1. Twitter — The ability to encapsulate human thought in 140 characters
2. Obama — The word stem transforms into scores of new words like ObamaCare
3. H1N1 — The formal (and politically correct) name for Swine Flu
4. Stimulus — The $800 billion aid package meant to help mend the US economy
5. Vampire — Vampires are very much en vogue, now the symbol of unrequited love
6. 2.0 — The 2.0 suffix is attached to the next generation of everything
7. Deficit — Lessons from history are dire warnings here
8. Hadron — Ephemeral particles subject to collision in the Large Hadron Collider
9. Healthcare — The direction of which is the subject of intense debate in the US
10. Transparency — Elusive goal for which many 21st c. governments are striving
11. Outrage — In response to large bonuses handed out to ‘bailed-out’ companies
12. Bonus — The incentive pay packages that came to symbolize greed and excess
13. Unemployed — And underemployed amount to close to 20% of US workforce
14. Foreclosure — Forced eviction for not keeping up with the mortgage payments
15. Cartel — In Mexico, at the center of the battle over drug trafficking
Monday, November 30, 2009
Stay away from conversation killers. Are you contemplating having an affair? Do you owe $10,000 in back taxes to the IRS? Getting a mole removed next week? Unless the person you are chatting up at the office soiree is a personal friend, Dieken says it’s best to stay away from taboo topics such as medical, money or marital problems.
Have an exit strategy. If you’re stuck in a conversation going nowhere, Dieken suggests keeping a few handy one-liners lined up that can extricate you efficiently and politely. If you find yourself trapped, use one of these exit lines:
- “I’ll let you go now so you can continue circulating around the room.”
- “I’ll stop monopolizing your time so you can meet other people.”
- “It was great meeting you. I’ll follow up with you on X next week.”
Be on the lookout for boredom cues. Business holiday parties by their nature are flirty affairs. Guests usually flit from person to person, the way a bee flows to different flowers. Stay aware of how much time you’ve spent talking with a particular individual, and be on the lookout for signals that your conversation partner is ready to move on, such as looking away, not contributing to the conversation or giving one-line answers to your questions.
Plan your conversation starters. Dieken says that, in general, commonly relatable topics — such as the weather, sports, movies, music, children and food — all make good small-talk openers.
Ask open-ended questions. Open-ended questions by their nature invite your fellow partygoer to go into detail, rather than give you a short, one-sentence answer. They usually begin with words such as how, why, what, who, which, when and where. Examples of good open-ended party phrases include:
- “Where are you planning on spending the holidays?”
- “How do you know the host?”
- “What are your holiday plans?”
If the thought of having to make mini-conversations this holiday season makes you break out in a cold sweat, calm down, come up with a few conversation starters and work the room like a pro.
The vote on increasing the debt will come just as Congress tries to put the finishing touches on a trillion-dollar plan to overhaul the nation's health care system and President Barack Obama considers a possible escalation in the war in Afghanistan that could cost another trillion dollars over the next 10 years.
A bipartisan group of more than a dozen senators is threatening to vote against an increase in the debt limit unless Congress passes a new deficit-fighting plan.
"I will not vote for raising the debt limit without a vehicle to handle this. ... This is our moment," California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein said.
She and nine other senators wrote to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., asking that Congress create a special commission to make recommendations that then could be decided by an up-or-down vote.
Timed for the upcoming kickoff of the holiday shopping season, the Fed said Wednesday it will run ads in 12 movie theaters from Black Friday through Dec. 3.
Sandwiched between soft drink and popcorn ads, the 45-second spots will provide shoppers with tips to help them avoid racking up unnecessary charges and fees on their credit cards.
Those tips include:
-Paying bills on time to avoid late fees.
-Staying below credit limits to avoid fees and higher interest rates.
-Paying more than the minimum payment each month, which over time will cut down on interest charges.
-Paying attention to transactions fees for things like cash advances or paying a bill by phone.
-Watching for changes in account terms.
The ads will run in Boston, New York, Bensalem, Pa., Valley View, Ohio, Hanover, Md., Boca Raton, Fla., Chicago, Hazelwood, Mo., Edina, Minn., Olathe, Kan., Houston and Long Beach, Calif., said Fed spokeswoman Susan Stawick. By selecting those locations, each of the Fed's 12 regional banks are represented.
Minor party and independent candidates are in at least 26 courts, in cases that challenge the constitutionality of various state election laws. A few new cases will probably be filed in December.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
A federal criminal investigation has touched two House Dems, and another three, along with two Republicans, are under scrutiny by a pair of congressional ethics panels in matters related to the defunct lobbying firm, PMA Group.
The investigation appears to have two focal points, according to reports: that PMA may have funneled sham donations to members of Congress through so-called "straw donors" who would be reimbursed, and that there may have been a quid pro quo, exchanging defense earmarks for campaign donations.
PMA's lobbying activities centered on winning earmarks doled out by the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, chaired by John Murtha of Pennsylvania. It was founded in the late 1980s by a former Murtha aide on the committee, Paul Magliocchetti. And it was staffed over the years by ex-aides for Murtha, Rep. Pete Visclosky (D-IN), and Rep. James Moran (D-VA).
TPMmuckraker has kept a close eye on the case. Major newspaper editorial boards have voiced their concerns. The Times and the Post have each done solid reporting. So why, at this point, nine months after the FBI raid appeared in the news, aren't we hearing more about this? Why hasn't it stuck?
It's probably a combination of factors: the infrequent media leaks from the Feds; the complexity and diffuseness of the case; and the lack of a single high-profile figure who is the focus of investigators.
SCIENTISTS at the University of East Anglia (UEA) have admitted throwing away much of the raw temperature data on which their predictions of global warming are based.
It means that other academics are not able to check basic calculations said to show a long-term rise in temperature over the past 150 years.
The UEA’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU) was forced to reveal the loss following requests for the data under Freedom of Information legislation.
The data were gathered from weather stations around the world and then adjusted to take account of variables in the way they were collected. The revised figures were kept, but the originals — stored on paper and magnetic tape — were dumped to save space when the CRU moved to a new building.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Friday, November 27, 2009
Thursday, November 26, 2009
It's a brake pumping sight that has people on Signal Mountain Boulevard buzzing.
"I had to take a double take," said Paul Shirley, a local businessman, "it looks kindly strange, until you look at it really good."
The billboard reads, "she's tired of waiting." It's a local jeweler's latest tag line paired with a picture of a woman giving the finger - the ring finger.
Elena Ravalli was a seemingly healthy 37-year-old when she began to experience strange attacks of vertigo, numbness, temporary vision loss and crushing fatigue. They were classic signs of multiple sclerosis, a potentially debilitating neurological disease.
It was 1995 and her husband, Paolo Zamboni, a professor of medicine at the University of Ferrara in Italy, set out to help. He was determined to solve the mystery of MS – an illness that strikes people in the prime of their lives but whose causes are unknown and whose effective treatments are few.
What he learned in his medical detective work, scouring dusty old books and using ultra-modern imaging techniques, could well turn what we know about MS on its head: Dr. Zamboni's research suggests that MS is not, as widely believed, an autoimmune condition, but a vascular disease.
More radical still, the experimental surgery he performed on his wife offers hope that MS, which afflicts 2.5 million people worldwide, can be cured and even largely prevented.
“I am confident that this could be a revolution for the research and diagnosis of multiple sclerosis,” Dr. Zamboni said in an interview.
The Government Accountability Office has again found widespread flaws in how the office administering Medicare and Medicaid manages contracts.
The watchdog agency studied a random sample of contract actions at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and estimated that more than 84 percent of fiscal 2008 contract actions had at least one instance where officials failed to implement a key internal control. GAOalso determined that at least 37 percent of fiscal 2008 contract actions had three or more deficiencies.
"Internal control -- the plans, methods and procedures used to meet missions, goals and objectives -- is the first line of defense in safeguarding assets and preventing and detecting fraud and errors, and helps government program managers achieve desired results through effective stewardship of public resources," GAO stated in its report.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn., a leading voice on transportation issues, wants a six-year, $550 billion federal transportation program that would include a 5-cent federal gas tax increase.
The 18.4-cent-per-gallon federal gas tax, which hasn't been raised since 1993, provides most of the money for projects that benefit from the program.
Oberstar, who is chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, has said funding for the six-year program will fall about $140 billion short if the federal gas tax remains the same.
"The maintenance and improvement of our transportation infrastructure has fallen well behind our needs," Oberstar said. "An increase in the tax that funds these projects is long overdue."
For years the IRS grudgingly paid stingy rewards to squealers who brought it mostly small cases; during 2004 and 2005, 428 informants received a total of $12 million--only 7% of the paltry $168 million all their leads brought in. But in 2006, hoping to entice insiders to rat out big-dollar cheats and corporate tax shelters and games, Congress directed the IRS to pay tipsters at least 15% and as much as 30% of taxes, penalties and interest collected in cases where $2 million or more is at stake.
The gambit seems to be working very well. The IRS continues to get thousands of small case tips a year. But in fiscal 2009, ended Oct. 30, the IRS Whistleblower Office also logged big case leads on 1,900 taxpayers, up from 1,246 in fiscal 2008, the fIRSt full year the new law was in effect. Dozens of these tips involve purported tax losses of $100 million or more. Sure, those are just allegations. But informants "often provide extensive documentation to support their claims,'' the Whistleblower Office noted in a report. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, in a separate report, added up all the 2008 tips and found that $65 billion in unreported income was alleged.
But there's another holiday on the horizon that celebrates a different kind of binging--Blackout Wednesday!
I recently learned that the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is one of the biggest party nights of the year. I am not sure why this never occurred to me previously, since it makes a lot of sense. People are home (or soon to be headed home) for the holiday and won't have to work the next day. That means that they are free to party hard the whole night before Thanksgiving with very few consequences.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
As you finalize your Thanksgiving plans, be sure to reserve a seat at your table for an extra guest: Uncle Sam.
Have you ever asked yourself how much of the cost of your Thanksgiving feast is owed to the fact that the government takes a big bite at it in hidden taxes?
The Americans for Tax Reform Foundation and the Center for Fiscal Accountability have calculated just how big that government “tax bite” for Thanksgiving is, and it clocks in at a whopping 40.91 percent.
A joint Harvard – University of British Columbia (UBC) study examined U.S. sales patterns of clopidogrel, a top-selling drug with the trade name Plavix, which is used to prevent blood clots after heart attack or stroke. Plavix was selected to study the impact of advertising on sales, because it was sold for more than three years before the launch of its first direct-to-consumer advertising (DTCA) campaign in 2001.
"While clopidogrel use has been increasing for some time, we found advertising it to consumers didn't make use rise any faster," Assistant Professor Michael Law of the UBC Centre for Health Services and Policy Research, who conducted the study with colleagues from Harvard Medical School, the University of Alberta and Kaiser Permanente while he was a post-doctoral fellow at Harvard, was quoted as saying.
A significant jump in the drug's price coincided with the launch of its DTCA campaign. This higher price added $207 million to the pharmacy bill for Medicaid, the publicly funded U.S. health program for low-income patients.
WASHINGTON — A non-profit group that gets millions of dollars a year from Congress to help teach students about government misspent or failed to justify more than $5.9 million last year, Education Department investigators say in a report released Monday.
The California-based Center for Civic Education improperly spent taxpayer money to settle potential employment discrimination or harassment lawsuits, to print textbooks it sold to schools and to pay for unnecessary meals and travel, according to the report from the department's inspector general.
Charles Quigley, the center's executive director, acknowledged some errors in complying with federal regulations but disputed most of the report's findings.
"We have taken every step we possibly can to clean up our act and make sure we are in compliance," Quigley said.
The audit examined the center's operation of programs that provide textbooks and materials for civics classes in U.S. schools and to develop international civics education courses. The center spent $23 million in federal grants during the year covered by the audit, from August 2007 to July 2008.
WASHINGTON – As if small businesses needed another reason not to hire, consider their latest financial burden: The cost of rising unemployment itself.
Employers already are squeezed by tight credit, rising health care costs, wary consumers and a higher minimum wage. Now, the surging jobless rate is imposing another cost. It's forcing higher state taxes on companies to pay for unemployment insurance claims.
Some employers say the extra costs make them less likely to hire. That could be a worrisome sign for the economic recovery, because small businesses create about 60 percent of new jobs. Other employers say they'll cut or freeze pay.
Drastic increases in the tax, like those on tap for next year, could force struggling businesses to dump more jobs, maybe even go out of business.
That will produce less unemployment tax revenue and more people asking for jobless benefits. At best it will discourage new job creation, so desperately needed.
The increase is triggered automatically by a drop in the state's Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund, which had more than $1.3 billion last year but dropped to zero in August as the jobless rate soared.
Stroger asked Cook County residents to call their commissioners, who approved the rollback 12-5 last week. He singled out Robert Steele, whose district includes Provident and Cook County hospitals, along with Earlean Collins and Edwin Reyes whose districts also include some of the 16 clinics.
Reached later, Reyes said: "I spoke to the folks at the health and hospital system, and they don't think there's going to be any shutdowns." Representing the Northwest Side, Reyes said he's standing by his decision to support the rollback and that will mean voting to override Stroger's veto.
"We're not budging, I don't see how we can," Reyes said.
The other two Democrats were not immediately available for comment, but last week both said they'd stand by their vote for the partial rollback, saying the sales tax was hurting their constituents -- both residents and businesses.
Monday, November 23, 2009
The District of Columbia has agreed to pay $13.7 million to settle a class action suit brought by protesters arrested during a demonstration in 2000, lawyers in the case announced at court today.
Lawyers for the protesters said it would be the largest amount ever paid in the U.S. to compensate protesters who were wrongfully arrested. The plaintiffs alleged that police officers detained nearly 700 people attending an April 15, 2000 march against “the prison industrial complex,” which was timed to overlap with an IMF / World Bank meeting. Many of those arrested were tied up for long periods of time, they said.
“It sends a message to every city and every law enforcement officer that there is going to be a steep price to pay for violating protesters’ First Amendment rights,” said Mara Verheyden-Hilliard of the Partnership for Civil Justice, which filed the suit in 2001.
Verheyden-Hilliard said she believed that U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman’s decision to set a trial date had pushed the District to settle.
“Faced with the reality of trial and a potentially huge loss, the district was able to come to the table,” she said.
The case is the second major protester suit the District has settled in recent weeks. It agreed earlier this month to pay $450,000 to eight individuals who were allegedly interrogated by police during a 2002 demonstration related to the Iraq War.
Police arrested a vice president from Bieber's record label, Island Def Jam Records, saying he wasn't cooperating with attempts to disperse the crowd.
James Roppo, 44, of Hoboken, N.J., was charged with a series of misdemeanors, including endangering the welfare of children and obstructing governmental administration.
"We asked for his help in getting the crowd to go away by sending out a Twitter message," said Nassau County Police Det. Lt. Kevin Smith. "By not cooperating with us, we feel he put lives in danger and the public at risk."
We are going to show the politicians in DC that we are serious about stopping them from destroying OUR Country and trampling on the Constitution. We are going to physically block the congress from coming back after the december recess by human blockade and take OUR Country back.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
For the second time this decade, efforts are under way to consolidate Columbia and Maury County into a metropolitan government similar to the one in Nashville.
A petition is being circulated that would create a joint city and county committee to develop a charter for the new government, the first step in the consolidation process.