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Phoenix Cos
14 апреля 2016, 19:20

WATCH: 5 Top Tech Minds Reveal Hopes and Fears About AI

The Berggruen Philosophy and Culture Center recently brought a diverse group of neuroscientists and philosophers together with Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and programmers to answer a question posed by neuroscientist Antonio Damasio: As developments in artificial intelligence extend or surpass human intelligence, do they challenge the traditional definition of what it means to be human? In the following videos, five of Silicon Valley's top minds -- Reid Hoffman, Scott Phoenix, Elad Gil, Bo Shao and Bill Joy -- respond to this question and address the promises and perils of AI in the near future and long term. Utopia or Dystopia? -- Reid Hoffman Hoffman, the co-founder of LinkedIn, explains how AI may help us find utopian solutions to existent and emerging human problems. But there is the possibility that AI will become our awful robot overlords that only benefit the few if we don't cultivate social change in tandem. "The real risks involve what AI does in the hands of human beings," he says. Solutions for Everything -- Scott Phoenix Phoenix, co-founder of Vicarious, argues that human innovation is limited by biology -- the number of people, the years we live and how we think. A superintelligent AI, he says, could help us achieve what mortality obstructs, leading us to better and longer lives. An Algorithm for Love -- Elad Gil Gil, co-founder of Color Genomics, says your future happiness may be found through the computations of your local AI matchmaking robot. It may know you better than you think. The Rising Species -- Elad Gil Gil also says the evolution of AI is the evolution of an independent species that will demand we rethink the ethics and power relations between man and machine. AI Will Never Be Human -- Bo Shao Shao, founding managing partner of Matrix Partners China, cautions us to hold tight to the embodied sense of purpose that makes us human. What distinguishes human from machine is our lived experience, he says. We are more than goal-oriented machines moving from task to task. Calculating Better Medicine -- Bill Joy Joy, co-founder and former chief scientist of Sun Microsystems and co-author of "The Java Language Specification," says if we embrace artificial intelligence, it may literally save our lives. AI may be the future of medicine, he says, helping humanity live longer through better diagnostics and information enabled by big data computing power. CRISPR: The Danger in Future Tech -- Bill Joy Joy's real worries though concern the capacity of gene editing technology to wipe out genetic diversity. Also on WorldPost: -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

14 апреля 2016, 19:20

WATCH: 5 Top Tech Minds Reveal Hopes and Fears About AI

The Berggruen Philosophy and Culture Center recently brought a diverse group of neuroscientists and philosophers together with Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and programmers to answer a question posed by neuroscientist Antonio Damasio: As developments in artificial intelligence extend or surpass human intelligence, do they challenge the traditional definition of what it means to be human? In the following videos, five of Silicon Valley's top minds -- Reid Hoffman, Scott Phoenix, Elad Gil, Bo Shao and Bill Joy -- respond to this question and address the promises and perils of AI in the near future and long term. Utopia or Dystopia? -- Reid Hoffman Hoffman, the co-founder of LinkedIn, explains how AI may help us find utopian solutions to existent and emerging human problems. But there is the possibility that AI will become our awful robot overlords that only benefit the few if we don't cultivate social change in tandem. "The real risks involve what AI does in the hands of human beings," he says. Solutions for Everything -- Scott Phoenix Phoenix, co-founder of Vicarious, argues that human innovation is limited by biology -- the number of people, the years we live and how we think. A superintelligent AI, he says, could help us achieve what mortality obstructs, leading us to better and longer lives. An Algorithm for Love -- Elad Gil Gil, co-founder of Color Genomics, says your future happiness may be found through the computations of your local AI matchmaking robot. It may know you better than you think. The Rising Species -- Elad Gil Gil also says the evolution of AI is the evolution of an independent species that will demand we rethink the ethics and power relations between man and machine. AI Will Never Be Human -- Bo Shao Shao, founding managing partner of Matrix Partners China, cautions us to hold tight to the embodied sense of purpose that makes us human. What distinguishes human from machine is our lived experience, he says. We are more than goal-oriented machines moving from task to task. Calculating Better Medicine -- Bill Joy Joy, co-founder and former chief scientist of Sun Microsystems and co-author of "The Java Language Specification," says if we embrace artificial intelligence, it may literally save our lives. AI may be the future of medicine, he says, helping humanity live longer through better diagnostics and information enabled by big data computing power. CRISPR: The Danger in Future Tech -- Bill Joy Joy's real worries though concern the capacity of gene editing technology to wipe out genetic diversity. Also on WorldPost: -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

22 февраля 2013, 21:14

Europe is Safe... Just Ask Spanish Depositors... Who Have Lost EVERYTHING

  Anyone who wants to get an inside look at both the European banking system and the politicians in charge of fixing it need to only look at Spain’s Bankia. Bankia was formed in December 2010 by merging seven totally bankrupt Spanish cajas (regional banks that were unregulated). The bank was heralded as a success story and an indication that European Governments could manage the risks in their banking systems. Indeed, in 2011, Bankia even reported a profit of €41 million. And in April 2012, it was proposing paying a dividend. Then, in the span of two weeks, the bank revised its 2011 profit to a €3.3 billion LOSS, requested a formal bailout from Spain, and had to be nationalized. What’s striking about this sequence of events is that throughout it, Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy was claiming that Spain’s banks were in great shape. Indeed, on May 28 2012, (after Bankia had already requested a €19 billion bailout, the single largest bailout in Spanish history), Rajoy stated , "there will be no rescue of the Spanish banking sector." Bear in mind, Spain itself was just days away from requesting outside aid from the EU. The timeline says it all: May 9th: Bankia requests €4.5 billion loan, Spanish Government states that the bank is “solvent.” May 21st: Spain meets Bankia’s request for loan and takes a 45% stake in the bank thereby instigating a partial nationalization. May 23rd:  Bankia’s bailout needs grows to €11 billion/ Rajoy retorts to France’s Hollande, "Hollande does not know the state of Spanish banks." May 24th: Bankia’s bailout needs grow to €15 billion May 25th: Bankia’s bailout needs are now €19 billion (2011 profits revised to €4 billion loss)… the Spanish Bailout Fund has just €5 billion in cash. May 28th: Rajoy comments, "there will be no rescue of the Spanish banking sector." Weekend of June 8-10th: Rajoy texts to his finance minister: “Aguanta, we are the fourth European power. Spain is not Uganda… If they want to force the rescue of Spain, they need to start getting ready €500 billion and another €750 billion for Italy, which will have to be rescued afterwards.”/ Spain informally asks for €100 billion bailout/ EU Finance Ministers OK the bailout. Sunday June 10th: Rajoy states that the bailout is a “victory” before commenting, "This year is going to be a bad one: Growth is going to be negative by 1.7 percent, and also unemployment is going to increase." Thus, in just one month’s time, Spain implements the largest bank nationalization in its history and requests €100 billion from the EU to recapitalize its banks. And yet, throughout this time, Spanish politicians maintain that Spain’s banking system is “solvent” or in great shape… right up until they get the €100 billion at which point the truth comes out: “This year is going to be a bad one.” Also note that Rajoy sealed the deal and which he proclaimed a “triumph”  (along with the above statement about 2012 being a bad year) before hopping a plane to watch Spain’s soccer team play Poland. Fast forward to December 2012, and Bankia is again in the news, this time with Spain revealing that despite receiving the largest bailout in Spanish history, the bank still had a NEGATIVE value. Bankia’s shareholders have received a nasty new year’s surprise. They may lose most of their investments or even all of them says the Spanish bank rescue fund in its latest report. According to FROB, the Fund for Orderly Bank Restructuring, Bankia has a negative value of 4.2 billion euros, and its parent group BFA is 10.4 bn in the red. Valuation is key in the recapitalisation of Spain’s banking system, weighed down by massive bad loans accumulated in a property bubble that burst in 2008. Bankia/BFA is set to receive 18 bn euros of European aid, and become the country’s biggest bailout recipient. http://www.euronews.com/2012/12/27/bankia-worthless-says-new-report/ At this point the following is obvious: Europe’s banks are in far far worse shape than anyone publicly admits The political class in Europe has no idea how to solve this mess No one has quantified the bank’s actual losses or their capital needs Everyone is lying about just about everything related to Europe’s financial system You could honestly end the story here and know everything you need to about Europe. But then you’d be missing out on Bankia’s newest achievement: setting the record for corporate losses in Spanish history. Nationalised Spanish lender Bankia is expected to reveal a €19bn loss next week, the largest in the country’s corporate history. On Thursday Bankia will report full-year earnings, including a €12.6bn provision taken at the end of last year. The writedown is a result of the lender moving assets into Spain’s “bad bank” at heavy discounts. Bankia, which is seen as a symbol of Spain’s financial woes, was created through the merger of seven smaller savings banks before being listed on Madrid’s stock exchange. When the company failed, hundreds of thousands of people who had been sold shares saw their savings wiped out. The collapse forced Spain to ask Europe for a bailout for its banking sector, which has meant the lender is subject to tight controls. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/banksandfinance/9887116/Bankia-to-reveal-largest-loss-in-Spanish-corporate-history.html It’s a little known fact about the Spanish crisis is that when the Spanish Government merges troubled banks, it typically swaps out depositors’ savings for shares in the new bank. So… when the newly formed bank goes bust, “poof” your savings are GONE. Not gone as in some Spanish version of the FDIC will eventually get you your money, but gone as in gone forever (see the above article for proof). This is why Bankia’s collapse is so significant: in one move, former depositors at seven banks just lost virtually everything. And this in a nutshell is Europe’s financial system today: a totally insolvent sewer of garbage debt, run by corrupt career politicians who have no clue how to fix it or their economies… and which results in a big fat ZERO for those who are nuts enough to invest in it. Be warned. There are many many more Bankias coming to light in the coming months. So if you have not already taken steps to prepare for systemic failure, you NEED to do so NOW. We're literally at most a few months, and very likely just a few weeks from Europe's banks imploding, potentially taking down the financial system with them. Think I'm joking? The Fed is pumping hundreds of BILLIONS of dollars into EU banks right now trying to stop this from happening. We have produced a FREE Special Report available to all investors titled What Europe’s Collapse Means For You and Your Savings. This report features ten pages of material outlining our independent analysis real debt situation in Europe (numbers far worse than is publicly admitted), the true nature of the EU banking system, and the systemic risks Europe poses to investors around the world. It also outlines a number of investments to profit from this; investments that anyone can use to take advantage of the European Debt Crisis. Best of all, this report is 100% FREE. You can pick up a copy today at: http://gainspainscapital.com/eu-report/ Best Phoenix Capital Research

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15 февраля 2013, 00:02

FNC: Residential Property Values increased 4.9% year-over-year in December

In addition to Case-Shiller, CoreLogic, FHFA and LPS, I'm also watching the FNC, Zillow and several other house price indexes. From FNC: FNC Index: U.S. Home Prices Hit Two-Year High The latest FNC Residential Price Index™ (RPI) shows continuing momentum in the U.S. housing market with home prices rising to a two-year high in December. Despite an unexpected deceleration in economic growth, the ongoing housing recovery has maintained its pace with steady gains in home prices, sending the index up 5.4% year to date. ... A stabilizing foreclosure market is contributing to the recovery of the underlying property values. While challenges remain for many hard-hit markets, particularly those undergoing a judicial process for home foreclosures, there are signs that foreclosure prices have bottomed out—the first encouraging development in the long housing recession where a rising underlying market and stabilizing foreclosure prices co-exist. Foreclosures as a percentage of total home sales were 17.8% in December, down from 24.0% a year ago. Based on recorded sales of non-distressed properties (existing and new homes) in the 100 largest metropolitan areas, the FNC 100-MSA composite index shows that December home prices remained relatively unchanged from the previous month, but were up 4.9% on a year-over-year basis from the same period in 2011. ... The 30-MSA and 10-MSA composite indices show similar trends of continued price momentum, relatively unchanged from November and up 5.8% from December 2011. Half of the component markets tracked by the FNC 30-MSA composite index show rising prices in December. ... Although signs of a housing recovery are widening, the degree of market improvement is inconsistent across the country. In Baltimore, Chicago, Houston, and San Antonio, prices were relatively flat over the last 12 months (year-to-year change). In contrast, Phoenix and Denver saw a double-digit growth, led by Phoenix at nearly 23%. The Chicago market continues to underperform other major cities that make up the FNC 30-MSA composite index. The city’s home prices were up only 1.0% on a year-over-year basis, compared to an average of 5.0% among the nation’s largest cities. The year-over-year change continued to increase in December, with the 100-MSA composite up 4.9% compared to December 2011. The FNC index turned positive on a year-over-year basis in July, 2012, and that was the first year-over-year increase in the FNC index since year-over-year prices started declining in early 2007 (over five years ago).Click on graph for larger image. This graph shows the year-over-year change for the FNC Composite 10, 20, 30 and 100 indexes. Note: The FNC indexes are hedonic price indexes using a blend of sold homes and real-time appraisals. The key is the indexes are now showing a year-over-year increase indicating prices probably bottomed early in 2012.

14 февраля 2013, 01:22

Jed Kolko: Is Your Housing Market Booming, Rebounding, Humming or Struggling?

The Trulia Price Monitor and the Trulia Rent Monitor are the earliest leading indicators of how asking prices and rents are trending nationally and locally. They adjust for the changing mix of listed homes and therefore show what's really happening to asking prices and rents. Because asking prices lead sales prices by approximately two or more months, the Monitors reveal trends before other price indexes do. With that, here's the scoop on where prices and rents are headed. Asking Prices Rise a Record 0.9% Month-over-Month NationallyIn January, asking prices rose 0.9% month-over-month, seasonally adjusted -- the highest monthly gain since the price recovery began. Year-over-year, asking prices rose 5.9%; excluding foreclosures, asking prices rose 6.5%. Quarter-over-quarter prices rose 2.2%, seasonally adjusted. Prices typically fall in the wintertime, but asking prices still rose slightly (0.3%) quarter-over-quarter even without seasonal adjustment, indicating the strength of the price recovery. Asking prices were up year-over-year in 86 of the 100 largest metros. January 2013 Trulia Price Monitor Summary % change in asking prices # of 100 largest metros with asking-price increases % change in asking prices, excluding foreclosures Month-over-month, seasonally adjusted 0.9% Not reported 1.2% Quarter-over-quarter, seasonally adjusted 2.2% 79 2.9% Year-over-year 5.9% 86 6.5% Most Housing Markets with Biggest Price Gains Aren't HealthyShould we all envy Phoenix, where prices have risen 24.8% year-over-year? Probably not. Huge price gains in Phoenix and elsewhere are not necessarily a healthy sign. As part of our 2013 housing outlook, we ranked the 100 largest metros on the health of their housing markets, based on three market fundamentals: strong job growth, low vacancy rate, and low foreclosure inventory. On this list of healthiest markets, Houston ranked #1. Weaknesses on these fundamentals are red flags for a local housing market - even when prices are galloping ahead. Few of the markets with the biggest price gains are "healthy" in terms of these fundamentals: eight of the 10 top price gainers were in the bottom half of the "healthy markets" ranking. For example, Detroit -- despite a 14.2% price increase - was dead last, ranked 100 out of 100. None of the 10 markets with the largest price gains was also among the top 10 healthiest markets for 2013, though San Francisco came close, with the 11th largest price increase and the 2nd healthiest market. # U.S. Metro Y-o-Y % change in asking prices, Jan 2013 Healthy Market Rank (1=healthiest, 100=least healthy) 1 Phoenix, AZ 24.8% 74 2 Salt Lake City, UT 17.1% 38 3 San Jose, CA 16.8% 16 4 Las Vegas, NV 16.8% 89 5 Warren-Troy- Farmington Hills, MI 16.1% 62 6 Oakland, CA 14.8% 54 7 Detroit, MI 14.2% 100 8 Riverside- San Bernardino, CA 14.0% 83 9 West Palm Beach, FL 13.7% 97 10 Sacramento, CA 12.8% 56 Although most of the housing markets with big price gains exhibit unhealthy fundamentals, some markets with rising prices are healthy. Furthermore, modest price increases aren't necessarily a sign of poor health: markets with flat or falling prices include both healthy and unhealthy markets. Looking at both price gains and market health reveals four types of local housing markets:Booming markets have big price increases and healthy market fundamentals. Their price gains are supported by strong job growth, and future foreclosures are unlikely to threaten today's price increases. San Francisco, Seattle, Denver, San Jose, and Salt Lake City are the best examples of booming markets. Rebounding markets also have big price increases, but with weaker market fundamentals. They had big price declines during the housing bust, and bargains have attracted investor interest, which has helped boost prices. These rollercoaster markets won't sustain the price gains they're seeing now because investors will look elsewhere - and eventually sell - when no bargains are left to be found. Rebounding markets include Phoenix, Las Vegas, Riverside-San Bernardino, and Detroit. Humming markets have strong market fundamentals without dramatic price gains. They're humming along after avoiding the worst of the housing bubble and bust. Moreover, many are now seeing lots of construction activity. Houston, Boston, Raleigh, and Dallas are good examples of humming markets. Struggling markets don't have either strong market fundamentals or big price gains. Even though the rebounding markets suffered more during the housing bust, these struggling markets haven't benefitted much from the housing recovery. Struggling markets include Newark, Chicago, and Albuquerque. This scatter plot shows that price gains and market health often don't go hand-in-hand: Rent Gains Ease As Rental Supply ExpandsNationally, rents rose 4.1% year-over-year, falling behind the year-over-year national asking-price gain for the first time since the price recovery began. Just six months ago, in July 2012, the year-over-year increase in rents nationally was 4.7%. Rent gains have slowed because of more supply, not less demand. Rental demand remains strong, and the homeownership rate remains at its lowest level in many years. But supply is expanding as more new multi-unit buildings, many of which are rental buildings, have come onto the market. The number of completed units in multi-unit buildings was up 23% in the second half of 2012, year-over-year. In contrast, completed single-family homes were up just 11%. In San Francisco, where rent gains cooled the most (2.4% now versus 11.5% six months ago), construction activity has been well above normal, nearly all in multi-unit buildings. Where Rent Increases Have Cooled Off Most # U.S. Metro % change in rents, Y-o-Y, Jan 2013 % change in rents, Y-o-Y, Jul 2012 Percentage Point Difference* 1 San Francisco, CA 2.4% 11.5% -9.1% 2 Portland, OR-WA 4.7% 9.2% -4.4% 3 Seattle, WA 6.4% 10.8% -4.4% 4 Denver, CO 7.4% 10.3% -2.9% 5 San Diego, CA 2.0% 4.4% -2.4% 6 Boston, MA 6.0% 8.2% -2.2% 7 Philadelphia, PA 4.6% 6.4% -1.8% 8 Sacramento, CA 2.0% 3.8% -1.8% 9 St. Louis, MO-IL 2.1% 3.4% -1.3% 10 Miami, FL 9.1% 10.2% -1.2% 11 Minneapolis- St. Paul, MN-WI 3.3% 4.4% -1.1% 12 Washington, DC-VA-MD-WV 2.6% 3.7% -1.1% 13 Atlanta, GA 4.5% 5.2% -0.6% 14 New York, NY-NJ 5.0% 5.6% -0.6% 15 Oakland, CA 10.0% 10.6% -0.5% 16 Chicago, IL 4.9% 5.2% -0.3% 17 Tampa- St. Petersburg, FL 3.8% 3.9% -0.1% 18 Baltimore, MD 3.9% 3.9% -0.1% 19 Orange County, CA 4.2% 4.1% 0.0% 20 Las Vegas, NV -0.2% -1.7% 1.6% 21 Phoenix, AZ 2.9% 0.7% 2.2% 22 Dallas, TX 4.9% 2.5% 2.5% 23 Los Angeles, CA 3.7% 0.8% 2.9% 24 Riverside- San Bernardino, CA 4.6% 0.4% 4.2% 25 Houston, TX 15.8% 8.8% 7.1% Among 25 largest rental markets. *All figures are rounded, and differences (rightmost column) were calculated before rounding, so some differences shown may not equal the difference of the rounded values. The next Trulia Price Monitor and Trulia Rent Monitor will be released on Tuesday, March 5, at 10 AM ET. How did we put this report together? To recap the methodology, the Trulia Price Monitor and the Trulia Rent Monitor track asking home prices and rents on a monthly basis, adjusting for the changing composition of listed homes, including foreclosures provided by RealtyTrac. The Trulia Price Monitor also accounts for the regular seasonal fluctuations in asking prices in order to reveal the underlying trend in prices. The Monitors can detect price movements at least three months before the major sales-price indexes do. Our FAQs provide all the technical details.

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13 февраля 2013, 16:12

Homeschooling Works, Pass It On

Dave Hodges, ContributorActivist Post Any parent who lets their child darken the door of a public school needs to seriously reconsider their options. No, it is not that there aren’t highly qualified and caring professionals in the education profession who truly care about the welfare of children, there are. However, the system of public education is irreparably broken and parents would be wise to take a closer look at the options that are out there. However, let’s first take a look at increasingly dysfunctional system. Just as we see the governments of Spain and Greece using severe authoritarian methods in an attempt to preserve the status quo through the imposition of austerity, we are witnessing the same abusive leadership style from many school administrators who are increasingly turning to more authoritarian methods in order to preserve an antiquated and dying system.Discipline With Love? The premise behind any discipline plan should be to restore the offending child into becoming a fully functional contributing member of the classroom. In order to achieve that goal, discipline should be offered in the spirit of love and positive rehabilitation. Yet, all too often, this is not what our children are receiving. Increasingly, our children are being conditioned to accept totalitarianism complete with illogical and abusive consequences which are applied, all too often, to innocent behaviors. Take the case of Wilson Reyes, a seven-year-old elementary school student from the Bronx who got into a tussle with a classmate over a $5 bill.Subsequently, the school officials called police, who arrested Reyes and promptly shuffled him off to jail and allegedly handcuffed the child to a wall which was followed by a 10 hour interrogation. google_ad_client = "pub-1897954795849722"; /* 468x60, created 6/30/10 */ google_ad_slot = "8230781418"; google_ad_width = 468; google_ad_height = 60; A North Carolina public school strip-searched a 10-year-old boy (J.C.) in search of a $20 bill reported missing by another student, despite the fact that the boy vehemently denied possessing the money. The assistant principal, a woman, reportedly ordered the fifth grader to strip down to his underwear and she personally subjected him to an aggressive strip-search that included sticking her hands inside his underwear. The missing money was subsequently found in the school cafeteria. Now it is even a crime to bring a two-inch toy gun to school made out of LEGOs to school. Nine-year-old Patrick Timoney was sent to the principal’s office and subsequently suspended. An 8-year-old Taunton, MA boy who was tossed out of school in December 2009 and ordered to undergo psychological testing because his primitive looking stick-figure drawing of a crucified Christ was considered too violent by school administrators. School officials deny that this is a case of religious persecution. I wonder if the favorite symbol of Muslim Brotherhood was depicted instead, if there would have been a suspension of the child. Brockton, MA officials were forced to pay out nearly $250,000 in legal fees and settlement costs when the mother of a 6-year-old sued after her son was suspended for sexually harassing another first-grader.Barbara Best, director of foundation relations and special projects with the Children’s Defense Fund sums up this insanity when she stated “when a child as young as 4 is suspended, something is wrong. The suspensions of grade schoolers should be a wake-up call to school administrators that zero-tolerance discipline policies just don’t work.” These cases are merely the tip of the proverbial iceberg.Jim Crow and the Valedictorian Controversy A controversial school desegregation plan was implemented in the Little Rock, Arkansas in the 1950s, on behalf of "The Little Rock 9" as President Eisenhower sent in the Army to enforce the Supreme Court ruling which effectively desegregated the schools under the 1954 case of Brown vs. Board of Education. Nearly 50 years later, we return to the scene of the crime as Kymberly Wimberly, a black female student at McGehee Secondary School, located southeast of Little Rock, Ark, is suing the school for discrimination. Wimberly, a straight-A student who took a challenging course load full of Advanced Placement classes, was denied the title of class Valedictorian, even though she earned the highest grade-point-average in her class. McGehee Principal, Darrell Thompson, told Wimberly, “that he decided to name a white student as co-valedictorian,” although the white student had a lower G.P.A. Wimberly’s mother, Molly Bratton, heard school personnel saying that naming her daughter valedictorian might cause a “big mess.” Mrs. Bratton tried to protest this unfair decision by speaking to the school board. However, Superintendent, Thomas Gathen, refused to let the mom speak at a public meeting. Gathen went on to tell the mom that she could not appeal his decision until the June 28th school board meeting even though graduation was last May 13. Martin Luther King and President Eisenhower are rolling over in their graves.Moral Inconsistency and the Over-Reach On Social Issues Indoctrination Rather than simply educating our children, schools are becoming the source for moral education and the advocates for radical social policy changes. Warren Evans is an openly bisexual student at Calvert High School, in Maryland, who was suspended for violating the school’s dress code by wearing a skirt. Mr. Evans’ says the school is discriminating against him and does not believe he violated any dress code. Despite the fact that his dress and accompanying high heeled shoes might have made me raise my eyebrows, in my view, the suspension did violate Evans’ rights. Right up the road from Maryland, Brown University is gaining attention because their Student Health Insurance Plan will cover 14 different sexual reassignment surgery procedures starting this next August. The Director of Insurance and Purchasing Services Jeanne Hebert, confirmed this fact when she stated that “Brown tries to support all students. The coverage will be funded through renewal rates paid for next year’s student healthcare coverage. We identified this as an important benefit for students to have access to.” In general, the total package of sexual reassignment surgeries, hormone therapy and other services can cost up to $50,000. If Warren Evans were to attend one of the Maricopa Community College District (MCCCD) schools, in the Phoenix metropolitan area, not only could he wear a dress to class, he could have his own restroom, should he decide to engage in a gender reassignment. Throughout the 10 schools of the MCCCD system, they have installed several transgender restrooms which can only be utilized by people who have had a sex change operation. Lost in the debate is the fact that all of the restrooms which were constructed, for this special population, was done so with taxpayer money. If Mr. Evans were an athlete, beginning next year at Chandler-Gilbert Community College, in the MCCCD system, he would be entitled to his/her own locker room at their new constructed sports arena as the arena will have a male, female and transgender locker room. Your tax dollars at work. This is not about taking sides in the gay-straight paradigm because most taxpayers don’t care what people do behind closed doors. However, this has a lot to do with schools making social and moral policy statements with taxpayer money. No new computers, no extra instructors will be hired all in favor of spending money to construct transgender restrooms. Cut right out of the old Soviet Union “political schizophrenia” model, an uncooperative student can be imprisoned without due process. Oren Ungerleider, a PhD student at the Columbia-Juilliard, is suing the university with a claim that he was forcibly held and medicated in a psychiatric hospital for 30 days after insulting his Spanish professor, who gave him a low mark. After his incarceration he was not allowed to return to his studies and no longer desires to play the violin. Ungerleider is claiming $10 million damages.A Reasonable Solution With all the craziness present in our K-12 schools and our post-secondary institutions, I understand why so many parents are becoming reticent at sending their children to public school. However, this is an option; Homeschooling is the fastest growing educational delivery system in the country, and the reader is only getting a sneak peak at the insanity that is driving parents to remove their children from public schools. When I tell parents that they should be educating their children at home, so parents can transmit the values to their children that they think are important, parents often respond that they do not feel qualified to homeschool their children. There is a viable alternative. It is now possible for a child to start in an online school in the first grade and progress all the way through their doctorate program (except for the required residency hours in a PhD program) without setting foot in a classroom. And there is some new research which is suggestive that online learners are more motivated and perform better on standardized tests. Some parents of potential homeschooled children are concerned about social interaction with children their age. Below, I have listed a consortium of homeschooling organizations from which parents can educate themselves while they decide which direction to take their children’s education. At the end of the day, we owe it to our children to help them escape the insanity that is enveloping the public education system. google_ad_client = "ca-pub-1897954795849722"; /* 468x60, created 7/28/12 */ google_ad_slot = "9833874419"; google_ad_width = 468; google_ad_height = 60; A Partial List of Home Schooling OrganizationsHome School Foundation – The Home School Foundation is the charitable arm of the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) and is dedicated to bringing hope and tangible help to homeschoolers in need. The Foundation is a 501c(3) charitable organization, approved by the ECFA (Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability), and has a variety funds which provided nearly 1 million dollars in assistance and related expenses to homeschooling families last year. Home School Legal Defense Association Institute in Basic Life Principles - Home of the ATIA homeschool program NATHAN – National Challenged Homeschoolers Associated Network – international organization for homeschoolers for people dealing with disabilities. The National Academy for Child Development - designs very specific home educational and therapeutic programs for infants, children and adults given the labels including; Learning Disabled, Dyslexic, Distractible, ADD, ADHD, Hyperactive, Down Syndrome, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Williams Syndrome, Tourettes Syndrome, Rhetts Syndrome, Fragile X, Developmentally Delayed, PDD, Autistic, Cerebral Palsy, Brain Injured, Comatose, Retarded, Minimal Brain Dysfunction, Normal, Accelerated, and Gifted. NHERI – National Home Education Research Institute RELATED ACTIVIST POST ARTICLES:9 Rules for New Homeschooling Parents10 Freest States For HomeschoolingDave is an award winning psychology, statistics and research professor, a college basketball coach, a mental health counselor, a political activist and writer who has published dozens of editorials and articles in several publications such as Freedoms Phoenix, News With Views and The Arizona Republic.The Common Sense Show features a wide variety of important topics that range from the loss of constitutional liberties, to the subsequent implementation of a police state under world governance, to exploring the limits of human potential. 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06 февраля 2013, 21:43

Corruption So Pervasive It Makes the US Look Good by Comparison

      Over the last 30+ years, the Chinese government has maintained control of the economy by gradually implementing reforms that permit greater economic freedom to its citizens.   The citizens in turn have gone along with this scheme because they believed that the system would permit them a greater quality of life and the potential of getting rich before they got old.   In broad brushstrokes, the official data supported this view: starting with the re-opening of formal trade arrangements in 1971, China has undergone a near unprecedented level of economic transformations. The country’s per-capita income doubled from 1978 to 1987 and again from 1987 to 1996.   In those 20 years, more than 300 million Chinese ascended out of poverty with accompanying dramatic changes in lifestyle, professions, and diet: between 1985 and 2008, average Chinese meat consumption more than doubled from 44 pounds to 110 per year.   Moreover, the China consumer (which most analysts believe has been suppressed) saw a tremendous change in habits, with consumer spending rising an average of 9% a year for 30 years. Even high-end luxury goods manufacturers such as Burberry and Tiffany’s opened stores there during the boom.   However, this all came to a screeching halt in 2008. As the global economy collapsed, China found its export driven manufacturing economic model was terribly flawed. The Government, in a panic, unleashed a stimulus program equal to nearly 18% of China GDP.   This plan worked until two items developed:   The Global Central banks let the inflation genie out of the bottle. The Chinese population began to notice that while it was suffering, many ruling party officials were living high on the hog.   Regarding #1, with nearly a third of its population living off less than $2 per day, any bump in food prices hits China much harder than the US or other developed nations. With food prices hitting record highs in 2008 and then again in 2011, China began to face massive civil unrest.   Regarding #2, China’s government has a history of rampant corruption. Between 1991-2011, it’s estimated that between 16,000-18,000 Chinese officials fled China taking 800 BILLION RMB (roughly $125 BILLION) with them. Bear in mind China’s entire GDP was just 2.1 trillion RMB in 1991. By way of perspective, imagine if members of US Congress fled the US taking $2 trillion+ with them (US GDP was roughly $7 trillion in 1991). This corruption continues today. If anything it’s gotten worse:   The CDIC report, which was obtained by the Economic Observer newspaper, suggested that nearly 10,000 luxury homes had been sold by government officials in Guangzhou and Shanghai alone last year.   It also claimed that an astonishing $1 trillion (£630 billion), equivalent to 40 per cent of Britain's annual GDP, had been smuggled out of China illegally in 2012.   Economists and experts cast doubt on the figure, but said the flow of money from China was dramatic. Li Chengyan, a professor at Peking University, suggested that a total of roughly 10,000 officials had absconded from China with as much as £100 billion.   http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/china/9815998/Chinas-Communist-party-cadres-launch-property-fire-sale.html   Let’s provide a little perspective on the more conservative number in the above article. £100 billion translates to roughly $157 billion. China’s entire GDP is $7.3 trillion… so Chinese officials stole an amount equal to roughly 2% of China GDP in 2012 ALONE.   An equivalent amount for the US would be if it were discovered that members of Congress fled the US last year taking $300 BILLION them. Bear in mind, if you added up the total net worth of every politician in Washington you wouldn’t come even close to $300 billion.   And Chinese officials stole the equivalent of this in ONE YEAR. Not over the course of a decade, but in a single year.   In a country where the average college grad makes $2,500 per year, this kind of corruption is a MASSIVE problem for the Chinese government. Which is why those betting on China continuing to grow at a breathtaking pace are overlooking some of the larger cultural problems the People’s Republic is facing today. With inflation on the rise and corruption becoming more and more apparent, China has MAJOR problems on its hands. And massive stimulus will only exacerbate them.   This type of fraud will continue in China and elsewhere until the system breaks. At that point hopefully the bad debts will finally clear from the system and we can actually lay a foundation for growth.   We offer several FREE Special Reports to help investors navigate this risk and others in the financial system. They include:   Preparing Your Portfolio For Obama’s Economic Nightmare   How to Protect Yourself From Inflation   And last but not least…   Bullion 101: Everything You Need to Know About Investing in Gold and Silver Bullion…   You can pick up free copies of all of the above at:   http://gainspainscapital.com/   Best Regards,   Phoenix Capital Research        

06 февраля 2013, 20:42

Paul Gascoigne's lonely road to the last chance saloon

Despite his many victories over his demons, there was a horrible sense of inevitability about the great footballer's latest relapseAt the Providence rehab centre, in Dorset, friends and counsellors wait anxiously for news about Paul Gascoigne. They are disappointed to see the former England footballer leave Bournemouth, but say it made sense: he was headed for the Meadows rehabilitation centre, in Phoenix, Arizona, thousands of miles away where, alone and unknown, he can get on with the task in hand – of saving his life.There was a horrible inevitability about his recent lapse. The most talented, and most tainted, England player of his generation was back on the booze. It was as unseemly as it was pitiful, and the redtops devoured it. Last week, he had to be helped on to the stage for an evening of chat in Northampton. He was weepy, abusive, and obviously ill.The Sun reported that he was close to death, and if the accompanying pictures were anything to go by, that didn't seem much of an exaggeration. On Wednesday, it was revealed that a few of Gazza's celebrity friends, including Chris Evans and Piers Morgan, had clubbed together to pay for the stay in Arizona, where he has previously been treated.Morgan told the Guardian he believed Gascoigne was "at the last chance saloon – an all-too apt metaphor for Paul because he has always found it so difficult to pass a saloon without being lured in for a drink".For the past two years, Gascoigne, 45, has lived in Dorset, either at the Providence or in a flat close by. And for 18 months of that time, he was dry. I met him in 2011, and he was cautiously optimistic. He spent his time fishing, playing golf and six-a-side-football with fellow addicts, and attending AA meetings. But there was also, as always with Gascoigne, a desperation. He had lost pretty much everything – his money and his wife (after an infamous domestic violence incident, many years ago) – and he was no longer in touch with his children.He had moved to Bournemouth to get away from "friends" who just wanted to take him for one last night out and hear one last story about his famous goals and celebrations and tears. Perhaps it was always doomed: Gascoigne – even a sick, emaciated Gascoigne – is one of the most recognisable people in the country. Soon enough, he made new friends in Bournemouth who wanted to treat him to one last drink. As well as his addictions, he has been diagnosed bipolar, and has made several suicide attempts.According to those who worked most closely with him, he showed admirable discipline for most of his time at the Providence, but over the past few months he lost it. The golf and football and meetings went by the wayside, and he was often seen swaying through town looking for the next pub, the next stranger's shoulder to cry on.Despite his history of physical and verbal abuse, the tortured Gascoigne remains one of Britain's most loved public figures. It isn't simply the super-human talent he had with a football: it was his ability to find the funny in the game, whether celebrating a goal with the "dentist's chair" tribute to a drunken incident or brandishing an admonitory card at a referee.At the Providence, there is widespread anger at the "leeches and hangers-on" desperate to cash in on Gascoigne. One worker said: "He was taken to Dubai a few months ago. Well, of course he was going to get wrecked there. It was a ridiculous thing to do, and he came back in a state."And how anyone could have taken him to Northampton and carried him on stage to answer questions is so … cruel. Absolutely outrageous. They treat him like a novelty act, and people wait for him to turn up drunk and make an idiot of himself. It's a horror movie."But his agent, Terry Baker, insisted he was only there to help Gascoigne. "The only way Paul would accept he needed treatment was to be made to realise it," he said. "His counsellors brought him to me in the first place, and he and I have had a good couple of years until now. He has had no help from any of his counsellors or friends recently because he wouldn't accept he needed it until the events of last week."Gascoigne has often been compared to another footballing genius, George Best, who died in 2005, aged 59. "He had an irresistible charm, like George Best," Morgan said. "Gazza was incredibly funny – a naturally quick-witted, funny character. And there is the emotional side: when he cried at the World Cup, the country fell in love with him because we saw that underneath the cheeky chappy character was this very caring, sensitive, emotional, vulnerable guy."But, Morgan said, in another way Gascoigne couldn't be more different to Best: "George Best was a happy drunk. He never wanted to be helped – he just wanted to be left alone to drink himself into the grave; Gazza is a very unhappy drunk. He has been through innumerable hellish treatments, and although he keeps falling off the rails, he is still desperate to sort himself out."While Gascoigne is an extreme case, he is one of many former sporting heroes who have struggled to adapt to life after retirement, and sought solace in drink. The boxer Frank Bruno has had severe mental health problems, and the former England cricket captain Andrew Flintoff recently made a television documentary about the prevalence of depression in former sports stars. Flintoff has suggested that more has to be done to prepare sports stars for a life away from the adulation. Bruno has said the worst thing is trying to fill long, empty days that were previously mapped out with fierce training regimes.It was reported on Wednesday that on arriving in Arizona Gascoigne had slipped his minder for "one last drink" before going into rehab. Meanwhile, at the Providence, staff said they will be glad to see him on his return – but they hope that's no time soon.In a statement, the Providence said: "The Providence Projects are continuing to support Paul Gascoigne and family members but felt that he would have a better chance starting his journey back into recovery away from the media frenzy."Paul GascoigneAlcoholSimon Hattenstoneguardian.co.uk © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

05 февраля 2013, 03:35

Dreamers Train For Immigration Reform Fight

WASHINGTON -- Bernard Pastor, an undocumented 20-year-old sophomore at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio, was detained by immigration agents in 2010. Now he hopes sharing his story can help move the immigration debate forward, and he traveled to Washington on Sunday for a week-long intensive workshop on advocacy. The plan: to teach Dreamers -- young undocumented immigrants who would benefit from the Dream Act -- how to effectively tell their own stories and convince others to support reform. Pastor has some experience with that. He talks to classes sometimes about social justice, and is speaking later this year at a TED conference. His pitch is that immigration opponents need to get to know some of the people affected by their policies. "Before I start speaking I say, I can acknowledge the fact that you, at the end of this speech, will probably still won't support me, and I understand that," he said. "But if you sit down and have a conversation with me, get to know me, I guarantee I can change your mind." Nearly 200 young people, most of them undocumented, are in town for the training, organized by advocacy groups United We Dream and the PICO National Network. They focused Monday on learning to tell their stories, and the stories of their communities, in a way that would cause people to either join the push for immigration reform or reconsider trying to block it. The fight for immigration reform is moving quickly, but advocates say it will require a sustained push. President Barack Obama laid out his plans last week for comprehensive immigration reform that would include a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, increased border security and fixes to the legal immigration system. A bipartisan Senate group, dubbed the "gang of eight," also released a framework for reform last week, along largely the same grounds except theirs would tie green cards to border security. The group of Dreamers and allies in the basement ballroom of a temple downtown are aiming for a pathway to citizenship for themselves and their families who are in the country without status. During their week of trainings, they will visit about 100 congressional offices to urge them to vote in support of comprehensive immigration reform and to share their stories. But mostly they are hoping to learn how to be better advocates here, and then take those lessons home to be better activists in their own communities. Jerssay Arredondo, a 21-year-old undocumented immigrant who lives in Phoenix, said it used to be difficult for him to discuss his undocumented status. He moved to the United States from Mexico when he was three years old, and recently applied to stay in the country under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy. He said he was embarrassed about being undocumented until 2010, when Arizona's restrictive S.B. 1070 immigration law pulled him into the advocacy movement. Now, he works with the Arizona Dream Coalition to push for reform. He said it's most important to be able to speak to voters who oppose reform, not politicians. "We have so many people on this side, but on the other side these people have so much hate that at times it seems like a waste of time to try to convince them to change their mind because they don't understand," he said. "But in reality, it's those people that have that hate and have that animosity toward us ... those are the ones that are hard to convince, and at the end of the day, that's what's going to matter." The afternoon session on sharing a campaign narrative began with a talk from Carlos Saavedra, a co-founder of United We Dream. He asked the participants to stretch -- by then, they had been at the training for five hours -- and then talked to them about the focus of their effort. "Is this immigration struggle about borders? No. Is this about visas? No. Is this about Marco Rubio? No. Is this about Barack Obama? No," he said. "This is about whether America is still the land of immigrants." Saavedra said the idea is for attendees to figure out the values of their own community and those of the community they want to reach, and then to see where they might align. If they were trying to convince African Americans to join the movement, they might discuss family, he said. If they want to reach out to labor, they could talk about workers' rights. The Dreamers split into groups of about 10 to come up with ways to tell their own stories. They wrote down some of the things they wanted to say, based on set guidelines: using "we" or "us," crafting a narrative, talking about key moments and convincing others to get involved. Then they went around in a circle, getting three minutes to talk -- as other attendees snapped in approval -- and three minutes to listen to criticism. Discussions of the undocumented immigrant experience often tend toward the sad: families being ripped apart by deportation, or people being unable to visit family in their native countries because they wouldn't have the authorization to return to the U.S. When the Dreamers shared their stories, many talked about deportation or detention. Some had been picked up by the police or Immigration and Customs Enforcement, while others had seen their family members detained. They talked about Erika Andiola, an advocacy leader and undocumented immigrant whose mother and brother were held by ICE overnight last month, then released after an outcry from the activist community. But Saavedra encouraged them to keep a positive tone to their speeches. "Pain alone will not get us to the finish line," he told the group. "Pain will wake you up. Hope will keep you alive."

04 февраля 2013, 07:14

SEED SPOT Incubates Health Startups in Phoenix

There’s a temptation on the part of many cities to think that a startup culture requires “a top down cluster.” The conventional wisdom is that in order to be successful startups need to be in close proximity to science parks, venture capital and research universities. Vivek Wadwha – the noted Stanford Fellow, Duke, Emory and Harvard Professor (now at Singularity University) – recently argued otherwise as part of the Wall Street Journal’s forum called The Accelerators.  His brief argument is worth reading (here) which he then summarizes in the last paragraph: “Innovation is all about people. Innovation thrives when the population is diverse, accepting and willing to cooperate. Having a community that understands the odds of failure lowers the risk for people taking the leap into entrepreneurship. Any region that wants to thrive economically has to get these ingredients right.” Well known startup investor and VC Brad Feld also supports this view with what he calls his Boulder Thesis (amazing 3-minute video by the Kauffman Foundation with narration by Brad here). Two key principles that Brad highlights are being inclusive and incorporating both “leaders” and “feeders.” You have to have both. More than anything it was the people that made the Grand Opening of SEED SPOT – a non-profit incubator here in Phoenix – so successful last fall. Over 600 people showed up at 605 Grant Street – a landmark building just a few blocks south of downtown that’s chock full of local history and character. The excitement was palpable – even if the air-conditioning wasn't – but then Phoenix is ideally positioned to serve their startups piping hot. Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton was on hand – as was Startup America CEO Scott Case – as well as other regional and national dignitaries. There were over 190 startups that applied for entrance to SEED SPOT's first eight-month program. The Grand Opening in October was the introduction of their first cohort of 16 startup companies and the passionate commitment was clearly evident with each and every presentation. I took note of two that had a healthcare focus and then learned a 3rd one had been added shortly thereafter. Last week I had a chance to visit SEED SPOT Co-Founders Courtney Klein Johnson and Chris Petroff – and those 3 healthcare startups in their new home just north of downtown Phoenix. _____________________________ From Davos to Dubai to D.C., the whole world is becoming obsessed with obesity and it's often the number one topic at health conferences I've been to over the course of the last year. Trouble is, the myths surrounding weight loss are widely held and longstanding (including this list from an article just last week in the New York Times: Myths of Weight Loss Are Plentiful, Researcher Says). Still in development, SaucyPants is targeting a suite of applications to help bring sensible nutrition back to the dining room table and streamline the process of cooking at home – from recipe discovery to grocery delivery. The entry point is SaucyKids a food journal app for kids that promotes and encourages healthier food choices. Started by sisters Coreen and Kristi Murphy, SaucyKids was recently selected by venerable food publication Bon Appétit as one of five finalists for their Food Innovator Award (a national competition sponsored by Bon Appétit, Lexus and RocketHub). As a part of the contest, each of the five finalists are using RocketHub to crowdsource a small funding project – which will determine the winner (and the added bonus of $10,000 from Bon Appétit). Bon Appétit wrote about SaucyKids (here) and the crowdsourced competition through RocketHub (here) ends this coming Wednesday (February 6). _____________________________ TheraSpecs® is eyewear that is scientifically designed to filter out harmful light. The precision tint has been shown to reduce migraines and provide measurable relief for dozens of other conditions related to light sensitivity. Some facts on the migraine market alone:

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01 февраля 2013, 17:26

Beware: The McDouble Might Soon Be Leaving The Dollar Menu

(Reuters) - McDonald's popular $1 McDouble cheeseburger, which has lured customers to the Golden Arches since 2008, is getting hard to sustain as rising beef prices threaten the company's profit margin. The world's biggest restaurant chain launched a competing $1 Grilled Onion Cheddar Burger in December. It also made the new sandwich - with one beef patty rather than the McDouble's two - a star of current television commercials, a status it shares with the McDouble. The dilemma for McDonald's Corp (MCD.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) restaurant operators is that the McDouble has the highest ingredient costs on the Dollar Menu, making it a bad financial proposition unless customers add high-margin sides such as french fries or soda. "If the McDouble is all the customer buys, you lose money," said Richard Adams, a former franchisee who now advises the chain's restaurant operators. "Depending on what happens to beef prices, McDonald's management should be open to taking the McDouble off the Dollar Menu." The decision would be a significant one. McDonald's gets 10 to 15 percent of its sales from the Dollar Menu and experts say the McDouble is one of the most popular items on it. Many franchisees, who pay royalties to the parent company based on overall sales, have exercised their option to move the McDouble off the Dollar Menu by raising its price over $1. Reuters' checks of McDonald's restaurants in more than a dozen U.S. cities found that franchisees sell the McDouble for $1.09 in San Francisco, $1.19 in Los Angeles, $1.80 in Kodiak, Alaska and $1.89 in New York City. The McDouble was not even offered on menus at restaurants Reuters visited in Chicago and Boston, but was available on request for $1.29 and $1.49, respectively. It remains on the Dollar Menu in cities such as Phoenix, Fresno, Denver, Seattle, St. Louis and Washington, DC. McDonald's is "committed to the Dollar Menu and the McDouble, and both are strongly supported by the majority of our franchisees," spokeswoman Danya Proud said in a statement. "To comment on future national changes would be inaccurate and speculative." STEMMING DECLINES The Dollar Menu food and marketing changes are part of McDonald's plan to stop two consecutive years of margin declines at its 14,000 U.S. restaurants. They come as new McDonald's Chief Executive Don Thompson sharpens the company's focus on its famed Dollar Menu to lure cash-crunched diners and fend off resurgent rivals such as Yum Brands Inc's (YUM.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) Taco Bell chain and Burger King Worldwide Inc. They also hint at strategies that U.S. restaurants could use to contain the damage from higher beef costs. McDonald's has a history of shaking up the Dollar Menu lineup in response to food cost spikes. In December 2008, the company raised the price of its flagship Double Cheeseburger to $1.19 from $1 and handed its Dollar Menu slot to the McDouble, which is essentially a Double Cheeseburger minus one slice of cheese. That coincided with U.S. wholesale food price increases of 7.6 percent in 2007 and 7.7 percent in 2008. McDonald's moved again in March 2012 after wholesale food prices spiked, replacing the Dollar Menu's small drinks and small french fries with fresh baked cookies and ice cream cones. At the same time, it debuted a new "Extra Value Menu" category for items priced between $1 and $2. Competing hamburger chains stole a page from McDonald's and shuffled their value menu lineups. Burger King quickly followed McDonald's with similar moves and Wendy's Co (WEN.O: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) plans to replace its 99-cent menu with a 99-cent to $1.99 "Right Price Right Size Menu." Beef prices are expected to rise above recent highs and to stay high for at least the next two years as the effects of last summer's historic U.S. drought ripple through the food system, said Jim Robb, an economist at the Livestock Marketing Information Center. Ground beef prices already are up 6 percent to 8 percent so far this year, said John Davie, CEO of Consolidated Concepts, a firm that helps restaurants negotiate purchases. To be sure, McDonald's is known for using its massive size to squeeze better prices out of suppliers. The company forecast commodity inflation of just 1.5 percent to 2.5 percent this year for its U.S. business, far less than the National Restaurant Association's expectation for 2013 wholesale food price inflation in the low 4 percent range. But analysts are skeptical that McDonald's can control rising prices as well as it thinks, meaning there could be even more pressure on the McDouble's bottom line. "It's possible that they hit it, but I would say the odds are low that they hit it," Hedgeye Risk Management analyst Howard Penney said of McDonald's and its commodity cost forecast. He expected the company to raise that view at some point this year. (Additional reporting by Michael Hirtzer and Theopolis Waters in Chicago, Ross Kerber in Boston, Phil Wahba in New York, Keith Coffman in Denver, Corrie MacLaggan in Austin, Stephen Keleher in Fresno, Lisa Dembiczak in Seattle, Ayesha Rascoe in Washington, Edwin Chan in San Francisco, Yereth Rosen in Anchorage, David Schwartz in Phoenix.; Editing by Andre Grenon)

11 января 2013, 17:48

BurgerBusiness: One McDonald's Operator's View of the Arches

A McDonald's franchisee for more than 40 years and operator of eight units, J.M. Owens this year became president of the Greater Atlanta McDonald's Operators Association. Owens (below) spoke with BurgerBusiness.com about the negative impact of ending the 2% payroll tax reduction; menu (including McWraps) and pricing; efforts to extend breakfast sales; and the chain's intention to borrow more ideas from operations outside the U.S. What's your first focus as president? What's Job #1 for the year ahead? We're pretty much aligned down here as a co-op so Job #1 is to keep that alignment with the operators and the company. Our co-op last year had a good sales year and we'd like to keep that momentum. Our job is to keep guests coming in the door. Last year, Janney Capital Markets' survey of McDonald's operators showed some unhappiness with relations with corporate headquarters. Some feeling that it didn't understand or hear operator needs. How do you assess the state of that partnership with your colleagues? Well, I'm biased. I have a terrific relationship with McDonald's, and most of the operators I'm associated with do as well. We don't always agree on everything but I think we're in a position where we can agree to disagree. Just like with anything else, probably 98% of the operators I know have a great relationship with the parent and 2%, for whatever reason, might not be getting along [with corporate] right now. How can you strengthen that relationship? One of the things that McDonald's does that's from some of the other brands is we have a National Leadership Council that is truly that: a leadership group of McDonald's franchisees. We work hand in glove with our corporate counterparts. Lee Heriaud from Phoenix is our chair right now and his counterpart is Jeff Stratton, the president of McDonald's USA. They talk often and Lee has access to Jeff and can state the concerns of the franchisees. I think we've always been a very familial company. I spoke with Jeff a few nights ago, in fact. They hear, and you feel they listen as well? Are they listening 100% of the time? Are we in 100% agreement? No. But that's to be expected. The old saying is that if you have 10 businesspeople in a room and they all agree then nine of them are unnecessary. Lately McDonald's national marketing focus has been on the Dollar Menu. Do you think that's wise? Are you properly balancing discounting with appealing to price-conscious customers? That's always a risk you take. I think some of it has to do with the season. We're coming into a time where I think a lot of our guests are going to have a reduction in their discretionary income because of the end of the [2%] reduction in FICA payroll tax from paychecks. If you have someone making $500 a week, they're going to lose $10 of that. That may not sound like a lot to some folks, but when you start taking $40 or $50 or $100 a month in discretionary income from a person, that has an impact on their eating-out pattern. So we have put a little bit of renewed focus on value. Along with it, we're incorporating some other menu news. Locally, we just finished a very successful test of an Egg White Delight McMuffin. That's a fresh-cooked egg white on a McMuffin that's done very well. And it's no secret that we're going to do Fish McBites soon. So I think the value piece always takes a fine balance for QSRs. Quite frankly, I think we do it better than a lot of other QSRs. We learned a long time ago that traffic matters. And if we can deliver a great experience to that person who only has $2 in their pocket, well someday maybe they'll have $20. Our check stays pretty much the same year in and year out. Customers know how to maneuver our menu. So we try to be the brand that appeals to the broadest group of consumers. You also tested Mighty Wings chicken wings in Atlanta last year, a test that now has moved to Chicago. How did that test fare with you? Extremely successful. We were delighted. As you know, Atlanta is a very diverse market with a large African-American base and an emerging Hispanic base. The Mighty Wings over-indexed with African-American consumers who really embraced that product. The wings are a cross between chicken on the bone and a spicy chicken wing and, served dry, I think they're a great product. What other menu opportunities do you think McDonald's needs to grab? If you look at our recent history, we've been pretty aggressive at moving the needle at breakfast and at building our breakfast share. We've been aggressive with beverages, too. We had blue ocean for awhile with blended-ice [drinks such as frappés] before a lot of people tried to copy what we were doing. And we're going to continue to work with beverage opportunities. I think we've also go opportunities with our core menu and reassessing our customer base to know what they want and what we can deliver at our speed and at a price they're willing to pay at McDonald's. The Mighty Wings are an example. And we've been working with the McWrap product that was up there [in Chicago]. I think it's going to be a terrific product for us. I think you'll see some reformulations of some of our core items, like Quarter Pounders. We see that as an opportunity. And from a market-share, guest-count perspective, we're starting to see some terrific growth in the fourth daypart [after dinner]. There are a lot more people out there after midnight than some folks realize. In Ohio, some McDonald's stores have tried selling breakfast beginning at midnight. Is that something you think would be popular in your area? In fact, we have a few restaurants doing that in Atlanta. I think the trick to doing that is how you balance the operations at breakfast and lunch in our kitchens. There's some equipment that we have to learn to work with. I think what we're going to see is a reduction in the overnight menu on the regular side as well as on the breakfast side so that during that period we can streamline the menu and serve fewer items and please more people. Instead of Breakfast After Midnight we'd like to call it McDonald's After Midnight because it will be a combination of the best of both worlds. There are hungry people at 3 a.m. but not a lot of them want to eat salads. Maybe we don't have to be selling salads then. Is it an equipment problem that keeps McDonald's from selling Egg McMuffins all day? Yes. First there are some capacity issues. We only have so much toaster space and so much grill space. Unlike a lot of breakfast QSRs, we still cook our product on a grill. Many of the pretenders are doing a ton of prep in microwaves. For instance, go into a Dunkin' Donuts or a Starbucks, who are chasing breakfast, and you don't find a grill or oven or fryer. We prefer to be a restaurant rather than processing everything through a microwave. In Europe, McCafés sell baked goods as well as coffee drinks. Do you see an opportunity for McDonald's here to do that? I'd sure like to. We tested some baked goods in Raleigh and Durham (N.C.). The genesis of McCafé was in New Zealand and I've visited there. The McCafés there are a little bit separate from the restaurant. Almost a restaurant within a restaurant. I don't know if we're going to get there but we sure would like to. Canada's doing a great job. They have a muffin deal now [$1.39 for a coffee and a muffin]. They do a terrific job up there. Are there other menu items from McDonald's menus globally that you'd like to sell here? We're starting to look at that more. The McWraps are an example of that. Europeans' style of eating is a little different than ours. As you walk along the boulevards you see a lot of premade sandwiches. But we make every sandwich, every wrap to order, so we're going to be working with wraps. And flatbreads. We're going to be looking at things like the 1955 Burger [offered as an LTO in most European markets over the past two years]. In the past, we [in the U.S.] were always the big dog in the pound; we need to look globally and we're doing that now. I work with the global innovation folks and I've spent time in the food studio in France and with the [R&D] folks in the kitchen in Hong Kong. There's a lot of sharing and I think it'll be more of the menu mix in the future. Will it include new burgers? With beef prices up, McDonald's and other QSRs focused on chicken in 2012. Are we going to see new burgers, too? One of the problems for all QSRs is that with the drought in the Midwest, it's cheaper to import corn than to buy it here. With the continuing pressure that the ethanol program put on corn and corn prices and with all of our protein being grain-fed, we're going to see pressure on food costs. Normally, chicken is a little less expensive than beef. We try to work on the right mix, and certainly breakfast helps us. Our cost of goods at breakfast are a little less so we can get balance across the menu. But we're going to still be selling hamburgers. We're not just a hamburger restaurant anymore, but we're a restaurant that sells more hamburgers than anybody else in the world. We will maintain that position. How do you see "I'm lovin' it"? It's been a good positioning line for almost a decade, but do you think it retains its effectiveness? Is it time for a new slogan? It still resonates with me, but one of the things I tell me friends every day is the most difficult challenge I have is not think my age. I've been in the business for 45 years and while it resonates with me, I have to figure out if it resonates with Millennials. We have some work to do as a brand with Millennials. Every once in a while we have to go back to the drawing board. We're running harder than anybody in the industry to maintain relevance through products, and you can clearly see that we're modernizing our facilities as rapidly as our cap-ex budget allows. We're always reassessing.

14 ноября 2012, 13:06

BLOOMBERG: Buffett Power Unit Targets Renewables for Acquisitions

Julie Johnsson and Noah Buhayar - Nov 14, 2012 7:42 AM GMT+1300 MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co., the power provider owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc., is targeting renewable energy deals amid high utility valuations, Chief Financial Officer Patrick Goodman said. “We believe renewables is the better investment right now” because utilities are too expensive, MidAmerican’s Goodman said in an interview today at an Edison Electric Institute conference in Phoenix. “As a cash buyer, we will be looking at utilities if pricing comes in a bit.” MidAmerican has sought opportunities to reinvest its cash and highlighted that it has more funds available to service debt and build its business because it doesn’t pay a dividend. The power provider also has access to capital from Omaha, Nebraska- based Berkshire, which holds a 90 percent stake and had $47.8 billion (BRK/A) in cash at the end of September. MidAmerican formed a new unit in January to support its investments in renewable energy, including the $2.4 billion 550- megawatt Topaz Solar Farm and 168-megawatt Alta Wind VII project in California. The proportion of energy MidAmerican generated from wind, hydroelectric, solar, nuclear and geothermal rose to 31 percent as of Sept. 30 from 19 percent at the end of 2006, according to a regulatory filing last week. Chief Executive Officer Greg Abel, 50, helped build MidAmerican through utility acquisitions, including the 2006 purchase of PacifiCorp. In 2008, MidAmerican agreed to terminate its purchase of Constellation Energy Group Inc. after Electricite de France SA bought half of the Baltimore-based company’s nuclear plants. Constellation was acquired by Exelon Corp. (EXC) this year. Price Ratio Average price-to-earnings ratio for the 59 companies in the Bloomberg Americas Electric Index is 14.93, up from 14.21 last year and 12.82 in 2010, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Price to book value is 1.39, up from 0.75 in 2011. MidAmerican has acquired 1.6 gigawatts of wind and photovoltaic projects since December 2011, adding to an existing 3.3 gigawatts of wind and geothermal assets, according to London-based Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “Large utilities like MidAmerican are a natural source of equity for renewable projects,” said Stefan Linder, a New York- based analyst for Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “They have a low cost of capital and shareholders that seek long-term, steady returns.” Buffett also may be interested in tax credits from the projects, Linder said. Canada Deal Abel last month struck a deal with TransAlta Corp. (TA) to fund half the cost of natural-gas fueled power plants built or bought in Canada, where the companies said almost $200 billion in new investment is needed during the next 20 years. The energy company has also scouted natural gas investments in the U.S., Goodman said today. Buffett, the world’s fourth-richest person, has said that regulated businesses like the utilities have earnings power even under adverse economic conditions and can provide fair returns on capital as long as they invest in infrastructure. MidAmerican sells electricity to 6.3 million customers and operates in states including Iowa, Oregon and Utah. Owning utilities is “not a way to get rich,” Buffett, 82, said at a meeting of U.S. state regulators in 2006. “It’s a way to stay rich.” To contact the reporters on this story: Julie Johnsson in Chicago at [email protected]; Noah Buhayar in New York at [email protected]  Discuss this topic @ Share Investor Forum - Register freeRead the full transcript of the October 24 2012 Squawk Box Interview with Warren Buffett Download the 2010 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Report Download the 1977 - 2011 Warren Buffett Letter's to Berkshire Hathaway Shareholders Warren Buffett @ Amazon The Essays of Warren Buffett: Lessons for Corporate America, Second Edition by Warren E. Buffett Buy new: $24.32 / Used from: $17.64 Usually ships in 24 hours The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life by Alice Schroeder Buy new: $13.60 / Used from: $4.50 Usually ships in 24 hours

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07 ноября 2012, 00:20

Lawler: Table of Short Sales and Foreclosures for Selected Cities in September

Economist Tom Lawler sent me this today with this note: "I found a few more realtor reports on distressed sales shares for the third quarter." Previous comments: A couple of clear patterns have developed: 1) There has been a shift from foreclosures to short sales. Foreclosures are down and short sales are up in most areas. For two cities, Las Vegas and Reno, short sales are now three times foreclosures, although that is related to the new foreclosure rules in Nevada. Both Phoenix and Sacramento had over twice as many short sales as foreclosures. A year ago, there were many more foreclosures than short sales in most areas. Minneapolis is an exception with more foreclosures than short sales. 2) The overall percent of distressed sales (combined foreclosures and short sales) are down year-over-year almost everywhere. Chicago is essentially unchanged from a year ago. And previously from Lawler: Note that the distressed sales shares in the below table are based on MLS data, and often based on certain “fields” or comments in the MLS files, and some have questioned the accuracy of the data. Some MLS/associations only report on overall “distressed” sales. Short Sales ShareForeclosure Sales ShareTotal "Distressed" Share12-Sep11-Sep12-Sep11-Sep12-Sep11-SepLas Vegas44.8%23.5%13.6%49.4%58.4%72.9%Reno41.0%29.0%12.0%38.0%53.0%67.0%Phoenix27.0%27.0%12.9%37.1%39.9%64.1%Sacramento35.4%26.1%15.4%37.9%50.8%64.0%Minneapolis10.1%13.1%25.2%32.9%35.3%46.0%Mid-Atlantic (MRIS)12.4%12.6%9.4%14.4%21.8%27.0%Orlando28.0%25.6%24.0%35.9%52.0%61.5%California (DQ)*27.0%23.8%17.7%33.8%44.7%57.6%California (CAR)24.3%21.0%12.3%27.5%37.0%48.7%Lee County, FL***21.4%21.4%15.9%31.5%37.3%52.9%Colorado**6.5%6.1%12.3%19.8%18.7%25.8%King Co. WA**16.0%10.0%10.0%22.0%25.0%32.0%Hampton Roads VA    25.4%31.6%Miami-Dade    47.4%59.6%Northeast Florida    44.7%49.0%Chicago    40.6%40.0%Rhode Island    23.9%28.9%Miami-Dade    47.4%59.0%Charlotte    15.3%20.9%Columbus OH**    25.2%30.5%Memphis*  26.3%30.8%  Birmingham AL  26.6%31.8%  Houston  16.1%19.4%  *share of existing home sales, based on property records**Third Quarter*** SF only

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31 октября 2012, 03:00

TransCanada Agree Deal with PetroChina to Build $3 Billion Oil Pipeline

TransCanada Corp., the company behind the Keystone XL pipeline and Canada’s largest pipeline company, has agreed a deal with Phoenix Energy Holdings Ltd., a unit of PetroChina Co. Ltd., to build a $3 billion oil pipeline in Northern Alberta.The Grand Rapids Pipeline will transport crude oil from the Athabasca oil sands for about 500km to the Edmonton-Heartland region.Zhiming Li, the chief executive officer of Phoenix, stated that, “transportation in the Athabasca region has become a bottleneck. This transportation solution will be important…Read more...

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30 октября 2012, 17:18

TransCanada и PetroChina планируют построить трубопровод в Канаде стоимостью $3 млрд

МЕХИКО, 30 окт - ПРАЙМ. TransCanada Corp и подразделение китайской PetroChina Co договорились о строительстве трубопровода стоимостью более 3 миллиардов долларов для транспортировки тяжелой нефти с месторождений в канадской провинции Альберта, сообщила TransCanada.   TransCanada и Phoenix Energy Holdings будут владеть по 50% в проекте трубопровода Grand Rapids в северной части провинции, канадская компания будет оператором.   Запуск трубопровода намечен на начало 2017 года, его протяженность составит около 500 километров, мощность - 900 тысяч баррелей нефти и 330 тысяч баррелей в сутки специального разбавителя, необходимого для транспортировки вязкой нефти.   Китайской PetroChina принадлежат проекты по добыче углеводородов из нефтеносных песков MacKay River и Dover, добыча на которых должна составить 400 тысяч баррелей в сутки.   "По мере роста добычи нефти в провинции Альберта инфраструктура для ее транспортировки с развивающихся проектов к западу от реки Атабаска на рынки становится критически важной. Это первый крупный проект трубопровода, который должен удовлетворить потребности быстро развивающегося региона", - сказал президент TransCanada Расс Гирлинг (Russ Girling), передает РИА Новости.

29 октября 2012, 12:50

7 ноября в Екатеринбурге начнет работу выставка "ПТА-Урал 2012"

С 7 по 9 ноября 2012 г. в Екатеринбурге, "Центре Международной Торговли", пройдет выставка "Передовые Технологии Автоматизации. ПТА-Урал 2012", организатором которой выступает компания "Экспотроника". В "ПТА-Урал" ежегодно принимают участие зарубежные компании и предприятия из различных регионов России. Среди них: Eplan, Phoenix Contact Rus, Weidmuller Interface GmbH&Co, "АйДиТи-Урал", "Авитек-Плюс", "Авеон", "Баллуфф", "Витек",...

25 октября 2012, 23:00

Paul Thomas Anderson: The Master, Scientology and flawed fathers

The director talks about making this year's most controversial Oscar contenderThe Master rolls in midway through the Venice film festival. It comes billed as thunderstorm, a controversy, its arrival trailed by rumbles of dissent. This, we are told, is the Scientology film, a veiled biopic of the demagogic L Ron Hubbard; the movie that freaked Tom Cruise. In the event it turns out to be all that and more. So much more, in fact, that the delegates stumbling out from the screening appear momentarily nonplussed.Written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, The Master charts the fortunes of lowly Freddie Quell, a volatile drifter who falls under the spell of charismatic Lancaster Dodd. Shuffling through the postwar west, Dodd plies his trade in town halls and parlours, spinning tales of reincarnation and space aliens and cooking up a new religion as his "gift to homosapiens". What follows, though, is not so much a display of tabloid fireworks as a sweeping epic about hope, loss and the scars of war; a celebration of the American knack for self-renewal and a criticism of it too. The Master contains multitudes. Days after its premiere, I still can't shake it from my head.I meet the director in an upstairs ballroom of a Venice hotel, where sunlight bounces off the marble and the windows are thrown open to show the sea. Anderson turned 42 last June. He has flecks of grey on his temples and three children at home with the actor Maya Rudolph. Yet the setting seems to galvanise him, stoking embers of the precocious young upstart who made Boogie Nights and Magnolia and then ushered Daniel Day-Lewis towards the best actor Oscar in There Will Be Blood. Anderson is jumpy, excited, ready for battle. The Master has been dogged by so many rumours and so much misinformation that it is a relief to finally have it exposed. It is time he set the record straight.Yes, he concedes, the plot of his film parallels the life of Hubbard, a puckish free-thinker who founded Scientology in the 1950s. But that's almost by the bye. Instead, the story started out as a freestyle adaptation of John Steinbeck's memoirs, a picaresque about an ambitious vagabond rattling up the coast of California and dreaming of the sea. Anderson conceived the film as an adventure yarn and toyed with it for a decade. The Hubbard figure only showed up later. Lancaster Dodd brought shape and focus – plus, of course, a whole new set of problems.Dodd is gloriously embodied in the film by Philip Seymour Hoffman, a veteran of Anderson's previous work. And yet Hoffman's performance is matched – and arguably surpassed – by co-star Joaquin Phoenix, who conjures Freddie Quell into a twisted meld of virility and decrepitude; a modern-day Caliban, wild and wonky and ready to blow. Anderson agrees that the casting was key. "It has to be like a tennis match, like two athletes going at each other," he explains. "I got Phil involved first but then Joaquin's name kept coming up, and Phil said: 'You know why I want him to do it? Because he scares me.'"The Master marks Phoenix's return to the fray following a four-year hiatus that seems to have been largely spent re-branding himself as a rapper, play-acting the catatonic on the David Letterman show and collaborating on a faux fly-on-the-wall documentary as a form of self-therapy. It's a wonder he didn't scare the director as well."No, I knew him personally a little bit," says Anderson. "I asked him to be in Boogie Nights. I asked him to be in There Will Be Blood. I've wanted to work with him for the longest time. But the thing about Joaquin is that he's incredibly unpredictable. There's so much energy around him, he's like dynamite. I wouldn't say he's scary. I'd say he's thrilling, sometimes a bit maddening." On set Phoenix had a habit of abandoning his marks and blundering over to where the lights were rigged. "I'd say: 'Please, you know, just give me some vague parameters for where you might go.' But no, he'd always run right over to the lights."At this point I feel we should drag the conversation back to Scientology. Is Anderson expecting any flak? "No," he says, instantly more wary. "Really, no."I'm not sure I quite believe him. In the first place the Church of Scientology retains a good deal of traction within the entertainment industry and stands accused of policing its image with a rigour that sometimes borders on intimidation. Then there is the fact that Anderson took the trouble to arrange a special private screening for Tom Cruise, the movement's most high-profile advocate and a former collaborator on the 1999 film Magnolia. That, at least, suggests a definite concern over how the movie might be read."Oh yeah, but I'm concerned all the time," Anderson says. "The last thing I want to do is insult someone and their belief system. That's not my bag at all. And the impression people seemed to have is that if you do something about Scientology then it must obviously be an attack, when something like South Park can do that way better than I ever could." He shrugs. "But yeah, I knew we were trafficking in elements that were very delicate. Phil's worked with Tom and so have I. And the screening was a way of reaching out and saying: 'I have nothing to hide and no axe to grind.' It was done out of respect more than fear." Cruise, it was reported, objected to various aspects of the film, although Anderson insists that they parted as friends.But look, he adds wearily, The Master really isn't about the current state of Scientology at all. Instead, it takes its lead from the ideas expressed in Hubbard's 1950 book Dianetics. "And the ideas in Dianetics are fucking beautiful. The idea of recalling past lives is so hopeful, so optimistic, and it's something I would love to go along with."I'm sensing a "but" coming up."No, of course there's a but, there's a huge but. I don't even want to get into the buts. It's more the basic idea that appealed to me, because it concerns memories and other lives, particularly after the second world war, and that's what got me excited. Getting into it from that angle felt like fertile ground. You listen to the songs from that period and everyone's singing about seeing you in my dreams, or finding you in another day. All the lyrics are ghost stories, coming out of the war. Or science-fiction stories about travelling in time. You come back from the war and the love of your life is married with kids and you're not the same person who went away. That kind of stuff is so heartbreaking to me."He explains that there was a scene near the end of the film that he eventually cut out, which showed Quell retracing his steps to a park bench where he had once been happy. Quell lies down on the bench, trying to travel in time; to cast himself back to a golden moment before the war. Damn it, says Anderson. He should never have cut that scene.But what's great about The Master is the way it looks to the future as well as the past. It's a salute to ingenuity, to making it up as one goes along; showing the way in which bold new ideas can spark off in a variety of directions. Hubbard, after all, started out as a writer of pulp fantasy, boasting that he had a hand in the script of John Ford's Stagecoach. Dianetics might just as easily have formed the basis for a dime-store novel. Instead it became the blueprint for a new religion."Yeah," agrees Anderson. "But isn't George Lucas the founder of a religion too? Absolutely he is. Ideas can take you anywhere. Maybe that's an American thing. The structure is a little looser where I come from. Maybe we're a little more advanced."He makes it sound as though there's not a whole lot of difference between a film-maker and a cult leader. Anderson chuckles. "I thought of that. There are absolute similarities, in that you have to convince a gang of people to follow your madness around for months or years at a time. It occurred to me multiple times and it's a way of finding compassion for Lancaster Dodd. Wait a minute: how much crazier is he than me? It's fucking nuts. There I am writing the material and saying I want to cast it and I'm not sure where it's going, but who cares? Let's go everyone!"Anderson was raised as part of a large family (three siblings, four half-siblings) in the San Fernando Valley. He was forced to scrap for his space; carve out his territory. As a child, he recalls, he would tell his parents he was a film-maker, even before he had picked up a camera. In the meantime his father, Ernie, read the links on network TV and had a brief gig as "the ghost-host Ghoulardi", a costumed presenter who introduced the horror flicks on a local station. "I think he really wanted to be an actor but he never got the breaks," Anderson says. "He was really good at doing voiceovers; he was like the best at it. But that was something that always nagged at him. I wish he'd stuck around long enough to see some of my films. He died before Boogie Nights, he didn't get to see the rest of them." He shrugs. "It's a drag."Yes, I say, but he keeps cropping up in different guises. It has been noted that Anderson's films are positively peppered with flawed, questing father figures, whether it be Burt Reynolds's porn producer in Boogie Nights, Jason Robards's dying patriarch in Magnolia or Day-Lewis's raging oilman ("I've abandoned my boy!") in There Will Be Blood. Now here he is again, rearing up in the garb of a cuddly demagogue in 1950s America."I know," says Anderson. "I know. And it's a bummer. I swear to God, I didn't see The Master as a father-son story. But there it is, so what are you going to do? It just goes to show you can't stop what's coming." I'm not sure whether this is the hazard of being Paul Thomas Anderson or simply the hazard of being human. Most likely it's the latter. The songs are full of longing and we take our lead from Freddie Quell. We are always beating back towards the same park bench, travelling in time, searching for ghosts.Paul Thomas AndersonPhilip Seymour HoffmanJoaquin PhoenixTom CruiseScientologyVenice film festivalFestivalsOscarsAwards and prizesDramaVenice film festival 2012ReligionXan Brooksguardian.co.uk © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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23 октября 2012, 16:00

Noc the talking whale has told us to get out of the water | Philip Hoare

The beluga's attempted 'speech' echoes a canary in the mine – and only serves to emphasise the distance between our speciesIn the 18th century, whalers who heard whales singing beneath their ships believed they were listening to the souls of drowned men. The notion of the silent ocean having a voice seemed so improbable. It wasn't until the second world war and the advent of underwater acoustics that science discovered how vocal whales really are.Initially it was thought that these sounds were seismic shifts in tectonic plates. Only later was it realised that cetaceans such as blue, fin and sperm whales were the loudest animals on Earth. A fin whale vocalising on one side of the Atlantic can be heard by another fin whale on the other side of the ocean.Noc, the beluga whale who finds himself newly if posthumously famous after reports that he once told a diver to "get out of the water", hails from the most vocal of all cetacean species: belugas have been dubbed the canaries of the sea. What today's story tells us is nothing new. But it does underline the fact that such whales are not only still kept captive in oceanaria in Europe, Asia and North America, but that they are actively being hunted in Russian waters for sale to such facilities in the United States.The great whales provide great problems: it is difficult to study them in the field. Smaller, captive cetaceans such as belugas and dolphins offer easier (if less comfortable) opportunities for investigation. The stagers of such marine entertainment often justify their captive cast with scientific studies. Yet historically, this is where much of the still-nascent work on cetacean science was carried out. Some experiments even came out of the military use of cetaceans, which have been trained to lay underwater mines and even kill human divers.Out of the US Navy's post-war whale programme – much of it still secret – came the most sensational story: that of John C Lilly in the 1960s, whose work included the creation of a 24/7 facility in which researchers could live full-time with their subjects. Lilly's outlandish conclusions on dolphin communication prompted him to declare that they spoke "dolphinese", and in fact constituted an alien race living among us. Lily was later discredited by experiments in which he injected LSD into dolphins' brains. In doing so he set back scientific work on cetacean communication by decades. Only now is it becoming respectable again, shrugging off its anthropomorphic past.Yet we are human, and sometimes we can only comprehend by seeing the world as our mirror. Noc's plangent, if unmusical, venture into attempted human "speech" also emphasises the greater distance between our species. The disjuncture between human and cetacean underlines this vexed relationship. The whale has represented industrial resource, environmental barometer, and entertainment. It has been co-opted into the human world.Even the apparently benevolent techniques of modern researchers in tagging whales has been shown to have an adverse effect. We try to assimilate their behaviour – from making them into roving GPS transmitters to furnish nice clean convenient data sets – to "interpreting" their communications in human terms.Recently, Lou Herman has used more benign ways of establishing cetacean capabilities. Working with two captive dolphins, Phoenix and Akeakamai, on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, Herman has created an artificial language of signals and gestures to establish that his charges can even understand nuances of grammar and tenses, answering questions and displaying predictive and abstract cognition.Meanwhile, Hal Whitehead, of Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia, has also used less intrusive methods – the hydrophone – to identify no fewer than five different sperm whale clans in the Pacific Ocean, each distinguished by communicatory "click" sequences which are as discrete and unique to each clan as a regional accent is to a human being. Like us, whales appear to be defined by the way they speak. For them, it is their cultural expression, their essential sense of self.Yet the oceanic environment is pumped with anthropogenic noise fit to deafen them. The effect of shipping lanes on the highly endangered right whales of the north-east coast of the US was only discovered after the enforced silence in the days following 9/11, researchers realised that the whales were vocalising much more loudly – apparently resuming their natural voices in the way that the birds around Heathrow airport seemed to sing louder when the Icelandic volcanic eruption of 2010 gave them the window of opportunity.Noc's pathetic squeaks echo through the fog of noise, a sea canary singing in the mine. We can hear the whale; but are we listening? It's a bit late to tell us to get out of the water.WhalesMarine lifeOceansWildlifePhilip Hoareguardian.co.uk © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

22 октября 2012, 23:07

Guest Post: Dysfunctional, Dishonest, Insane, And Intolerable

Submitted by Jim Quinn of The Burning Platform blog, “I agree to this Constitution with all its faults, if they are such: because I think a General Government necessary for us, and there is no Form of Government but what may be a Blessing to the People if well-administered; and I believe farther that this is likely to be well administered for a Course of Years and can only end in Despotism as other Forms have done before it, when the People shall become so corrupted as to need Despotic Government, being incapable of any other.” – Ben Franklin In my last article – Decline, Decay, Denial, Delusion & Despair – I tied my observations about the obesity epidemic after a weekend in Wildwood NJ to the overall decay and degradation of the American culture. I had further reflections, but the article was already too long. These musings centered upon the complete dysfunction of government and delusion of politicians who think they can create value by seizing money from taxpayers, creating programs and controlling our lives. The incompetence, arrogance, ineptitude and insanity of government officials at the Federal, State, and Local level are stunning to behold. A story from the local Wildwood newspaper crystallized why Wildwood and thousands of municipalities across the country continue to spiral downward as government assumes more hegemony over our economy and day to day lives. We need to ask ourselves whether we the people are getting better government service and efficiency today; with government spending at 35% to 40% of GDP, than we did in the 1950’s and early 1960’s when government spending was 20% to 25% of GDP.   I doubt that most people are getting 60% more value from our benevolent government today than they did in the 1950’s. The GDP of the United States was $300 billion in 1950. Today it is $15.6 trillion, a 5,200% increase in 62 years. Sounds pretty impressive until you realize that 4,500% was due to Federal Reserve scientifically created inflation. But don’t worry. Ben Bernanke’s assures us inflation is well contained. The 5,200% increase in GDP was blown away by the 9,100% increase in total government spending since 1950. When most people talk about government spending, they refer to the $3.8 trillion per year spent by the corrupt politicians and obtuse government bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. But, witless state and local politicians spend another $2.6 trillion of your tax dollars per year. The charts below detail the descent into a nanny state over the last six decades, where government has stepped in to the breach as the provider of healthcare, retirement savings, welfare, food stamps, housing, phones, cable, and SSDI if you get depressed by that non-existent inflation.     In the 1950’s defense accounted for a significant portion of government spending due to the Cold War and Korean conflict. Government did provide a safety net for the less fortunate during the 1950s, but people were also supported by their extended families, neighbors, churches, local communities, and charitable organizations. Medicare, Medicaid, and Food Stamps did not exist in the 1950s, and somehow, without government intervention, people were not dying in the streets or starving to death. The economy boomed as America was the manufacturer for the world. The middle class grew as blue collar jobs were plentiful and Americans took advantage of educational opportunity to move into white collar professions. Government did useful things like creating the Interstate highway system and beginning space exploration. What government did not do was create a class of dependent people who relied upon the government for their day to day existence. The transformation to a nanny state has not only created millions of non-productive members of society, but it can only be sustained by borrowing and passing the bill on to future unborn generations. This un-payable liability is the ultimate consequence of government spending outpacing GDP by 75% over the last six decades. Johnny Can’t Add – Send Him to College “The average American college fails… to achieve its ostensible ends. One failure… of the colleges lies in their apparent incompetence to select and train a sufficient body of intelligent teachers. Their choice is commonly limited to second-raters, for a man who really knows a subject is seldom content to spend his lifetime teaching it: he wants to function in a more active and satisfying way, as all other living organisms want to function. There are, of course, occasional exceptions to this rule, but they are very rare, and none of them are to be found in the average college. The pedagogues there incarcerated are all inferior men who really know very little about the things they pretend to teach, and are too stupid or too indolent to acquire more…. Being taught by them is roughly like being dosed in illness by third-year medical students.” – H.L. Mencken I watched the two candidates, chosen for us by our overlords, debate this past week and blather on endlessly about education being the key to our future success. As you can see from the charts above, government spending on education has remained constant at 14% of total government spending. In 1950, education spending totaled 3.3% of GDP. Today it totals 5.6% of GDP. We are spending $900 billion per year on education and making our kids dumber by the day. There are 50 million government controlled public school students and $600 billion is spent to educate them. One wonders where the $12,000 per student per year is being allocated, considering the lack of critical thinking skills, ability to write a comprehensible sentence or even the most basic math skills of the dullards that are being matriculated into society. The majority of that funding couldn’t possibly be wasted on administration, bureaucracy, union pension and healthcare benefits, and supporting the 5,000 control freaks at the Department of Education and their $100 billion budget.   The rest of the $300 billion of government spending on education is being funneled towards luring young people into debt so they can attain a college degree that will land them a part time job at Ruby Tuesdays. The hundreds of billions in Federal student loans being syphoned from the taxpayers and handed out to unsuspecting dupes has resulted in $1 trillion of student loan debt outstanding, up from $600 billion in 2008 and $200 billion in 2000. This mountain of debt makes subprime mortgages look like a good risk. Since 2008, the Federal government has intentionally accelerated the disbursement of student loans in an effort to obfuscate the true level of unemployment in this country, as people enrolled in college are not considered unemployed. The looming bailout of this grand taxpayer theft will be colossal, as the delinquency rate of student loans not in their grace period already exceeds 18%. This should not come as a surprise, as even though 10 million more people have entered the working age population since 2008, there are 3 million less people employed than in 2008. Subsidizing kids who aren’t intelligent enough to graduate community college and shelling out billions to middle aged laid off blue collar dudes so they can get an on-line degree from the University of Phoenix or the myriad of other worthless blood sucking diploma mills, is a despicable waste of taxpayer money. Politicians continuously churn out talking points about how they are going to fix education, when it has been government control and intervention in the education market that has devastated the youth of our country. The government controlled education system has produced a vast swath of non-critical thinking, non-questioning, vacuous, materialistic, iGadget addicted nimrods. By subsidizing students who don’t have the aptitude, intelligence or preparedness to achieve a college degree, the government has artificially created the large increases in tuition. False government subsidized demand combined with limited supply leads to higher prices. It happened with housing and it is happening in college education. Government bureaucrats are so proud of their achievement in driving college enrollment to a record high of 21.6 million, up from 15.4 million in 2000. The percentage of 18- to 24-year-olds enrolled in college has soared from 35.5% in 2000 to over 42.0% today. The trend of young people enrolling in college has been relentlessly higher. Based on this data, you would think the youth of our fine country are the best and brightest in history. You’d be wrong.   There is one slight problem with that storyline – FACTS. SAT scores for the high-school graduating class of 2012 fell in two of the test’s three sections, with Reading dropping to the lowest level in four decades on the college-entrance test. Only 43% of the 1.66 million private and public school students who took the college-entrance exam posted scores showing they are prepared to do well in college, according to data released by the College Board, the nonprofit group that administers the SAT. The SAT data mirror scores from the ACT college-entrance exam which showed about 75% of students failed to meet college-readiness standards. The graduating class of 2012 posted an average score of 496 (491 for public school seniors) in Reading, a one-point drop from 2011 and a 34-point decline since 1972. Writing dropped to 488 (481 for public school seniors) this year from 489 in 2011, the lowest score since that section was introduced in 2006. The average Math score was 514 (505 for public school seniors), virtually unchanged since 2007, but down by four points since 2006 and essentially flat over the last forty years. The decline from 1960 is even more dramatic.   To put it bluntly, the dumbest graduating high school class in forty years has the highest college enrollment percentage in history. To put the dreadful results detailed above in further perspective, there will be 3.4 million graduating seniors in the country. The 1.7 million seniors who took the SAT exam were the cream of the crop. Imagine how dumb the 50% who didn’t even attempt to take the exam must be. These results show that only 700,000 of all the graduating high school seniors (21%) are capable of getting a B minus or above in college. A critical thinking individual might ask why 42% of all 18 to 24 year olds are enrolled in college. And the answer is The Government. There are 13 million 18 to 24 year olds enrolled in college and at least 6 million of them should not be in college, based upon their actual intellectual abilities. Do you think tuition rates would be skyrocketing if these 6 million kids were not being subsidized with Federal government loans to occupy space at second rate colleges and for profit diploma mills across the land? Where’s My Daddy “Every third American devotes himself to improving and lifting up his fellow citizens, usually by force; the messianic delusion is our national disease.” – #0000ff;">H.L. Mencken While the government continues to promote, encourage and subsidize insane solutions to our educational dysfunction, they declare we must “invest” more in education. We need more teachers, more money, more programs, more standardized government created tests, and more government control. This drivel is peddled to the dumbed down masses by politicians and the mainstream media and who could possibly disagree? We must invest in our children. They are our future. Again, facts keep getting in the way of a good yarn. The United States spends $3,000 more per student than the average OECD country. We spend 75% more than South Korea per student.   Based on spending alone, our children should have the highest test scores on earth. We missed by that much. Sadly, the average American high school graduate doesn’t have the math skills to understand the chart below, so I’ll interpret it for them. We suck at math. Math is hard and hurts our brains, so we would rather twitter and text. Korea seems to be getting a nice bang for their buck. I wonder if it has anything to do with two parent families that care about education, good teachers, a rigorous curriculum, and hardworking students. I wonder if Korean schools concentrate on social justice, multi-culturalism, the joys of diversity, promoting ego enhancement and rewarding mediocrity. Despite being 2nd in the world in spending per student, our students ranked 25th out of 34 countries in math and science scores. We’ve kept this information from our children because we don’t want to hurt their self-esteem. Everyone gets a trophy in America just for showing up. The job of teachers and educators is to inspire children and create a desire to learn, question and think. Filling their minds with rote government sanctioned pabulum and drugged up on Adderall is not the way to create critical thinking young adults.   The government bureaucrats and teachers unions declare that if we just had more teachers all would be well. Our top notch, dedicated, overburdened union teachers are just being crushed by their unbearable 9 month workload, one month of holidays, snow days, and in-service days, the grind of an 8 hour day and an average class size of 16 students. The facts are that in 1965, when SAT Reading scores were 542, the average class size for a public school teacher was 25 students. The number of students per teacher has dropped by 36% since 1965 and the public school SAT Reading scores reached a new low of 491 in 2012. Imagine how low the scores could go if we just hire another million teachers. Let’s be truthful. The majority of public school teachers in this country are mediocre at best. They are glorified babysitters. Students are unmotivated and distracted by their social media techno-gadgets. Parents, if there are two parents, are consumed by working, commuting, and their own techno-obsessions. The slow descent into national imbecility is almost complete.   Let’s not beat around the bush. As students learn less and less, taxpayers pay more and more. The Department of Education was created in 1979. This year they will spend over $80 Billion of your tax dollars on programs that will fail again. Teachers’ unions demand higher wages, pension payouts, and healthcare benefits, while thwarting efforts to fire poor performers. The Department of Education has not improved education. Its mandates, programs, and subsidies have destroyed any incentive to improve the system. The Department of Education should be eliminated, but neither party would ever do it. As States and municipalities across the land are forced to acknowledge the $2 trillion of unfunded pension liabilities owed to government union employees cannot be honored, the end of collective bargaining with the teacher’s unions will arrive. Taxpayers will revolt and refuse to pay for the gold plated benefits of second-rate teachers that produce students who can’t read, write or add. In the politically correct society we inhabit today, you are not allowed to state the other obvious reason for the non-stop slide in test scores and the educational underachievement of our precious cherubs. In 1960, only 8% of families with a child under 18 were single parent households. Today, that number is 30%. The percentage of children born out of wedlock in this country is 41%, with 72% of black children born out of wedlock. Again, you can thank the government. You get more of what you encourage and subsidize. Government control over our educational system has created a nation of useful idiots who are compliant and malleable to whatever storyline their overlords announce through their media mouthpieces.   It’s no accident that in 1960, according to the Pew Research Center, five years before President Lyndon Johnson signed into law his War on Poverty, 61% of black adults were married. By 2008, this was down to 32%. In 1960, 2% of black children had a parent that had never been married. By 2008, this was up to 41%. The results speak for themselves: 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes 90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes 85% of all children who show behavior disorders come from fatherless homes 80% of rapists with anger problems come from fatherless homes 71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes 75% of all adolescent patients in chemical abuse centers come from fatherless homes 85% of all youths in prison come from fatherless homes. By encouraging dependency and reliance upon the all-powerful government, the motivation to educate yourself, get married before having children, work hard, and pull yourself out of poverty is diminished. Self-reliance and responsibility for your own life is lessened because the government is there to provide the basic needs of all. It sounds wonderful until you consider the $100 trillion bill being passed to future generations so we can sustain our nanny state today. After decades of ever increasing government control over our lives and the accumulation of a Himalayan mountain of debt, why anyone would conclude that more government is the solution is beyond my comprehension. May I Have Another Voucher Please? “The most dangerous man to any government is the man who is able to think things out for himself, without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane, and intolerable…” – H.L. Mencken This brings me to the story in the Cape May County Herald that captures the insanity of government and how government solutions create unintended consequences that require more government solutions, ultimately creating such havoc and disarray that intelligent people just give up and move somewhere else. The story detailed all of the undercover operations of the Middle Township police department and the 77 arrests they made in Rio Grande for narcotics distribution, robberies, and assaults over the last year and a half. Rio Grande is a backwater town of 2,670 people living in a 3 square mile area, a few miles from Wildwood. One might wonder how a sleepy tiny seashore town could have such a crime epidemic. Well this one sentence from the article provides a clue: With the majority of the twelve motels in the township that accept social services vouchers lining the highway, Route 47 seems to be a hotbed for crime in the township.     It seems the community of Rio Grande supports the 43 Middle Township police officers with a tremendous level of job security. The police were confused as to why so much crime was centered at the year-round motels in Rio Grande. It seems their fellow government associates like to play hot potato with convicted criminals. The State Department of Corrections paroles the lowlife felons and puts them on a bus back to the county in which they were sentenced. The Cape May County Social Services then uses taxpayer money to provide a free housing voucher to the criminals whose families refuse to take them back. The dilapidated motels that have to accept these social services vouchers in order to survive in this terrible economy then end up filled with drug dealing troublemaking delinquents. In case you were considering a nice vacation stay at a Rio Grande motel, you should know there are currently 24 parolees living in Rio Grande motels as well as 20 Megan’s Law offenders. I bet they have some wild parties on Friday nights. I’m sure this news will do wonders for property values in Rio Grande. I was thrilled to find out that my home away from home – Wildwood – is the only place with more motels accepting these social services housing vouchers, with 15. That may help illuminate the reasons for the ten blocks of squalor that make up the heart of downtown Wildwood. The story actually gets better. Governmental dysfunction and insanity has been taken to a new level, as described by the chief of police: “What we found out with this funding, and this is particularly disturbing, is that the only way someone’s funding can be revoked is if they are involved activities that result in their own homelessness,” said Leusner. He gave an example of a resident at a motel that might commit a theft, break into someone’s car or shoplift and be arrested. If let go on their own recognizance, that person still receives a voucher. “They can’t revoke their funding,” said the chief. “I think that’s wrong. If you commit a crime and you victimize someone in that general area, your funding should be revoked.” So the taxpayer has already footed the bill for a criminal’s stay in prison, pays for their free housing while still making their own mortgage payment, pays for the added police personnel to arrest them for their new crimes, and still pays for their housing after they are arrested again for committing crimes in their community. I’m sure Paul Krugman would see this as a wonderful example of Keynesian economics propelling the nation’s GDP. Government spending on housing vouchers results in more employment of police officers, revenue for motel owners, revenue for the construction industry to repair the motels after the drug crazed parties, revenue for the drug dealers, revenue for security firms and gun dealers as citizens scramble to protect themselves, and ultimately more employment of prison guards when the derelicts are eventually sent back to prison. It’s a government created dysfunctional cycle of insanity. The cherry on top of this atrocious example of a bloodsucking government destroying its host is what happened when motel owners met with police and agreed to police the situation themselves. The motel owners immediately contacted Social Services whenever one of their parasite guests were seen doing or dealing drugs and would tell them they didn’t want them in their motel. Due to governmental confidentiality rules Social Services could not inform the police of this information. These government drones would then place the drug addict at another motel two blocks away without informing them about the prior complaints. This is the ultimate result of government run amuck. By putting complete faith in the wisdom of politicians and bureaucrats, we are left with a system that is consuming itself and what little remains of our national wealth. Liberty & Critical Thinking “All government, of course, is against liberty.” – #0000ff;">H.L. Mencken Nothing in this world gets better as it gets bigger. The bigger an organization becomes, the less efficient, less responsive, less fair, less compassionate and less functional it becomes. Government attracts mediocre, low IQ, power hungry, narrow minded, paper pushing, rules oriented, dimwits who think they can run your life better than yourself. This applies across the board from the highest levels in Washington D.C. to your local school board. There is no problem that another law, statute, program, or initiative, funded by your tax dollars or future generations, that a politician or government pencil pusher doesn’t think they can’t solve. They are just too dense to anticipate the unintended consequences of their arrogant belief in their own wisdom. Government programs created in the 1960s created a culture of dependency, government control, relentlessly higher debt, materialism, and willful ignorance. As government has grown in power, the people have sunk to the level of feudal serfs living in indentured servitude to their overlords. The government overlords and their banking and corporate co-conspirators created the educational system that produces the flaccid, oblivious, pliable dolts that make up the majority of the populace. As we’ve seen, government subsidization of dysfunctional lifestyles and dreadful government education provided to children from these households creates a corrupt, criminal culture that engenders calls for more government programs to fix the problems created by previous government programs. This is why government spending has far outpaced GDP growth over the last six decades. It’s a cycle of dysfunction and ultimately destruction, as the crony capitalists and government parasites suck the remaining life from our decaying economic system. It always comes back to who benefits from such a dysfunctional, dishonest, insane, intolerable system. If the population had not been dumbed down through our educational system and was capable of critical thinking they would realize the corporate media propaganda used to turn them into materialistic, narcissistic consumers, along with easy access to consumer debt has lured them into debt servitude and impoverishment, while their overlords are enriched and empowered. Our education system sucks because our overlords need it to suck. “There’s a reason that education sucks, and it’s the same reason it will never ever ever be fixed. It’s never going to get any better, don’t look for it. Be happy with what you’ve got. Because the owners of this country don’t want that. I’m talking about the real owners now, the big, wealthy, business interests that control all things and make the big decisions. I’ll tell you what they don’t want—they don’t want a population of citizens capable of critical thinking. They don’t want well informed, well educated people capable of critical thinking. They’re not interested in that. That doesn’t help them. That’s against their interest.” – #0000ff;">George Carlin The question remains. Can a small minority of critical thinking citizens lead a revolution that topples the existing social order and restores the Republic to its founding principles of liberty, self-responsibility, civic duty, and mutual obligation to future generations? The original Ron Paul #000000;">led Tea Party movement was hijacked and defused by the overlords. The original OWS movement, with its focus on the criminal Wall Street banks, was crushed through brute force and corporate media propaganda. The few remaining citizens capable of critical thought need to decide whether they will fight for the country we should be or bow down to the overlords and accept that we have become so corrupted as to need a despotic government, being incapable of any other. The choice is ours.