Sunday, May 31, 2009

I'm Yours by Jason Mraz

Ok, one last one. For awhile.

Back to back songs yestertday grabbed me. This doesn't happen to me too often, as I listen to classic rock most of the time.

So I share one more time.

I'm Yours by Jason Mraz

Well you done done me and you bet I felt it
I tried to be chill but you're so hot that I melted
I fell right through the cracks
Now I'm trying to get back
Before the cool done run out
I'll be giving it my bestest
And nothing's going to stop me but divine intervention
I reckon it's again my turn to win some or learn some

I won't hesitate no more, no more
It cannot wait, I'm yours

Well open up your mind and see like me
Open up your plans and damn you're free
Look into your heart and you'll find love love love love
Listen to the music of the moment babay sing with me
I love peace for melody
And It's our God-forsaken right to be loved love loved love loved

So I won't hesitate no more, no more
It cannot wait I'm sure
There's no need to complicate
Our time is short
This is our fate, I'm yours

Scooch on over closer dear
And i will nibble your ear

I've been spending way too long checking my tongue in the mirror
And bending over backwards just to try to see it clearer
But my breath fogged up the glass
And so I drew a new face and laughed
I guess what I'm be saying is there ain't no better reason
To rid yourself of vanity and just go with the seasons
It's what we aim to do
Our name is our virtue

But I won't hesitate no more, no more
It cannot wait I'm sure

Well open up your mind and see like me
Open up your plans and damn you're free
Look into your heart and you'll find that the sky is yours
Please don't, please don't, please don't
There's no need to complicate
Cause our time is short
This oh this this is out fate, I'm yours!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Funny the Way it is

It might be the mood that I am in lately, but sometimes words of a song grab you and won't let you go. While painting something I created for around the house, I had to run in to get the title and find the lyrics.

The following is from the Dave Mathews Band.

Funny the way it is

Lying in the park on a beautiful day
Sunshine in the grass and the children play
Sirens pass and fire engine red
Someone’s house is burning down
On a day like this
And evening comes and were hanging out
On the front step and a car goes
By with the windows rolled down
And that war song is playing
Why can’t we be friends?
Someone is screaming and crying
In the apartment upstairs

"Funny the way it is"
If you think about it
Somebody’s going hungry
And someone else is eating out
Funny the way it is, not right or wrong
Somebody’s heart is broken
And it becomes your favorite song

The way your mouth feels
In a lovers kiss
Like a pretty bird on a breeze
Or water to a fish
A bomb blast brings a building
Crashing to the floor
Hear the laughter
While the children play war

Funny the way it is
If you think about it
One kid walks 10 miles to school
Another’s dropping out
Funny the way it is, not right or wrong
On a soldier’s last breath
His baby is being born

Standing on a bridge
Watch the water passing under me
It must have been much harder
When there was no bridge just water
Now the world is small
Compared to how it used to be
With mountains and oceans and winters
And rivers and stars

Watch the sky
A jet plane so far out of my reach
Is there someone up there
Looking down on me?
A boy chase a bird
So close but every time
He never catch her
But he can’t stop trying

Funny the way it is
If you think about it
One kid walks 10 miles to school
Another’s dropping out
Funny the way it is, not right or wrong
On a soldier’s last breath
His baby’s being born

Funny the way it is
Not right or wrong
Somebody’s broken heart
Becomes your favorite song
Funny the way it is
If you think about it
One kid walks 10 miles to school
Another’s dropping out

Standing on a bridge
Watch the water passing under me
It must have been much harder
When there was no bridge just water
Now the world is small
Compared to how it used to be
With mountains and oceans and winters
And rivers and stars

Police action urged over expenses

Click on title for link

I am always surprised by politicians the world over seem to think that they have a sense of entitlement to skirt the very laws they expect others to follow. Naive I suppose.

But I am always suspicious of someone who crusades against a cause or lifestyle or actions of others. The louder they yell, the more it interests me why. Many times they are guilty of what they oppose in the first place.

The following story is from the UK. It has been unraveling the last few days.

Mr Cameron admitted the actions of some MPs had damaged the party

From the BBC

09:47 GMT, Saturday, 30 May 2009 10:47 UK

MPs who claimed for "phantom" mortgages on expenses should be investigated by the police and prosecuted if warranted, Tory leader David Cameron has said.

His call came as Labour's Elliot Morley became the latest MP to announce he would stand down at the next election.

Mr Morley has apologised for mortgage interest payment claims but said he had made a "genuine mistake".

Mr Cameron said MPs who had committed a crime with their expenses claims should "face the full force of the law".

Thirteen MPs have announced their intention to stand down since details of expenses claims have been published.

Meanwhile, a new opinion poll has suggested that Labour is being badly damaged by the expenses scandal in the run-up to next week's European elections.

'Force of law'

Mr Morley had claimed for mortgage interest payments of £16,000 - 18 months after the mortgage was paid off.

He has apologised and repaid the money, blaming "sloppy accounting".

Campaigners for Mr Morley to stand down are calling for him to quit his post immediately, rather than waiting until the next general election.

A statement on the website said: "He has already lost all credibility with his constituents, the media and local businesses and will continue to do so while he remains in office."

Two other Labour MPs - David Chaytor and Ben Chapman - have also admitted "errors" in claiming for mortgages that had already been paid off.

And Tory MP Bill Wiggin blamed the Commons Fees Office for not correcting his repeated "mistake" when he claimed for a mortgage on his constituency home rather than his London second home.

Scotland Yard is currently considering whether to launch criminal inquiries into any potentially fraudulent claims.

In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, Mr Cameron said: "If people have broken the law in claiming expenses, like mortgage payments for mortgages that don't exist, should they be subject to the full force of the law? Yes of course they should.

"I've said it's not for me to call in the police but the police know what the law is and if they feel it's been broken they should be able to look at that without fear or favour."

The last two weeks have been traumatic for me and I have to think of my family and my health, both of which have suffered

Elliot Morley
Morley resignation

Liberal Democrat MP Susan Kramer said an early general election was needed to restore public trust.

She told BBC News: "What do we do if we've got votes or debates in the coming months and we've got MPs who in effect have been deselected, either by the local parties or, in effect, because of the views of their constituents; are they going to speak in debates? Are they going to be part of votes?

"I don't see how we've got any integrity in the system until we can clean this whole thing out."

'Health suffering'

Mr Morley made his announcement about stepping down on Friday night, following a meeting with local Labour Party officials in his Scunthorpe constituency.

He said the pressure had been affecting his family and his health and insisted the decision was his own.

In a statement the former farming minister said the last two weeks had been "traumatic".

Mr Morley added that he had made a "genuine mistake" and insisted that he believed he would be cleared of any wrong-doing.

The latest MPs named in the Telegraph on Saturday include Tory frontbencher Eleanor Lang, who told the paper that she was not obliged to pay capital gains tax on the profit she made from the sale of her second home, because it was within the rules.

The paper also criticised Tory MP Humfrey Malins for letting his children stay rent-free in his taxpayer-funded second home in London.

He denied claims he did not live in the flat, saying he spent an average of two nights a week there. He said his daughter had stayed there "for some periods", with his son an "infrequent visitor" - neither of which had cost the taxpayer "a penny".

He said he believed his conduct had been "perfectly proper throughout".

Labour trailing

Meanwhile a Populus poll in Saturday's Times newspaper provides gloomy reading for Prime Minister Gordon Brown, with Labour is at its lowest ever national rating following the expenses expose.

According to the poll, carried out on 26-27 May on a sample of 1,001 adults, Labour trailed in third place after the UK Independence Party with just 16% of respondents prepared to vote for them in next week's European elections.

BBC political editor Nick Robinson said: "If that [projection] was to be repeated in next Sunday's results, it would have serious consequences for Gordon Brown and raise serious questions over how and whether he can help his party recover."

UKIP's leader, Nigel Farage, told BBC News: "What I would really like to see if is UKIP can cause an earthquake next Thursday, if we can really send a loud and clear message to the big party leaders."

Friday, May 29, 2009

Will McDonalds Finish Off Starbucks? Coffee Wars!

click on title for link

A follow up to my post on Starbucks "What are the plans of McDonald's" as they continue to increase their pressure and capture a larger share of the coffee market.

A new plan for McDonald's to crush Starbucks

Posted May 27 2009, 05:50 AM
by Douglas McIntyre

American management has been trained that any company can think and execute its way out of trouble. That means that there is a solution to every sales or cost problem. It is just a question of finding it and pulling the right strings to make it work.

Often making the best of a bad situation is not that simple. Sometimes competition is so powerful that there are no answers to maintaining or saving a business.

McDonald’s (MCD) plans to march into Europe and will have 1,300 McCafe locations within the next few years. McCafe only has one significant competitor and that is Starbucks (SBUX), which has already been beaten by McDonald’s at every turn in the U.S.

Starbucks has done its best to fight back. It has gone “down market” with inexpensive instant coffee. It offers combinations of food and coffee as part of a new breakfast menu. But so far, the only thing that has helped keep Starbucks earnings at anything other than a dismal level is its ability to close stores and fire people.

McDonald’s will press the advantage of its brand and financial might in Europe. The region is already one of the best for McDonald’s in terms of sales growth. It can afford to finance the rent and construction costs for new locations. It has a nearly bottomless marketing budget. And, in most cases it can and will undercut Starbucks on price.

Starbucks has been in trouble because the recession has hurt its sales and McDonald’s has been a formidable competitor. Its troubles are getting worse and the solutions are non-existent.

Top Stocks blogger Douglas A. McIntyre is an editor at 24/7 Wall St.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Chrysler In Bancruptcy, GM Getting Ready, Anyone Surprised?

Years ago, there were hundreds of car makers dotting the landscape. Overtime, quantity, quality and efficiency of construction eliminated most of them. They dwindled down to a precious few.

Eventually, we were left with what has been called for years "The Big Three". There was a line credited to the CEO of Gm back in the 50's who said "What is good for GM is good for the country". The statement, not entirely true, still reflected the mood of the industry and the country. However, lack of completion eventually reared its ugly head.

After going through the glory years, 55-69, government regulations on pollution put the manufacturing process in a downward spiral.
For the most part, the cars were poorly made, too big, inefficient, and cost too much.

Looming on the horizon was Honda and Toyota, which had to rebuild all their factories because of the war, while in the USA, the factories were ancient, but good enough.

The imports were talked about in derisive terms, as being too small, tinny, not well made, but they got better mileage, which didn't seem that big a deal. Until the first oil crisis.

Fast forward to today.

Will only Ford survive? Many jobs count on the car industry. But back in the day many jobs counted on the buggy whip industry.This too will pass, painfully.

Now Toyota and Honda rule the landscape supplying more jobs, taxes, and all that goes with it. The car industry continues to evolve and in 20 years will not be recognizable.

Life goes on. GM and Chrysler won't.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The End of the World December 21, 2012? And miss the After Christmas Sales?

Isn't the Mayan prediction about the end of the world getting a little out of hand? Is this 2000 all over again? This is like going through tea leaves to predict the future. Nostradamus back dating musings. How come rational people can start the slide to the edge and suspend all disbelief , once again?

Haven't we learn from the past, cults that spring up and then fade away. What we can't understand must be mystical. That is how religions sprung up, to supplant reason and give comfort. To eliminate reason is to give up control of ones thought process.


Many people will die on December 21, 2012. But they were going to anyway. That is the problem with statistics , stuff happens. People live, people die. Are we insignificant? Maybe. Some of you anyway. Bad drivers for one.

For me, I plan on being here on December 22,2012. I have booked a tee time at a great golf course, and one can not miss a tee time.

Oh no more thing on my things to do list. Buy a helmet!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Kind and Fraternal Feelings

click on title for link

Is Memorial Day a day for shopping or picnics, or barbecues? Yes, but remember the reason for it all, the sacrifices of those before us and the ones that returned not as whole as before. I had the opportunity to visit Arlington Cemetery, quite a sobering experience, and the Tomb of the Unknown soldier. For those who would make war, not love, they should visit and understand the harm they can do.

Kind and Fraternal Feelings
05.23.09 - 1:46 PM

Memorial Day, it turns out, is yet another hijacked holiday. It was first observed in 1865 as Decoration Day by liberated slaves, who independently set up, decorated and proclaimed an ad-hoc graveyard – a field of "passionless mounds" – to honor dead Union soldiers.

Yale history professor David Blight tells the story in his book Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory, which traces the way in which the meaning and significance of the Civil War was reshaped in the 50 years following it. For now, the original Memorial Day Order:

The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land. In this observance no form or ceremony is prescribed, but Posts and comrades will, in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.

We are organized, Comrades, as our regulations tell us, for the purpose among other things, "of preserving and strengthening those kind and fraternal feelings which have bound together the soldiers sailors and Marines, who united to suppress the late rebellion." What can aid more to assure this result than by cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead? We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. All that the consecrated wealth and taste of the nation can add to their adornment and security, is but a fitting tribute to the memory of her slain defenders. Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.

If other eyes grow dull and other hands slack, and other hearts cold in the solemn trust, ours shall keep it well as long as the light and warmth of life remain in us.

Let us, then, at the time appointed, gather around their sacred remains, and garland the passionless mounds above them with choicest flowers of springtime; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledge to aid and assist those whom they have left among us a sacred charge upon the Nation's gratitude—the soldier's and sailor's widow and orphan.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Addicted to Starbucks? Not me! Give me a cup of Joe

Starbucks menu

Iced Coffee with Milk As sunny and refreshing as a run through the sprinkler – (16 fl oz).
Iced Caffe Mocha A rich reward of espresso, milk and mocha sauce. Whipped cream too if you want it.

Caramel Frappuccino® blended coffee This is sweet, buttery bliss in the afternoon.

Caffè Misto/Café Au Lait
Coffee and steamed milk

Coffee of the Week
Today's freshly brewed coffee

Decaf Coffee of the Week
Today's freshly brewed decaf coffee

Iced Brewed Coffee

Iced Coffee with Milk
A delicious and refreshing blend of freshly brewed Starbucks® Terraza Blend served chilled and slightly sweetened on ice with a splash of 2% milk.

They all sound wonderful and intimidating to order. I need my hand held to order a cup of java? What about the other customers? Can I ignore the snickering and the sighs, who let this one in? If the lines are too long they send someone out to inject humor into the long wait playing Trivial Pursuit.

I look longingly at the tables outside with people conversing, sharing ideas, from all walks of life.

The big umbrellas that open to shelter one from the sun's rays.

The Big Barista blending the perfect cup of coffee.

I love coffee. I confessed recently to drinking coffee cold, most of the time. Hot coffee is a time luxury I usually can't afford.

I didn't start drinking coffee untill by 30's. My parents always drank coffee but they mixed in stuff meant to kill the taste? A canned milk called Milnot. Plus sugar. I tasted it a few times and thought it was nasty.

Then one day on a sales call, tired and thirsty, a guy said" have some coffee. It has been sitting awhile and it is cold, but have a cup"

A new thirst sensation was born.

I realized I like coffee. Not fancy, but black. The beans make the difference, brewing technique, ok I will buy that. Black Coffee, I am easy to please.

I would order a cup at a restaurant, black please, and they would bring cream and sugar. Creamer in a jar. No cream in there either.

Coffee from the islands seem to be the best. From Hawaii with Macadamia and Vanilla. That is my current favorite and seems it will be for a long time. Most major store brands deliver the caffine jolt, but not the flavor.

I am not a fancy guy, just give me a big cup of delicious coffee, pull up a chair and lets be friends. Oh by the way, the cute table, big umbrella is ok too, and something to read. I would be so happy, if I had the time. and some ice...too hot!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

For the people in the world that don't think we in America have great cuisine, I give you the Wiener Wars!

Martin Nguyen takes a bite of a hot dog at Pink's in Hollywood, California, May 14, 2009. The U.S. celebrate National Hot Dog day on July 12, 2009.

Click on title for link

Just as a sidebar here, Vienna Beef is the Chicago favorite, bar none!

Hot dog sales sizzle as makers Ball Park Franks and Oscar Mayer embroiled in suit

By Emily Fredrix, The Associated Press
Fri May 22, 7:44 PM

MILWAUKEE - Hot dog sales are set to sizzle as people look for ways to eat on the cheap and the summer grilling season starts. But the scramble to be top dog in the US$2.1-billion market has sent the makers of Ball Park Franks and Oscar Mayer wieners to court.

The lawsuit focused on advertising and product claims filed this week by Sara Lee Corp., the maker of Ball Park Franks, against Oscar Mayer-making rival Kraft Foods Inc. is the latest turn in the summer wiener wars.

The stakes are big as the peak season for franks begins this weekend. Hot dog sales are expected to rise as consumers keep turning to the cheaper meat, said Janet Riley, president of the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council. But the competition is getting particularly tough as shoppers, looking to save even more money, are trading down to store brands.

"Sales do go up in the summer, always. And in a tight economy I do expect that we're going to see even better performance," said Riley, known as the "Queen of Wien." She said Americans gravitate to hot dogs in tough times. And in summer particularly, with 38 per cent of hot dog sales each year occurring between Memorial Day and Labour Day.

Todd Hale, senior vice-president for consumer and shopper insights at Nielsen, predicts a good summer for hot dogs, especially as people stick around home on "staycations."

Sales had been fairly stagnant in the past few years. But revenue in the category rose 5.3 per cent to $2.1 billion in the 52 weeks ended April 18, according to Nielsen. Part of that was due to higher prices.

"We're seeing comfort foods, back-to-the-basics foods do real well in this economy and that's speaking to some of the success we're seeing with hot dogs," Hale said.

Smithfield Foods Inc., the largest U.S. pork producer, has seen hot dog sales down the past 10 years but now they are up "substantially," chief executive Larry Pope told analysts at a conference this month.

Sara Lee and Kraft are continually battling to be top dog, and Riley said store brands are now gaining market share. Private label dogs used to be in the top 10 as far as hot dog sales, but now she figures they're in the top five.

That means less wiggle room for Sara Lee and Kraft, which are embroiled in a lawsuit.

In the four-week period ending April 19, Ball Park was the top dog, with nearly a 21 per cent share and sales volume up 22 per cent at supermarkets, drugstores and mass market retailers, according to Information Resources Inc. Oscar Mayer had a nearly 18 per cent share with a 5.4 per cent slump in volume. The data does not include sales at Wal-Mart.

And now the two are embroiled in a lawsuit. Sara Lee alleges that Oscar Mayer's claims that its Jumbo Beef Franks are "100 per cent pure beef" are false and hurting sales of Ball Park franks and the brand's reputation, according to the suit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

Downers Grove, Ill.-based Sara Lee said Oscar Mayer makes the claims "despite its being well aware of the chemical and other non-beef contents of this product."

Sara Lee also questions ads claiming that Oscar Mayer wieners outperform Ball Park and Hebrew National hot dogs, made by ConAgra Foods Inc., in taste tests.

The company is asking for corrective advertisements and damages.

Oscar Mayer says this is all just sauerkraut.

"Clearly, Ball Park does wish it was an Oscar Mayer wiener, since we are America's favourite hot dog brand," said Syd Lindner, spokeswoman for the Madison, Wis.-based company. "We stand by our reputation for accurate advertising to our consumers."

Oscar Mayer is pushing its brand this summer and just this week held a promotion to give away $1 million worth of hot dogs. Lindner said the promotion was motivated by the slumping economy.

Sara Lee, meanwhile, is putting a heavy emphasis on its new low-fat franks. The company is doing national in-store promotions this weekend offering a free package of buns with the purchase of two packages of Ball Park franks.

Hebrew National, not wanting to be outdone, is giving away 45,000 hot dogs on Monday in Times Square in New York. ConAgra spokeswoman Stephanie Moritz said the Omaha, Neb.-based company is also handing out 30,000 coupons for a free pack of Hebrew Nationals.

Why Do American Politicians in Washington hate The French? They gave us the Statue of Liberty!

Remember after 9-11 and we were wondering what national monument was next? We were worried the Statue of Liberty was next? One of our greatest symbols of freedom?

Remember trying to rename French Fries - Freedom Fries? The mockery of the French people giving up the fight, hands up in surrender?

We Americans can be thoughtless instead of thoughtful. We have never had a major war except with ourselves(Civil War)on our soil.

We don't have a long history as a country, let alone as a world power. Unfortunately, the image the world has of us is not what we would hope for.

People for forget that the French helped us win the Revolutionary War. Granted they didn't like the English, fighting for the trade in Canada and the colonies.

But remember, the French gave us the Statue of Liberty. Their people paid for it. They built it, brought it to us, and put it together. All we had to do was build the pedestal.

I will let Wikepedia fill in the details with some information and for the balance click on the title for the link.

And from one proud American, thank you!

This is from the plaque inside the Lady Liberty.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Friday, May 22, 2009

The End of Personal Finance

click on title for link

From Slate
The Big Money

Decades of advice turn out to be so much garbage.

By Helaine Olen
Posted Sunday, May 3, 2009 - 12:56am

Years ago, when I wrote a popular financial makeover feature for a major national newspaper, one of our subjects asked if he should be plowing his more than $50,000 in savings into gold. It was 1997 and gold was trading at a little more than $300 an ounce. The financial planner assisting with the piece laughed dismissively, and the question never made it into the final write-up. Well, my bad. As I write, gold is hovering around $900 an ounce.

For more than two decades, as income inequality increased and job security decreased, Americans lapped up personal finance columns, books, and television shows. We thrilled to stock tips and swooned at sensible strategies for using dollar-cost averaging to invest in no-load index funds. Buy and hold, my friends! The annualized gain for the S&P 500 stock index over time is more than 10 percent! You, too, can turn into the millionaire next door. Carpe diem, folks! Seize the financial day!

The advice proffered by the vast majority of analysts, would-be gurus, and television pundits came down to one word: stocks. Some, like CNBC's infamous Jim Cramer, advocated stock-picking strategies. Others encouraged mutual funds. But very few—at least of those that could get publicity via mainstream outlets—doubted the efficacy of the market.

That our personal finances weren't fully ours to seize didn't seem to occur to many of us until recently, when the stock market plunged almost 40 percent in a mere year, housing went into free fall, and the unemployment rate began to climb perilously toward double digits. All these facts suddenly left the personal finance industry facing a conundrum of its own making. The backbone of the self-help complex is the idea that you can do it. You. Singular. But what happens when you lose your job and can't find a new one before your six months of recommended emergency savings runs out? Or a good chunk of your retirement income is in the form of a pension from your former employer—and that employer is named Chrysler? What then?

"Personal finance has come to substitute for the role government should play for people," observes Nan Mooney, author of (Not) Keeping Up with Our Parents. "In the past 20 years the myth of the person succeeding on their own has gotten bigger and bigger. This myth is dangerous. It tells you if you can't balance everything and you are in debt, it is your fault."

Sounds harsh, but if you are laid off and at the end of your resources, what other message can you take away from people like mega-personal finance guru Suze Orman, who continues to argue that people's main problem with money is ... emotional. (Orman also urges people to invest for retirement in the stock market, while admitting the bulk of her savings is in municipal bonds.) Or Jean Chatzky of everywhere from NBC's Today show to Oprah's couch, who helpfully tells people in her latest book, The Difference: How Anyone Can Prosper in Even the Toughest Times, "Overspending is the key reason that people slip from a position of financial security into a paycheck-to-paycheck existence." (Note: Italics original to Chatzky.) Chatzky forgets to mention that studies have demonstrated the problem most likely to land one in bankruptcy court isn't an addiction to designer clothes but, instead, overwhelming health care expenses.

All in all, these might not be the right messages just now. While Orman's book, no doubt propelled by her continuing celebrity and television show, remains at the top of the New York Times best-seller list, Chatzky's book is languishing listless, a very different fate than the one met by her last book, which was released in a different era—2006, to be precise.

In the current economic climate, a new group of au current advisers is coming to the fore. Many of them, like Peter Schiff, received their initial boost of fame by predicting various aspects of the current meltdown and are now trying to make money by telling people how to survive and thrive in the post-crash world. Schiff's Crash Proof, currently in its 11th printing, urges consumers to buy gold to hedge against coming hyperinflation. At the other end of the spectrum is Martin D. Weiss' recently published The Ultimate Depression Survival Guide. Weiss, a Florida-based investment adviser, advocates that many people should cut their stock losses and sell off, as we are entering a period of deflation.

Online gurus are also seeing spikes.'s Eric Janszen says he received 12,000 new subscribers last year. George Ure, a business consultant who runs the free site and the subscription site Peoplenomics, makes predictions about future events based on a linguistics theory applied to Internet postings and has seen an increase of more than 20 percent in unique visitors year over year. Nonetheless, it's not looking like the new gurus will be any more helpful than their more conventionally minded peers. After all, the online world has been abuzz with accusations that many of Schiff's personal clients suffered losses of between 40 percent to 70 percent in 2008.

Which leads to another question: What's next for personal finance? The past two years have demonstrated over and over again that bad things can happen to good savers and investors. Very few of us have the wherewithal to fund both retirement savings and a large enough emergency fund to sustain us through a bout of unemployment lasting, say, more than a year. No one, it turns out, really knows what an individual stock, mutual fund, or commodity like oil or precious resource like gold will be worth in six months, never mind six years.

Nonetheless, personal finance is unlikely to crawl away and die anytime soon for a simple reason: We think we need it. "We're kind of screwed but we don't have a choice but to take care of ourselves because no one else is helping," admits MSN's personal finance columnist, Liz Weston.

A number of personal finance gurus have been moving, some ever so slowly, over toward the idea of pressuring the government for change. Weston, who has written extensively about what should be and isn't in pending congressional legislation putting brakes on the credit card industry, is begging her readers to contact their representatives about the plan. Others have gotten more ambitious. Schiff used his burst of fame to endorse presidential candidate Ron Paul. Weiss is currently circulating a petition to stop further bank bailouts.

Me, I'd settle for a few mea culpas from our finance gurus. After all, I am aware I owe my gold-loving dude an apology. Unfortunately, I know the planner assigned to the case won't be eating crow any time soon. I recently received a copy of his latest book in the mail. It's all about how if you can just identify your money archetype, financial success will be yours. Oh, and one other thing. The press release quotes him as advising, "Don't rush out to buy gold."

Helaine Olen's work has appeared in the The Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post. She's the co-author of Office Mate: The Employee Handbook for Finding and Managing Romance on the Job.
(Photos of Jim Cramer by Scott Gries/Getty; Can by Ryan McVay/Getty Creative; Suze Orman by Bryan Bedder/Getty)

Olbermann to Limbaugh: ‘Eff you!’

click on title for link

From Raw Story

By David Edwards and Muriel Kane

Published: May 21, 2009

MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann has been needling right-wing radio personality Rush Limbaugh for a long time, but on Wednesday he was able to pride himself for having finally gotten under Limbaugh’s skin.

“This network’s coverage of him has not only gotten to him but gotten to him to a point perhaps never reached before by any other megalomaniac,” Olbermann said of Limbaugh. “Suddenly the impact of being accurately called out day after day, hour after hour as a faux populist, press release-regurgitating lackey of repressive and regressive political flunkies — that has hit bone.”

Limbaugh recently complained on his radio show that MSNBC “cannot go any appreciable length of time without showing video of me … or having a bunch of hack guests on to discuss me. So my challenge is this to MSNBC: Let’s see if you can run your little TV network for thirty days … without doing a single story on me. And then let’s take a look at your ratings.”

“Eff you!” exclaimed Olbermann in response. “You’re not in charge of this! You put your bile out on the public airwaves for three hours a day and you get to decide how people react to it? The hell you do! … Either man up and live through the bad press or get out!”

“Stand on your own two feet,” Limbaugh had urged MSNBC. “Stand on what you believe.”

“This is, in part, what we believe,” Olbermann replied. “This isn’t a bid for ratings. We believe you suck. We believe you have contributed to the coarsening and deadening of the political dialogue in this nation — and I’m saying that as a guy who just said ‘eff you.’”

Limbaugh had complained in particular about MSNBC using video of him cheerleading the crowd as last winter’s CPAC, so Olbermann singled out one clip of Limbaugh flabbily bouncing up and down and put it on a repeating loop in one corner of the screen. “This is our new logo,” he announced with a fiendish grin.

Olbermann’s final proposal to Limbaugh was, “I will go thirty days on this program without referencing what has been done or said or boasted about by Rush Limbaugh, provided you go thirty days on your program without mentioning what has been done or said or boasted about by — Rush Limbaugh.”

“Hannity would last longer on the waterboard,” smirked Olbermann in conclusion.

This video is from MSNBC’s Countdown, broadcast May 20, 2009.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Google Almost Bought a Paper

click on title for link

From Slate
The Big Money

Google Almost Bought a Paper

By Chris Thompson
Posted Thursday, May 21, 2009 - 4:06pm

That's what CEO Eric Schmidt told the Financial Times yesterday. In an extensive Q&A with the newspaper, Schmidt reveals that Google (GOOG) seriously considered either buying a newspaper as a for-profit enterprise or hiring a pack of smart lawyers to reconfigure the paper as a nonprofit venture. He doesn't name which paper, of course, but the Financial Times reporters pointedly remind their readers that the hedge fund Harbinger Capital Partners offered Google its twenty percent stake in the New York Times. Ultimately, however, the company decided that going so far as owning an outlet that actually produced copy, rather than simply aggregating and organizing it, would be "crossing the line" between a content company and a technology company. Wall Street Journal writer Jessica Vascellaro argues that this position is growing increasingly flimsy. After all, she writes, both YouTube and Google's Book Search project are awfully close to resembling content production.

The real reason may be twofold. First, as Schmidt readily concedes, the targeted papers are either far too expensive or burdened with too much debt and liabilities. Second, the advertising model for general news reporting is obsolete, and Google's execs have decided instead to work with papers such as the Washington Post (the parent company of which also owns TBM) to come up with a new model that can subsidize serious general news gathering. The days when general display ads would float on the page, contextually disconnected from the substance of the stories, are over. But who wants their ads tied to stories of Gitmo torture? Unless the business model radically changers, there will be no revenue stream that props up the most serious and important news stories.

So what does Schmidt have in mind for the Washington Post? "It seems to me that the newspaper that I read online should remember what I read. It should allow me to go deeper into the stories. It's that kind of a discussion that we're having." In other words, the paper will store and archive a catalogue of the stories you read, steer more stories along those lines to your eyeballs, and keep you coming back for more by knowing what you're most interested in. Google already remembers what you search for, in order to more accurately match ads to your search screen. Now, it seems, Schmidt would like to apply this technique to news gathering.

In other news, Schmidt flatly refused to share more revenue with newspapers whose headlines Google aggregates. He argues that the traffic Google steers toward media outlets more than makes up for the ad revenue it gets from collecting headlines. And he's probably right. If you want to read the entire Q&A, click here.

Chris Thompson is a writer living in Brooklyn.

You might like:
Mr. Schmidt Goes to San Diego (from The Big Money)
Blowback on Eric Schmidt (from The Big Money)
Google Kicks Ass (from The Big Money)
More Ads With Your Google (from The Big Money)

Accidental Empire: The Rise of the Liberal Blogosphere

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From The Smirking Chimp

Accidental Empire: The Rise of the Liberal Blogosphere
by Eric Boehlert | May 20, 2009 - 10:30am

Two images, courtesy of Philadelphia blogger Chris Bowers, have stayed with me over the last two years as I wrote and researched my new, rise-of-the-netroots book, Bloggers on the Bus: How the Internet Changed Politics and the Press. To me, the impressions perfectly capture the phenomena of the liberal blogosphere, which has come to define this decade in terms of politics and the press. The images capture how an unlikely band of (underpaid) liberals changed both landscapes and helped elect a new Democratic Congress and a new Democratic president.

Bowers is the young, former Temple University English professor who, following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, found himself both hunched over his laptop between classes reading the nascent liberal blogs, and in search of a new calling. He found his new path online, quickly abandoned the classroom, and threw himself into politics, but at a cost--he was mostly broke.

On the eve of the 2004's Election Day, just after Bowers hit the send button for a long, detailed breakdown of the final polling data set to be posted on MyDD, he lost his cable and internet connection in his apartment thanks to a late bill of $145. It was $145 he didn't have. His apartment lost power with disturbing regularity, which forced Bowers to blog from his friend's place. In fact, back then, Bowers often slept on the floor at his office in order to capitalize on the free, uninterrupted Internet connection it provided.

The second defining Bowers image came in November 2006, when the exhausted blogger starred in a brief YouTube clip that showed him slumped on a couch and staring into a video camera, explaining the harsh realities of being a political blogger: "If you have no children, no one to support, and no career ambitions, then you too can becomes a full time progressive bloggers, as long as you're wiling to do nothing else in your entire life."

But the endless hours, the obsessing over swings in web traffic stats, and the nearly 750,000 words he posted each year (enough to fill ten hardcover books), was worth it because, as Bowers told me, blogging gave him a voice to push for change.

And that's really how the progressive blogosphere--the netroots--was born. Creative people like Bowers were drawn to it because it represented a much-needed release valve for the pent-up political frustration so many Democrats and liberals had felt through the late 1990's and into the beginning of this decade. For them, blogs represented small-scale places where people could stand up to the conservative onslaught that had fueled Clinton's impeachment, the Florida recount, and the rush to war with Iraq. It was where citizens could at least try to launch a revolutionary, participatory democracy online.

The liberal blogosphere, at least at its inception, represented perhaps the most un-planned, un-thought-through media and political movement in modern America. It really was an accidental empire. Of course, bloggers would use 'empire' sarcastically, since they're quick to downplay their own influence. Plus, they had accumulated enough political disappointments to prove it. But there's no question they've changed politics and the press in a way that no other left-leaning movement had done in decades.

Yet early on, the netroots movement was built with very little coordination and no money. There were no memos', no outlines, no projections and no budgets. No nothing. It literally just happened. (Only later did some coordination begin to surface.)

The list of early blog pioneeers is a long one and I'd be a fool to try to name them for fear of leaving anybody out. But what an unlikely cast of eclectic characters! (Students, housewives, attorneys, professors, musicians, etc.) Most brought with them no experience in politics or journalism. Their career paths were never going to take them to the U.S. Capitol or inside big city newsrooms. And none of them ever dreamt their online essays-- posted in an effort just to keep themselves sane--would ever represent career options, or that White House candidates would come courting.

Basically, bloggers served as a conduit to the grassroots. Bloggers talked to people who talked to people, and collectively they amassed political power by raising hell together. And in truth, the liberal blogosphere--the crucial communication arm of the progressive movement that grew into the type of influential outreach platform that the Democratic Party hadn't been able to build despite decades of trying--was formed on a largely ad-hoc basis and for years was sustained by adrenaline and caffeine.

It really was an accidental empire.

For a behind-the-scenes look at the rise of the netroots, and how bloggers changed the 2008 campaign, see Bloggers on the Bus.

About author
A senior fellow at Media Matters for America, and a former senior writer for Salon, Boehlert's first book, "Lapdogs: How The Press Rolled Over for Bush," was published in May. He can be reached at

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Ten Things You Can Do To Prevent World Hunger

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When many people do little things to help others, big things can happen. The following article touches on a things to do list. Please read.

From The Nation

May 13, 2009
This article appeared in the June 1, 2009 edition of The Nation

Our planet produces enough food to feed its more than 960 million undernourished people. The basic cause of global hunger is not underproduction; it is a production and distribution system that treats food as a commodity rather than a human right. In developing countries huge agribusinesses, fat with government subsidies, sell their unsustainable (and sometimes genetically modified) products at a reduced rate, thus making it impossible for local farmers to compete. Farmers who can't compete can't feed their own families or work their own fields. Hunger becomes both the cause and effect of poverty.

Ruth Messinger, president of American Jewish World Service, says sending food aid is not a sustainable way to end hunger. Rather, people must be empowered to raise their own food. She proposes Ten Things we can do to help solve the world's growing hunger problem.

 1 Write letters to the editor and op-ed articles in your local paper calling on the government to cut or end subsidies that encourage large agribusinesses to overproduce grains and dump their surpluses on the developing world at sub-market prices. This ultimately places poor communities at the mercy of volatile global commodity prices. Learn more at The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy for more information.

 2 Ask your representatives in Congress to demand that more foreign food aid be in the form of cash and training rather than food. Farmers in the global South know how to grow food but lack the resources, inputs and tools to farm effectively, develop markets and compete in the world marketplace.

 3 Learn the specifics of what makes products "fair trade." Buy them where available. Download "Green America's Guide to Fair Trade" for a definition of "fair trade" and a list of organizations that follow these specifications.

 4 Conserve energy. With a reduced demand for fuel, global commodity prices--which spiked as the cost of fuel for shipping rose dramatically last year--can remain more stable. This is important because while sending food to poor countries is not the ultimate solution for ending hunger, Food Aid has a role to play due to the desire for variety in food supplies. And, more importantly, natural disasters or political instability will always cause humanitarian emergencies where the flow of aid is crucial.

 5 Pressure the Obama administration to come up with a renewable energy policy that does not stress ethanol and other biofuels. As demand for biofuels has grown over the past few years, farmers in the developed and developing worlds have set aside more and more land for fuel production, degrading the environment and reducing food for human consumption.

 6 Eat less meat. Every pound of meat produced requires sixteen pounds of grain; food given to farm animals each year could feed the world's hungry with plenty to spare. Search "Diet for a Small Planet" and "We Feed the World".

 7 Support grassroots projects that advance sustainable agriculture at the community level. Organizations like American Jewish World Service partner with grassroots organizations in the global South that use sustainable farming techniques.

 8 Persuade your local editorial writers to cover hunger in a way that focuses on economic rights rather than food scarcity. Emphasize that the underlying causes of poverty are political instability, joblessness, gender inequality, illiteracy and limited access to education, loss of land, disenfranchisement, forced migration and preventable epidemics. These hamper local food production and sustainable development. Click here for current coverage.

 9 Demand a worldwide reduction in the sale of pesticides, herbicides and genetically modified seeds, which benefit large agribusinesses like Monsanto because they do not reproduce, forcing farmers to purchase new seeds year after year. Watch Future of Food for more information.

10 Advocate for food security as a human right. Even though the United Nations has declared that nutrition is a universal right, many member nations have adopted policies that reinforce a global system whereby food is treated as a commodity to be bought and sold by speculators.

Read "The Politics of Hunger." Remember that global hunger is a local problem, a feminist problem, a socioeconomic problem and, most urgently, a political problem that can be overcome.

CONCEIVED by Walter Mosley with research by Rae Gomes

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Guns Kill, But Poverty’s the Trigger

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The youth violence consuming Chicago is an opportunity for us to start talking about how we save poor communities.

By: Andre C. Willis | Posted: May 19, 2009 at 6:48 AM

Recently, longtime Catholic priest and freedom fighter Father Michael Pfleger and members of his parish—the Faith Community of St. Sabina in the South Side of Chicago—made an eloquent plea for justice by flying the American flag upside down in front of his church. Hoisting a flag with the union down is done very rarely and usually only as a call of deep distress. Pfleger and St. Sabina’s are trying to call attention to the “dire emergency” of unprecedented levels of gun violence in their community: Over 36 teens and children, mostly black and Latino, have been murdered so far in 2009.

The flag hanging immediately attracted more media attention than the 36 dead youngsters. National media outlets came calling. Some veterans were offended. Critics speculated that this was another one of Pfleger’s stunts intended to generate more notoriety for Pfleger than solutions to the problem. Mayor Richard M. Daley, Chicago police superintendent Jody Weis and Chicago’s former superintendent of schools Arne Duncan were sympathetic but are confused by the problem.

Regardless of your personal opinions of Pfleger, we should all be saddened by the excessive gun violence by young people in our communities. And we should at least collectively heed the powerful call of St. Sabina’s flag raising: We must begin to ask what might be done about this complicated and distressing problem.

Common knowledge suggests that the sad economic conditions in their neighborhoods are some of the fundamental reasons for the gun violence. For example, in 2007, 24.4 percent of African Americans and 21.5 percent of Hispanics lived in poverty in the U.S. (compared to 8.2 percent of whites). Thus, most gun violence comes from those who are worse off economically in our society. The issue Pfleger is raising is, on the surface, about gun violence, but in a more fundamental way, he is calling our attention to issues of class and economics.

But the debates about what caused our current “financial crisis” and how we should repair our ailing economy have gone on mostly at the highest levels of government and business and within the intelligentsia. We have also heard from Big Labor, in particular the United Auto Workers, given Rev. Jesse Jackson’s recent proposal.

But the voices of local churches are missing from the debate. They’ve only found their way into the conversation through sermons and articles on “why Obama should do this” or why “Congress should do that.”

But St. Sabina’s example opens up the idea that churches all over the nation can have a more meaningful place in the debate. To talk about killings in one’s neighborhood linked to a simple class analysis is a much more compelling way into the conversation about how our nation’s economy should be restructured. Local congregations of color in poor neighborhoods can easily grasp the fact that the perpetrators of gun violence are poor and people of color. They understand intuitively that there are structural contradictions at the core of our capitalist economy. Thus, these communities can understand and begin to participate in the conversation knowing that how we fix a broken economy has as much to do with banks and government as it does about the reduction of young people killing themselves on our very streets.

This is not to suggest that a socialist agenda or a Marxist critique can emanate from some romantic collusion of black and Latino working-class and underclass Christians. It is only to say that St. Sabina’s has inadvertently opened up the conversation about achieving economic democracy in which ordinary people participate because they understand the implication to their communities.

Even if the capitalist structure survives, ordinary people might push harder for the kind of New Deal strategy that proposes major public infrastructure investments, particularly in education, to help reduce gun violence among our youngsters.

Whatever solutions emerge, we need to be in on the conversation. Pfleger and St. Sabina’s have shown us a way in. Our churches must follow their lead.

Andre C. Willis is an assistant professor of the philosophy of religion at Yale Divinity School.

Monday, May 18, 2009

A Vision, Why Blog?

A person can stumble upon something, unaware of the who, the what, the where and the why behind it. Millions of people out there in cyber space post something almost everyday. For some it is a diary or a journal, letting them express the ying and yang of their daily lives, and the impact it has had on them.

Some wish to put out their very souls in a cry for help in this often uncaring world, and find strangers that care about them and will help them off the floor, dust them off and send them on their way, much the better for it.

Some have a passion for a specific subject and want to share with the world their expertise.

Some are using the web to bring about a point of view, express interest in something, by lifting up the rock to see what crawls out, and lifting up the second rock to find out what has been hidden.

The ability to write can and should be developed to express one's self and open up an avenue for discussion. The give and take on any post is done in the comments section where like minded or not can exchange ideas.

I like doing this because its fun, and like now, my thoughts are out there, naked to the world. I have broad shoulders, somewhat worn down at this time in life. I hope I amuse some, get someone thinking, why didn't I think of that?, if you get angry, so be it.

You can't please everyone, I don't intend to try. Someone out there will love me, and it only takes one to make my day.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Angels and Demons, The Science Behind The Story, From Cern

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The science behind the story is as amazing as the story itself. Take out the church aspect of the movie and the how and why is captivating!

Cern's website has managed to simplify common questions with answers the average person can comprehend.

Dan Brown's book Angels and Demons is a detective story about a secret society that wants to destroy the Vatican using an antimatter bomb. In the book, the antimatter is stolen from CERN.

(ambigram courtesy John Langdon)
Readers have asked us even more questions about the technologies used in the story. Here are our answers.Does CERN exist?
Well, yes, it does. You can see us to the left and slightly up from the centre of the city of Meyrin.
Is it located in Switzerland?
Part is in Switzerland, part in France across the border. CERN is not a Swiss institute, but an international organization. We are very close to Geneva's international airport.
What does the acronym CERN mean?
That is a long story, but the name CERN is derived from the French ‘Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire’.
Does it consist of red brick buildings with white-frocked scientists running around carrying files?
No, that is rather far from reality; we have mostly white buildings made of concrete and the scientists wear everyday clothes and they mostly do not carry files.
Was the Web really invented at CERN as the book states?
Yes, indeed, the Web came from CERN, invented here by Tim Berners-Lee in 1989.
Does antimatter exist?
Yes, it does, and we produce it routinely at CERN. Antimatter was predicted by P.A.M. Dirac in 1928 and the first antiparticles were discovered soon after by Carl Anderson. CERN is not the only research institute to produce and study antimatter.
How is antimatter contained?
It is very difficult to contain antimatter, because any contact between a particle and its anti-particle leads to their immediate annihilation.

For electrically charged antimatter particles we know how to contain them by using ‘electromagnetic traps’. These traps make it possible to contain up to about 1012 (anti-) particles of the same charge. However, like charges repel each other. So it is not possible to store a much larger quantity of e.g. antiprotons because the repulsive forces between them would become too strong for the electromagnetic fields to hold them away from the walls.

For electrically neutral anti-particles or anti-atoms, the situation is even more difficult. It is impossible to use constant electric or magnetic fields to contain neutral antimatter, because these fields have no grip on the particles at all. Scientists work on ideas to use ‘magnetic bottles’ (with inhomogeneous magnetic fields acting on the magnetic moment), or ‘optical traps’ (using lasers) but this is still under development.
What is the future use of antimatter?
Anti-electrons (positrons) are already used in PET scanners in medicine (Positron-Emission Tomography = PET). One day it might be even possible to use antiprotons for tumour irradiation.

But antimatter at CERN is mainly used to study the laws of nature. We focus on the question of the symmetry between matter and antimatter. The LHCb experiment will compare precisely the decay of b-quarks and anti-b-quarks. Eventually we also hope to be able to use anti-hydrogen atoms as high-precision tools.
Do antimatter atoms exist?
The team of the PS210 experiment at the Low Energy Antiproton Ring (LEAR) at CERN made the first anti-hydrogen atoms in 1995. Then, in 2002 two experiments (ATHENA and ATRAP) managed to produce tens of thousands of antihydrogen atoms, later even millions. However, although "tens of thousands" may sound a lot, it's really a very, very small amount. You would need 10,000,000,000,000,000 times that amount to have enough anti-hydrogen gas to fill a toy balloon! If we could somehow store our daily production, it would take us several billion years to fill the balloon. But the universe has been around for only 13.7 billion years...So the Angels and Demons scenario is pure fiction.
Can we hope to use antimatter as a source of energy? Do you feel antimatter could power vehicles in the future, or would it just be used for major power sources?
There is no possibility to use antimatter as energy ‘source’. Unlike solar energy, coal or oil, antimatter does not occur in nature; we first have to make every single antiparticle, and we have to invest (much) more energy than we get back during annihilation.

You can imagine antimatter as a storage medium for energy, much like you store electricity in rechargeable batteries. The process of charging the battery is reversible with relatively small loss. Still, it takes more energy to charge the battery than you get back.

The inefficiency of antimatter production is enormous: you get only a tenth of a billion (10-10) of the invested energy back. If we could assemble all the antimatter we've ever made at CERN and annihilate it with matter, we would have enough energy to light a single electric light bulb for a few minutes.
I was hoping antimatter would be the future answer to our energy needs. It seems more research is needed for this to happen.
No, even more research will not change this situation fundamentally; antimatter is certainly not able to solve our energy problems. First of all, you need energy to make antimatter (E=mc2) and unfortunately you do not get the same amount of energy back out of it. (See above, the loss factors are enormous.)

Furthermore, the conversion from energy to matter and antimatter particles follows certain laws of nature, which also allow the production of many other, but very short-lived particles and antiparticles (e.g. muons, pions, neutrinos). These particles decay rapidly during the production process, and their energy is lost.

Antimatter could only become a source of energy if you happened to find a large amount of antimatter lying around somewhere (e.g. in a distant galaxy), in the same way we find oil and oxygen lying around on Earth. But as far as we can see (billions of light years), the universe is entirely made of normal matter, and antimatter has to be painstakingly created.

By the way, this shows that the symmetry between matter and antimatter as stated above does not seem to hold at very high energies, such as shortly after the Big Bang, as otherwise there should be as much matter as antimatter in the Universe. Future research might tell us is how this asymmetry came about.
Can we make antimatter bombs?
No. It would take billions of years to produce enough antimatter for a bomb having the same destructiveness as ‘typical’ hydrogen bombs, of which there exist more than ten thousand already.

Sociological note: scientists realized that the atom bomb was a real possibility many years before one was actually built and exploded, and then the public was totally surprised and amazed. On the other hand, the public somehow anticipates the antimatter bomb, but we have known for a long time that it cannot be realized in practice.
Why has antimatter received no media attention?
It has received a lot of media attention, but usually in the scientific press. Also, antimatter is not ‘new’. Antiparticles have been known and studied for 75 years. What is new is the possibility to produce anti-hydrogen atoms, but this is also mainly a matter of scientific interest.
Is antimatter truly 100% efficient?
It depends on what you mean by efficient. If you start from two equal quantities m/2 of matter and m/2 of antimatter, then the energy output is, of course, exactly E=mc2. Mass is converted into energy with 100% efficiency.

But that is not the point: how much effort do you have to put in to get m/2 grams of antimatter? Well, theoretically E=mc2 because half of the energy will become normal matter. So you gain nothing.
But the process of creating antimatter is highly inefficient; when you dissipate energy into particles with mass, many different - also short-lived - particles and antiparticles are produced. A major part of the energy gets lost, and a lot of the stable antimatter-particles (e.g. positrons and antiprotons) go astray before you can catch them. Everything happens at nearly the speed of light, and the particles created zoom off in all directions. Somewhat like cooking food over a campfire: most of the heat is lost and does not go into the cooking of the food, it disappears as radiation into the dark night sky. Very inefficient.
Do you make antimatter as described in the book?
No. The production and storage of antimatter at CERN is not at all as described in the book: you cannot stand next to the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) and see it come out, especially since the LHC accelerator is not yet in operation.

To make antiprotons, we collide protons at nearly the speed of light (to be precise, with a kinetic energy of about 25 GeV) with a block of metal, e.g. copper or tungsten. These collisions produce a large number of particles, some of which are antiprotons. Only the antiprotons are useful, and only those that fly out in the right direction. So that's where your energy loss goes: it is like trying to water a pot of flowers but with a sprinkler that sprays over the whole garden. Of course, we constantly apply new tricks to become more efficient at collecting antiparticles, but at the level of elementary particles this is extremely difficult.
Why then do you build the LHC?
The reason for building the LHC accelerator is not to make antimatter but to produce an energy concentration high enough to study effects that will help us to understand some of the remaining questions in physics. We say concentrations, because we are not talking about huge amounts but an enormous concentration of energy. Each particle accelerated in the LHC carries an amount of energy equivalent to that of a flying mosquito. Not much at all in absolute terms, but it will be concentrated in a very minute volume, and there things will resemble the state of the universe very shortly (about a trillionth of a second) after the Big Bang.

You should compare the concentration effect to what you can learn about the quality of a wooden floor by walking over it. If a large man wearing normal shoes and a petite woman wearing sharp stiletto heels walk over the same floor, the man will not make dents, but the woman, despite her lower weight, may leave marks; the pressure created by the stiletto heels is far higher. So that is like the job of the LHC: concentrate a little energy into a very minute space to produce a huge energy concentration and learn something about the Big Bang.
Does CERN have a particle accelerator 27 kilometres long?
The LHC accelerator is a ring 27 kilometres in circumference. It is installed in a tunnel about 100 m underground. You can see the round outline of it marked on a map of the area.
In fact, why do you make antimatter at CERN?
The principal reason is to study the laws of nature. The current theories of physics predict a number of subtle effects concerning antimatter. If experiments do not observe these predictions, then the theory is not accurate and needs to be amended or reworked. This is how science progresses.

Another reason is to get extremely high energy densities in collisions of matter and antimatter particles, since they annihilate completely when they meet. From this annihilation energy other interesting particles may be created. This was mainly how the Large Electron Positron (LEP) collider functioned at CERN until 2000, or the Tevatron currently operates at Fermilab near Chicago.
How is energy extracted from antimatter?
When a normal matter particle hits an antimatter particle, they mutually annihilate into a very concentrated burst of pure energy, from which in turn new particles (and antiparticles) are created. The number and mass of the annihilation products depends on the available energy.

The annihilation of electrons and positrons at low energies produces only two (or three) highly energetic photons. But with annihilation at very high energy, hundreds of new particle-antiparticle pairs can be made. The decay of these particles produces, among others, many neutrinos, which do not interact with the environment at all. This is not very useful for energy extraction.
How safe is antimatter?
Perfectly safe, given the minute quantities we can make. It would be very dangerous if we could make a few grams of it, but this would take us billions of years.
If so, does CERN have protocols to keep the public safe?
There is no danger from antimatter. There are of course other dangers on the CERN site, as in any laboratory: high voltage in certain areas, deep pits to fall in, etc. but for these dangers the usual industrial safety measures are in place. There is no danger of radioactive leaks as you might find near nuclear power stations.
Does one gram of antimatter contain the energy of a 20 kilotonne nuclear bomb?
Twenty kilotonnes of TNT is the equivalent of the atom bomb that destroyed Hiroshima. The explosion of a kilotonne (=1000 tonnes) of TNT corresponds to a energy release of 4.2x1012 joules (1012 is a 1 followed by 12 zeros, i.e. a million million). For comparison, a 60 watt light bulb consumes 60 J per second.

You are probably asking for the explosive release of energy by the sudden annihilation of one gram of antimatter with one gram of matter. Let's calculate it.

To calculate the energy released in the annihilation of 1 g of antimatter with 1 g of matter (which makes 2 g = 0.002 kg), we have to use the formula E=mc2, where c is the speed of light (300,000,000 m/s):

E= 0.002 x (300,000,000)2 kg m2/s2 = 1.8 x 1014 J = 180 x 1012 J. Since 4.2x1012 J corresponds to a kilotonne of TNT, then 2 g of matter-antimatter annihilation correspond to 180/4.2 = 42.8 kilotonnes, about double the 20 kt of TNT.

This means that you ‘only’ need half a gram of antimatter to be equally destructive as the Hiroshima bomb, since the other half gram of (normal) matter is easy enough to find.

At CERN we make quantities of the order of 107 antiprotons per second and there are 6x1023 of them in a single gram of antihydrogen. You can easily calculate how long it would take to get one gram: we would need 6x1023/107=6x1016 seconds. There are only 365 (days) x 24 (h) x 60 (min) x 60 (sec) = around 3x107 seconds in a year, so it would take roughly 6x1016 / 3x107 = 2x109 = two billion years! It is quite unlikely that anyone wants to wait that long.
Did CERN scientists actually invent the Internet?
No. The Internet was originally based on work done by Louis Pouzin in France, taken up by Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn in the US in the 1970s. However, the Web was invented and developed entirely by Tim Berners-Lee and a small team at CERN during 1989-1994. The story of the Internet and the Web can be read in ‘How the Web was born’. Perhaps not as sexy as Angels and Demons, but everything in ‘How the Web was born’ was first-hand testimony and research.
Does CERN own an X-33 spaceplane?
Unfortunately not.

October 2004
Last revised: January 2008
Related links
Interview with Rolf Landua, a CERN physicist who could have inspired Dan Brown for his character Leonardo Vetra
The Antiproton Decelerator at CERN
Antimatter experiments at CERN: ALPHA, ATRAP, ASACUSA
What the LHC will bring: the LHCb experiment
Antimatter experiments in the world: BaBar, Belle
Antimatter in Space: AMS

Old and Fat

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From Slate magazine

Were there obese people 35,000 years ago?
By Christopher Beam
Posted Friday, May 15, 2009, at 6:46 PM ET

Researchers say a "Venus" figurine discovered in 2008 in southern Germany and created an estimated 35,000 years ago may be the oldest statue ever found. Its sexually suggestive figure— large breasts, large rear end—is said to connote fertility. But it also looks extremely fat. Were there obese people in prehistoric times?

Few, if any. Obesity is defined as having a body mass index higher than 30—the equivalent of being about 5-foot-11 and 220 pounds. The best indicator of body type among prehistoric peoples is present-day societies with a similar lifestyle—that is, hunter-gatherers. From the San people of Botswana to the Pygmies in central Africa to the Batek of Malaysia, groups that fall into this category tend to be small and extremely thin. The Baka of Cameroon, for example, are about 5 feet tall and weigh around 105 pounds, giving them an average BMI of 20. Hunter-gatherers are usually thin because they subsist largely on fruits and vegetables, underground tubers, and, in some regions of Africa, honey. They also get calories from animal meat, and some of their diets are especially fish-heavy. But many tribes insist on distributing the meat evenly among the group, so there's rarely enough for one person to get fat on. Hunter-gatherer tribes also stay thin, unsurprisingly, due to a generally active way of life.

Fossils are of little use in determining the relative fitness of Stone Age humans because, for the most part, the bones of a 150-pound man look similar to the bones of a 250-pound man of the same height. Many old bones do have stress fractures or signs of arthritis, but it's hard to conclude that these indications of degradation are due to obesity. Neanderthals 200,000 years ago were shorter and stockier than we are now, but, again, there's no evidence that they were obese.

Obesity likely began with the advent of agriculture 12,000 years ago. Food surpluses and the relatively sedentary lifestyle on settlements made overconsumption possible for the first time in human history. Another factor was the rise of processed foods and, with the invention of the steel roller mill in the late 19th century, the possibility of mass-marketing those foods. Grains and other carbohydrates that have been broken down are easier to digest. As a result, you get hungry again faster. Some scientists also theorize that people weighed less in earlier eras because they were exposed to more infections. (If you're eating carrots out of the ground—as opposed to a sealed plastic bag—you're likely to have constant minor parasitic infections.) When you're fighting an infection, your body temperature rises, and you burn more calories.

Some women in hunter-gathering societies do have abnormally large buttocks, a condition called steatopygia. It's especially common among the Khoisan in southern Africa and tribes in the Andaman Islands. It is sometimes considered a sign of beauty, and may have inspired some of the more voluptuous ancient figurines. The most famous example of steatopygia was the Hottentot Venus, a Khoikhoi woman whose physical characteristics made her a sideshow sensation in 19th-century Europe.

Got a question about today's news? Ask the Explainer.

Explainer thanks Nathaniel Dominy of the University of California Santa Cruz and Jeff Leach of Paleobiotics Lab.

Christopher Beam is a Slate political reporter.
Photograph by H. Jensen © copyright Universität Tübingen.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Real Archaeologist Digs Up Fact, Fiction of 'Angels & Demons'

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I love this stuff!

May 15th 2009
By Kristin Romey

Like we've said before, taking potshots at the scientific inaccuracies of Hollywood blockbusters is as easy as poking fun at the ShamWow guy. But there are some truly scary realities in "Angels & Demons," the sequel to "The Da Vinci Code." And, of course, some scarily obvious falsehoods.

Early on in the movie a potentially catastrophic vial of antimatter is stolen from CERN setting the plot in motion. Antimatter sounds like a fantasy sci-fi movie product, but it has been created -- at the cost of about $1,772 trillion per ounce. Why? Because it takes enormous energy to create in particle accelerators like CERN. (Remember CERN is the European Organization for Nuclear Research. They've got the huge underground particle accelerator that was supposed to create a black hole and swallow the earth last fall, until an accident took everything offline. Cross your fingers for this fall, when they start the accelerator up again.)

The only reassuring news about antimatter besides its prohibitive cost? The fact that, at this point, there's no way to store it, much less broadcast it on the Internet.

The Vatican Leadership
Oh Vatican, oh Vatican, who's the most murderous of them all? Yep, probably because of the lousy press from the Catholic Church that followed "The Da Vinci Code," this film played nice with Catholicism's major domos. But in real life, popes and cardinals haven't been innocent when it comes to murder, bribery, rape, incest, etc. Around the time that so many of the fantastic churches in the film were built, for instance, there was Pope Alexander VI (d. 1503). Known as the "STD Pope," Alex allegedly committed his first murder at 12, slept with his daughter, and died drinking poison intended for a potential cardinal.

The Illuminati
OK, here's the problem with the secret society chronology in this movie: most of the groups we're familiar with today, like the Freemasons and the Illuminati, were founded during the Age of Enlightenment, which began in the 1700s. In fact, the Illuminati were founded in 1776 -- a good 100-150 years after the characters (Galileo, Bernini) mentioned in "Angels & Demons" existed. (By the way, the original Illuminati preferred to call themselves the "Perfectibilists," and "The Order of the Bees," neither of which is nearly as sexy or intimidating.)

Other, earlier "secret societies" known to pose a threat to the Church, like the Knights Templar, were ruthlessly stamped out by popes in the 1300s. So poor A&D author Dan Brown was essentially left with a secret society "dead zone" from 1400 to 1700 -- the time of Galileo.

The Swiss Guard
Let's talk about how badass the Swiss Guard is. Would you mess with a Chechen, a Colombian, or an Afghani? Multiply that by 10 and we have the Swiss. Crazy-ass, take-no-hostages mountain people -- these are the men who have ruthlessly guarded the Vatican for 500 years. And those nasty-looking halberds they carry? Renowned since the 16th century for efficiently piercing human skulls. They also carry assault rifles. So don't make fun of their striped pajamas and funny hats the next time you find yourself in Rome.

... is a load of crap. I'd love to teach it at Harvard too, but what our esteemed professor Dr. Robert Langdon does is actually some weird combo of western art history and anthropology.

Why is it impossible to teach "symbology"? Because those two crossed keys that mean "Vatican" in the West may mean something entirely different in say, Vietnam. And the whole elements-of-the-earth spiel that works for Langdon in Rome may mean nothing in the Peruvian desert. To be a symbologist, he'd have to have in-depth knowledge of all of the world's cultures in order to properly interpret symbols, which is impossible unless you're Stephen Hawking. Our dear Harvard professor doesn't even know Italian, for Pete's sake.

Kristin Romey is an anthropologist, explorer, former executive editor of Archeology Magazine and, most prestigiously, Asylum's scientific adviser.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Why Does It Matter?

Why does it matter?

Why does the smile of a baby make babies of us all?

Why does a falling flower petal softly swirling in the breeze know its destination?

Why does the look of a woman capture the heart and soul of a man?

Why does the mind of many create so many pleasures and so much pain in the world?

Why does walking by a pastry shop cause one to gain weight?

Why does one enjoy the most wonderful sunrise ever seen only to see it topped at nightfall by an enchanting sunset bringing a close to another day?

Why do we remember our first snowfall, our first kiss, the thrill of making a great play, making someone laugh?

Why do we remember the loss of a loved one, your first dog, staying up late, New Years Eve?

Why do we remember presents under the tree, hoping for a pony, happy with a bike?

Why do we remember that first school dance, or not going at all?

Why do remember our favorite song, when the moment was right, never to be forgotten?

Why do we remember our first crush, our first rejection, love found again?

Always questions, searching answers.

European scientists launch new space telescope

This photo provided Thursday May 14, 2009 by the European Space Agency shows the Ariane-5 rocket taking off in Kourou, French Guiana, Thursday. European Space Agency has launched a space telescope and a spacecraft meant to gather information about the Big Bang cosmic explosion.
(AP Photo/P Baudon/ESA/CNES/Arianespace)

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The continued hue and cry across the universe, Any One Out There?

By DANICA COTO, Associated Press Writer Danica Coto, Associated Press Writer – 2 hrs 3 mins ago
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – As American astronauts overhauled the aging Hubble, European scientists launched an even larger space telescope toward a far-flung orbit, hoping to help answer two questions: How did the cosmos begin and are we alone in it?

"We are seeking the origins of the universe," said Jean-Yves Le Gall, chairman and CEO of French satellite launcher Arianespace, which on Thursday launched the Herschel space telescope and a companion spacecraft from French Guiana.

The Herschel space telescope, the largest ever launched, will observe chunks of ice and dust left over from the formation of planets, playing a "complementary" role to the versatile Hubble, said Andreas Diekmann, director of the European Space Agency's Washington office.

A companion spacecraft called Planck separated from the Ariane rocket soon after launch on a mission to measure radiation from the Big Bang.

Unlike Hubble, which has become famous for its breathtaking images of the heavens, Herschel and Planck work in non-visible wavelengths of light. But they will provide scientists with crucial information about planet and star formation.

The Herschel telescope will allow scientists to study the birth of stars and galaxies and analyze the dust-clouds around stars. Astronomers will also look for the presence of water in deep space.

"One could get an impression on how life began in the universe and how widely it might be distributed, or whether we are totally alone," said Martin Harwit, a Washington-based mission scientist for Herschel. The telescope could also pinpoint molecules that serve as building blocks for primitive organisms.

"It will also be looking at very large distances across the universe, where the first stars and galaxies were beginning to form and tell us how those processes took place," Harwit said.

The Planck, which carries its own telescope, will be capable of observing radiation that could help astronomers understand the universe as it appeared when it was 380,000 years old.

As the Herschel telescope hurtled farther away from Earth on Friday, spacewalking astronauts from the shuttle Atlantis installed a refurbished pair of gyroscopes and fresh batteries aboard Hubble.

In all, five spacewalks are planned to repair the observatory so it can last another five to 10 years.

The Herschel telescope and Planck will need several weeks to reach their separate orbits nearly a million miles from Earth. The telescope will map the cosmos for up to three years. Planck will stay in orbit for 1 3/4 years.

Herschel is "the biggest telescope ever sent to space," bragged Jean Clavel, science director of the ESA, referring to the telescope's mirror, which has a diameter of 11.5 feet. The mirror on the Hubble has a diameter of 7.9 feet.

Data collected from the Herschel telescope could help answer questions such as what the universe was made of, how it has evolved and the rate at which it is expanding.

"Scientists will be able to explore the unknown," ESA director Jean-Jacques Dordain said.

To ensure accurate readings of tiny microwaves, equipment aboard the Planck and Herschel will be kept at nearly absolute zero (minus 273 degrees Celsius) using helium.

When the helium is used up, both instruments, worth a total of $952 million, will overheat and become inoperable.

"We are going toward discoveries that will surprise us," said Roger-Maurice Bonnet, who worked on the project for years when he was science director for the ESA.


Associated Press writers Marcia Dunn in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Geir Moulson in Berlin and Cecile Brisson in Paris contributed to this report.
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The Google Outage and Cloud Computing

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When you count on one source for everything, well, stuff happens!

From Biz Box by Slate
The Google Outage and Cloud Computing

By Marc Tracy
May 14, 2009 5:41 PM

It is a dark, dark day for cloud computing advocates such as ourselves. We could go on and on about cloud computing's benefits, but at some point you do bump up against the fact that whatever you put in the cloud--which, if you take our suggestions, is pretty much everything that your company has--is stored on someone else's servers and space rather than your own (although obviously cloud computing doesn't preclude backing up every so often; but it does mean your stuff is out there, and that you use the cloud to conduct day-to-day computing). And what that means is that whether those servers go down is out of your control. And they can go down. Hint hint, Google.

Yes, Google was down today. It was a nightmare. We're speaking personally here--we couldn't access our Gmail or our Google Reader RSS feed for, like, an hour. As we say, a nightmare.

So yes, it's time for the anti-cloud computing people to gloat. Forbes is game. The piece actually has some many sage insights about what it means that so many are dependent on the servers of so few companies. It also points out that Google's guarantee (albeit for free services) of 99.9% uptime gives it almost nine hours each year to be down without even breaking its promise, which truly is terrifying. And then, yes, the piece concludes: "Of greater concern is what the outage implies for trust in cloud computing services, the biggest hope for the tech industry as it moves out of its slump."

Well, look. We talked about this before, when Google's cloud software suite was down for a bit in Western Europe. Servers crash all the time, whether they're under your roof or not. These outages are not an argument against cloud computing; they're an argument for taking extra security measures and for backing everything up.

Also, memo to Google: please don't ever do that to us again.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Toms Shoes One for One

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One for One
TOMS Shoes was founded on a simple premise: For every pair you purchase, TOMS will give a pair of shoes to a child in need. One for One. Using the purchasing power of individuals to benefit the greater good is what we're all about.

Our Story
In 2006 an American traveler, Blake Mycoskie, befriended children in Argentina and found they had no shoes to protect their feet. Wanting to help, he created a company that would match every pair of shoes sold with a pair given to a child in need. One for One. Blake returned to Argentina with a group of family, friends and staff later that year with 10,000 pairs of shoes made possible by caring TOMS customers.

Since our beginning, TOMS has given over 140,000* pairs of shoes to children in need through the One for One model. Because of your support, TOMS plans to give over 300,000 pairs of shoes to children in need around the world in 2009.

Our ongoing community events and Shoe Drop Tours allow TOMS supporters and enthusiasts to be part of our One for One movement. Join us.

What does it mean? Windfall, and Hit

A continuing journey into word origins.

From the book by Webb Garrison
445 Fascinating Word origins


One of the most vexatious(full of disorder or stress)problems of the medieval English household was the shortage of fuel. Trees were not scarce, on the contrary, forests were thick and abundant. But long-standing royal proclamations made it illegal for commoners to fell a tree without permission. Only dead branches and trees blown down by storm could be used for firewood.

Consequently, the discovery of a fallen tree was a stroke of great good luck. Such a windfall, as it was called, might mean the difference between having a warm blaze and going fireless on cold days. From trees felled by the wind, the expression came to be applied to any piece of good fortune.

Someone who connects with a target scores a hit. In baseball, players have distinguished a hit in which the ball is "fair," within bounds, or a "foul ball," one that is out of bounds. A successful Broadway play, motion picture, television series, book, syndicated column, or comic strip character-along with many other things-is also dubbed a hit.

This ancient word soon came to designate a computer user's visit to a Web site. Since each visit can be counted by means of a relatively simple program, the popularity--and hence the importance--of a Web site is measured in terms of how often a hit is registered in the course of a day, a week, or a month.

Thanks for reading!

Today's the Day! Bixi Bike Sharing Debuts in Montreal

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From Treehugger

Today's the Day! Bixi Bike Sharing Debuts in Montreal
by April Streeter, Gothenburg, Sweden on 05.12.09

It seems like it's been a long time coming: in North America, where no bike sharing plan has gotten near the grandeur and style of Paris' Vélib (except perhaps the forthcoming Bcycle), we've been waiting to see exactly how cool Montreal's much-anticipated Bixi will be. And now it's here! C'est parti! With nearly 3,000 bikes and 300 stations, Bixi is just an eighth the size of the Parisian scheme and doesn't currently plan to go year-round. Still, it's a welcome addition to the world-wide bike sharing family.

Bixi - the Bicycle Taxi bike share
The name for Montreal's scheme is derived from a contraction of the words "bicycle" and "taxi" and is noteworthy for its solar-powered bike stations. Subscribing to the service will cost $78 per year, quite a bit more than Vélib's 30 Euro ($45) annual subscription fee, and for a much horter year. Bixi's first 30 minutes will be offered for free and at $1.50 per half hour after that - the per day fee is $5. Bixi bikes are a bit more techie-looking than Vélibs - they have three gears, weigh 20 kilos, and a brushed aluminum finish - but look every bit as cool.

But is it fourth-generation bike sharing?
There are three features Bixi stations can boast that Vélib can't: they are solar powered, are portable (if only by large lorry), and they can be wirelessly controlled and updated. The bikes themselves will also be fitted with RFID tags to help keep track of the bikes. Vélib does use RFID to help the system recognize returning bikes as they are slipped back into the slots. If Bixi can avoid some of the vandalism and heavy maintenance costs Vélib has suffered and still give users a great city transportation alternative it will be ready for the 'fourth generation' moniker. (They'll also need to somehow get around uptown-downtown syndrome, or the shortage of bikes in certain parts of the city at certain times of day while other areas experience a painful overload of bikes and lack of slots).

Bixi is run by the municipal Stationnement de Montreal, another big difference between it and JCDecaux-owned Vélib. Some critics say cities and regions shouldn't give over portions of public space and bike sharing to private companies - it remains to be seen who can run better bike share programs.

Some Montreal merchants are up in arms about the loss of parking spaces Bixi stations represent - but if Denmark's experience is any indication, additional bike traffic tends to boost local merchants' sales more than the existing car parking. Via: The Bike-Sharing Blog

Read more about bike sharing at TreeHugger
Montreal Wants Paris-Style Bike Sharing
Bike Sharing Coming to Australia. Soon and Later
Toronto May Get Bike Sharing - Again
Rio de Janeiro's Bike Sharing System, Appropriately Called Samba

Thirsty for more? Check out these related articles:
Library Bikes: Too Good An Idea to be Quiet About
Shanghai Proposes a Different Kind of Bicycle Fashion
Toronto May Get Bike Sharing- Again


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