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

Have you seen this? 3/13/12 share with a friend!

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.”

Americans need to stop complaining! 3/13/12

The self-pity of America’s middle class
Charles Kenny

Foreign Policy

“Stop whining, Occupiers,” said Charles Kenny. The largely middle-class protesters who want the top 1 percent of earners to pay higher taxes on their “supposedly ill-gotten gains” have a point: The world has a terrible inequality problem. But what the self-proclaimed 99 percent do not seem to understand is that by global standards, “America’s middle class is also really, really rich.” The average American family earns almost 50 times more than the world’s poorest families, many of whom scrape by on less than $1.25 a day. Like the richest Americans, the middle class has come by its wealth largely by luck. Economist Herbert Simon once estimated that 90 percent of any American’s income is the result of living in a modern, affluent nation. (Try taking your skills to, say, Somalia.) Most middle-class Americans also enjoy a lavish system of benefits that gives them more in tax breaks, Medicare and Social Security, public services, and free schooling than they contribute in taxes. If Occupiers really care about inequality, they should be happy to pay higher taxes, too—to help America’s bottom 20 percent and the poor of other nations.

Monday, March 12, 2012

More view?

My Zimbio
Top Stories

Good week/Bad week 3/12/12 Did you hear about this?

Good week/bad week

Good week for...

Very persistent birthers, after Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Ariz., announced that his investigators had concluded that President Obama’s birth certificate was a forgery. “I’m just doing my job,” said Arpaio. He’s currently being investigated by a federal grand jury for abuse of power.

Romance, after Californians Allan Marks, 98, and Lillian Hartley, 95, became the world’s oldest newlyweds when they were married on leap day. “I didn’t want a relationship—I enjoyed my freedom—but he got me,” said Lillian.

Public servants, after a survey of 43,000 employees found that government workers are the happiest. The least happy employees work in agriculture, mining, Internet firms, and the media.

Bad week for...

Assuming no one’s watching, after a 50-year-old Frenchman took Google to court for posting on its Street View service a picture of him urinating in his yard. The man says that even though his face was blurred out, he’s become the laughingstock of his small village.

Confidence in the euro zone, after video footage surfaced that shows German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble secretly doing a sudoku puzzle on his iPad during a debate over the 130-billion-euro bailout of Greece.

Representing your city, after Jean-Sun Hannah Ahn, recently crowned Miss Seattle, had to apologize for complaining about the city in tweets she made three months ago. “Ugh,” she tweeted, “can’t stand cold rainy Seattle and the annoying people.”

Fun news 3/12/12

It wasn’t all bad

The Schwartzes, then and now

Back in 1952, Joan and Isidore Schwartz spent the first night of their marriage in New York’s historic Waldorf-Astoria hotel, paying the then-significant sum of $16.80 for a room. Sixty years on, the couple celebrated their anniversary last week in the very same hotel, and paid the exact same amount to stay the night—a far cry from the usual $319-a-night rate. The Waldorf honors the original room rate for couples commemorating special occasions at the hotel, but the Schwartzes, of East Lyme, Conn., are only the second couple to use the deal to celebrate their diamond anniversary.

A teenager ordered to tidy his room by his long-suffering mother really cleaned up when he discovered a winning lottery ticket in the mess. Ryan Kitching, 19, of Penicuik, Scotland, won over $83,000 after finding a pile of discarded lottery tickets buried in a drawer. Kitching’s mother said she had been nagging her son to clean his room for several weeks. The teenager said he’d treat her to a holiday with his winnings—and keep his room tidier in the future. “I won’t need telling twice,” he said.

A fisherman who learned to read and write at the age of 91 has gone on to write his memoirs at the age of 98. James Arruda Henry, of Mystic, Conn., was encouraged to pick up literacy skills by his granddaughters following the death of his wife several years ago. Before long, he was writing out stories taken from his life in longhand on a legal pad. With the help of his tutor, Henry collected them all into a book, In a Fisherman’s Language, which is now being distributed by a local publisher.

THE WEEK 17 March 2012

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Stocks and Politics

Stock shopping on the shelves

Ever seen a smart product and thought, “That company is going places”? asked Matt Krantz in USA Today. A new smartphone app will let you invest on the spot. Brokerage firm TD Ameritrade has upgraded its app to allow investors to scan UPC bar codes on any product and instantly get stock information for the company that makes it—as well as the option to buy shares. That means an investor who sees a product flying off the shelves at a retail store can instantly get in on the action. Some of the best-performing companies make “products that people on Main Street consume every day,” says Nicole Sherrod of TD Ameritrade.

Dems beat GOP for returns

“Stock investors do better when Democrats occupy the White House,” said Bob Drummond in An analysis by Bloomberg Government Barometer shows that if you invested $1,000 in a hypothetical fund tracking the S&P 500 in 1961, when John F. Kennedy took office, and kept it there only during the 23 years that a Democrat has held the presidency, you’d have $10,920 as of Feb. 21. But if you invested the same amount at Richard Nixon’s 1969 inaugural and let it grow under 28 years of Republican administrations, you’d end up with just $2,087 on the day that George W. Bush left the White House. The difference reflects the fact that seven of the eight recessions since 1960 began when Republicans were in the Oval Office.

You think the US is bad?

The bottom line

China’s legislators make U.S. lawmakers look like paupers. Last year, the 70 richest members of the Chinese legislature added more to their wealth—$11.5 billion—than the combined net worth of all 535 members of Congress, President Obama, the entire Cabinet, and the Supreme Court.

Interesting info 3/3/12


The percentage of Americans with tattoos rose from 14 percent in 2008 to 21 percent last year, and women are now more likely to be inked than men. Of those with tattoos, 30 percent say their ink makes them feel sexier, and 25 percent say it makes them feel rebellious.
Harris Interactive

Some 600,000 job openings went unfilled in 2011 because employers could not find workers with the right skills, according to a survey of U.S. manufacturers. Manufacturers say they now need workers who are trained in the use of computers, automation, and other technologies.
The Wall Street Journal

Residents of at least six states have filed lawsuits challenging Barack Obama’s eligibility to be a presidential candidate in 2012, insisting that he is not a natural-born citizen of the U.S.
The Economist

Four out of five of the millions of tropical fish that are caught in the wild to be sold as pets die before, or soon after, they reach home aquariums.

The suicide rate in New York City is about half the national average. City officials say the low rate is primarily the result of the city’s strict gun laws. Only 12 percent of suicides in New York involve firearms, while the national figure is 51 percent, and in the most suicide-prone states, it’s 66 percent.

Poll watch

Americans are getting more cautious about social media. 63% say they’ve deleted people from their “friends” list, 44% have deleted comments from their profile, and 37% have untagged photos of themselves. 58% say they set their main online profile to “private,” so that only friends can see it.
Pew Research Center

51% of Americans now disapprove of the federal government’s bailout of U.S. automakers, while 44% approve. Among Republicans, 73% say they disapprove.
Gallup Poll

Friday, March 2, 2012

Only in America 3/2/12

A Cincinnati man who complained on Facebook that his estranged wife was an “evil, vindictive woman” was ordered by a judge to post daily apologies for a month or go to jail. Mark Byron is complying with the order, but says only his friends could view his complaints, and that the judge violated his freedom of speech. “If they do this to me,” Byron said, “they can do this to others.”

A Wyoming legislator has introduced a bill to prepare the state to issue its own currency and restore order when the nation’s economy and social structure collapse. Republican David Miller says he wants Wyoming residents to be protected from “catastrophic events,” noting, “Things happen quickly sometimes—look at Libya, look at Egypt.”

Good week-Bad week 3/2/12

Good week/bad week

Good week for...

Mocking Angie’s leg, after Angelina Jolie repeatedly thrust her right leg out of a slit in her gown while posing at the Academy Awards. A Twitter page, @AngiesRightLeg, quickly amassed 40,000 followers with mocking comments, and on the Web, Angie’s leg was being photoshopped into famous images, such as the Statue of Liberty, the moon landing, and The Last Supper.

Rocky, the largest lobster ever caught in Maine, after the 27-pound, 40-inch-long crustacean was released back into the ocean. It’s illegal to keep a lobster of that size.

Karma, after Marine Cpl. Alexander Degenhardt agreed to donate bone marrow to a stranger. Two days later, while playing the slots in Las Vegas, he won a $2.9 million jackpot.

Bad week for...

Contraception, after two chimpanzees at a sanctuary in New Orleans got pregnant, even though all the males had been given vasectomies. The males will now be getting another round of vasectomies, and the females will be put on birth control.

Ice fishing, after 36 parked cars at an annual ice fishing competition in Oshkosh, Wis., fell through thin ice on Lake Winnebago. A warm winter has kept many Midwest lakes from freezing.

Everyone on Earth under age 60, after astronomers detected a 460-foot-wide asteroid that might hit our planet in February 2040. The good news is that scientists aren’t sure of its path. By the time they are, says NASA scientist Donald Yeomans, “there would be time to mount a deflection mission to alter its course.”

It wasnt all bad this week 3/2/12

A 51-year-old woman has become one of the oldest Army Reserve recruits ever to complete combat training. Sandra Coast finished her basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., last week, alongside fellow recruits less than half her age. A former Navy officer, Coast was inspired to join the Army Reserve after her son Jeff enlisted as a U.S. Marine. Despite her age, Coast achieved one of the highest physical fitness scores in the company. “She is a prime example that age is just a number,” said Army 1st Sgt. John Byars. “She ran faster than soldiers young enough to be her kids.”

Homeless people in South Florida dined this week on Kobe beef burgers, slow-cooked pork, and braised short ribs, after vendors at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival donated almost 30,000 pounds of leftovers to local soup kitchens. Volunteers from local charity Feeding South Florida had refrigerated trucks on hand at the event to collect spare food, and quickly distributed the gourmet treats to 10 local shelters. The excess food was expected to provide over 5,000 meals for the area’s poor and needy. A portion of the food was also frozen, preserving some delicacies for later.

A terminally ill teenager given only months to live voiced an unusual regret to a friend last month—that he would never read the final, unpublished novels in Harry Turtledove’s The War That Came Early series. The friend posted a message on the Internet site Reddit, which was spotted by writer Jason M. Hough, who shares a publisher with Turtledove. Thanks to Hough’s efforts, the sick teen received both an advance copy of Turtledove’s next book and a phone call from the author himself. Hough played down his good deed. “I just made a phone call,” he said. “Right place, right time.”