"God Bless the Dream, the Dreamer and the Result." 

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Left-Handed Men Earn More: Study

Left-handed men earn an average of 5% more than right-handed men, two British and Irish studies have discovered. The studies found that southpaw males tended to do worse in school—possibly because of trouble adapting to a right-handed world—but were more successful as adults. Female lefties, however, did worse in school and later earned an average of 4% less, the Daily Mail reports.

A doctor who worked on one of the studies said while it wasn't completely clear why left-handed men tended to do better in the labor market, it may be because the structure that connects the left and right brain is larger in left-handed men, leading to improved communication skills. Left-handed men also seemed to be more creative than righties, he added, a difference not found in women.

South Short on Sympathy for Detroit's Woes

West Point, Georgia, looks a lot like Main Street USA but its people aren't overflowing with pity for the struggling American auto industry, the Los Angeles Times reports. Kia Motors is building a plant in the town and residents are looking forward to new jobs and learning to love Korean barbecue. Detroit, they say, had its chance and blew it.

"The foreign cars took the lead, and they deserve it," said one woman, declaring that she was fed up with Detroit's fat labor contracts, its arrogant CEOs, and her own gas-guzzling Cadillac. Opposition to a Detroit bailout runs high in the town, a sentiment echoed by many across the South, where most workers are nonunion and local officials compete to lure foreign auto companies. More than 43,000 people have applied for Kia's 2,500 openings.

FDA Sets Safe Levels for Melamine in Baby Formula

Less than two months after federal food regulators said they couldn’t set a safety threshold for melamine in baby formula, they announced a standard that allows for higher levels than those found in US-made batches of the product. FDA officials yesterday set a threshold of one part per million of melamine in formula, provided a related chemical isn't present. They insisted the formulas are safe.

The setting of the standard, which matches those in China and Canada, comes days after the AP reported that FDA tests found traces of melamine in the infant formula of one major US manufacturer and cyanuric acid, a chemical relative, in the formula of a second major maker. The amounts found in US-made formula are far below the amounts that have been blamed for killing at least three babies and making thousands ill in China.

Job-Hunting Execs Find It Tight at the Top

Laid-off execs scrambling to find new six-figure salaries are facing fierce competition, Time reports. Thousands of high-end white-collar jobs have vanished recently, and many more are expected to go. Some top-level vacancies are still appearing, as execs retire or change jobs, but companies looking to fill their most powerful positions are finding it's definitely an employer's market.

As the glut of talent grows, execs are calling in contacts, scouring job sites, hiring résumé writers—and increasingly taking whatever they can get. "When those looking for high-end jobs are struggling, they become amazingly tolerant," the chief of one research firm said. "They'll take work for which they're underpaid and overqualified. In that respect, they're just like everyone else."

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Bad Bosses May Be Deadly

Your incompetent boss could give you a heart attack, the Boston Globe reports. New research shows workers whose bosses are inconsiderate, uncommunicative and poor advocates for their employees are about 60% more likely to suffer a heart attack or other serious cardiac issues. Employees whose bosses have solid leadership skills are 40% less likely to develop heart problems, according to the study in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

The stress of working for lousy bosses can crank up blood pressure and trigger the release of hormones that induce blot clots and harden arteries, according to researchers. The bad-boss factor caused more health problems for employees than smoking, lack of exercise, high cholesterol, or being overweight. At least one cardiologist said the study has prompted him to ask patients more questions about their work environment.

One Month, 50K Words: Writers Race to Finish Novels

Aspiring novelists are packing coffee shops in the Twin Cities and elsewhere as the frenzy of National Novel Writing Month heats up, Minnesota Public Radio reports. Founded roughly a decade ago, “Nanowrimo” challenges writers to conquer procrastination and get 50,000 words down during November. The emphasis, say the organizers, is on quantity, not quality—there’s always time to edit once the month ends.

“Writing is such a solitary art, and Nanowrimo makes it a sport that you can do with a team,” says one participant. The word count requires would-be authors to average 1,667 words a day, but for some the number isn’t the hard part: “I really go into it intending to have a lot of violence, but I have hard time hurting my characters,” said one writer.

Credit Relief Flows Slowly—When It Flows at All

With hundreds of billions of dollars pumping into the calcified credit markets, many struggling Americans are expecting to see some relief, but many will be disappointed, the New York Times reports. Banks continue to stiffen loan eligibility requirements even as strapped consumers face deteriorating credit scores, and whole categories of applicants for mortgages and car or student loans simply won't qualify.

"There are fundamental elements of qualifications for loans that will inhibit the ability of this program to have any meaningful, significant impact," says LendingTree's chief economist. Even as plummeting home values are eroding refi prospects, the federal relief funds—intended partly to aid investors who buy and trade packaged loans—could take months to reach the credit card and small business loan markets.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

BlackBerry Storm: It's a Dud

BlackBerry has a knack for simple phone names, and the Storm couldn’t be more spot-on, David Pogue writes in the New York Times. Stormy it is: dark, sodden, and unpredictable. The feature-packed phone is shrouded in a “marathon of frustration”—keys that don't do anything, scrolling that’s too slow, and delays all around. And the signature on-screen keyboard? “A wasted software-design opportunity.”

Virtual keys pack great potential for buttons with layers of uses that evolve as you type. Except they don’t, and in some programs only a hard press yields results. “It’s too much work, like using a manual typewriter,” writes Pogue. Text comes out “slow and typo-ridden,” particularly when using the vertical keyboard, which is, yes, different than the horizontal one. No Wifi is the sour icing on this cake.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Bailed-Out Banks Won't Bail on Sports Sponsorships

Citibank is getting billions from taxpayers and cutting thousands of jobs, but it's not canning its 20-year, $400 million deal to dub the New York Mets’ new stadium “Citi Field.” Such big advertising deals are coming under the microscope—and have critics crying foul, ABC News reports. “This type of spending is indefensible to Citigroup’s new partner and largest investor: the American taxpayer," fumed one lawmaker.

AIG, beneficiary of a $150 billion rescue, is paying $125 million to put its logo on Manchester United’s jerseys. “They should put ‘US Treasury’ on the front,” joked a watchdog-group representative. Banks say the deals actually drive revenue by building their brand. But some marketers disagree. The naming deals are “ego driven” says one. “It’s a complete and utter waste of money.”

Big Players Reel in Charity Spending

Charities used to getting much of their money from major corporations and private foundations are feeling the economic downturn, the Wall Street Journal reports. Bill Gates’ foundation plans to give fewer grants next year, and other large donors are honoring existing pledges but refusing to make new ones. “You can’t give what you haven’t got,” said AIG’s former CEO, a major donor.

Overall, foundation endowments are down about $200 billion since last fall, a lobbying group reports. Gala fundraisers, a staple of New York’s charity scene, aren’t faring much better. Events—the ones that aren’t canceled—are raising far less than previous years. “I’ve never seen donations down this much before,” said the head of Tomorrows Children’s Fund, which scrapped its gala this month.

The Pitfalls of De-Friending

De-friending is an unfortunate reality for social networks. It happens for many reasons, but is always awkward. Here are some de-friending stories from Mashable (names have been changed to protect the embarrassed):

Social opportunists: Andrew got a friend request from Jane, who he didn’t know but was friends with many of his friends. Turns out, she just wanted them all to join her business networking group.
Don’t use my life against me: Doug fell behind a little on a project, to which a colleague responded by bringing up photos of his weekend rafting trips received via social network to shame him. So de-friended!
Best friend’s ex-girlfriend: Chris de-friended his best friend’s girlfriend after they broke up, but it got him roped into their post-breakup drama: “How can you say, ‘Let’s be friends’ and then ask Chris to de-friend me on Facebook?” the ex complained to Chris’ friend.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Swamped Job Centers 'the ERs of Today's Economy'

With unemployment at 6.5%—a 16-year high—one-stop job centers, the “emergency rooms of today’s economy,” are facing a flood of applicants, the New York Times reports. Some 20 million are likely to use federal employment programs this year, compared to 14 million 3 years ago. And while Congress has extended unemployment benefits, the budget for such programs has been shrinking since 2000.

Those crowding into the centers are “a mix of the most vulnerable and people who are in a state of shock,” says a former government economist. They tend to be unskilled, poorly educated, and “disproportionately black or from immigrant communities,” the Times notes. But not everyone lets their lot get them down. “Things have to get better because it can’t get any worse,” said one applicant.

How Cheap Gas Hurts Green Initiatives, Feds' Bottom Line

Americans are driving less and burning less fuel, but it could be too soon for conservation fans to celebrate. That dip, and global economic gloom, has sent oil and gas prices spiraling down, Joseph White writes in the Wall Street Journal, depriving the government of taxes it needs for transportation infrastructure—and perhaps sapping consumers’ motivation to buy more fuel-efficient vehicles.

President-elect Barack Obama, citing the cycle in which Americans “go from shock to trance,” promises to break the oil addiction for good. The feds must stop “encouraging Americans to burn less fuel, while secretly hoping they drive more,” the Transportation secretary says. But while raising the gasoline tax could improve revenues and encourage conservation, it’s politically untenable.

Obama's Social Secretary Appointed

A Chicago businesswoman and close friend of the Obamas will be White House social secretary, the Tribune reports. Desirée Rogers, 49, will be the first African American to run functions and ceremonies at the president’s residence, working with the first lady. A Harvard MBA, Rogers has been a prominent figure in Chicago not-for-profits and on the city’s social scene.

“This appointment sends a strong message that the Obamas want to use the White House strategically, to maximize its use in a way that is consistent with their philosophy—open it to a broader range of people,” says adviser Valerie Jarrett. The position is weightier than it might sound, the Washington Post notes: Rogers will be in charge of every White House ceremony, including, for example, the swearing-in of the Cabinet.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Frazzled Investors Turn to Psychics for Help

Maybe they failed to predict today's economy, but psychics are certainly profiting from it, the New York Times reports. Frustrated with traditional financial advice, many investors are booking appointments with soothsayers, who say their business is on the upswing. “Your mortgage agents, your realtors, your bankers, you can’t go to these people anymore,” said one psychic.

Clients pay anywhere from $75 to $1,000 an hour for a little ESP. Many converts are male businessmen who once considered psychic advice a female domain. “When conditions are this volatile, consulting a psychic can be as good a strategy as any other,” said one trader. But others want more than economic advice: “I get a lot of Republicans wondering where their party is going," one astrologer said.

Man's New Best Friend: Rats Ferret Out Land Mines, TB

Move over, Rover: Man has a new best friend that is helping to combat two scourges plaguing the developing world. Rats, normally reviled as filthy vermin, are sniffing out land mines and detecting tuberculosis bacteria. "Rats are usually considered pests or enemies of humanity,” said one Mozambican handler, but they’re “helping my country escape the shadow of death.”

The raccoon-sized rodents, which are too light to trip explosives, are cheaper than dogs, less emotionally attached, and are far less susceptible to disease, the Boston Globe reports. In labs, rats evaluate potentially infected saliva samples quicker than technicians. They’re also “really nice creatures” to boot, said the developer of both programs. “They are organized, sensitive, sociable, and smart.”

Whole Foods' Labels Tell Half the Story

Eat, drink, and be wary, chocolate lovers: Whole Foods may not be telling you the whole story about its premium chocolate bars, reports the Chicago Tribune. In an investigation into product labels that promised “good manufacturing practices.” the Trib found that the supermarket chain’s chocolate bars contained traces of allergens—the latest example of how food chains, with little accountability and unchecked food labels, are misleading consumers.

One issue is cross-contamination, in which product ingredients unintentionally mix. Many companies voluntarily disclose the potential threat, but some simply are protecting themselves from lawsuits, the FDA found. At Whole Foods, more than 300 products bear the “good manufacturing” label. “If you’re going to do that,” said an allergy expert, “you had better have your act together 110% of the time.”

Gals Need Great Coming-of-Age Flick, Too

Women have no equivalent to Stand By Me to help them relive their lost tweener years, Hortense writes on Jezebel. The blogger admits to "a jealousy that creeps in whenever I watch Stand By Me. The relationships shared between the boys seem so real, so true.” The next-best thing for women, Now and Then, "is a sweet little film" that Hortense enjoys but calls "a stereotypical mess."

“The most frustrating aspect of the film is that the characters barely grow or change at all,” she writes. They grow apart as adults, but don't feel the "heartbreaking fondness" that Gordie feels looking back in Stand By Me. Maybe today's chick flicks can't portray real feelings, writes Hortense, because they "need to have some kind of marketing deal, some type of sexed-up pop-star princess tie in that gets the kids excited."

Fangs for the Memories: Best Bloodsucker Stars

As Twilight fans storm the box office, Entertainment Weekly offers up its picks of a dozen of the best toothsome vampires:

David (The Lost Boys, 1987): Before he drew blood as Jack Bauer, Kiefer Sutherland drank blood with the two Coreys.
Santanico Pandemonium (From Dusk Till Dawn, 1996): Salma Hayek in a bikini, wearing an enormous snake around her neck, is a high point of unforgettable Robert Rodriguez/Quentin Tarantino collaboration.
Lestat De Liancourt (Interview With the Vampire, 1994): Tom Cruise embodies the "immortal brat prince of darkness."
Angel/Angelus (Buffy the Vampire Slayer): David Boreanaz plays "the prototypical bad-boy boyfriend" to Sarah Michelle Gellar's slayer.

Even Santa's Getting the Old Heave-Ho-Ho

St. Nick is already doing some serious belt-tightening in New York City as cash-strapped stores and malls head into the not-so-jolly season, thanks to the economy. Far fewer jobs and slashed pay rates are leaving wanna-be Santas with little clause to celebrate.

"This year I'll made 90% less," said one 17-year Santa veteran, who has already lost gigs at a Manhattan mall and a top toy store. "It diminishes my ho-ho-hos," he told the New York Post.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Princeton Team Adds Twist to Darwin's Theory

Princeton scientists say they have found evidence that organisms can essentially control their own evolution, a finding that could provide a fundamental shift in our understanding of Darwin's theory, reports the university's news service. The research suggests that evolution isn't entirely random, as Darwin believed. Rather, proteins within organisms constantly make self-correcting adaptations to bring about the fittest being.

The theory jibes with one in 1858 by Alfred Wallace, who articulated the theory of evolution independently of Darwin. "The discovery answers an age-old question that has puzzled biologists," said one researcher. "How can organisms be so exquisitely complex, if evolution is completely random, operating like a 'blind watchmaker'? Our new theory extends Darwin's model, demonstrating how organisms can subtly direct aspects of their own evolution to create order out of randomness."

Study Paves Way for 'Entrepreneur Pill'

A study that links entrepreneurial success to risky decision-making, a trait less prevalent among buttoned-up business managers, has scientists pondering whether a pill could boost enterprising behavior. Riskiness is associated with the hormone dopamine, which could inject chutzpah into hesitant managers, the Telegraph reports. Critics doubt chemicals are solely responsible, pointing out that older entrepreneurs—whose dopamine is depleting—remain risk-takers.

Birds Think Like Us

In her new book Alex and Me researcher Irene Pepperberg explains how her work with the African gray parrot shed light on human intelligence, Scientific American reports. The author says Alex’s smarts demonstrate why scientists should examine how an animal’s brain works, not just how it looks, because the human cortex resembles a bird’s cortical-like matter in form and function.

Alex also shed light on our concept of zero, Pepperberg says. The sometimes-reluctant research subject not only mastered counting items but also the concept of none. In one test, he refused to give a correct reply until she changed the subject. “He figured out how to manipulate me into asking him the question he wanted to answer!” she says.

Friday, November 21, 2008

US Dominance 'Fading Fast' as Global Upheaval Looms

US intelligence agencies believe the next 20 years will be the twilight of America's global dominance, the Times of London reports. A report from the National Intelligence Council paints a bleak future of an increasingly unstable world in which new powers and alliances emerge as competition for dwindling resources heats up—along with the planet.

India, Russia and a unified Korea are expected to gain influence as US and European power ebbs and wealth shifts, the report predicts. China will have more impact on the world than any other country in the next 20 years as it continues to build its economy and military. Organized crime networks and terrorist groups are expected to grow in power and may gain nuclear weapons—although the report predicts al-Qaeda's support will collapse.

NFL Tweaks Rules on Instant Replay

The NFL is modifying its instant-replay policy after yet another botched call in a game, the New York Daily News reports. This much stays the same: Only one official will go under the hood to look at the replay. But another official will tag along with him, stand nearby, and act as a sort of official stenographer. He'll record the decision, the ball placement, and any other details. The idea is to cut down on confusion.

The league thinks such a policy could have prevented the blown call at the end of last Sunday's Steelers-Chargers game. Referee Scott Green looked at a replay and ruled that Pittsburgh's defense recovered a fumble for a touchdown. But he then reversed his call after consulting with his crew. "They talked him into such a confused state, he got screwed up," said an NFL official. "There were too many cooks, too much information, a sensory overload."

What Recession? Dubai Throws $20M Party

Rich and famous people from around the world avoided the recession blues last night by flocking to a ridiculously extravagant party on a man-made island in Dubai, Bloomberg reports. Boasting a performance from Kylie Minogue and a fireworks display that could be seen from space, the party was the emirate’s latest play to retain its super-luxe reputation even as massive debt threatens to burst its bubble.

In all, the party cost $20 million, which was split between the Atlantis hotel it was held in and a state-owned company. “We’re very aware that the economy is not great,” said the hotel’s owner, but he believes the publicity will be worth the party’s price tag. It seems to have worked for the host of stars who attended. “I’ll be back,” promised Michael Jordan. “I love Dubai.”

Obama Touts Chicago's 2016 Olympics Bid

Barack Obama made a surprise appearance today in a video address to the International Olympic Committee, pushing Chicago’s bid to host the 2016 Summer Games, the Tribune reports. The video, shepherded to Istanbul by Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, showed Obama talking about his belief “in the Olympic movement,” and how he has “long supported hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Games in my home city.”

The video appeared to be a hit” “I think it was very dramatic,” a European Olympic official said. “Everyone in the room was impressed, and it added a great deal of spice to the Chicago presentation.” Chicago is competing with Rio de Janeiro, Tokyo, and Madrid, but Obama’s newfound influence could push the Windy City to the fore.

Forward-Facing Strollers Have Backward Effect

Parents who place babies in forward-facing strollers could be harming their child’s development, a study suggests. Infants in carriages who were not turned toward their caregivers were less likely to sleep, laugh, or interact with them, the Telegraph reports. The study also found that babies in away-facing carriages have faster heart rates and could have higher stress levels.

Life in a stroller “is emotionally impoverished and possibly stressful,” said the UK study’s lead author. “Stressed babies grow into anxious adults.” Parents using away-facing strollers were half as likely to talk to with their infants, a finding that the author called “worrying.” Researchers called for more affordable models of face-to-face strollers, which often are too expensive for many families.

The Culture Wars, College Football Style

The cultural disconnect between conservative college football programs and America’s liberalizing culture in the late 1960s and early ‘70s is the theme of War as They Knew It, a book by Detroit Free Press columnist Michael Rosenberg. The survey of the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry (which continues tomorrow) through the prism of their iconic coaches is “an absorbing account,” Jonathan Chait writes in the New York Times Book Review.

“In Ann Arbor, left-wing politics managed to thrive alongside growing football fervor,” Chait, a Michigan alum and New Republic columnist, notes of the Vietnam-era atmosphere around Bo Schembechler’s program. In Columbus, meanwhile, old-school Woody Hayes, a Richard Nixon devotee, held “a coaches’ meeting every morning with a Rush Limbaugh-style rant about current events.” And in the end, Chait notes, “the decline of authority … finally brought down Woody Hayes, along with so many other institutions of the time.”

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Find Your Tipping Point Abroad

Knowing the appropriate level of gratuity can be tricky, and it gets even more difficult abroad, where tipping practices widely vary. Forbes offers some help, noting, for instance, that for a cab ride in South America, rounding up the fare to the next dollar is an acceptable tip, while in Europe or an African city 10% is expected.

Add 5-10% in Europe even when a service charge is added, the magazine urges. In Japan, tipping is seen as rude in any situation, where in China it’s customary to add 3% to the bill at restaurants; in Hong Kong, 15% is expected. And world-round, $2-$5 is an acceptable amount to tip a concierge for a simple request.

George Steinbrenner Passes Yankees Mantle to Son Hal

The George Steinbrenner era is officially over for the Yankees after 35 years. Other clubs today approved his son Hal as the “control person” for the team, the Daily News reports. The announcement makes official what many already knew—that the elder Steinbrenner has passed off responsibility for day-to-day operations to his sons. Hal’s brother, Hank, is involved in the organization, but Hal holds the purse-strings.

Storm Proves Worthy Rival to iPhone

The BlackBerry Storm hits the US tomorrow, with the iPhone squarely in its sights. The new smartphone is an interesting mix of traditional BlackBerry and the hugely popular Apple gadget, with a few twists, Walt Mossberg writes for the Wall Street Journal. The keyboard is the Storm's calling card: "The entire glass display is one large button, mounted on a mechanical substructure that allows it to be depressed when pressure is applied."

Sounds cool, but the feature "didn’t magically turn the Storm’s touch interface and virtual keyboard into their physical counterparts," writes Mossberg, who also questions the keyboard configuration and the decision not to make the gadget WiFi capable. But overall, the $250 gadget stacks up well against the iPhone and "will appeal to BlackBerry users who have been pining for a touch-controlled device with a larger screen."

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Ways to Cut Your Bills Down to Size

Spendthrift Americans from all rungs of the income ladder are taking a page from Scrooge these days, adopting new, cash-lite strategies to get through hard times, USA Today notes. They're managing to save by:

Hocking whatever's collecting dust in their closets: The average household has $3,200 worth of saleable goods, according to one estimate.
Eating at home, not in restaurants: No big surprise here; look to bulk grocery shopping to cut costs further.
Clipping coupons: This old-fashioned activity is on the rise for the first time in 15 years.
Avoiding credit-card charges: Layaway is making a comeback as formerly plastic-happy consumers are opting to pay with cash.
Doubling up on jobs: The number of Americans working a part-time job on top on their regular job is up 11%.
Postponing that vacation: Personal travel is down 1% as more Americans opt to stay home.

US Infrastructure Is a 'Bridge to Almost Nowhere'

Recently the House passed an $18 billion infrastructure bill, and Barack Obama has indicated that he'll ask for billions more in spending to create jobs while improving the nation's roads and bridges. But as New York Times columnist David Leonhardt writes, insufficient investment is only part of the problem. At the moment federal projects aren't linked to any goals, such as reducing congestion or pollution; instead we're building "Bridges to (Almost) Nowhere."

Spending on infrastructure is up 50% this decade, but the country's system remains a mess—largely because the cash is being frittered away on unresearched and unnecessary junk. Congress doesn't even gather data on its projects, meaning that politicians face no scrutiny for failed projects. At a time of economic crisis, we can't overhaul the whole system, Leonhardt concedes. But things are so bad now that "even a minimal amount of change would represent progress."

Google CEO: Energy Bailout Is a Must, Too

Google CEO Eric Schmidt thinks the government needs to fund a massive reinvention of America’s energy infrastructure, opening up the grid to startups and funding innovation, Information Week reports. It’s crucial “that small startups with funny names get founded and funded in the new regime,” said the adviser to President-elect Barack Obama. “That’s where the wealth will be created.”

Like the Internet, the energy grid must become an open network where “anyone can play,” Schmidt argues. “The alternative is the case of Ma Bell. You can have any telephone you want as long as it’s big, heavy, and black.” Schmidt thinks the economy needs to be a balance of capitalism and socialism, with the government funding innovation, “because no one else does.”

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

South Park Duo to Skewer Mormons—on Broadway

Canadians can rest easy. The creators of South Park are ready to offend an entirely new population—Mormons, reports the New York Post. This time, though, they will do so not on the big screen or the small screen but on Broadway. Trey Parker and Matt Stone are bringing the Mormon Musical to the Great White Way with the help of Avenue Q creator Robert Lopez.

The new show, which starts rehearsals next month, is "hilarious—very acerbic and biting," says star Cheyenne Jackson. "It offends everybody."

Airport Security Loophole Gets High-Tech Fix

The government is finally closing a well-known loophole that makes it easy for would-be terrorists to board planes, Wired reports. Under current rules, it’s possible to forge a boarding pass at home. But new measures will put the passes, with secure barcodes, on smartphones, making it “well-nigh impossible to make a phony one,” Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff says.

By 2010, the same barcode system will be required on all airlines’ paper passes. The current rules requiring photo ID will remain, however. “For me, it’s a no-brainer to ask for ID to get on a plane,” Chertoff noted. The plan “is pretty good,” said a man who created a website for forging the documents. “It’ll be difficult to make fake passes.”

Brooks: Bottom Is Falling Out From Under Middle Class

All boom times are alike; each recession is unhappy, however, in its own way, writes David Brooks in the New York Times. This recession will hit hardest “people who achieved middle-class status at the tail end of the long boom, and then lost it.” Even if there’s no sign of it yet, this is where to look for the next social protest movement.

Downward mobility will strike in housing, in lifestyle, in employment, and in social capital, leaving its victims more isolated and politically alienated as well as poorer. “And it won’t only be material deprivations that bite. It will be the loss of a social identity, the loss of social networks, the loss of the little status symbols that suggest an elevated place in the social order.”

Hoops Coach Newell 'Simply the Best There Ever Was'

Pete Newell will be remembered as perhaps the “greatest basketball coach of all time,” Bruce Jenkins writes for the San Francisco Chronicle. The legendary UC-Berkeley coach died yesterday, at 93; he was the first man to win NIT and NCAA titles and Olympic gold. “He built empires out of sawdust,” Jenkins writes, “all the while molding impressionable youngsters into the men they would become.”

Newell was a fierce competitor, and inspires fear even today in the likes of John Wooden, the legendary UCLA coach. But Newell’s way with his team was mystical. “People marveled at his instincts,” Jenkins writes, “his innate sense of the human spirit, his ability to accurately size up a person within moments.” His protégé, Bobby Knight, did not disagree. “Pete Newell? He's simply the best there ever was.”

Bank of America Doubles Stake in Chinese Bank

Bank of America will inject $7 billion into China Construction Bank Corp, Bloomberg reports, nearly doubling its stake in the bank even as it slashes jobs and accepts government bailout money. CCB is down 45% over the past six months, and BoA CEO Ken Lewis is getting a 32% premium on that devalued market price. The acquisition comes on the heels of the purchase of Merrill Lynch, which will result in thousands of job cuts.

“This is falling closely on the heels of their receiving TARP money, which was intended to spur lending in the US or have bigger, stronger banks buy the failing banks,” notes one Morningstar analyst. “But neither of those things is happening.”

Warning Labels Can Be Hazardous to Your Health

Ignorance truly is bliss when it comes to prescription drugs. The side effects listed on warning labels have a self-fulfilling quality, researchers tell the Wall Street Journal. People sensitive to this "nocebo effect" should think twice before reading that their pills can cause nausea, vomiting, irritability, or difficulty concentrating. For many, merely knowing about those symptoms can prompt them.

“It's not a psychiatric disorder. It's the way the mind works,” says a psychiatrist. The effect can even be fatal: In one study, patients told they were at risk for a heart attack were 3.7 times more likely to die of the condition. Doctors say one remedy is to avoid “super-vigilance” and keep long lists of symptoms away from patients.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Splitting Bills With Toronto Key to Revitalized Buffalo

The Bills’ loss in the 1967 AFL championship game began the downfall of the football team and the city of Buffalo itself, native Gregg Easterbrook writes in the Atlantic, and he suggests looking north to turn everything around. Adding affluent Toronto (100 miles away) as a second “home” city would inject dollars into the franchise and even “change Buffalo’s image from backward-focused to wave-of-the-future.”

The Bills have agreed to play five games in Toronto over the next half-decade, raising Easterbrook’s hopes of urban, and sporting, renewal. “So long as the Bills keep a foot in the city, they keep alive the dream of a Super Bowl win—a hope that an infusion of Loonies (Canadian dollars) might sustain,” he writes. “And should the Bills win the Super Bowl, Buffalo will return to national prominence. I don’t just think this will happen, I know it will.”

Cardinals' Pujols Wins Second NL MVP Award

Albert Pujols of the St. Louis Cardinals won the National League’s Most Valuable Player award today, the Post-Dispatch reports, taking the honor for the second time despite missing a significant portion of the season due to injury. The first baseman hit .357 with 37 home runs and 116 RBI. Ryan Howard, who led the majors with 48 homers and 146 RBI for the World Series champion Philadelphia Phillies, took second.

Young Americans Ride Out Recession in Dubai

Back in Texas, Brooke Butler’s friends are worrying about their homes and jobs. Butler has other worries. “I’m thinking it’ll take about 5 years to make a million now,” the 24-year-old saleswoman tells New York. “It’s not that difficult over here.” Here is Dubai, the Persian Gulf emirate with a real-estate and investment boom seemingly immune to the world’s economic crisis.

Young Americans with dimmed prospects at home are flocking to Dubai, where consumer confidence remains high thanks to the monarch whose ambition made this luxury paradise. But Dubai is carrying $48 billion in debt—103% of GDP—and some believe neighboring Abu Dhabi will have to bail it out. That, a local says, would end the party. “It would say to the world, ‘Dubai Inc. has failed.’”

Gulf War Illness Is Real: Study

Gulf War syndrome is real, and "few veterans have recovered or substantially improved with time," according to a scientific study commissioned by Congress. Nearly a quarter of the 700,000 troops who served in the first Gulf War suffer from neurological problems related to exposure to chemicals during the conflict, the LA Times reports. The study, released today, contradicts previous government reports, which had denied the connection.

The syndrome is partly the result of exposure to chemical agents released by enemy troops but is more attributable to pyridostigmine bromide—a drug the military gave troops to protect against the effects of nerve gas—and various pesticides used liberally to ward off desert insects. "The tragedy here is that there are no treatments," said the chair of the panel that commissioned the study.

Healthiest US City Gets Moving

Burlington, Vt., is America's healthiest city, with 92% of residents reporting that they're in good or great health. A number of factors account for the gap between Burlington and Huntington, W.Va., which brought up the rear in the CDC's healthy-city rankings, the AP reports. Burlington's residents are younger on average, but more important is the fact that they get more exercise.

"There's this norm of a lot of activity," says the state deputy health commissioner. The cities, though superficially similar, typify the differences between America's haves and have-nots. Burlington has a robust economy, with IBM and other employers offering corporate wellness programs and health benefits. Huntington's poverty rate is higher than the national average, and a staggering 50% of the adult population is clinically obese.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Ex-NFL QB Heath Shuler to run for Senate?

Former Washington Redskins quarterback and all-time NFL Draft bust Heath Shuler may by eyeing a run at the Senate in 2010. The Times-News of Hendersonville reports that Shuler, who was recently elected to his second-term as a Democratic

Congressman from North Carolina, could be looking to challenge incumbent Richard Burr in the state's next Senate election. If so, the campaign would be an all-football affair, as Burr played defensive back while attending Wake Forest in the 1970s.

If history is any indication, Shuler's success in the House doesn't necessarily portend a similar outcome in the Senate. After all, it was just 13 years ago that Heath Shuler was an up-and-coming, can't-miss prospect with his eyes focused on a bigger and brighter stage. And we all know how that turned out.

But is it even possible to be a Senate bust? What would that entail? Would Shuler have to spill Pepsi on some important legislation? Or while defending an important bill, he'd instead recite the lyrics to Funky Cold Medina?

Although, I guess as long as his colleagues in the Senate Chamber don't start chanting for Gus Frerotte, everything should be alright. Heath in 2010!

German Inmate Mails Himself Free

German police are on a manhunt for a convicted drug dealer who escaped from prison by mailing himself in a cardboard box, the BBC reports. The 42-year-old man crawled into the box after a long shift of making stationery. An unwitting express courier then loaded the box onto his truck and drove off. The prisoner soon cut a hole in the tarpaulin covering the truck’s cargo and ran off.

The prison’s chief warden said the incident was embarrassing, but unsurprising. “For years I had been asking for more security guards from the government,” she said. “Now they'll have to listen.” She says other convicts must have known of the plan but won’t talk for fear of facing criminal charges.

Paul Wants to Release 'Beatles Holy Grail'

Paul McCartney says it's time to release an avant-garde Beatles track that features gargles, shouts, and distorted guitar, the Guardian reports. Recorded during Penny Lane sessions in 1967, the 14-minute Carnival of Light was played publicly only once at an electronic music festival. McCartney, who is releasing his third avant-garde record, says "the time has come for it to get its moment."

Beatles fans almost got to hear the John Cage/Karlheinz Stockhausen-inspired work 12 years ago in a compilation CD, but band members vetoed it. "I said it would be great to put this on," McCartney says. "The guys didn't like the idea, like 'this is rubbish.'" McCartney still needs approval from Ringo Starr, Yoko Ono, and George Harrison's widow to release the track.

Economic Crisis Wallops Business Grads

With the financial world in free-fall, recent business-school graduates are finding fewer jobs and fierce competition for the ones that remain, Business Week reports. “A lot of the factors affecting my future employment are out of my hands,” said one MBA student preparing to hunt for a job in an increasingly tight market after graduation next year.

Many students are now considering risk-management and consulting tracks as alternatives to specialties like investment banking. Despite the bleak outlook for business grads, universities are nevertheless seeing a jump in applications—which in turn makes things tougher for applicants—and changing their programs to reflect the current situation. “There are many lessons in financial management and strategy that will come out of this last year and a half, and will probably extend into the future,” one professor said.