Thursday, December 13, 2012

Interesting post on energy consumption in the U.S.

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Internet... Ways to support charities without spending money offers “one of the simplest ways to raise money without lifting a finger (well, almost).” Add the group’s extension to your Web browser and every time you open a new tab, a fraction of a penny will be donated to a charity you choose. You’ll see an ad on each new tab, but feel free to ignore it. offers a free smartphone app that lets you earn points every time you enter participating stores—no purchase required. Those points can eventually be cashed in or turned into a charitable gift. encourages giving by directing a percentage of your purchases to any of more than 1.5 million charities. Socialvest purchases can be made at the organization’s online shopping site or by using a registered credit card at any of several hundred retailers.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Sexiest man alive Kim Jong Un? Oops! Chinese media gets fooled by the onion

One hot dictator Beijing

Mistaking an Onion spoof for actual news, Chinese media reported this week that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had been named “sexiest man alive.” The Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily ran a 55-photo slide show of Kim in various poses on its website, accompanied by this quote from the Onion article: “With his devastatingly handsome, round face, his boyish charm, and his strong, sturdy frame, this Pyongyang-bred heartthrob is every woman’s dream come true.” Chinese media routinely praise the North Korean regime, so it’s not surprising the newspaper failed to recognize the sarcasm. It took the slide show down after being widely mocked in the international press.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

News you didn't hear about

If tax deductions are limited to raise more federal revenue, it will hit California taxpayers the hardest. On average, Californians claim the biggest share of tax deductions in the nation—$33,901 in 2010—mostly due to high mortgage deductions. The national average deduction in
2010 for those who itemized was $26,112.
The Wall Street Journal

America now has more computer software engineers than farmers. More than 1 million people are trying to make a living writing apps and other software.
The New York Times

Army suicides have hit a record high, with 166 active-duty soldiers suspected of taking their own lives so far this year. The problem has grown so severe that the Army ordered a service-wide “stand-down” in September, requiring soldiers to put aside their usual duties and discuss suicide prevention.
Associated Press

The U.S. electrical grid is so old and prone to failure that, even without a devastating storm like
Hurricane Sandy, some 500,000 Americans lose electricity for at least two hours every single day.
Washington Monthly

Laws prohibiting smoking in bars, restaurants, and workplaces are now on the books in 30 of the 50 largest U.S. cities. In 2000, only one city—San Jose—had such a ban.
The Hill

Poll watch
65% of Americans believe President Obama will make a sincere effort to compromise with Republicans and create bipartisan solutions to the nation’s problems. 48% say they think congressional Republicans will be willing to compromise.
Gallup Poll

57% of Americans say Israel is justified in taking military action in Gaza. 25% say the action is unjustified.
CNN/ORC International Poll

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The rock ’n’ roll accountant- former GnR basses now financial adviser

These days, Duff McKagan is more excited by spreadsheets than by sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll, said Adam Sherwin in The Independent (U.K.). The Seattle-born musician spent 12 years in the 1980s and early 1990s playing bass with notoriously debauched rock band Guns N’ Roses. He snorted piles of cocaine and drank 10 bottles of red wine a day, and in 1994 ended up in the hospital with a burst pancreas. Doctors told him to give up drinking or die. Bored and in recovery, he decided to look over his Guns N’ Roses financial statements. “I wanted to learn to read these, but I didn’t trust anybody,” says McKagan, 48. “I just got a light bulb in my head and said, ‘I want to go to school.’” So he took business and accountancy classes, and today runs a fund-management company focused on financial advice for his guitar-slinging peers. McKagan’s big regret is that he wasn’t business-savvy in 1988, when Fox TV called him to say they planned to name a beer—Duff—after him in a new animated series. “I knew nothing about branding yourself or royalties. I just thought, ‘Cool, they wanna use my name,’ and boom, The Simpsons was born. Yeah, if I had a nickel for every time…but it’s fine.”


Thursday, November 22, 2012

A better pay scheme for Washington?

If we paid our lawmakers for performance, said Sheila Bair, “maybe we could get them to focus on doing their jobs.” Performance-linked pay has improved management practices in the private sector, so why not devise a pay scheme that encourages our elected officials to spend less time fundraising and more time governing? Corporate directors typically make half of their compensation in company stock, to align their incentives with a company’s long-term profitability. Similarly, we could give members of Congress half their pay in Treasury bonds. “If the economy does well and if they get our fiscal house in order,” those T-bonds should hold their value; if they continue their profligate ways, their pay would drop. We could go even further than that and make their pay dependent on hitting certain economic benchmarks. A third of their bonds, say, could be linked to keeping the labor participation rate high, and another third contingent on economic growth. The final third could depend on how well voters think lawmakers are working together. It’s worth a shot. Aligning pay with long-term performance has worked on Wall Street. “Why not try it with the folks in D.C.?”

Sheila Bair

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Interesting Business News

Apple paid a corporate tax rate of just 1.9 percent on its earnings outside the U.S. in the last fiscal year, according to a U.S. regulatory filing. The electronics giant paid $713 million on foreign profits of $36.87 billion in the year ending Sept. 29.

Nearly two-thirds of housing markets across the country are in worse shape now than when the bust began in 2008, according to a study of 919 counties by the research firm RealtyTrac. Worst hit are Atlanta, Tucson, Salt Lake City, and Cook County, Ill., where home prices have fallen nearly 20 percent in the last four years.
The Washington Post

United Airlines this week became the first U.S. carrier to fly paying passengers on Boeing’s new 787 Dreamliner. United Flight 1116 flew from Houston to Chicago, to raves from passengers. One aircraft enthusiast called the roomier and quieter jet “just awesome.”
USA Today

Deadbeat parents owe more than $100 billion in unpaid child support, according to the Office of Child Support Enforcement. Half of these payments—some $53 billion-—are owed for the support of children on taxpayer-funded public assistance.

Goldman Sachs has trimmed the ranks of its richly remunerated partners to keep expenses down. The investment bank announced that it now has 407 partners, 31 fewer than it had in February. Goldman is completing a $1.9 billion cost-cutting program, but total pay is up 10 percent from last year.

Selling cookies with social media
At 14, Olivia Ottenfeld felt she needed a new approach to selling Girl Scout cookies, said Victor Luckerson in Time. No longer one of those “pint-sized Brownies who can sell a box with an adorable smile,” she turned to social media “to reach the very outer limits of her family’s social circle.” This year many others among the nation’s 1.5 million Girl Scouts also connected to customers using email, text messaging, and Facebook, generating record-breaking sales of 214 million boxes, or “about 143 boxes per small businesswoman.” Ottenfeld sold 2,012 boxes, generating around $8,000 in revenue, three quarters of which goes to the Scouts. “Her business strategy is pretty simple: Appeal to a large customer base with a quality product.” Ottenfeld says she’s contemplating a career in business or public relations when her scouting days are over.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Is the American Dream dead?

The American Dream: What went wrong?

Anyone can get rich in America, said Mary Sanchez in The Kansas City Star. All you have to do is “pick a rich daddy.” Forbes magazine has released its annual list of the 400 wealthiest Americans, and though the editors touted the inclusion of Oprah Winfrey and a few other rags-to-riches billionaires as proof that “the American Dream is still very much alive,” the rankings actually prove the opposite. A recent study found that only 35 percent of the Forbes 400 were raised poor or middle class. The rest were “born on third base”—inheriting their fortunes, or starting their empires with a big head start from well-to-do families. Social mobility was once considered “the heart of the American Dream,” said Ron Brownstein in National Journal. Every generation was expected to be a little more successful and prosperous than their parents. But today, a child born poor in a European nation has a far better chance of making it to the top than one born poor in the U.S. Two thirds of American children born to the lowest-earning 20 percent of parents will stay stuck in the bottom 40 percent all their lives.
The rich, meanwhile, keep getting richer, said Joe Nocera in The New York Times. While the median household income dropped by 4 percent last year, the cumulative wealth of the Forbes 400 increased by a whopping $200 billion. One reason for this growing disparity is that the wealthy invariably move their millions into investments, which are taxed at the low, 15 percent “capital gains” rate. That’s because the rich effectively write the tax code, said Les Leopold in The wealthier they get, the more money they spend on political lobbying and donations, which buys them yet more tax breaks, loopholes, bailouts, and financial deregulation, thus enabling them to amass even more wealth. “Meanwhile, the middle class continues its slow decline.”
The real problem is our failing education system, said Laura Tyson in A college degree has never been more important for those who want to climb the income ladder—a college graduate today earns at least 75 percent more than someone with only a high school diploma. But as the gulf between rich and poor widens, children who grow up in poverty—amid dysfunctional adults, struggling schools, crime, and social chaos—simply can’t compete academically with kids from the affluent side of town. We’re perilously close to creating a “permanent underclass,” for whom the American Dream is a cruel lie.
Perhaps it always was, said Robert Samuelson in The Washington Post. There’s nothing wrong with optimism about the future, but the Dream backfires when government tries to guarantee that every American will “live better than their parents” and achieve “personal fulfillment.” The belief that everyone should own homes, for example, led the government to pressure and incentivize banks to give mortgages to millions of people who couldn’t afford them; the resulting housing bubble burst in 2008, nearly wrecking our economy. The belief that everyone should go to college led millions of students to take on huge debt for educations they didn’t complete or that didn’t lead to promised jobs. There’s a sobering lesson here: In the real world, not everyone can succeed, and the future isn’t always better than the past. “It’s time to retire the American Dream,” for it has become “an act of collective self-deception.”

Article from "The Week"

Sunday, November 4, 2012

News and stats you need to know 11/4/12

The bottom line

Just one year out of college, women make only 82 percent of what their male peers are paid, according to a new study. It found that the gender pay gap, typically attributed to mothers leaving the workforce or men choosing higher-paid fields, exists even among young employees who had the same majors and were unlikely to have children yet. The
Washington Post

The U.S. economy grew 2 percent over the past three months, its fastest pace all year, thanks to strong gains in housing and consumer spending. But the annualized growth rate this year is just 1.7 percent, below last year’s tepid 1.8 percent and 2010’s 2.4 percent. Associated Press

College students who say their parents argued about money when they were growing up are twice as likely to have more than two credit cards as those whose parents didn’t—and three times as likely to have a large amount of debt.

Former Goldman Sachs director Rajat Gupta was sentenced to two years in prison last week for leaking insider secrets to former hedge fund manager Raj Rajaratnam. Gupta is the most prominent executive yet to face prison time in the government’s crackdown on insider trading. The Wall Street Journal

Online readers helped U.S. newspapers avoid a steep decline in circulation this year. Average daily circulation at the country’s 613 dailies fell 0.2 percent for the six months ending in September from a year earlier, but digital readers accounted for 15.3 percent of the total, up from 9.8 percent last year. The New York Times
Bank robber has last laugh

Who says crime doesn’t pay? said Katy Dartford in The Daily Mail (U.K.). An Austrian court has ordered that stolen cash be given to a bank robber because it “can’t find anybody else to take the money.” In 1993, bank manager Otto Neuman made off with more than $240,000 in cash and gold bars. By the time he was caught, just $82,000 could be recovered, and the money has been sitting at the Austrian Justice Ministry ever since. The bank won’t claim the cash because its insurance company covered the loss. The insurer also refused the money, since the gold that was recovered had “substantially increased in value” and erased losses from the payout. So a court awarded the funds to Neuman, who served three and a half years in jail for the robbery. “To say that he was surprised was an understatement,” said Neuman’s lawyer.

Some interesting talking points for the week 11/4/2012

More than 58,000 television ads on the presidential race were broadcast over the last month in Ohio. To view them all, you’d have to watch ads 24 hours a day for 80 days.

Racial animosity toward minorities has grown worse in the four years since the U.S. elected its first black president, according to a scientific survey by Stanford University. In all, 51 percent of Americans now express explicit prejudice toward blacks, associating them with such terms as “lazy” and “violent.” In 2008, 48 percent expressed such associations.
Associated Press

The Wall Street Journal
In every presidential election since 1980, women have voted at a higher rate than men. In 2008, 60.4 percent of women voted, compared with 55.7 percent of men.
USA Today

Wikipedia has essentially finished cataloging the world’s current knowledge. With 4 million entries, the collaborative Internet encyclopedia is running out of new topics and old topics to edit.

Poll watch
The presidential race may be close in the U.S., but in most of the world, it’s a landslide. In a survey of 21,797 people in 21 countries, 50% preferred President Obama to win, while 9% preferred Mitt Romney. The only country in which Romney was more popular was in Pakistan—the target of many U.S. drone attacks. There, Romney edged out Obama, 14% to 11%.

Presidential Elections- A case for Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney has been an “effective leader his entire career,” said The Detroit News, both in the private sector and in government. As a venture capitalist with Bain Capital, he gained the “ability to make a deal” between warring parties—experience he put to use as governor of Massachusetts, where he worked with Democrats to reform health care and education policy. In 2002, he proved his skill as a turnaround expert by transforming the Salt Lake City Olympics from a fi nancial disaster into a success. It’s our belief that Romney will use his experience as a businessman and a leader to turn around our country. He will reconcile our divided Congress and “employ a results-oriented approach” to creating jobs and taming big government, all while being “mindful of his customer, the taxpayer.”

We just can’t afford four more years of Obama, said the Boston Herald. His “vague promises of hope and change” have led us down a radical, redistributionist path. The $767 billion stimulus package offered the country nothing but “ecocronyism,” with energy companies like Solyndra receiving taxpayer cash in return for political favors. Over the four years of economic stagnation since he was elected, more than 4 million people have given up even looking for work. And under Obama’s rule, a nation that was once a “shining beacon” of liberty around the world now prefers to “lead from behind.” That means bowing to Vladimir Putin in Russia, “looking away from the human rights abuses of our bankers in China,” and failing to stop Iran from moving toward nuclear armament. At home and abroad, “that’s not change we can believe in.”
Obama’s failures can be summed up in one “ham-fi sted power play,” said the Columbus, Ohio, Dispatch. That’s Obamacare—the “massive, one-party overhaul of health care” he rammed through Congress instead of fi xing the economy. Romney, on the other hand, has pledged to fi x health care, said the Richmond, Va., Times- Dispatch, using “means-testing, market solutions, competition, and state-level innovation” to prevent Medicare and Social Security from going bankrupt. He has also promised to replace Obamacare with reforms that will neither “bust the budget” nor “trample individual rights.” Repealing this job-killing legislation “may be the most effective stimulus package passed in nearly a decade.”

What this election comes down to, said The Des Moines Register, is “pulling the economy out of the doldrums.” That will require a president able to boost confi dence in the private sector, enabling it to renew spending and hiring. Judged by that yardstick, “Romney emerges the stronger candidate.” His formula of tax cuts and sweeping government obstruction out of the path of private industry should “unlock this nation’s economic potential.” Obama’s strategy of tax increases for the rich and more stimulus guarantees more division, and less private-sector confi dence. The president is a “decent man,” said the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, and in many ways he has tried his best. “But even he predicted he would be a one-term president if he failed to turn things around.” He has failed—and so the choice is clear.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Swimmer Ryan Lochte confesses

American swimming star Ryan Lochte admits he sometimes pees in the pool, and he has plenty of company. “Nearly 100 percent of elite competitive swimmers pee in the pool,” said Carly Geehr, a former U.S. Olympian. “As a swimmer, you just have to accept the fact that you’re swimming in pee.”

#Technology: Is it making #addicts of us all?

Technology: Is it making addicts of us all?

Gimme that dopamine.
“The latest trend on the Internet,” said Tracy McVeigh in The Observer (U.K.), “is to step away from the Internet.” With smartphones, tablets, and other digital devices reshaping how people work, communicate, and spend their free time, scientists and psychologists are starting to question what our reliance on these devices is doing to our minds. Next year, for the first time, “Internet use disorder” will be listed in the appendix of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, said Matt Richtel in The New York Times. Even in Silicon Valley, there is a growing concern that technology is taking over people’s lives. “We’re done with this honeymoon phase, and now we’re in a phase that says, ‘Wow, what have we done?’” says tech guru Soren Gordhamer, who has organized an annual conference of digerati called Wisdom 2.0 to explore the need for balance in a wired world. Companies like Google, Facebook, and Twitter are now teaching their own employees meditation and “mindfulness,” and warning them of the dangers of constant texting, tweeting, and web-surfing. “It’s this basic cultural recognition that people have a pathological relationship with their devices,” says Stanford University psychologist Kelly McGonigal, who consults with tech company executives. “People feel not just addicted, but trapped.”
Don’t blame the gadgets, said Alexis Madrigal in TheAtlantic​.com. It’s not your smartphone’s fault that you compulsively check your email “at a stoplight, at the dinner table, in bed.” It’s mostly the fault of our employers, who now expect workers to be available 24/7. We can also blame the “strange American political and cultural systems” that make us feel guilty about taking any time off, and obligated to meet the growing demand for nonstop productivity. People have iPhones in Britain and Germany, too, yet “Americans now put in an average of 122 more hours per year than Brits, and 378 hours (nearly 10 weeks!) more than Germans.”
Beware: We’re already paying a steep price for our digital obsession, said Tony Dokoupil in Newsweek. Research shows that constant use of these devices is actually rewiring the physical structure of people’s brains. Every time your phone, tablet, or computer pings with a new text, tweet, or email, it triggers a sense of expectation, and the reward centers in your brain receive a pleasurable “squirt of dopamine.” Over time, a brain habituated to these quick fixes shrinks the structures used for concentration, empathy, and impulse control, while growing new neurons receptive to speedy processing and instant gratification. Brain scans of Internet addicts—defined as anyone online more than 38 hours a week—can resemble those of cocaine addicts and alcoholics. Symptoms of Internet addiction can range from depression to acute psychosis. The Internet, in other words, is “driving us mad.”
I know of a good treatment, if not a cure, said Nicholas Kristof in The New York Times. It’s called nature. When we get into the great outdoors, the illusion of control that technology provides disappears, and we are “deflated, humbled, and awed all at once.” In the “vast natural cathedral,” we are reminded of a world much larger than ourselves—one that predates us, will outlive us, and at whose mercy we exist. To escape our “post-industrial self-absorption,” we all need to leave our iPhones at home at least once a week, and go take a walk in the woods. Your devices will be waiting when you get back, and you’ll be a bit saner when you rejoin the endless conversation.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Interesting stats on voting, being superwealthy, Penn State football, and Canadians are richer than Americans

-About 5.85 million adults can’t vote in the November elections because of state laws that prohibit convicted felons from voting, even after they’ve completed their jail terms. Nearly 8 percent of blacks are disenfranchised, compared with 1.8 percent of other races, a study by the Sentencing Project found. In Florida, 23 percent of all blacks are legally prohibited from voting.

-So far, 0.000063 percent of the country’s population—196 superwealthy people—have given more than 80 percent of the Super PAC money spent in the presidential election.
At the same time a grand jury was hearing evidence in the Jerry Sandusky sex-abuse case,

-Joe Paterno negotiated a new, $5.5 million contract with Penn State that gave him a $3 million bonus for retiring, and forgave $350,000 in loans.
The New York Times

-The average Canadian is now richer than the average American. The net worth of the average Canadian household in 2011 was $363,202, while the average American household had a net worth of $319,970.
Poll watch

-20% of registered voters say they’re less likely to vote for Mitt Romney because of his net worth of more than $200 million. 75% say Romney’s income will make no difference in how they cast their vote.
Gallup poll

-44% of Americans say they have a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in churches or organized religion. That’s a new low, and marks a long decline from the 1970s, when confidence in organized religion was as high as 68%.
Gallup poll

Monday, September 24, 2012

TV: The rise of ‘binge viewing’

TV: The rise of ‘binge viewing’
Tech-savvy young people have come up with a whole new way to watch TV, said John Jurgensen in The Wall Street Journal. The “binge viewer” compulsively views whole seasons of drama series in marathon sessions lasting a day or more, using new technologies like on-demand TV, digital video recorders, and streaming websites. Netflix says TV shows now account for 60 percent of its streaming volume, and has even introduced a feature that automatically plays the next episode of a series. TV networks aren’t happy, because binge viewers bypass advertising vital to their business, but the increasingly popular practice is “changing the economics of the industry.” Producers now create “highly serialized shows,” hoping to make streaming deals that invite bingers to devour them in one sitting. Immersing yourself in a well-told TV drama, psychologists say, produces “something akin to a trance”—making the characters, plot, and emotions they evoke seem more real.

Binge viewing may be popular, said Jim Pagels in, “but it Binge viewing may be popular, said Jim Pagels in, “but it destroys much of what is best about TV.” Series like AMC’s Breaking Bad are intended to be watched over periods of weeks, not hours—and gorging on them denies you a chance to develop a relationship with their characters, or to relish each episode as a story in itself. There’s nothing quite like the delicious suspense of a cliff-hanger—but “that pleasure evaporates when you simply click ‘play’ on the next episode.” To me, it’s disrespectful to watch the entirety of a nuanced, artful drama in “a few couch-buried sittings,” said Richard Lawson in “Something like Mad Men, which unfolds with elegant precision and demands a little thinking time, is probably best savored slowly.”

That’s silly, said James Poniewozik in Is a great novel less wonderful if you read it in a long, “sustained trance,” or 20 pages at a time over the course of weeks? That’s purely a matter of personal preference; good storytelling “will take whatever viewing conditions you throw at it.” Besides, the era of everyone watching TV shows at the same time, the same way, is over, said Linda Holmes in Now you can watch your favorite series on “a big TV, or on a small TV, or on a tablet, or on a phone.” You can watch it on a train or bus, or in bed, in the afternoon, or at any time of day you like. How could that be bad?

Monday, September 10, 2012

My Zimbio
Top Stories

Some good news for a change

Robert Russell never gave up searching for the 1967 Austin-Healey sports car stolen from outside his Philadelphia home in 1970. Now, 42 years later and living in Southlake, Texas, he has finally found it. Having scoured the Internet for years for signs of his long-lost car, Russell spotted it on eBay in May, for sale at a California dealership. He tracked down his stolen-car report from police in Philadelphia, convinced the Los Angeles Police Department to impound the car, and finally took possession of it last month. Russell now plans to restore the vintage car to its 1970s condition. “We’re going to put it back the way it was,” he said.

As Doug Eaton prepared to turn 65, he asked his friends what he should do on the big day. One suggested doing 65 random acts of kindness—which is why Eaton stationed himself at a busy intersection in Oklahoma City on his birthday and handed out $5 bills to passersby for 65 minutes. Eaton said the gift of giving was the best present he could ask for. “It’s just been fantastic,” he said. “Some people who don’t take the money say, ‘Man, I love what you are doing. I won’t take it, but give it to someone who needs it.’”

A Marine was reunited this week with the disabled Afghan boy whose life he helped transform. Three years ago, Gunnery Sgt. Warren Coughlin spotted the then 10-year-old Sher Jan selling roadside snacks in Afghanistan, and was astounded by the boy’s optimism, given his badly deformed feet. Coughlin got the boy to an Army doctor, and Jan ended up being flown to the U.S. by a nonprofit for foot and heart surgery. The pair met again just weeks before the now recovered Jan was set to rejoin his family in Afghanistan.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Actor Jackie Chan Opens Management Office in Santa Clarita, California October 2007

SANTA CLARITA, Calif., Oct. 23 /PRNewswire/ -- International superstar

Jackie Chan opened JC Culture USA, his first United States based management company on Friday, October 19, 2007 in the City of Santa Clarita.

Chan announced his new venture during a press conference at Santa Clarita Studios. City of Santa Clarita Mayor Pro-Tem Bob Kellar, U.S. Congressman 25th District of California Buck McKeon, California State Assemblyman 38th District Cameron Smyth and Chairman of China Film Group Han Sanping, welcomed Chan, recognized his accomplishments, and wished him success.

JC Culture USA, a branch of Chan's Beijing operation, will expand the actor's brand, produce, and co-produce entertainment outlets. Chan believes he will be instrumental in helping develop meaningful relationships with entertainment executives in America and China, while promoting more co-production between the two countries.  

Chan chose to establish JC Culture USA in Santa Clarita because it continues to be one of the most business and film friendly cities in California.

"Santa Clarita is a business and film-friendly city with a high quality of life and a soaring economy. We look forward to growing our business here," said Carrie Wang, C.E.O. of JC Culture USA.

During the conference, Chan was presented with the "Sino-American Cultural Exchange Ambassador" award, and awards commending him for his entertainment and philanthropic achievements.

The conference also included the introduction of senior executives from China Film Group, the largest and most influential state-run film enterprise in China. China Film Group and JC Culture China are presently co-producing Jackie Chan's TV reality show in Beijing, "The Disciple."

Chan has appeared in more than 100 films, most recently Rush Hour 3. He has received stars on the Hong Kong Avenue of Stars and the Hollywood Walk of Fame and is well-regarded in Hong Kong for his philanthropic efforts.

Just 30 miles from Los Angeles, Santa Clarita is home to more than 8,000 businesses and several prime time shows like HBO's "Big Love," CBS' "The Unit" and "NCIS," and FX's "The Riches." Santa Clarita is a prime location for business and was recently designated one of California's newest Enterprise Zones. The City was also heralded as one of the most business friendly cities in Los Angeles by the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC), the best place to live in California by CNN/Money Magazine, and one of the state's top 25 retail markets by California Retail Survey.

New York Times Article on Fusion New Year Concert 2007


Let’s Put on a Show for China

Published: April 19, 2007
IT was a smash hit. Boffo! in Hollywood English. Bang ji le in Mandarin Chinese. It was a television show watched by possibly 600 million people worldwide in February at the Lunar New Year in China, ushering in the Year of the Boar.
The show featured talent from China, Tan Weiwei and Li Yuchun, two winners of China’s Super Girl contest — a competition that attracts a far larger audience than “American Idol.” Jackie Chan, the Hong Kong martial arts superstar who is also a singer, was in the lineup. As were Kanye West and Gnarls Barkley from the United States. A-Mei from Taiwan sang.
The international stars were brought together over two nights at the Aladdin/Planet Hollywood Resort in Las Vegas to do the show, which was recorded there and shown the next night and for five more nights in China by Hunan TV.
It was the kind of collaboration that in the past might have been achieved only by vast multinational entertainment companies working with Chinese government ministries and the State and Commerce Departments in the United States.
But the show was put on by AOB Media, a small two-year-old company, with employees in Pasadena, Calif., and Beijing, assisted by independent digital film and music video producers in Santa Monica.
“People did not believe this would actually happen,” said Nelson Liao, founder and chairman of AOB Media, one of a group of companies he has started over two decades.
“Marketing companies here and in Las Vegas didn’t want to accept my job,” said Mr. Liao, who was interviewed at AOB headquarters in Pasadena. “They thought it would be a waste of time, that I would default.”
Yet the show went on and was a success and now AOB Media will do shows featuring Chinese and American entertainers again and again, said Carrie Wang, the chief executive. “We are going to put on a show in September and another for the U.S. calendar New Year, and in 2008, we will again have a show done here in Los Angeles for the Lunar New Year with artists from East and West,” Ms. Wang said.
The Fusion division of AOB Media, which stages the shows, has a contract to produce extravaganzas for the next four Lunar New Years.
Ms. Wang was interviewed on a brief visit to California from her base of operations in Beijing, where she supervises 120 employees and nurtures partnerships with the giant Citic Group (formerly the China International Trust and Investment Corporation), Hunan TV, China Central Television and Red TV, which distributes entertainment on buses, taxis and transit systems in major cities. Hunan, CCTV and Red are government-owned, like all broadcast media in China.
In a career of more than a decade, Ms. Wang has led marketing and management efforts at many trading and development companies in China. She is a Chinese citizen who has a residence near Pasadena.
Colleagues at AOB, which has 25 employees in the Los Angeles area and a number of contract relationships in the entertainment industry, credit Ms. Wang’s connections in China with making the Las Vegas show possible.
“It was an incredible achievement; we put the show together in nine months,” said David McKeon, executive vice president of AOB Media. Mr. McKeon is a Los Angeles native who worked in telecommunications in South Korea and Hong Kong before joining AOB and producing a concert last year in Taiwan.
Those nine months, however, were the culmination of more than 15 years of steady business effort, Mr. Liao said, an evolution that holds object lessons for other companies, large and small, that are eager to do business in China.
Mr. Liao, a native of Taiwan, came to the United States in the early 1980s and earned a master’s of business administration degree from the University of New Haven. He first went to China in 1990 as a marketing representative for American companies in pharmaceuticals and other industries. But he soon got into a joint venture in construction materials with Citic, the state-owned conglomerate that runs 45 companies. That changed his status in an interesting way, Mr. Liao recalled.
“From that time, the Chinese say I’m a real person,” he said. “Before that, they say, ‘You’re not real because you’re a briefcase company — you can run away anytime.’ They want you to commit to a long-term relationship.”
The connection with Citic led Mr. Liao to found one of his companies, AOB Commerce, which raised money in the United States to lend to Chinese entrepreneurial companies.
“In China there is no financial industry yet — no venture capital and no inventory lending for small business,” Mr. Liao said. So his company provided a loan brokering service to fill the need.
In 1994, he met Ms. Wang, who among her other activities managed Chinese entertainment artists. Over time, they conceived the idea to add a media company to Mr. Liao’s diverse holdings and started AOB Media in 2005. “China will open up to the world’s media,” Mr. Liao said, “but for right now government control is most sensitive to media.”
Kyle Jackson, a digital film producer, who designed and produced the Las Vegas show for AOB, said that Hunan TV temporarily kept the Gnarls Barkley segment off the air because one of the musicians had tattoos on his arms. Ms. Wang practiced some diplomacy and the Barkley segment was restored.
“China is different from most other countries,” said Christian Swegal, a music video director and associate of AOB Media who helped line up the American talent for the Las Vegas show through the William Morris Agency. “It prefers contemporary Chinese music to global pop stars. You don’t find American and global entertainers featured on radio and television. Everybody thinks China is a big money market, but that isn’t the case.”
Big companies are eager. MTV, part of Viacom, has been in China for years and is co-producer of an annual music honors show with CCTV, the state network. The News Corporation has its Star TV satellite service broadcasting in China. Walt Disney has ambitious plans, including theme parks and a Dragon Club updating of its old Mickey Mouse Clubs.
The promise is there, but it requires long-term planning — as AOB Media’s success attests. The Lunar New Year show was more a cultural breakthrough than a money-making one.
“The show cost $1.3 million to put on,” Mr. McKeon said, and the company hopes to break even through a share of advertising revenue from Hunan TV and cellphone excerpts that are being prepared. “It was an investment to establish trust.”

This column about small-business trends in California and the West appears on the third Thursday of every month. E-mail:

Found this 2007 Las Vegas Review-Journal Article

Ring in the New Year 

Concerts mark Chinese lunar celebration 


Taiwanese popster A-mei performs tonight, as well as rockers Mayday and Shin Band and singer Jackie Chan.

It's the most celebrated event in the world, and it's coming to Las Vegas, a town that needs no excuse to party -- hey, the sun came up today, let's do a shot.
Commemorated by more than a billion people, the Chinese lunar new year is a massive celebration.

This year, the festivities are coming to Vegas with Fusion, two nights of concerts at the Aladdin Theatre that pair some of China's biggest pop stars with their American counterparts.
Tonight, Asian performers take the stage, among them Taiwanese popster A-mei, rockers Mayday and Shin Band and singer/actor Jackie Chan.
Tomorrow, Fusion features U.S. radio staples Kanye West, Gnarls Barkley, Lupe Fiasco and others.
The show will be broadcast in China on the Hunan television network, where it's expected to draw an audience in the tens of millions, perhaps more.
Televised Chinese new year's events have been in Australia and Europe in the past, but this is the first time something like Fusion is coming to the States.
"Las Vegas is a very popular destination for China," says Dan McKeon, vice president of marketing for AOB Media, which has helped put together Fusion. "They really believe in luck and making sure that the gods are on your side, per see. Las Vegas is kind of the symbol of the American spirit."
Tonight's Fusion headliner, Jackie Chan, is a symbol of this East-West crossover, a famous actor in America who has also established himself as a popular singer in China.
"Jackie Chan is one of those bygone performers that we used to have here in the early days of cinema where they actually put together song, dance and acting," McKeon says. "He's really a jack of all trades. We brought the concept to him of bringing together American and Chinese entertainment, and he just fell in love with it."
Another big Chinese draw is singer Li Yu Chun, who recently starred on "Supergirls," a Chinese equivalent of "American Idol."
"They had 400 million viewers watch the last episode -- more people than in the United States and Great Britain combined," McKeon says of "Supergirl." "She is huge. And we anticipate about the same viewership."
For the American acts on the bill, Fusion provides a chance to get exposed to the mammoth Chinese audience, a largely untapped market that U.S. artists are beginning to crack.
"Kanye West just came back from China -- he's got a huge following there," McKeon says. "They're all excited about getting into China."
AOB Media has a four-year contract to put on Fusion, and it's set to become an annual event.
The event's off to a promising start: This year's installment is as outsized as Las Vegas itself.
"We wanted to do something that's never been done before," McKeon says. "We wanted to bust down the doors and just say, 'In America, we can do it as big as possible.' "

Sunday, May 27, 2012

New York, Obama, and college stats

Some New York City teenagers have begun playing a game they call “subway chicken,” in which they jump onto the tracks and stay there as long as possible as a train pulls into the station. The track-jumping teens depicted in a new YouTube video “should have their heads examined,” said transit officials, noting that 146 people were hit by subway trains last year, 47 fatally.

The big Democratic donors who helped fuel Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign aren’t as enthusiastic this year. Contributions from financial firms are down 68 percent; from lawyers and law firms, down 47 percent; and from the entertainment industry, down 49 percent. The campaign is relying more heavily on small donors, with 58 percent of total fund-raising coming in checks of less than $200.
The New York Times

About 54 percent of college graduates under the age of 25 were jobless or underemployed in low-paying, unskilled positions last year.
Associated Press

The largest porn site on the Web gets 4.4 billion page views per month, or about triple the traffic of CNN or ESPN. The average time spent on a porn site, according to Google’s DoubleClick, is between 15 and 20 minutes, compared with three to six for a nonporn site.

Need some new sunglasses?

A Chinese eyewear company has introduced a range of sunglasses named after Helen Keller. Keller is a national hero in China, for both her triumph over blindness and deafness and her socialist politics, and the company says its “Helen Keller” sunglasses are a tribute to Keller’s heroic spirit. Nevertheless, some have questioned the taste of naming glasses after Keller, especially in light of the firm’s slogan: “You see the world, the world sees you.”

Some news you didn't hear about....

A 12-year-old Little Leaguer last week achieved a feat unmatched by any major league pitcher—throwing a perfect game by striking out every single batter he faced. Jacob Terao, of West Seattle, threw 54 strikes and 27 balls during the regulation six-inning game, striking out 18 batters in a row and leading his team, the Rays, to a 4–0 victory over the rival Braves. The major league record for consecutive strikeouts is 10, set by Tom Seaver of the New York Mets in 1970. “It was a real special experience because I know it doesn’t happen very often,” Terao said.

When Trish Vickers lost her sight, she poured her energies into writing a novel in longhand. But at the end of a 26-page writing session, she was devastated to discover that her pen had been dry and all the pages were blank. In desperation, Vickers, of Lyme Regis in the U.K., turned to her local police force’s fingerprinting department for help. To her relief, the officers were able to use special lighting techniques to recover the writing from impressions on the pages. “It was nice to do something for somebody,” said forensic specialist Kerry Savage, who completed the task during her lunch hours.

Friday, May 25, 2012

My blog is #1 on a google search!

In case you haven't heard, if you type in "Don't want a hangover in Vegas" to google- my blog is at the top of the list.  Over 6 million websites, and mine is number one.  :)

Friday, May 4, 2012

Tip of the week... How to keep your brain sharp

Tip of the week... How to keep your brain sharp

Keep learning. Each time you try something new, you lay new connections between neurons and fend off neurological decline. Study a new language or just attempt a new recipe. If crosswords are old hat, time yourself; racing against the clock “forces your brain to think flexibly.”

Exercise. Aerobic workouts promote brain activity, but even “slow-and-steady” strength training seems to help, by boosting a neuron-nourishing protein.

Avoid pesticides. Heavy exposure to pesticides may increase the risk of dementia. To limit your pesticide intake, buy organic produce or visit to learn which veggies are riskiest.

Talk more. There’s “a silver lining” to getting in political arguments. All conversation is brain exercise, and the most beneficial forces you to grasp another viewpoint.
Source: Martha Stewart Living

Talking points 4/20/12

Craft brewers such as Sierra Nevada and Samuel Adams sold 13 percent more beer last year, while the top 10 major brewers continued to see their sales decline. There are now more than 2,000 craft brewers in the U.S.
The Daily

The U.S. just experienced the warmest start to a year since records began, in 1895. Temperatures in the lower 48 states were a record-shattering 8.6 degrees above normal for March, and 6 degrees higher than average for the first three months.
Associated Press

The number of prescriptions for opioid painkillers such as OxyContin has soared 400 percent in the past decade, leading to growing abuse and addiction. “If doctors understood how hard it is to get patients off of these drugs,” said pain specialist Dr. Jane Ballantyne, “they would not prescribe them to begin with.”
The New York Times

Foreign security agencies from such countries as Iran and China are using students from their nations who are studying in the U.S. to obtain cutting-edge research on information technology, lasers, and aeronautics, the FBI says. About 41 percent of the students at Massachusetts Institute of Technology are foreigners on visas.

Over 110,000 active-duty Army troops were taking prescribed antidepressants, narcotics, sedatives, antipsychotics, and anti-anxiety drugs last year. More than 6 percent of the Army’s active troops are currently on antidepressants.
Los Angeles Times

Sunday, April 29, 2012

A grenade found at an Easter egg hunt?!

It must be true...
I read it in the tabloids

Lindsay Lohan is selling her clothes to raise money. A source close to the troubled actress, 25, says she is in such dire financial straits that she recently took “a truckload of designer clothes, shoes, and bags” to a popular Los Angeles vintage-clothing store and sold them for $14,000 in cash. Lohan’s recent legal difficulties and multiple stints in rehab, the source says, have left her with “zero income and a shed-load of bills.”

A man who won a stair-climbing race in a Los Angeles skyscraper has been stripped of his title after surveillance footage showed him taking the elevator. Miguel Larios, 31, who worked in the building, appeared to have set a new course record when he climbed the 62-story Aon Center skyscraper. But his fellow competitors said they’d been skeptical of Larios’s performance even before he was revealed as a cheat. “He wasn’t sweating a lot,” said Mark Trahanovsky, 53.
“We knew he did not have the physique of an elite stair-climber.”

A British toddler hunting for Easter eggs found an unexploded World War II hand grenade instead. The 3-year-old was participating in his preschool’s annual Easter egg hunt in rural Somerset when adults noticed him standing on a brown, egg-shaped object. Closer inspection revealed the object to be a hand grenade, and a local army bomb squad was called to perform a controlled detonation. “It looked like an Easter egg,” said parent Stuart Moffatt, “but it was a hand grenade.”

Don't want a hangover in Vegas? The answer is here!

A new mobile medical unit is patrolling the streets of Las Vegas, providing intravenous fluids to people with wicked hangovers. With packages starting at $90, Hangover Heaven treats patients with a “proprietary blend” of fluids, vitamins, and medications that the company claims can “drive the toxins out of your system and get you tuned up to enjoy your stay.”

Good Week/Bad Week 4/20/12

Good week for....

Family ties, after Charles Ferguson of Greer, S.C., said he would ignore local officials’ order that he get rid of his pet goat, Yogi, even though he faces fines and jail. “That’s like asking me to get rid of one of my kids,” Ferguson said. “It’s not gonna happen.”

Never giving up hope, after Monika Moser of Germany was reunited with her cat 16 years after it went missing. A hiker found the cat, which apparently had been living in the woods the entire time.

Laura Penny, a British journalist, after heartthrob actor Ryan Gosling grabbed her just as she stepped into the path of a New York City cab. “I literally, LITERALLY just got saved from a car by Ryan Gosling,” Penny tweeted. “Literally. That actually just happened.”

Bad week for...

Ozzie Guillen, manager of baseball’s Miami Marlins, after he alienated much of the team’s fan base by saying he “loved” and respected Fidel Castro. Guillen begged for forgiveness and was suspended for five games, but Cuban-American groups say they won’t stop protesting until he’s fired.

Stealing technology, after Raymond Jefferson was charged with stealing $17,000 worth of merchandise from a Radio Shack in Chicago, including a GPS device that police used to locate him.

Swallowing your own medicine, after Henrik Ismarker of Stockholm complained to police that too many cars were speeding on a street near his home. The next day, he was caught in a police speed trap there. Ismarker said he was “embarrassed,’’ but “very satisfied with the police response.”

Some good news for a change! 4/20/12

One of the stars of the John Huston film The African Queen was restored to its former glory this week—the titular 30-foot riverboat that ferried Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn up the Congo in the 1951 movie. Lance and Suzanne Holmquist of Key Largo, Fla., spotted the 100-year-old boat sinking into disrepair in a marina near their home. Having leased it from the son of its original owner, the couple gave the vessel a $60,000 refurbishment and will maintain it as a charter boat for tourists and movie buffs.

A quick-thinking middle school student in Milton, Wash., saved his classmates from a terrible accident this week by taking control of his school bus after its driver suffered a heart attack at the wheel. After the ailing driver slumped in his seat, Jeremy Wuitschick, 13, sprang into action, steering the vehicle to the side of the road and bringing it to a halt. The driver remains in grave condition, but thanks to Wuitschick’s heroism, his young passengers are fine. Wuitschick now plans to learn CPR in case another emergency strikes. “When something major happens, I always look back to see what I could have done better,” he said.

A truck driver from Somerdale, N.J., has earned a reputation for delivering more than just cargo. Michael Hawthorne has helped bring no fewer than three babies into the world during his time on the road. The midwife’s son first delivered a baby in the backseat of a car in California in 1999. That chance event prompted him to keep a medical birth kit in his cab in case it happened again. Remarkably, it did—once in Maryland in 2010, then again in Texas last month. “I feel like I’m a doctor in a mobile hospital unit on 18 wheels,” he said.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Charity-Help others and get more done Gareth Cook The Boston Globe

There is a simple fix for your hectic, time-starved schedule, said Gareth Cook. “Spend more time doing things for other people.” It may sound crazy to add yet another task to your to-do list, but Harvard Business School professor Michael Norton says that how much time you have matters less than “how you feel about what you can get done.” In a series of experiments, he asked participants to devote time to others—by writing to an ill child, for instance—or to do something for themselves. Those who did a good deed consistently “felt like they had more time.” Even those who stayed late to complete tasks of kindness reported feeling less pressed for time later. The reason is rooted in the fact that “people are extraordinarily bad” at estimating how much time and effort a task will take. We frequently overestimate, which heightens stress. Doing something for someone else shows us “that we can get things done,” and makes us feel effective and in control. However busy we are, it turns out, we can break down our own “potent illusions” simply by lending a hand to others.

Business News-the bottom line 4/13/12

The Quaker Oats man has gotten a makeover as part of owner PepsiCo’s efforts to reinvigorate the brand. The new look for “Larry” involves a haircut and the removal of his double chin, plus a new logo shape and color scheme. “We took about five pounds off him,” says a member of the brand’s redesign team, but left “a little sparkle in his eye.”
The Wall Street Journal

So much for the paperless office. The average American consumes the paper equivalent of five and a half 40-foot trees every year. Belgium, where the EU bureaucracy translates reams of documents into 23 languages, consumes a world-beating 8.5 trees per person annually.

Goldman Sachs said this week that it sold its 16 percent stake in the media group that owns, after New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote that the site ran ads for sex with underage girls.

ExxonMobil, long the world’s biggest publicly traded oil producer, has been overtaken by PetroChina, which hiked its output to 2.4 million barrels a day last year. Exxon’s output fell to 2.3 million barrels a day.
Associated Press

AFA Foods, a Pennsylvania-based ground-beef processing company, filed for bankruptcy this week, saying that the uproar
over the use of the meat filler dubbed “pink slime” had cut demand for its products. A competitor, Beef Products Inc., announced last week that it would temporarily suspend production at three of its plants because of consumer concerns.

Welcome home to Ikeaville
Ikea wants to be your landlord, said Doug Saunders in the Toronto Globe and Mail. The Swedish furniture giant has purchased a 27-acre expanse of “post-industrial wasteland” in East London and plans to start building a chic modern neighborhood there next year. The area, not far from where the 2012 Olympics will take place, will have 1,200 homes and apartments “priced to appeal to a range of incomes,” plus a hotel and office spaces. Many of the streets will be car-free pedestrian zones, and there are plans for a large underground parking lot. Ikea says there won’t be a Billy bookshelf or Swedish meatball in sight, but the company plans to retain ownership and rent out the homes. “We’re just securing our money long-term,” says Harald Müller, of the property-development division. “And of course creating more profits at the end.”

I'm staying away from Nacozari, Mexico!

Death cult
Nacozari, Mexico

Mexico’s cult of La Santa Muerte, or Holy Death, has turned murderous. Police arrested eight people last week, all allegedly followers of the cult, for the ritual sacrifice of two boys and a woman over the past four years. “They sliced open the victims’ veins and, while they were still alive, they waited for them to bleed to death and collected the blood in a container,” said José Larrinaga, a spokesman for Sonora state prosecutors. The cult, which mixes Catholic and indigenous beliefs, has become much less secretive over the past decade, and has spread in working-class neighborhoods and shantytowns until it now numbers some 2 million followers. Before these murders, the cult was not known to practice human sacrifice.

Only in America 4/15/12

Tampa officials have released a list of items considered a security threat during the Republican National Convention in August, including water pistols, masks, and even pieces of string. Firearms are not on the list. State gun laws prohibit any local restriction on the carrying of guns. “If we’d tried to regulate guns, it wouldn’t have worked,” says a city official.

Good week/bad week 4/13/12

Good week for...

Leveraging your position, after Greg Smith, the ex–Goldman Sachs executive who resigned in a highly critical New York Times column, signed a $1.5 million book deal. The book will include more details of the “toxic culture” Smith found so repugnant.

Intellectual property lawyers, after Yahoo filed a lawsuit against Facebook over alleged patent infringements, and Facebook countersued. Previously, Apple sued Samsung, and both British Telecom and Oracle sued Google.

Thrift shopping, after Zach Bodish of Ohio bought a print of a crudely etched face at a thrift store for $14. It turned out to be an original, signed Pablo Picasso print.

Bad week for...

The myth of ‘student athletes,’ after the University of Kentucky won the national basketball championship, and its five starters—all freshmen and sophomores—indicated they’d quit college and file for the NBA draft.

Fixer-uppers, after a house in Ferryhill Station, England, sold for $13,125 at auction, making it Britain’s cheapest house. The two-bedroom house is 100 yards from a train track, and features missing ceilings, a destroyed kitchen, and lots of graffiti.

Bragging, after a car with a bumper sticker reading “Why am I the only person on the planet who knows how to drive?” collided with a guardrail on a New York City highway and flipped over. The driver suffered non-life-threatening injuries, including a bruised ego.

Some good news for a change 4/15/12

A real-life superhero is on the loose in Baltimore County, Md. Lenny B. Robinson became a viral sensation last week after video footage of him driving a Lamborghini dressed in a Batman outfit leaked onto the Internet. It has since emerged that Robinson dresses as the Caped Crusader to make hospital visits to sick children in the Baltimore area. The independently wealthy 48-year-old spends $25,000 a year on Batman toys and memorabilia to hand out in cancer wards. “It feels like I have a responsibility that’s beyond a normal person,” said Robinson. “To be there for the kids, to be strong for them, and to make them smile as much as I can.”

Thirty years ago, Jadav Payeng was distraught watching snakes die for lack of shade on a barren sandbar in the Brahmaputra River in Assam, India. He moved to the sandbar, began planting seeds there, and cultivated them day and night for three decades. His efforts single-handedly transformed the wasteland into a lush, 1,360-acre forest now home to elephants, tigers, and rhinos. The 47-year-old may soon have help with the upkeep of his island forest: The Indian government is considering protecting it as a conservation reserve.

When a syndicate of firefighters in the Albuquerque Fire Department won a $10,000 payout in last week’s record Mega Millions lotto draw, the group knew exactly what to spend the money on—a fallen colleague. Firefighter Vince Cordova, 24, has a rare brain tumor that requires urgent treatment by specialists in Los Angeles, an operation that will costs hundreds of thousands of dollars. The firemen hope their donation will inspire others to come forward to help Cordova pay his medical bills, and allow him to rejoin his team.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Talking points for 4/7/12

Outstanding student-loan debt surpassed $1 trillion late last year, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Data from the New York Fed suggests that as many as one in four student borrowers who have begun repaying their debts is behind on payments.
The Wall Street Journal

After an adviser to Mitt Romney suggested that the candidate’s general election campaign could start afresh after the primary—“almost like an Etch A Sketch”—Amazon sales for the toy soared more than 2,000 percent and the stock price of its maker, Ohio Art Co., more than doubled.

BlackBerry has been dethroned on its home turf for the first time. Research in Motion, the Waterloo, Ontario-based maker of the BlackBerry, shipped 2.08 million of its smartphones last year in Canada, compared with 2.85 million iPhones for Apple.

Movie receipts in the U.S. and Canada declined last year, but growth abroad pushed the global tally into positive territory. Movie ticket sales in the U.S. and Canada declined 4 percent, to $10.2 billion, in 2011, but growth elsewhere—particularly in China, where sales increased 35 percent—pushed global film receipts up 3 percent, to $32.6 billion.
The Wall Street Journal

The top 1 percent of U.S. taxpayers reaped 93 percent of the $288 billion in new income created in the course of 2010. Those wealthier taxpayers saw their average income increase by 11.6 percent that year, while the remaining 99 percent received an average of $80 more in annual pay per person than they had the previous year.
The New York Times

Prison tips for Wall St. dummies
When Wall Street analysts get caught passing along insider-trading tips, they often seek “tips of another kind—about getting along in federal prison,” said Michael Rothfeld in The Wall Street Journal. That’s led to a booming “prison-prep industry,” where white-collar criminals can pay for lessons on “coping with strip searches and getting along with a tattooed cellmate named Bubba.” Guides like Patrick Boyce, a former stockbroker who served 11 months for fraud, help slammer-bound clients master prison lingo (a “cheese eater” is an informant), learn new currency markets (stamps and canned fish can be traded), and, most important, understand what not to do. They tell prisoners to always say “excuse me” and to never butt into conversations. And there’s this lesson from “Gator,” Boyce’s 400-pound former cell mate: “Don’t ever sit on another man’s bunk.”

Monday, April 2, 2012

Want to get more political? Here are some great websites! 4/2/12

The Internet... Sites for monitoring your lawmakers will get you started, by identifying your congressional and state representatives according to your ZIP code. Summaries of campaign finance and voting records are included. “analyzes where candidates get their campaign money and how they spend it.” This home site of the Center for Responsive Politics also provides data on lawmakers’ personal wealth. shows you who pays for lawmakers’ trips and which foreign countries are giving them gifts. is run by the Library of Congress and details the bills your lawmaker has sponsored, along with the status of each bill. “ranks lawmakers by the number of days they spoke on the floor and links to each appearance.”
Source: Shreveport, La., Times

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Some good news for a change 3/24/12

A 101-year-old great-great-grandmother was recognized by the Guinness World Records this week as the oldest woman ever to tandem paraglide. Mary Hardison of Ogden, Utah, took her record flight to celebrate her birthday in September of last year, while being cheered on by four generations of her family. This week, Guinness said it would officially add her feat to the record books. She said she was “humbled” by her record, and encouraged other elderly people to try to break it. “Do things as long as you are physically able,” she said. “Be positive. Friends don’t like a grumpy person.”

A former military dog handler will be reunited with the bomb-sniffing dog she served with in Iraq, after saving her canine colleague from being put down. Former Marine Cpl. Megan Leavey, of Rockport, N.Y., completed over 100 missions with Sgt. Rex, a German shepherd, and the two were both wounded in a 2006 bomb explosion. So Leavey was devastated to learn that Rex, 10, was due to be euthanized. She got 21,000 people to sign her online petition urging the military to reconsider, and will soon adopt the dog. “Rex is my partner,” said Leavey. “It’s a very strong bond.”

Thanks to Google Earth, a onetime orphan raised in Australia has been reunited with the Indian family he left behind 25 years ago. Saroo Brierley accidentally boarded a train in Khandwa, India, as a 5-year-old beggar, and ended up 900 miles away in Calcutta. He was taken in by an orphanage, from which he was adopted by an Australian family. But Brierley never forgot his childhood home, and after thousands of hours searching the Internet, he recognized familiar sights from his village on Google Earth. He was finally reunited with his family last month, and now Hollywood producers are hoping to film his remarkable tale.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Talking points for 3/21/12

The bottom line

American exports to China have increased 468 percent since 2001, and are up nearly 50 percent since 2008. The rise is attributed to the growing Chinese middle class, with the biggest U.S. export to the country being food, particularly soybeans, snack foods, pork, and dairy products.
The Washington Post

Contrary to economists’ expectations, the global recession has not increased extreme poverty. The proportion of people living on less than $1.25 a day fell in every developing region between 2005 and 2008, according to the World Bank, and data from 2010 show the declining trend continuing.
The New York Times

Sara Blakely, the 41-year-old founder of Spanx, is the youngest female on this year’s Forbes annual World’s Billionaires list without an inheritance or help from a husband. She is estimated to be worth $1 billion thanks to the huge popularity of her company’s slimming undergarments for men and women.

Public schools lure foreigners

Struggling small towns across the U.S. are “putting their empty classroom seats up for sale” to high-paying international students, said Stephanie Simon in Stung by funding cuts and dwindling enrollment, schools in towns like Sharpsville, Pa., and Lavaca, Ark., have been wooing young foreigners, who pay as much as $30,000 a year to attend a U.S. public school. The foreign students’ ultimate goal: “Admission to a U.S. college.” The numbers are still small: Just 1,135 foreign students are paying to attend a U.S. public high school, but that’s up from 309 five years ago. Eleven students from China, Thailand, Germany, and elsewhere make up nearly 20 percent of high school enrollment in tiny Revillo, S.D., this year. “We’ve got something to sell,” says Barb Hoyles, who connects the students with host families. “That’s huge for us.”

Sunday, March 18, 2012

How about some good news for a change! 3/18/12

Two cousins separated in a Nazi concentration camp in WWII were reunited this week, after seven decades apart. Leon Schagrin and Lemel Leo Adler were teenagers when they last saw each other, in Auschwitz in 1944. After a brief meeting, they were sent to different parts of the camp. Both survived and went on to live long, successful lives in the U.S., but each assumed the other had perished. Then, last week, Adler discovered his long-lost cousin living just 20 miles away from him in Broward County, Fla. “There is a lot to talk about,” said Schagrin.

Some Japanese fishermen who lost their boats in last year’s earthquake and tsunami got their livelihoods back last week, thanks to a Virginia Beach, Va.–based charity. Operation Blessing International presented ten 19-foot boats to fishermen at the Hikado fishing harbor on the first anniversary of the disaster, and ten more are on the way. The charity commissioned boat-builder General Marine, of Biddeford, Maine, to construct the vessels, giving the economy back home a boost, too. “It’s a win-win situation,” said Stacey Raymond, owner of General Marine.

An Iraq veteran came home from the war to find that his local community had pitched in to restore his dream car while he was deployed. Pfc. Greg Seibert of Escondido, Calif., had bought an old Plymouth Fury in 2010, with dreams of fixing it up with his father, Benny. But Seibert’s family surprised him with the newly refurbished car this week, after 15 local companies donated fresh bodywork, interiors, and a new engine. The car is still a coat of paint short of completion, and Seibert says he and his father will add the finishing touches together. “It means everything to me,” he said.

The week

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Apple: Claiming credit for half a million U.S. jobs

Apple: Claiming credit for half a million U.S. jobs

Apple, the world’s most valuable company, says it has “created or supported” 514,000 American jobs, said Nick Wingfield in The New York Times. Under fire for sending manufacturing jobs to overseas contractors with questionable labor practices, Apple commissioned a study that found that, in addition to its 47,000 U.S. employees, it supports another 257,000 jobs at firms like Corning, which supplies Apple parts, and UPS, which delivers Apple goods. Another 210,000 people are employed by companies that create apps for Apple devices such as the iPhone and the iPad, a new version of which was launched this week.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Some cool talking points 3/13/12

The number of mosques in the United States soared by 74 percent in the past decade, from 1,209 in 2000 to 2,106 in 2010, according to a new study. The study estimates that 2.6 million American Muslims regularly attend services.
USA Today

Though the number of guns sold each year keeps climbing, the percentage of Americans who own guns has been falling steadily. In 1977, 54 percent of American adults lived in a household that contained a gun; today, 32 percent do. The decline reflects a population shift away from rural areas to urban areas, and the growth of the under-30 population, which has a much lower rate of gun ownership.

Eighty-four percent of state and local government employees have access to a defined-benefits pension plan, compared with only 20 percent of private-sector employees.
The Washington Times

Four out of five people between the ages of 9 and 21 at least temporarily show some form of mental illness—including depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and addiction—according to a Duke University study of 1,420 children over 12 years. “We have to destigmatize the idea of mental disorder,” said study co-author E. Jane Costello. “We shouldn’t be surprised that the brain has problems, just like the rest of the body.”

Saudi Arabia has refused to send a women’s team to the Olympic Games in London this summer. The conservative Islamic nation considers women who exercise in public “shameless,” and in 2009 the government shut down 153 women’s gyms.

Poll watch
63% of Americans, including 60% of Catholics, say they support a requirement by the Obama administration that private health insurance cover the cost of birth control for women. But the issue is sharply partisan: 83% of Democrats support the policy, while just 42% of Republicans do. 62% of independents support contraception coverage.
Kaiser Family Foundation

29% of Americans and 21% of Canadians say Bigfoot is “definitely” or “probably” real. 17% of Britons believe the Loch Ness Monster is “definitely” or “probably” real, including 24% of people in Scotland.
Angus Reid Public Opinion

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A woman who told customs officers she was three months pregnant was discovered to have $20,000 worth of heroin in her groin and intestines. Authorities said Nigerian Afolake Awoyemi, 42, waddled off a flight at New York’s JFK airport with a distended stomach under a “loose-fitting dress.” A pat-down revealed a peculiar “bulge” that was not a baby. After she spent time on the airport’s specially designed “Drug Loo” toilet, which sanitizes evidence, the bulge turned out to be 25 packets of heroin.

A British woman who suffers from a rare psychiatric disorder has fallen in love with the Statue of Liberty, says the London Sun on Sunday. Amanda Whittaker suffers from “objectum sexuality,” meaning she forms romantic attachments to inanimate objects; previously, she was in love with a set of drums. Now 27, Whittaker says she visits the statue whenever she can, but most of the time “she is my long-distance lover and I am blown away by how stunning she is.”