hospital could sponsor visas.

“How about the lawyer’s fee?” Dr. Phillips asked.

“We reimburse that,” the recruiter replied.

Nearby, Rich Duvall, a human resources administrator for Carthage Area Hospital in Carthage, N.Y., gave the hard sell to a doctor from India and his family. Carthage, a medically underserved area that calls itself “the gateway to the Adirondacks,” had it all, he said: snow sports, river sports, hiking and, thanks to the soldiers at nearby Fort Drum, diversity.

When is a cartel legal?

Looks like the EU can fine companies headquarted outside Europe for cartel activities.

What about OPEC then ?

EU Fines Wax Producers EUR676 Million For Price Fixing

BRUSSELS -(Dow Jones)- The European Commission Wednesday fined nine wax producers a total of EUR676 million for participating in a paraffin wax cartel.

The nine producers are Sasol Ltd. (SOL.JO), ExxonMobil Corp. (XOM), ENI S.P.A (ENI.MI), Hansen & Rosenthal, Tudapetrol, MOL, Repsol, RWE and Total S.A. ( 12027.FR).

Sasol, a South African energy company, was the leader of the cartel and will have to pay EUR318 million, the commission said. Total will have to pay the second largest part of the fine at EUR128 million.

"There is probably not a household or company in Europe that hasn't bought products affected by this 'paraffin mafia' cartel," said Neelie Kroes, the commission's antitrust chief, in a statement.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The NYTimes - Belated Talk like a Pirate day

A little late for this important holiday, but this is from the NYTimes today ....

Only a 'journalist' from the NYTimes, being sensitive to multiculturalism and diversity would call piracy a 'business' and an 'industry' ... just like terrorists are 'freedom fighters' or 'militants' ...

Words count, but at the NYTimes only with a spellchecker .

Perhaps the US Gov't has the fiscal and moral responsibility to bailout the pirates from their bad positions in Credit Default Swaps also ? After all the real pirates are on Wall Street.

Piracy in Somalia is a highly-organized, lucrative, ransom-driven business. Just this year, pirates have hijacked more than 25 ships, and in many cases, they were paid million dollar ransoms to release them. The juicy payoffs have attracted gunmen from across Somalia and the pirates are thought to now number in the thousands.

The piracy industry started about 10 to 15 years ago, Somali officials said, as a response to illegal fishing. Somalia’s central government imploded in 1991, casting the country into chaos. With no patrols along the shoreline, Somalia’s tuna-rich waters were soon plundered by commercial fishing fleets from around the world. Somali fishermen armed themselves and turned into vigilantes by confronting illegal fishing boats and demanding that they pay a tax.

October 1, 2008

Somali Pirates Tell All: They’re in It for the Money

NAIROBI, Kenya -- The Somali pirates who hijacked a Ukrainian freighter loaded with tanks, artillery, grenade launchers and ammunition said in an interview Tuesday that they had no idea that the ship was carrying arms when they seized it on the high seas.

“We just saw a big ship,” the pirates’ spokesman, Sugule Ali, told The New York Times. “So we stopped it.”

The pirates quickly learned, though, that their booty was an estimated $30 million worth of heavy weaponry, heading for Kenya or Sudan, depending on who you ask.

In a 45-minute-long interview, Mr. Sugule expounded on everything from what the pirates want — “just money” — to why they were doing this — “to stop illegal fishing and dumping in our waters” — to what they eat — rice, meat, bread, spaghetti, “you know, normal human being food.”

He said that so far, in the eyes of the world, the pirates had been misunderstood. “We don’t consider ourselves sea bandits,” he said. “We consider sea bandits those who illegally fish in our seas and dump waste in our seas and carry weapons in our seas. We are simply patrolling our seas. Think of us like a coast guard.”

The pirates who answered the phone call on Tuesday morning from The New York Times said they were speaking by satellite phone from the bridge of the Faina, the Ukrainian cargo ship that was hijacked about 200 miles off the coast of Somalia on Thursday. Several pirates talked, but they said that only Mr. Sugule was authorized to be quoted. Mr. Sugule acknowledged that they were now surrounded by American warships bristling with firepower but he did not sound afraid. “You only die once,” Mr. Sugule said.

He said that all was peaceful on the ship, despite unconfirmed reports from a maritime organization in Kenya that three pirates had been killed in a shoot-out among themselves on Monday night.

He insisted that the pirates were not interested in the weapons and had no plans to sell them to Islamist insurgents battling Somalia’s weak transitional government. “Somalia has suffered from many years of destruction because of all these weapons,” he said. “We don’t want that suffering and chaos to continue. We are not going to offload the weapons. We just want the money.”

He said that they were asking for $20 million in cash — “we don’t use any other system than cash.” But he added that they were willing to bargain. “That’s deal making,” he explained.

Piracy in Somalia is a highly-organized, lucrative, ransom-driven business. Just this year, pirates have hijacked more than 25 ships, and in many cases, they were paid million dollar ransoms to release them. The juicy payoffs have attracted gunmen from across Somalia and the pirates are thought to now number in the thousands.

The piracy industry started about 10 to 15 years ago, Somali officials said, as a response to illegal fishing. Somalia’s central government imploded in 1991, casting the country into chaos. With no patrols along the shoreline, Somalia’s tuna-rich waters were soon plundered by commercial fishing fleets from around the world. Somali fishermen armed themselves and turned into vigilantes by confronting illegal fishing boats and demanding that they pay a tax.

“From there, they got greedy” explained Mohamed Osman Aden, a Somali diplomat in Kenya. “They starting attacking everyone.”

By the early 2000s, many of the fishermen had traded in their nets for machine guns and were hijacking any vessel — sailboat, oil tanker, United Nations-chartered food ship — that they could catch.

“It’s true that the pirates started to defend the fishing business,” Mr. Mohamed said. “And illegal fishing is a real problem for us. But this does not justify these boys to now act like guardians. They are criminals. The world must help us crack down on them.”

The United States and several European countries, in particular France, have been talking about ways to patrol the waters together. The United Nations is even considering creating something like a maritime peacekeeping force. Because of all the hijackings, the waters off of Somalia’s 1,880-mile-long coast are now considered the most dangerous shipping lanes in the world.

On Tuesday, several American warships had the hijacked freighter cornered along the craggy Somali coastline. The American ships were allowing the pirates to bring food and water on board but not to take any weapons off. A Russian frigate is also on its way to the area.

Lt. Nathan Christensen, a Navy spokesman, said on Tuesday that he had heard the unconfirmed reports about the inter-pirate shootout but that the Navy had no more information. “To be honest, we’re not seeing a whole lot of activity” on the ship, he said.

Kenyan officials continued to maintain that the weapons aboard were part of a legitimate arms deal for the Kenyan military, even though several Western diplomats, Somali officials and the pirates themselves said the arms were part of a secret deal to funnel the weapons to southern Sudan.

Somali officials are urging the Western navies to storm the ship and arrest the pirates because they say that paying ransoms only fuels the problem. Western diplomats, however, have said that it would be a very difficult commando operation because the ship is full of explosives and the pirates could use the 20 crew members as human shields.

Mr. Sugule said that his men are treating the crew members well (the pirates would not let the crew members speak on the phone, saying it was against their rules). “Killing is not in our plans,” he said. “We only want money, so we can protect ourselves from hunger.”

When asked why the pirates needed $20 million to protect themselves from hunger, Mr. Sugule laughed over the phone and said: “Because we have a lot of men.”

Monday, September 22, 2008

$1 trillion bailout

This would be a 'funny' story if it wasn't so $$painful$$ ...

Not only are we taxpayers and our progeny stuck with a humongous $1 trillion debt to clean up the Wall Street excess , but this 'bailout plan' is causing the oil market to 'stabilize' (interesting use of language - makes this sound like a positive thing!!) , thereby causing higher heating oil and gas prices for us lucky taxpayers ...

I say, fire all the politicians!

And they claim that 'speculation' is not the cause of high oil prices , that it is based strictly on supply and demand ... 'supply and demand' changed so rapidly in just 5 business days? .... causing oil to go from $92 to $130 a barrel, i.e. demand increased >50% !!

Or maybe it's the dollar going down 1 penny (<1%) that causes a 50% increase in oil?

I say, fire all the economists!

Oil prices had been trending lower on worries that demand was faltering but those concerns seem to be abating, according to one analyst.

"The fear has waned as far as the demand destruction" in the wake of the bailout news, said Neal Dingmann, senior energy analyst at Dahlman Rose. "The bailout has really stabilized this market."

Oil skyrockets, hits $130

Futures spike as much as $25 on the bailout plan, the falling dollar and as the October front-month contract expires.

By Catherine Clifford, staff writer
Last Updated: September 22, 2008: 3:02 PM EDT

NEW YORK ( -- Oil prices jumped more than $25 a barrel Monday in biggest dollar jump ever as the dollar was punished by the government's $700 billion Wall Street bailout plan and big investors scrambled to fill obligations as the October contract expired.
Oil surged in afternoon trading, reaching as high as $130.00 - a $25 gain - but dropped back down to settle at $120.92 a barrel up $16.37 from Friday's close.

The rally reached a fevered pitch as the session neared its close, partly due to the fact that Monday is the last day of trading in the October oil futures contract, which typically results in volatile trading.

"A lot of the bullish factors that had been in this market that had been ignored are now coming home to roost," said Peter Beutel, oil analyst at Cameron Hanover.

Oil prices had been rallying throughout the day, but the late-day spike was due to investors covering their short positions as the October contract expired according to Ray Carbone, a broker and trader at Paramount Options.

"It goes to show that we need to have our arms around the speculation," said Beutel. The investors who pushed up the price of oil Monday were the same "people who pushed us from $79 to over $147."

"It is all big investors," added Buetel. "When stocks, dollar go under pressure, they jump into oil and they don't care who it hurts."

As of Tuesday, the front-month contract will be November, which settled up $6.62 to $109.37.
"The biggest news is that people are looking at the $700 billion plan as supportive of demand, supportive of the economy," said Beutel. "Everything we are looking at right now says demand has a chance to come back if the economy starts to strengthen."

In addition, a handful of supply disruptions jolted the oil market's late-afternoon rally. Refinery capacity in the Gulf Coast was still limited post- Hurricane Ike, violence in oil-rich Nigeria, and chatter of Saudi Arabia trimming production added fire to the rally, according to Andrew Lebow, a broker at MF Global.

As the price of oil is whipsawed by demand worries, Wall Street's flailing crisis, investors are having a hard time grasping oil's next move. "Traders are trying to catch knives people are throwing from the top of buildings," said Lebow.

Electronic trading of oil was halted for five minutes on Globex this afternoon following the $10 spike in oil, but trading has now resumed.

Fed bailout: On Saturday, President Bush asked Congress for the permission to spend as much as $700 billion to purchase bad mortgage assets from already struggling financial institutions in an effort to shore up further losses as the credit crisis works its way through Wall Street.
The details of the government's attempt to prop up the financial sector were still being negotiated, but the plan aims to stem any further losses on Wall Street and resume a flow of credit that has become frozen.

Oil prices had been trending lower on worries that demand was faltering but those concerns seem to be abating, according to one analyst.

"The fear has waned as far as the demand destruction" in the wake of the bailout news, said Neal Dingmann, senior energy analyst at Dahlman Rose. "The bailout has really stabilized this market."

The government plan "has put in some support levels in there," at least temporarily, said Dingmann. If the economy has a chance to recover, then the oil market hopes demand for energy would recover as well.

Weaker dollar: The Fed bailout "comes at a cost, the weaker dollar," said Phil Flynn, senior market analyst at Alaron Trading. Investors "will look to other currencies to park their money until this entire situation is defined."

The money that the government was planning on spending as part of the proposal "is very debasing to the value of the currency," said James Cordier, portfolio manager of

Crude oil prices were rising as the value of the dollar fell, according to both Flynn and Cordier.Crude oil is traded in U.S. currency around the globe, so as the dollar weakens, oil becomes more expensive in dollar terms.

The plan "sounds very inflationary at first blush," said Cordier, and "it will be detrimental to the dollar while people sift through the intricacies of the bailout."

However, while the surge of liquidity would devalue the dollar in the short-term, if the money for the bailout were "approved and spent, then we think the dollar would firm up," said Cordier, as the bailout money helped restore confidence to the U.S. economy.

Demand: As the nation's economy softened and demand for energy fell off, oil prices have retreated from a record high of $147.27 a barrel, set on July 11. Oil prices have tended to decrease on signs of continued weakness for the economy and rally on signs of economic recovery.

The promise of increased liquidity in the nation's economy was supporting oil prices. "When the market was concerned that the economy was going to collapse, if nobody is lending anybody any money and there is no credit, there is not going to be a lot of energy demand," explained Flynn.
While the promise of the Fed's lifeline to the financial sector may prop up oil prices in the short term, Flynn and Cordier said oil prices were on a downward trend in the longer term.
"We have seen that these high prices are unsustainable," said Flynn. "People are going to be a lot more judicious with their energy use."

Analysts said the bailout plan provided much-needed confidence at a critical moment, preventing crude oil prices from sliding even further. However, "this knee-jerk reaction in commodities due to the U.S. dollar is short termed," said Cordier.

"Demand for energy in the U.S. continues to be weak; globally, demand is weak, too," said Cordier.

Wild week, big moves: As Wall Street was heaved around last week in a series of unprecedented shifts, so were oil prices. After Lehman Brothers (LEH, Fortune 500) announced bankruptcy, Merrill Lynch (MER, Fortune 500) agreed to be purchased by Bank of America (BAC, Fortune 500) and American International Group (AIG, Fortune 500) was resuscitated by a $85 billion loan from the government, oil prices decreased by more than $10.

However, by Friday, oil prices gained back all of those losses and then some on speculation that the government's proposed bailout plan for Wall Street would support the economy and bring demand for energy back to healthy levels.

On Sunday, federal regulators changed the status of Goldman Sachs (GS, Fortune 500) and Morgan Stanley (MS, Fortune 500) to bank holding companies, a move that opens the banks up to greater involvement in retail banking and more funding from the Federal Reserve. The re-classification also means the investment firms will be under the Federal Reserve's supervision.

Hurricanes: The Gulf Coast was still working to get back to full operation after hurricanes Gustav and Ike slammed the production and refinery-rich region.

According to the most recent situation report from the Department of Energy, 89.2% of production in the region remained shut in and 75.4% of natural gas production was still shuttered. With 9 refineries in Texas still shut down, nearly 2.3 million barrels per day less oil have been processed in the region, according to the DOE.

As of Friday, personnel were still evacuated from 262 of 717 - or 36.5% - of manned production platforms, according to a report from the Minerals Management Service.

Both sides of the mouth

In the same article no less ... actually the same sentence... so which is it , good news or bad?

While the industry trumpets IT opportunities for women, an outside job recruiter laments:

The industry needs more role models such as Carr, according to Ann Swain, chief executive of the Association of Technology Staffing Companies. She says: "Female representation among IT staff across the UK is only 18 per cent because the industry simply does not sell itself well enough.
"The good news is that there is no glass ceiling in IT. The bad news is that there are fewer entry-level jobs as many have been moved off-shore."

And maybe that is one more reason for women NOT to pursue an IT career, i.e. job opportunities are actually shrinking .

So instead of lamenting that women aren't pursuing IT careers, they should be trumpeting how smart women are, to not go into this field !

Women web wizards wooed by IT industry;Top 100 Companies for Graduates

Stephen Hoare
613 words
17 September 2008
The Times
Focus report - Top 100 Companies for Graduates 11
(c) 2008 Times Newspapers Limited. All rights reserved

You do not have to be a geek to make it to the top in the world of technology, reports Stephen Hoare

The information technology industry is shedding its geeky image in an attempt to attract more female graduates.

A report published this year by Crac, the career development organisation, indicated that only 7 per cent of women would choose a job in IT compared with 18 per cent of male graduates. The perception was that the sector was too technical.

However, IT companies value the skills that women bring, most notably team working, problem solving and communication, and they are making a big effort to attract them, according to the report. Job prospects are good and salaries high, it adds.

Web companies, IT services and specialist software houses offer plenty of non technical roles.
IBM, at number 23 in the top 100 list, prides itself on being an equal opportunities employer. Jenny Taylor, head of graduate recruitment, says: "We recruit equal numbers of male and female graduates with all degrees and from all backgrounds for roles in sales, business, finance, consulting and project management. We are looking for business and personal skills and a passion to want to come and work for us."

Taylor is less interested in an IT degree than in an enthusiasm for technology. She says: "Most university students, regardless of their degree subjects, surf the internet for their dissertations and network on Facebook.

"We try to capture this interest by holding recruitment fairs in second life - a virtual alternative world peopled by avatars. We get hundreds of students flying into our island in second life."
IBM fast-tracks graduates through a programme of mentoring and training. Taylor points to Hollie Carr, who was nominated for the BlackBerry Women & Technology Awards.

"Hollie works in our press office and has invented an e-mail management tool that translates messages written in different languages by IT consultants working in virtual teams across Europe. It's a brilliant invention," she says.

The industry needs more role models such as Carr, according to Ann Swain, chief executive of the Association of Technology Staffing Companies. She says: "Female representation among IT staff across the UK is only 18 per cent because the industry simply does not sell itself well enough.

"The good news is that there is no glass ceiling in IT. The bad news is that there are fewer entry-level jobs as many have been moved off-shore."

Maggie Berry, director of Women in Technology, a jobs and networking website, says: "There are a lot of openings in sales and marketing. The most popular vacancies on our site are for project managers for Java and business analysts and testers. We have 3,500 women in our network, including students and some geeky technocrats."

Companies wanting to attract and retain women graduates pay great attention to career planning.

Philippa Snare, 34, Windows employment commercial director, mentors 12 women graduates within Microsoft. She encourages them to aim high. "The younger generation of women graduates is scary, bright and going places," she says.

Victoria Yates, 25, who has a business degree, joined Microsoft, 31st on the list, three years ago as a technical sales specialist and is being encouraged to become a manager.

She predicts a rosy future for women in the industry: "When I see my 13-year old sister building her own website and chatting online while updating her Facebook profile, I think there's no stopping us. There is a pool of young people who are going to revolutionise this industry."