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

Monday, September 28, 2009

Swine Flu Highlights Debate Over Paid Sick Leave

The second coming of swine flu has reignited the debate over paid sick leave. “You have all of our top officials saying, ‘Do the responsible thing. If you're sick, stay home,’” an advocate tells CNNMoney. “And at the same time, we have a country where almost half the workforce doesn't have a single paid sick day.” Though small business owners feel their employees’ pain, many say they just can’t afford it.

Half the workforce can’t take paid sick leave unless it's scheduled ahead of time. Laws requiring around 5 to 10 days, depending on company size, have passed in some locales and are making headway elsewhere. New York City is engaged in a fierce debate, and even Congress could soon consider a bill mandating paid leave. But the cost is too high, one advocate for business says: “Government is trying to do something that's well-intentioned, but they have no idea what the effect is on a small business.”

Jobless Outnumber Jobs, 6-1

Even as the US pulls out of the recession, the ranks of the out-of-work have swelled to 14.5 million people, leaving six jobless people vying for every available job—the worst ratio since the Labor Department began keeping track in 2000. "There's too much uncertainty out there," says one economist who says with no surefire source of growth in sight, businesses aren't hiring.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

America's Safest Colleges

In the wake of the Yale slaying, the Daily Beast ranks America’s safest colleges. The rankings rest on crime rates from 2006 to 2007, at schools with at least 6,000 students and some on-campus housing. The results:

New York Institute of Technology: Located in a quaint Long Island suburb, NYIT didn’t have a single reported crime.
Farmingdale State University: Primarily a commuter school, this New York institution was virtually crime-free, with three vehicle thefts and one rape.
Grand Valley State University: Nine rapes, but no other reported crimes, make up the Michigan school's crime stats.
Indiana Wesleyan University: This Christian college scored well on every sin other than burglary, reporting several petty thefts.
Idaho State University: It’s in Pocatello, the self-proclaimed “Smile Capital of the World.”

Google Earth, Al Gore Detail Climate Change

– Google—with the help of Al Gore—has introduced new “layers” to its Earth application that detail the possible effects of climate change in the next century. The Nobel laureate narrates an intro to a series of virtual tours that highlight terrifying scenarios and solutions. The upgrade allows users to look at a view of any area on Earth from now through 2100 with changes based on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s predictions.

“We show on Google Earth the range of expected temperature and precipitation changes under different global emissions scenarios that could occur throughout the century,” the company says. It also promises to add more detailed features to the app, including rising sea levels and ice sheet melting, the Guardian reports. The search giant also pledges to detail rosier conditions projected to result should the world embrace renewable energy.

Computer Whiz Records Life as 'E-Memory'

Philip K. Dick, eat your heart out. Microsoft researcher Gordon Bell is recording his entire life with video and audio equipment and storing it on a hard drive to keep it safe, CNN reports. The 350 gigabytes of data—which include scans of receipts and PDFs of every Web site he visits—is better than natural memory, he says, because it never forgets. And he never deletes anything—even moments he'd rather forget.

Bell denies that the experiment is hurting his own memory: "To me, I feel a lot freer," he says. "I generally remember" that the computer is "remembering something for me so I can find it." But he believes that films like Total Recall—based on Dick's story about false memory implants—are the wave of the future: "I think it's inevitable because so much content is being created ... I will love that day when the world is just bits."

Thursday, September 24, 2009

10 Dirty Restaurant Tricks

Restaurants are known to cut a few corners for the sake of their bottom lines. Slashfood sheds some light on dirty little industry secrets, including:

Using cabbage instead of seaweed: An ex-maître d’ at an upscale Chinese joint says the chef assumed his celebrity clientele wouldn’t know the difference. He was right.
Topping off beer pitchers with seltzer: “The drunker the guys got, the more seltzer they got,” says one sports bar insider.
Refilling pricey bottled water from the tap: “Where I worked we served Voss,” says one waitress, “because it has the easiest screw top to re-seal.”
Serving rotten meat: Steakhouses routinely hold bad meat until someone orders it well done.
Serving caffeinated coffee as decaf: One Philadelphia waiter reports returning to the kitchen with a cup of caffeinated coffee after a customer complained. “The head waiter took the cup from my hand, handed it right back to me, and said, ‘There—now it’s decaf.”

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Don't Let the Recession Rule Out Retirement

Retirement savers have been facing grim truths, like the fact that a 50% portfolio loss requires 100% in earnings to recover. But middle-of-the-road investors could recover in as little as 2 years if they make contributions, receive a company match, and see fair long-term portfolio returns, writes Linda Stern in Newsweek. Still, much depends on a person's age and wealth before the recession hit.

Younger investors will fare the best, for they can afford to take bigger risks and take advantage of historically low prices. Meanwhile, older folks—some of whom "may never recover"—should save more and use “catch-up” provisions in tax law to invest more money in their 401(k)s and personal retirement-savings accounts. Above all, experts say, the best advice is to spend less, save and invest more, and hope the math improves.

Cost-Cutting Companies Target No. 2 Execs

Cost-cutting at American's largest corporations is hitting the executive suite, with CEOs rolling up their sleeves to take on more day-to-day responsibilities and laying off their No. 2s. In the 18 months leading up to June 2009, 40 major companies eliminated COOs or presidents, the Wall Street Journal notes, while only 20 added. "The CEO wants to be closer to the action," one headhunter said.

GM, Coca-Cola, Alcoa, and Starbucks have all eliminated their second-in-command posts. At AOL, new chief Tim Armstrong created a COO position in July only to eliminate it last week, splitting duties among several senior leaders. Many execs like to talk about hands-on leadership as the impetus, but one former COO said the recession means "the board looks to the CEO to be more directly involved."

Job Market Splitting Up Couples

With the job market failing to recover along with the larger economy, two-career couples are facing tough choices and increasingly being forced into long-distance relationships. A recent survey has found that 18.2% of Americans who took new jobs in the second quarter also relocated, up from 11.4% a year earlier. Not everyone survives the pressures of a long-distance marriage; according to the Wall Street Journal. More couples are choosing separation over expensive two-home living.

"Someone finding employment in another city creates a bigger challenge for families than it did a generation ago," said one New York University professor. "You can't assume that a spouse that follows another will find employment in this market."

Subway Will Soon Have More Stores Than McDonald's

Subway is nearing a milestone: the sandwich chain will soon have more global locations than McDonald’s, Ad Age reports. The chain is expanding so quickly that it's expected to have 31,800 stores by the end of the week. It's probably just a matter of months before it surpasses the 32,158 locations under the golden arches.

That’s in part because McDonald’s isn’t adding restaurants very quickly: the fast-food titan has been curbing expansion to focus on profitability. And it is that metric Subway will want to pay attention to next: the average US McDonald’s restaurant grosses $2.3 million a year—the average US Subway, $445,000.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Strip Clubs, Lap Dances Part of Corporate Life in UK

The sex industry has become a mainstream part of corporate culture in Britain and is damaging workplace equality, a report from a women's group finds. Researchers found that many firms authorize the use of expense accounts for entertaining clients in lap dancing and strip clubs, and that most strip clubs happily provide "discreet receipts" for corporate customers, the Daily Telegraph reports.

"The sex industry is increasingly targeting the corporate market, with lap dancing clubs marketing themselves as ideal venues to host meetings and client entertaining," one researcher said. "Yet lap dancing clubs are a form of commercial sexual exploitation and fuel sexist attitudes towards women. Their use in a work context discriminates against female employees and undermines women’s status at work."

Young Grow Poorer While Old Get Richer

Young and middle-aged people, particularly men, saw their incomes plummet from 2000 to 2008, leaving many age groups at 30-year nadirs, new Census data show. The recession has exacerbated the problem, widening the gap between young and old at an unprecedented rate, USA Today reports. Worst hit were those in their peak earning years—between ages 45 and 54—whose average household income fell $7,700 to $64,349.

Those born before 1955 have enjoyed historic income growth for 4 decades. Everyone born after that is now shrinking. What caused the gap?
Waiting in line for good jobs: Older people are working longer, keeping young people out of top jobs.
Global competition: Low-income workforces overseas have depressed wages for newly hired young people.
Retirement: Social Security and private pensions have given the elderly record incomes.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Wages Are Up—for Workers With Jobs

For those with the good fortune to have a job, wage growth has actually increased in recent months, government surveys show. From the fall of Lehman Brothers last September to this June, average weekly pay stayed at $612. But since June, the workweek has gotten longer and hourly pay growth has increased. Average weekly pay hit $618 last month, writes David Leonhardt in the New York Times.

“Even though unemployment has reached its highest level in 26 years, most workers have received a raise over the last year,” Leonhardt notes. In fact, “in the job market, at least, the recession’s pain has been unusually concentrated." There's less churn than usual; those who are unemployed stay that way longer, but few are still being laid off, and most companies "have evidently decided that pay cuts aren’t worth the downside."

40% of Employers to Hike Health Plan Costs Next Year

Many Americans are happy with their employer-sponsored health care plans and eager to keep them, but they won't be keeping them at the current price, the Washington Post reports. In a survey released yesterday, some 40% of employers said they expect to increase the amount their employees paid for health care next year—raising premiums, deductibles, and the cost of prescription drugs. Some 9% said they expect to tighten eligibility for benefits. Another 8% intend to drop coverage entirely.

The report, which comes from the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research and Educational Trust, concludes that federal action is necessary to bring costs under control. The Business Roundtable piled on, declaring yesterday that given current trends, employer health costs will rise 166% over the next decade, to $28,530 per employee. “Maintaining the status quo is simply not an option,” said Roundtable leader and Kodak CEO Antonio Perez.

Swearing at Your Boss Can't Get You Fired in Spain

A Barcelona court says calling your boss a "son of a bitch" is not grounds for dismissal, insisting the slight is common in arguments in Spain and not that big a deal. The plaintiff in the case was fired in January 2008 for hurling that insult at his boss during a money dispute, then calling him "crazy" as he stormed out of the office. "Without a doubt, both expressions are insulting," the judge said, but not grounds for dismissal.

The man lost a first court challenge, but won on appeal with the Superior Court of Justice of Catalonia in February. The ruling states that the worker should either be reinstated, or receive $9,472 in compensation. It's unknown which option the employer picked.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Colleges Ditch Trays; Students Learn to Juggle

College students may feel they’ve added juggling to their courseloads as the trayless cafeteria trend picks up steam, the Los Angeles Times reports. The increasingly popular measure, meant to save water and electricity, often meets with a sort of grudging acquiescence. “It's definitely difficult and a little bit inconvenient,” says one student in a precarious situation. “But I like the intentions. The intentions are good.”

Food services company Aramark says 60% of the 600 campuses it services have gone trayless, and rival Sodexo estimates 40% of its clients have switched. Though colleges say the move results in less waste, and that savings pays for better food and amenities, some students aren’t buying it. One Michigan school torpedoed the plan because, well, the students like to use the trays as sleds. In sunny California, a student has a different problem: “The more time I spend on lunch, the less time I spend studying."

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Dropout Rates Turning US Colleges Into 'Failure Factories'

The failure of America's colleges to turn more freshmen into graduates is doing huge amounts of damage to the economy, David Leonhardt writes in the New York Times. Only half of those enrolled in college emerge with a degree, the worst rate of any developed country except Italy. This dismal performance of public universities—dubbed "failure factories" by one economist—is largely responsible for rising inequality and falling productivity, Leonhardt writes.

"Under-matching"—when lower-income students don't choose to attend the best college they can get into—is a major cause of high dropout rates, say the authors of Crossing the Finish Line, a new book looking at the trend. Almost as big a problem, they say, is that a culture of failure that has become acceptable, and many students just don't see the need to graduate within four years. Doing so is "like leaving the party at 10:30 pm," one student told them.

Top-Paying College Degrees

As the school year begins, students seek out fulfilling and enlightening majors—that will hopefully bring in the big bucks down the road. PayScale lists the highest-paying undergrad degrees and their mid-career median salaries:

Aerospace engineering, $109,000
Chemical engineering, $107,000
Computer engineering, $105,000
Electrical engineering, $102,000
Economics, $101,000
Physics, $98,800
Mechanical engineering, $98,300
Computer science, $97,400
Industrial engineering, $95,000
Environmental engineering, $94,50

Monday, September 7, 2009

Emoticons Invade Academia

College professors have lamented the state of student writing for centuries. But today’s Internet-obsessed culture brings new, infuriating errors to Writing 101 as students brazenly use colloquialisms like “:-)” and “LOL” in essays. “Occasionally, I've seen someone using the number 4 for the word 'for,'” a Cal State San Marcos professor tells the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Besides inappropriate lingo, professors say, students’ writing suffers because of a decline in quality reading: “I ask my creative writing students about what they've read over the summer, and I'm shocked when they say they've read no novels, no poems,” says a University of San Diego professor. “They're watching TV or movies or playing video games.”

Top Signs You're an Internet Addict

Do you just like reading Newser, or are you addicted to the Internet? Seattle-based Internet addiction center ReSTART lists the signs of a bad online habit:

Heightened euphoria. Trolling through sites gives you your greatest thrill.
Whiling away more hours. You look up and it's suddenly 2 am, when last night it was only midnight.
Less self-control. Inability to shut down your computer is not a good sign.
Ignoring friends and family. Don't get caught doing this in China. One 12-year-old boy received electric shock therapy in Beijing for spending 4 days at an Internet cafe.
Lying about your surfing: If you have to hide it, it's a problem.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Oldsters Refusing to Step Aside to Free Up Jobs

Their retirement savings devastated by the financial crisis, older workers are increasingly postponing retirement, the New York Times reports, creating even more competition for scarce jobs. A recent survey found that four in 10 workers over 62 have remained at their jobs longer than they planned thanks to the recession. Our dependence on fluctuating 401(k)s for retirement is turning out to have a perverse effect on the economy, the Times notes. "It’s a sort of reverse automatic stabilizer,” says one economics prof.

When the economy is booming and needs workers to stick around, retirees with fat 401(k)s are cashing out. In recession, when they're not needed, their accounts are depleted, so they're declining to retire. By comparison, many European countries have recession-proof pensions; in Denmark, a worker gets 91% of her pre-retirement salary. Policymakers are examining the possibility of creating stronger retirement safety nets, but that may prove a challenge. “I don’t want to depend on anybody else in my retirement,” one would-be retiree says. “Not family members, not our children, and certainly not the government.”

Women Gain as Recession Batters Male-Dominated Fields

The US job market is closer than ever to gender equality because the recession has most heavily affected male-dominated industries, USA Today reports. Women held 49.83% of the nation’s jobs as of June. Since the recession began in December 2007, 74% of the 6.4 million jobs lost have been positions held by men. In local government, the inequality is particularly striking: regional authorities have fired 86,000 men while hiring 167,000 women.

The recession’s gender effect stems from the fact that manufacturing and construction—traditionally male professions—have been hit hardest. Meanwhile, more women then men work in the most resilient sectors: health care, education, and government. Gender inequality persists; women still earn 77% of what men make for the same work, hold more part-time jobs, and are disproportionately restrained by “glass ceilings” from executive leadership positions.

Recession Woes Penalize NFL Franchises

Tight credit and the recession-driven scarcity of buyers and investors slashed the value of eight NFL teams this year, Forbes reports. It’s the first time in a decade that even one team has seen a decline. Though the average team value held steady at $1 billion, Oakland led the losers, shedding 7% of its value. The recession has been kinder to some—the top-valued Cowboys tacked on 2%—but things are likely to get worse.

The NFL recently extended many lucrative television contracts through 2013, but the tough economic situation has eroded the league’s bargaining position, and the deals allow for annual fee increases of just 2%, the slimmest ever. Add to that an expected contract dispute in 2010 that could see a lockout, and the plight of some teams could worsen. Still, owners can revel in the now: the third-best year in NFL history saw revenue increase 7% while player costs went up only 4%.

Teen Unemployment Hits Record 25%

The teen jobless picture is the bleakest since the government started tracking the statistic 60 years ago, the New York Times reports. The rate hit 25.5% last month, nearly triple the rate among other workers. Analysts say teens are getting squeezed out of the workplace by college graduates, unable to find more lucrative work, taking jobs they might otherwise have shunned, and by older workers hanging onto their jobs instead of retiring.

The dismal employment outlook has the silver lining of getting more young people to opt for college, although with few jobs to be had, many can't afford to. Youth employment never fully recovered from the 2001 recession, and experts don't expect things to improve any time soon. "Given that unemployment is a lagging indicator," one expert says, "and young people’s unemployment even lags behind the rest of unemployment, we’re going to see a lot of kids out of work for a long, long, long, long time.”

In Recovery, Business Will Profit at Workers' Expense

The economy is slowly improving, but companies will see the benefits long before the unemployed and underemployed will, Bloomberg reports. A Department of Labor report released yesterday found that the average workweek is at a near-record low of 33.1 hours. The lack of uptick in part-time hours is an indicator that "payrolls aren’t turning positive any time soon,” a Deutsche Bank economist says.

With labor costs staying low, the economic growth expected in the near term will plump company profits, not family budgets. "It's disappointing and it tells us that we are not quite there yet,” one economist said of the report. The outlook in the months to come, he says, is "great for business and terrible for households.” An analyst at Adecco predicts that unemployment, which hit 9.7% last month, will rise to 10% before the economy starts adding jobs some time next year.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

World's Oldest Bartender Calling It Quits

The longest serving bartender in the world—that Guinness-certified honor came 10 years ago—and slinger of one of the first beers after Prohibition ended is hanging up his cocktail shaker, the AP reports. Ninety-five-year-old Angelo Cammarata, owner of the beloved Cammarata’s Café in Pittsburgh, is selling after more than 70 years behind the bar. It’s bittersweet, he says. “This is a good bar. All my customers here are family.”

“We're a local bar, shot and a beer,” he says. That tradition goes back to just before midnight on April 6, 1933, the night before beer became legal again. “The first strike of the clock, I took a case of beer off, took it in our grocery store, took bottles out, and started selling them, 10 cents each.” The venture was so successful the store became a bar. Not that Cammarata himself is much of a drinker. His father told him, “'Beer is made to sell, not drink. Don’t be your best customer.' And I took that to heart."

Job Loss Anxiety Hurts More Than No Job at All

Worried about your job? It may be better for your health if you just quit, new research suggests. Looking at studies of nearly 2,000 adults, scientists at the University of Michigan have found job loss anxiety can be more harmful to your health than unemployment, hypertension, or even smoking, Ann Arbor News reports. “These findings apply much more broadly today than they did even a few years ago," sociologist Sarah Burgard tells LiveScience.

The research is based on how participants viewed their own physical health. "We found that people who were persistently concerned about losing their jobs reported significantly worse overall health in both studies and were more depressed in one of the studies than those who had actually lost and regained their jobs recently," Burgard says.

States Pass on Stimulus Money for Unemployed

More than $3.1 billion in stimulus money earmarked for the unemployed is idling in federal coffers, USA Today reports, because 23 states haven’t expanded their unemployment benefits in order to qualify. Another 350,000 workers could receive benefits if they did, according to one worker advocacy group. But some Republicans complain that expanding benefits would put force states to raise taxes when the stimulus cash runs out.

But taking the money could actually prevent impending tax hikes in several states that have declined the money, including Indiana, Alabama, Florida, and Texas. In those states, taxes automatically rise for employers if unemployment funds need more cash. But Republicans say they’re taking the long view. “If the federal government really wanted to help us, they would have sent those dollars without any strings attached,” said a spokesman for Texas Governor Rick Perry.

Fired Teacher 'Leah Lust' Turns to Porn After 2500 rejected resumes, Shepherd is 'My first sex teacher'

The biology teacher sacked by a Florida high school for posing in racy bikini pics has found a new line of work: porn. Unable to land a new teaching job after sending out 2,500 resumes, Tiffany Shepherd, 31, is now earning a living as "Leah Lust" in films such as "My first sex teacher," the New York Daily News reports.

"I'm not particularly proud of it. To be honest, I hate it," says Shepherd. She was introduced to the porn business by the captain of the fishing boat where the bikini photos were taken, who doesn't think much of her acting: "We sat down with her and told her she'd never get a teaching job again. So I told her, use ‘em before they fall to the ground. But God, does she need to work on her acting."