Saturday, August 28, 2010

Beware That New Credit-Card Offer

Wall Street Journal

Amid all the junk mail pouring into your house in recent months, you might have noticed a solicitation or two for a "professional card," otherwise known as a small-business or corporate credit card.

If so, watch out. While Capital One Financial Corp.'s World MasterCard, Citigroup Inc.'s Citibank CitiBusiness/AAdvantage Mastercard and the others might look like typical plastic, they are anything but.

Professional cards aren't covered under the Credit Card Accountability and Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009, or Card Act for short. Among other things, the law prohibits issuers from controversial billing practices such as hair-trigger interest rate increases, shortened payment cycles and inactivity fees—but it doesn't apply to professional cards (see table).

Oogy: The Dog Only a Family Could Love

Chopin's Small Miracles

Despite their brevity, the Preludes loom large musically
Wall Street Journal

Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849), whose 200th anniversary it is this year, is the overwhelming favorite composer for the piano. He possessed the most subtle intuitions and fathomed the mysteries of the world. Oscar Wilde once said of him, "After playing Chopin, I feel as if I had been weeping over sins that I had never committed and mourning over tragedies that were not my own." [Article includes audio music clips]


The Insurance Information Institute

The 2010 MetLife Study of the American Dream


The results of the most recent MetLife Study of the American Dreamsuggest a country slow to rebound from economic troubles. While most Americans believe the U.S. economy will be the same or better this year than last, most see a long road to personal recovery—due in part to the deep financial hole that many Americans were in before the recession began. Yet even as they struggle to make ends meet by working harder, saving more and spending less, many believe the bar is still rising in terms of the basic necessities in life.

Friday, August 27, 2010

When It Comes to Butter Carving, There's No Margarine for Error

Wall Street Journal

Linda Christensen didn't start as a sculptor, but the more than 500 busts she's churned out have built her a solid reputation.

She'll be carving this week at the Minnesota State Fair, where her career began almost 40 years ago. Thousands will watch as she molds a 90-pound block of butter into the likeness of the Midwest Dairy Association's newly crowned "Princess Kay of the Milky Way." Then she'll carve busts of the 11 finalists. Slideshow

Rumor to Fact in Tales of Post-Katrina Violence

New York Times

NEW ORLEANS — In the days after Hurricane Katrina left much of New Orleans in flooded ruins, the city was awash in tales of violence and bloodshed.

Heading Off to College? Don’t Forget to Properly Insure Everything You Bring to School

I.I.I. Offers Tips For Insuring College Students’ Possessions, Including a “Dorm Inventory”INSURANCE INFORMATION INSTITUTE

NEW YORK, August 24, 2010 - As college students and their parents begin planning for the new academic year, “check insurance” should be on their “to do” lists, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.). For students who live in an on-campus dormitory, most of their personal possessions are covered under either their parents’ homeowners or renters insurance policy, although the issue gets more complicated if the student resides off-campus or owns a very expensive computer or sophisticated electronic equipment.

'Fire devil' tornado blazes trail near road in Sao Paulo state of Brazil

Tom Bonnett
Sky News Online

A fire tornado caused by brush fires and strong winds has stopped motorway traffic as drivers in Brazil gawped at the rare phenomenon.

The whirlwind of flames burned through fields beside the road in the northwest city of Aracatuba in Sao Paulo state.

Does Hope Have a Dark Side?

Some see yearning for a cure for a chronic illness as counterproductive.
By Dennis Thompson
U. S. Department of Health and Human Services

THURSDAY, Aug. 26 (HealthDay News) -- Imagine suffering from a chronic illness that challenges you every single day. You have aches and pains, difficulty getting around and sometimes suffer from surprising decreases in energy. You take fistfuls of medication for relief and endure countless medical procedures to keep the illness from progressing.

Google Shakes It Up Again With Free Phone Calls

By David Pogue
New York Times

Google just loves upsetting the apple cart. It shook up Web searching and advertising. It shook up free, Web-based e-mail services when Gmail offered gigabytes of free storage rather than a few megabytes. It shook up the way companies go public.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Ancient Sport of India Touts Ties to Buddha, and Male Cheerleaders

Kabaddi, Cross Between Tag and Yoga, Has Global Ambitions; Do Hold Your Breath
Wall Street Journal

BHOPAL, India—Star players in the ancient Indian sport of kabaddi share a few key characteristics. They're strong. They're quick on their feet. And, most importantly, they can hold their breath for two minutes while chanting the word "kabaddi" over and over.

Toyota's Corolla is the people's car in Afghanistan

By David Nakamura
Washington Post

If this war-torn nation of 29 million is a magnet for foreign occupying forces that never seem to leave, it is also the land where old Corollas from across the globe come to die.

U.S. Rejected Hen Vaccine Despite British Success

New York Times

Faced with a crisis more than a decade ago in which thousands of people were sickened from salmonella in infected eggs, farmers in Britain began vaccinating their hens against the bacteria. That simple but decisive step virtually wiped out the health threat.

But when American regulators created new egg safety rules that went into effect last month, they declared that there was not enough evidence to conclude that vaccinating hens against salmonella would prevent people from getting sick. The Food and Drug Administration decided not to mandate vaccination of hens — a precaution that would cost less than a penny per a dozen eggs.

Share of Popular Bottled Water from Municipal Supplies Up 50 Percent

Food & Water Watch Analysis Reveals Uptick in Sourcing from Taxpayer-Supported Water Supplies

Washington, D.C.—New analysis of industry data released today by the national consumer advocacy group Food & Water Watch finds that almost half of all bottled water sold in U.S. retail outlets in PET plastic bottles now comes from municipal tap water supplies. Bottling Our Cities’ Tap Water shows that between 2000 and 2009 the share of retail-sold PET bottled water that is actually tap water grew from 32.7 percent to 47.8 percent.

Legal requirements to provide your Social Security number.

Social Security Administration

Must I provide a Social Security number (SSN) to any business or government agency that asks?

The SSN was originally devised to keep an accurate record of each individual’s earnings, and to subsequently monitor benefits paid under the Social Security program. However, use of the Social Security number as a general identifier has grown to the point where it is the most commonly used and convenient identifier for all types of record-keeping systems in the United States.

Specific laws require a person to provide his or her SSN for certain purposes. While we cannot give you a comprehensive list of all situations where an SSN might be required or requested, an SSN is required or requested by the following organizations:

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Call Phones From Gmail

The Official Google Blog
8/25/2010 09:40:00 AM(Cross-posted from the Gmail Blog)

Gmail voice and video chat makes it easy to stay in touch with friends and family using your computer’s microphone and speakers. But until now, this required both people to be at their computers, signed into Gmail at the same time. Given that most of us don’t spend all day in front of our computers, we thought, “wouldn’t it be nice if you could call people directly on their phones?”

A Forgotten Fight for Suffrage

New York Times

LOOKING back on the adoption of the 19th Amendment 90 years ago Thursday — the largest act of enfranchisement in our history — it can be hard to see what the fuss was about. We’re inclined to assume that the passage of women’s suffrage (even the term is old-fashioned) was inevitable, a change whose time had come. After all, voting is now business as usual for women. And although women are still poorly represented in Congress, there are influential female senators and representatives, and prominent women occupy governors’ and mayors’ offices and legislative seats in every part of the United States.

Are E-Books Worth the Money?

By Brett Arends
Wall Street Journal

If you walk out of the cinema this week with a burning desire to read Elizabeth Gilbert's "Eat, Pray, Love," you can download it onto your Amazon Kindle electronic book reader–if you have one–for $12.99.

Then again you could just walk into your local Borders bookstore with a coupon and get the paperback for $10.

Defense official discloses cyberattack

By Ellen NakashimaTuesday
Washington Post

Now it is official: The most significant breach of U.S. military computers was caused by a flash drive inserted into a U.S. military laptop on a post in the Middle East in 2008.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Overuse of Digital Devices May Lead to Brain Fatigue

New York Times

SAN FRANCISCO — It’s 1 p.m. on a Thursday and Dianne Bates, 40, juggles three screens. She listens to a few songs on her iPod, then taps out a quick e-mail on her iPhone and turns her attention to the high-definition television.

Wind Power Won't Cool Down the Planet

Often enough it leads to higher carbon emissions.
Wall Street Journal

The wind industry has achieved remarkable growth largely due to the claim that it will provide major reductions in carbon dioxide emissions. There's just one problem: It's not true. A slew of recent studies show that wind-generated electricity likely won't result in any reduction in carbon emissions—or that they'll be so small as to be almost meaningless.

Venezuela, More Deadly Than Iraq, Wonders Why

New York Times

CARACAS, Venezuela — Some here joke that they might be safer if they lived in Baghdad. The numbers bear them out.

In Iraq, a country with about the same population as Venezuela, there were 4,644 civilian deaths from violence in 2009, according to Iraq Body Count; in Venezuela that year, the number of murders climbed above 16,000. Slide Show

Inside Neurosurgery’s Rise

New York Times

NEW HAVEN — Two floors below the main level of Yale’s medical school library is a room full of brains. No, not the students. These brains, more than 500 of them, are in glass jars. They are part of an extraordinary collection that might never have come to light if not for a curious medical student and an encouraging and persistent doctor.

Online ranters increasingly pay a price

By David G. Savage
Tribune Washington bureau
Seattle Times

WASHINGTON — The Internet has allowed tens of millions of Americans to be published writers. But it also has led to a surge in lawsuits from those who say they were hurt, defamed or threatened by what they read, according to groups that track media lawsuits.

Digital diversions leave teens, parents sleep-deprived

By Donna St. George
Washington Post

There are nights when Jane Hopkins feels like a sleep cop.

She will climb out of her bed in the wee hours to see whether her teenage sons are really asleep. If she spies them still awake, playing on the computer or the PlayStation3 in the basement of their College Park home, she will insist: It's time for bed. It was timehours ago.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Case Against Corporate Social Responsibility

The idea that companies have a duty to address social ills is not just flawed, argues Aneel Karnani. It also makes it more likely that we'll ignore the real solutions to these problems.
Wall Street Journal

Can companies do well by doing good? Yes—sometimes.

But the idea that companies have a responsibility to act in the public interest and will profit from doing so is fundamentally flawed.

Spy novels by real spies: Anthony Burgess, John le Carré and others

By Mary Ann Gwinn
Seattle Times

Early this summer I asked an idle question of Seattle Times readers: What are the great spy novels written by authors who were actual spies?

High-tech carts will tell on Cleveland residents who don't recycle ... and they face $100 fine

By Mark Gillispie, The Plain Dealer

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- It would be a stretch to say that Big Brother will hang out in Clevelanders' trash cans, but the city plans to sort through curbside trash to make sure residents are recycling -- and fine them $100 if they don't.

Housing Fades as a Means to Build Wealth, Analysts Say

New York Times

Housing will eventually recover from its great swoon. But many real estate experts now believe that home ownership will never again yield rewards like those enjoyed in the second half of the 20th century, when houses not only provided shelter but also a plump nest egg.

Know Your Options -- A New Web Site by Fannie Mae

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Peace of Mind: The Battle Can we 'choose' happiness or is it a matter of circumstance and genes?

By Paul Beston
Wall Street Journal

New parents are sometimes asked whimsically what they want for their children when they grow up. The safest reply, and most common one today, is: "I just want them to be happy." Another possible reply, often unspoken but certainly part of most parents' thoughts about their children's future, might be: "I just want them to be good."

How 13 dog breeds got their names

By Ethan Trex
Mental Floss

(Mental Floss) -- Every dog owner knows why they gave their dog its name, but how well do you know the story behind their breed names? Let's take a look at where a handful of common breeds found their monikers.

How I (Almost) Saved the Earth

No one said it would be easy to build the greenest house on the block. Scott Adams on perplexing energy bills, ugly lawns and the true meaning of 'green'
By Scott Adams
Wall Street Journal

Let's say you love the Earth. You see an article in a magazine about a guy who built a "green" house using mostly twigs, pinecones and abandoned bird nests. You want to build a green home, too. So you find an architect, show him the magazine and say, "Give me one just like this."

What You Need to Know: New Rules for Gift Cards

By Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System