Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Financial crisis coverage dominates Loeb Awards

Financial crisis coverage dominates Loeb Awards
New York Times wins 3 Loeb Awards for business journalism, struggling McClatchy gets 3 honor

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- McClatchy & Co., one of the companies hardest hit by the crisis in the newspaper industry, was honored Monday for its coverage of the economic meltdown.
The Loeb Awards, among the highest honors in business journalism, have been presented for 36 years by Anderson School of Management at the University of California at Los Angeles. They were established in 1957 by Gerald Loeb, a financier and founding partner of E.F. Hutton, to encourage quality reporting in business, finance and the economy.

Even as media companies struggle with a chronic decline in advertising revenue, made worse by the recession, they continued to put resources towards investigative journalism in covering the biggest economic and business story of the past 70 years. A number of award recipients spoke of being given a year or more to travel to big cities and small towns across the U.S. to write stories of abusive mortgage practices and other financial misdeeds.

The New York Times, which received three Loeb Awards, was honored for "The Reckoning," a 19-part account of who and what was to blame for the financial crisis. Lawrence Ingrassia, business and financial editor at The New York Times and the driving force behind the series, received the Lawrence Minard Editor Award.

In accepting the honor, Ingrassia said the current era hearkens "back to the 1930's, not because we're in a depression, but because it's increasingly incumbent on the press to be the watchdog."

The New York Times' Gretchen Morgenson, who co-authored "The Reckoning" with eight colleagues, also won a Loeb Award in the beat writing category for her coverage of the follies of Wall Street.

She shared that win with Rick Rothacker of McClatchy publication The Charlotte Observer, who was recognized for anticipating how adjustable rate mortgages would topple Charlotte, N.C.-based bank Wachovia Corp. and ultimately force its takeover by Wells Fargo & Co. That newspaper also received an Honorable Mention for its investigative series on the poultry industry, "The Cruelest Cuts."

The Miami Herald, another former Knight Ridder publication now owned by McClatchy, was recognized in the medium and small newspapers category for "Borrowers Betrayed," which chronicled Florida's failure to prevent convicted felons from working in the state's mortgage industry and bilking lenders and borrowers out of millions of dollars. Read more... http://finance.yahoo.com/news/Financial-crisis-coverage-apf-3992981568.html?x=0&sec=topStories&pos=2&asset=&ccode=
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Exxon to pay interest on spill damages

Exxon to pay interest on spill damages

(Source Anchorage Daily News)Exxon Mobil Corp. said Monday it won't appeal nearly $500 million in interest that a court recently ordered it to pay to Alaska fishermen, business owners and others harmed by the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill.
Exxon said it will pay $470 million in interest on the $507.5 million in punitive damages it has already begun paying out to claimants. The company has already paid out $383 million and the only sum that remains in dispute in the long-running lawsuit is $70 million in court fees, according to a company spokesman.

"We expect to make payment on the interest in the next few days," said Alan Jeffers, the Exxon spokesman.

He said he couldn't immediately provide an explanation for Exxon's decision not to challenge the court-ordered interest payment.

Exxon's decision is the latest in a series of high-profile Alaska actions this year. The company has endured two decades of infamy in the state thanks to its tanker running aground and spilling 11 million gallons of oil in Prince William Sound, and its lengthy fight over how much to pay in spill damages.
Earlier this year Exxon significantly upped its major sponsorship of the Iditarod Trail Sled-Dog Race and it began drilling on its long-dormant oil and gas leases at the promising Point Thomson field. And this month it joined the competition to build a massive North Slope gas pipeline.
"Exxon's actions lately appear to be geared at generating relationships with the Alaska public, not just elected officials," said Joe Balash, a member of the Palin administration's gas pipeline team.
"As far as what their ultimate strategy is, in my experience, Exxon doesn't do anything unless they think it's good for their shareholders," he said.

The request for punitive damages was filed by Alaska Natives, fishermen and others who claimed damages to their livelihoods after the Exxon Valdez oil spill sullied 1,200 miles of Alaska coast. Since the mid-1990s, Exxon has appealed court-awarded punitive damages. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals this month finalized the punitive damages at $507.5 million, ordered Exxon to pay interest on that amount since 1996 and set the interest rate at 5.9 percent a year.

The $470 million will roughly double the average punitive damage award to 32,000 to 35,000 claimants, said David Oesting, an attorney for the plaintiffs.

"It's a blessing for everyone involved," said Oesting, who signed Exxon's paperwork on Monday. Read more... http://www.adn.com/exxonvaldez/story/847901.html
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Monday, June 29, 2009

Brazil: Venture Capital's Next Hotbed?

Brazil: Venture Capital's Next Hotbed?
Investments in Brazilian startups are surging, but high taxes and strict labor laws could hamper returns

(Source Business Week, Technology, Investment) Brazil is best known around the world for soccer, samba music, and supermodels. Now it's emerging as an attractive destination for investment capital.

At a June 25 conference in New York, a Brazilian venture capital trade group announced some impressive figures. As of the end of 2008, local and foreign investors had committed $28 billion in venture and private equity capital to Brazilian companies, said Luiz Figueiredo, president of the Brazilian Association for Private Equity & Venture Capital. That's up from $6 billion in 2004, amounting to a hearty 50% compound annual growth rate over the last four years. Investors have financed 500 Brazilian companies to date with venture or private equity capital, and there's $12 billion left to invest over the next few years from that $28 billion kitty.

Venture and private equity players see ample opportunity in Brazil, which boasts a stable financial system and a strong base of local investors. But the country's business challenges, including high taxes and restrictive labor laws, could hold back growth.

The conference on investment opportunities in Brazil was hosted by the Brazilian-American Chamber of Commerce and drew more than 150 investors, executives, and technologists. An initial public offering and a large investment underscored the event's theme.

On June 25, Brazilian stock exchange Bovespa hosted the world’s largest IPO this year, a $4.3 billion offering by Brazilian credit-card processor VisaNet. The same day, Boston private equity firm Advent International announced that it has bought a 50% stake in Brazilian holding company PAP for $142 million. PAP controls Kroton Educational, a fast-growing education company. It was Advent’s fifteenth investment in Brazil since 1997. Read Article... http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/jun2009/tc20090628_830521.htm?chan=technology_technology+index+page_top+stories
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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Beware the New Hazards of Plastic

Beware the New Hazards of Plastic

(Source Yahoo Finance) A recent study finds that more credit card holders are being penalized by their card issuers as companies try to maximize profits and bring balance sheets in line ahead of a law banning unfair practices.

The ink is barely dry on the Credit Cardholders’ Bill of Rights Act, signed by President Obama in May, but the legislation doesn’t take effect until February 2010. According to the June survey of 1,000 consumers by Credit.com, a card-comparison and informational Web site, one-third of respondents said their card company made one or some combination of changes to their accounts:

* 19 percent said the card’s interest rose (up from 15 percent in a February survey);
* 14 percent said fees increased;
* 14 percent said the firm lowered their credit limit (up from 8 percent in February);
* 12 percent said their minimum payment increased;
* and 9 percent said their rewards program was cut back.

“It’s certainly open season on consumers between now and when the law goes into effect in February,” says Adam Levin, co-founder of credit.com and a former director of the New Jersey Department of Consumer Affairs. “There may be fee increases that are purely front-running of the law, and you could also have consumers who have run into problems because of the economy.”

Americans carry about $850 billion in credit card debt, which translates to about $17,000 for the roughly 50 million households that don’t pay their credit card balances in full every month, according to the Consumer Federation of America. Among other provisions, the new law prohibits retroactive interest rate increases on existing balances unless a consumer is 60 days late with a payment; bans “universal default” clauses, in which credit card companies raise their rates because the consumer is late paying another creditor; and eliminates over-limit fees, unless the consumer has specifically opted in to allow over-limit transactions. Read article Linda Rowley... http://finance.yahoo.com/expert/article/moneyhappy/172642
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U.S. and Russia Differ on a Treaty for Cyberspace

U.S. and Russia Differ on a Treaty for Cyberspace
By JOHN MARKOFF and ANDREW E. KRAMER Published: June 28, 2009 (New York Times Permalink)
The Kremlin’s call for an international treaty to protect computer security is a likely topic for discussion during President Obama’s visit to Moscow next week.
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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Friday, June 26, 2009

JPMorgan to Charge 5% on Card Balance Transfers, Cash Advances

JPMorgan to Charge 5% on Card Balance Transfers, Cash Advances

(Source LA Times) JPMorgan Chase & Co. is raising some balance-transfer fees on credit cards to 5 percent, the highest among the nation's largest banks, citing increasing regulations and costs after the U.S. put new curbs on the industry.

JPMorgan, the biggest credit-card issuer, disclosed the increase in a notice mailed to customers this month that referred to "new federal regulations." The New York-based lender starts charging more in August, just as the law designed to curb interest-rate increases, fees and marketing practices begins to take effect.
"In the current economic environment, our costs of doing business have been impacted by increased losses," JPMorgan spokesman Paul Hartwick said in an e-mailed statement. "We are increasing balance-transfer fees to reflect the increasing costs for these transactions." The notice didn't specify the current average fee for balance transfers.

The credit-card law President Barack Obama signed May 22 prompted warnings from industry executives that they'd be forced to raise fees, curtail credit and restrict consumer rewards. Discover Financial Services Chief Executive Officer David Nelms said last week his credit-card company will pull back "dramatically" on balance transfers.

The rate increase at JPMorgan also affects cash advances, and fixed rates will become variable, the notice said. Hartwick declined to say how many customers are affected. The agreement says JPMorgan may choose to offer a lower transfer fee; Hartwick declined to elaborate on how customers might qualify.

JPMorgan's 5 percent fee tops the 4 percent that Bank of America Corp. implemented June 1, citing increasing costs. Bank of America ranks third by cards outstanding, according to industry newsletter the Nilson Report.

"This is the highest balance-transfer fee in the industry," said Bill Hardekopf, chief executive officer of LowCards.com, a Birmingham, Alabama research firm. "It is setting a new precedent that I'm afraid other issuers may follow."
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Madoff Client Jeffry Picower Netted $5 Billion—Likely More Than Madoff Himself

Madoff Client Jeffry Picower Netted $5 Billion—Likely More Than Madoff Himself
(Source ProPublica) It is rare these days to see Bernard Madoff's name in print unaccompanied by the word "Ponzi." Yet recent allegations raise the possibility of one key difference between Madoff's crimes and those of legendary con artist Charles Ponzi. While Ponzi's scam was under way, Ponzi himself was its biggest beneficiary. It now appears that the biggest winner in Madoff's scheme may not have been Madoff at all, but a secretive businessman named Jeffry Picower.

Between December 1995 and December 2008, Picower and his family withdrew from their various Madoff accounts $5.1 billion more than they invested with the self-confessed swindler, according to a lawsuit [2] filed by the trustee who is trying to recover money for those Madoff defrauded.

In contrast, shortly after he confessed [3], Madoff declared his household net worth to be between $823 and $826 million, according to court documents. While the Madoffs clearly lived opulently, no evidence has emerged that their combined assets and expenditures approached the amount the Picower family is alleged to have withdrawn from the scheme.

In an era when billions of dollars are being tossed about in financial collapses and government bailouts, remarkably little attention has been paid to Jeffry Picower's extraordinary success with Bernie Madoff. If Picower has penetrated the popular consciousness at all, it is as a Madoff victim. The victim narrative is buoyed by testimonials from the nonprofits who received funding from his charitable foundation – which quickly closed on the heels of the swindler's confession. For this reason, ProPublica decided to take a closer look at both Jeffry Picower and the complaint filed against him by Madoff trustee Irving Picard [4].

Fortunately for the trustee and the federal investigators presently swarming over the case, Madoff apparently kept detailed notes of communications between his office and his clients. But despite this documentary evidence, which is cited but not provided in court documents, Picard's complaint raises more questions than it answers. Above all, what was the exact relationship between the two men? The complaint [2] is larded with the legal catch-all phrase, "knew or should have known," to describe Picower's cognizance of Madoff's fraud, but the intricacies of the relationship are left to the imagination.
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Michael Jackson's Legacy

Michael Jackson's Legacy

With all the turmoil in his personal life, it is easy to forget that Michael Jackson was once the biggest pop star in the world. Fox News' Dan Springer looks back at a long and colorful life.

Jackson lived like king but died awash in debt
King of Pop dies before comeback bid could burnish ailing finances, career

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Michael Jackson the singer was also Michael Jackson the billion-dollar business.
Yet after selling more than 61 million albums in the U.S. and having a decade-long attraction open at Disney theme parks, the "King of Pop" died Thursday at age 50 reportedly awash in about $400 million in debt, on the cusp of a final comeback after well over a decade of scandal.

The moonwalking pop star drove the growth of music videos, vaulting cable channel MTV into the popular mainstream after its launch in 1981. His 1982 hit "Thriller," still the second best-selling U.S. album of all time, spawned a John Landis-directed music video that MTV played every hour on the hour.

"The ratings were three or four times what they were normally every time the video came on," said Judy McGrath, the chairman and CEO of Viacom Inc.'s MTV Networks. "He was inextricably tied to the so-called MTV generation."

Five years later, "Bad" sold 22 million copies. In 1991, he signed a $65 million recording deal with Sony.

Jackson was so popular that The Walt Disney Co. hitched its wagon to his star in 1986, opening a 3-D movie at its parks called "Captain EO," executive produced by George Lucas and directed by Francis Ford Coppola. The last attraction in Paris closed 12 years later.
One of Jackson's shrewdest deals at the height of his fame in 1985 was the $47.5 million acquisition of ATV Music, which owned the copyright to songs written by the Beatles' John Lennon and Paul McCartney. The catalog provided Jackson a steady stream of income and the ability to afford a lavish lifestyle.
He bought the sprawling Neverland ranch in 1988 for $14.6 million, a fantasy-like 2,500-acre property nestled in the hills of Santa Barbara County's wine country.
But the bombshell hit in 1993 when he was accused of molesting a 13-year-old boy.

Jackson fans gather in Harlem
(02:03) Rough Cut

Jun. 25 - Fans of Michael Jackson gather at the historic Apollo Theater in New York to celebrate his life and share their sorrow at his death.

Note: original sound only, no reporter narrationFans and admirers of Michael Jackson, who died Thursday, gathered at the historic Apollo Theater in New York City's Harlem district, singing his songs and expressing their sorrow at his loss.

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The columnist Roger Cohen discusses his recent reporting trip to Iran.

opinion Videolink New York Times
Roger Cohen on Iran
Jigar Mehta Published:
The columnist Roger Cohen discusses his recent reporting trip to Iran.
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Report: China likely to reject Hummer acquisition due to energy, business concerns

Report: China likely to reject Hummer acquisition
Report: China likely to reject Hummer acquisition due to energy, business concerns

BEIJING (AP) -- China's planning agency is likely to reject a Chinese company's bid to acquire General Motors Corp.'s Hummer unit, in part because its gas-guzzling vehicles conflict with Beijing's conservation goals, state radio reported.

The National Development and Reform Commission also is likely to say Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery Corp., a maker of construction machinery, lacks expertise to run Hummer, China National Radio said late Thursday. It cited no source.
Employees who answered the phone at the NDRC referred questions to its foreign affairs office, where calls were not answered. Tengzhong spokespeople did not immediately respond to phone messages.

Hummers, which roar along on oversize tires and can weigh up to five tons, are based on U.S. military vehicles that gained fame during the 1991 Gulf War. But its sales have been battered by soaring fuel prices.
Tengzhong, based in the southwestern city of Chengdu, emerged as Hummer's surprise buyer this month after GM sought court protection from its creditors. The companies said the sale still required regulatory approval and refused to disclose the price.
Auto industry analysts questioned how Tengzhong, which makes construction vehicles such as cement mixers and tow trucks, could succeed with Hummer, known as "Han Ma," or Bold Horse, in China.
GM said the planned sale would save some 3,000 jobs in the United States. Tengzhong said it planned to invest in research to create more fuel-efficient Hummers. The company said it would keep Hummer's headquarters and manufacturing in the United States.
The Chinese government is trying to promote conservation and use of more fuel-efficient vehicles. It has cut sales taxes on cars with smaller engines and is encouraging automakers to develop electric and other alternative-energy vehicles.
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Thursday, June 25, 2009

China accuses Google of spreading pornography

China accuses Google of spreading pornography
China accuses Google of spreading pornography following outage in Chinese access

BEIJING (AP) -- China's government accused Google Inc. on Thursday of spreading pornography after Chinese Internet users were temporarily unable to gain access to the U.S. search giant's main Web site or China-based service.

"We have found that the English version of google.com has spread lots of pornographic, lewd and vulgar content, which is in serious violation of Chinese laws and regulations," said foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang. He said authorities "summoned representatives of Google.com in China and urged them to remove the content immediately."

Qin, speaking at a regular briefing, did not respond to questions about whether China's government was blocking Web users from seeing Google's site. However, he said he hoped the problem can be "resolved immediately."
Google said Thursday it was investigating the reason for the outage, which began late Wednesday. Chinese users were blocked from seeing Google's U.S. site, its China-based site google.cn and its Gmail e-mail service.
A Chinese watchdog agency accused Google last week of providing links to vulgar and obscene sites. Google, based in Mountainview, Calif., said it would do more to stop users in China from accessing pornography.
"I would like to stress that Google.com, as an Internet enterprise providing services in China, should earnestly abide by all Chinese laws," Qin said. "All the punitive measures adopted by the relevant authorities are conducted strictly according to law."
The Chinese agency that oversees the Internet, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
China has the world's largest population of Internet users at more than 298 million. The communist government has the world's most extensive Web monitoring and filtering system, and it regularly blocks access to foreign Web sites.

Authorities launched a crackdown this year that led to the closing of more than 1,900 porn-related Web sites.
Google has struggled to expand in China, where it says it has about 30 percent of the search market. The company launched Google.cn with a Chinese partner after seeing its market share erode as government filters slowed access to its U.S. service.
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'Veel topvrouwen verlaten ING om cultuur'

'Veel topvrouwen verlaten ING om cultuur'

(Bron: de Telegraaf, DFT)AMSTERDAM (AFN) - Veel topvrouwen bij de bankverzekeraar ING houden het na verloop van tijd voor gezien. Dit komt onder meer door onvrede over ’de kille cultuur’ en de ’gebrekkige steun van de leiding’. Dat meldde de Volkskrant donderdag op basis van een intern onderzoek bij ING.
Tussen 2004 en 2006 vertrokken bijna honderd van de 550 topvrouwen. Ze ervaren gebrek aan draagvlak en voelen zich in de steek gelaten. Vrouwen met een hogere functie verlaten ING daardoor vaker dan mannen in vergelijkbare topfuncties.
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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Retirees May Well Worry About Health-Care Reform

Retirees May Well Worry About Health-Care Reform
Retirement health-care costs are steep -- are you prepared?

(Source Yahoo Finance, Market Watch) If things weren't bleak before, they certainly are now. Men and women retiring today will need truckloads of money to pay for health-care expenses over the course of their retirement, according to a new study.

And that was the case long before we learned that President Barack Obama plans to cut $313 billion in Medicare and Medicaid spending and reform this nation's health-care system. It's anybody's guess what retirees might need if those reform plans become a reality.
For the time being, at least, the reality is this: Men retiring at age 65 in 2009 will need from $68,000 to $173,000 in savings to cover health-insurance premiums and out-of-pocket expenses in retirement if they want a 50/50 chance of being able to have enough money, and $134,000 to $378,000 if they prefer a 90% chance, according to a study published last week by the Employee Benefits Research Institute.

Meanwhile, women -- with their greater longevity -- will need even more money. A women retiring at age 65 in 2009 will need from $98,000 to $242,000 in savings to cover insurance premiums and out-of-pocket expenses in retirement for a 50/50 chance of having enough money, and $164,000 to $450,000 for a 90% chance, said Paul Fronstin, an EBRI researcher, in the report.

But it gets worse. Many Americans may need even more money than the amounts cited above, Fronstin said, because his "analysis does not factor in the savings needed to cover long-term care expenses, nor does it take into account the fact that many individuals retire prior to becoming eligible for Medicare."

Simply opening one's eyes to the issue is key, said Stephen Huth of CCH Inc., a Riverwoods, Ill., publisher and unit of Wolters Kluwer. "Just knowing this is a problem is a good first step," he said. "Few individuals plan for retirement at all, and a small percentage of those even think about health-care costs.

"Even with all the talk about health-care reform, little has been said about the looming crisis for many older individuals," he said.

Next Steps Depend on How Old You Are.
Read Article... http://finance.yahoo.com/focus-retirement/article/107225/retirees-may-well-worry-health-care-reform.html?mod=fidelity-readytoretire

THE INFLUENCE GAME: Health bills prompt grumbles
THE INFLUENCE GAME: Grumbling gets louder as unveiling of health bills gives lobbyists targets

WASHINGTON (AP) -- For President Barack Obama, the MRIs and other medical scans for Medicare patients that cost the government billions are prime targets for cuts to help finance health care overhaul.

The response from physicians and industry: a lobbying counterattack accusing Obama of denying patients the lifesaving tools they need.

Patients, rural doctors and advocacy groups who back the procedures will gather in the House Wednesday for a panel discussion, part of the campaign.

The industry spearheaded a bipartisan letter to Obama from 57 House members objecting to the cuts. It has staged events in North Carolina and other states where senators face re-election next year. And it is using a Web site and newspaper ads to encourage people to complain to Congress about the proposal.

The fight highlights a pivotal moment for one of Obama's chief priorities, revamping the nation's health care system to reduce costs and cover the nearly 50 million uninsured Americans, while finding the roughly $1 trillion needed to do it over the next decade. As the president and lawmakers translate rhetoric into legislation, it is decision time for groups that so far have backed the concept of improving health care without knowing the fine print.

The specifics have sparked grumbling from interests like the insurance industry and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce who dislike what they see. They have also triggered intensified efforts by would-be winners -- like labor and advocates for low-income people -- to nail down potential gains.
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Airbus Spreads its Wings in China

Airbus Spreads its Wings in China

(Wall Street Journal) European plane maker Airbus delivers its first domestically-assembled aircraft in China as it competes with U.S. rival Boeing to expand in developing markets. Video courtesy of Reuters.

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Futuristic Car Customizations Extra-Terrestrial Vehicle Brings Sci-Fi to Real Life

Futuristic Car Customizations Extra-Terrestrial Vehicle Brings Sci-Fi to Real Life
The Extra-Terrestrial Vehicle (ETV) looks like it could be straight out of a sci-fi movie. Designer, Mike Vetter, who runs The Car Factory and who also customizes cars, used a Chevy Aveo to create this futuristic automobile.
Mike Vetter stripped down the Chevy and added an all new interior and exterior as well as gull-wing doors.

Mike is currently selling the ETV on eBay for $86,000
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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

World's 65 and older population to triple by 2050

World's 65 and older population to triple by 2050
USCensus: World's older population will triple by 2050, adding stress to government programs

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The world's 65-and-older population will triple by mid-century to 1 in 6 people, leaving the U.S. and other nations struggling to support the elderly.

The number of senior citizens has already jumped 23 percent since 2000 to 516 million, according to U.S. census estimates released on Tuesday. That is more than double the growth rate for the general population.

The world's population has been graying for many years due to declining births and medical advances that have extended life spans. As the fastest-growing age group, seniors now comprise just under 8 percent of the world's 6.8 billion people. But demographers warn the biggest shift is yet to come. They cite a coming wave of retirements from baby boomers and China's Red Guard generation that will shrink pensions and add to rising health care costs.

Germany, Italy, Japan and Monaco have the most senior citizens, with 20 percent or more of their people 65 and older.

In the U.S., residents who are 65 and older currently make up 13 percent of the population, but that will double to 88.5 million by mid-century. In two years, the oldest of the baby boomers will start turning 65. The baby boomer bulge will continue padding the senior population year after year, growing to 1 in 5 U.S. residents by 2030.

"The 2020s for most of the developed world will be an era of fiscal crisis, with a real long-term stagnation in economic growth and ugly political battles over old-age benefits cuts," said Richard Jackson, director of the Global Aging Initiative at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.

"In emerging countries like China, they will face the real prospect of a humanitarian aging crisis," he said.

China's current ratio of 16 elderly people per 100 workers is set to double by 2025, then double again to 61 by 2050, due partly to family planning policies that limit most families to a single child, Jackson said. Without a universal pension system to cover all elderly, millions of older Chinese could fall into poverty, creating social and political unrest and shock waves that could ripple through the global economy given the country's economic heft.

The Census Bureau's international estimates also show:

--Only 5 percent of Africa's population is projected to be 65 and older in 2050. Sub-Saharan Africa, with high fertility and AIDS cases roiling parts of the region, is home to the youngest people. Leading the way is Uganda where the median age is just 15.

--About 1.53 billion, or 16 percent, of the world's estimated 9.3 billion people in 2050 will be 65 and older.

--Europe will continue to be the grayest region, with 29 percent of its population projected to be 65 and older by 2050. It aging population has prompted governments, including Austria, France and Russia, in recent years to provide incentives such as bonus payouts, tax benefits and free school books to couples who have children.

--In Latin America, known for its high fertility, youths ages 19 and younger outpace the 65-and-older group by more than 5 to 1. But by 2050, led by a dropoff in births in countries such as Brazil and Mexico, senior citizens will jump to 18 percent of the population compared to 25 percent for youths. Faced with its aging population, Cuba recently raised its retirement age by 5 years, delaying payment of pensions.

Ageing in the rich world
The end of retirement

Jun 25th 2009
From The Economist print edition
Demography means virtually all of us will have to work longer. That need not be a bad thing.

WHEN Otto von Bismarck introduced the first pension for workers over 70 in 1889, the life expectancy of a Prussian was 45. In 1908, when Lloyd George bullied through a payment of five shillings a week for poor men who had reached 70, Britons, especially poor ones, were lucky to survive much past 50. By 1935, when America set up its Social Security system, the official pension age was 65—three years beyond the lifespan of the typical American. State-sponsored retirement was designed to be a brief sunset to life, for a few hardy souls.

Now retirement is for everyone, and often as long as whole lives once were. In some European countries the average retirement lasts more than a quarter of a century. In America the official pension age is 66, but the average American retires at 64 and can then expect to live for another 16 years. Average spending on public pensions across the OECD is now the equivalent of more than 7% of GDP (they cost America just 0.2% back in 1935). In some countries the current figure could double by 2050, to say nothing of the cost of private pensions and extra spending on health and long-term care.
Grey and proud of it

Although the idea that “we are all getting older” is a truism, few governments, employers or individuals have yet come to terms with where longer retirement is heading: the end of the whole concept (see special report). Whether we like it or not, we are going back to the pre-Bismarckian world, where work had no formal stopping point. That reversion will not happen overnight, but preparations should start now—to ensure that when the inevitable happens it is a change for the better.

It should be for the better because it is being partly driven by a wonderful thing: people are living ever longer. Life expectancy has been rising by two or three years for every ten that pass, despite repeated forecasts that it was about to reach its limit. Centenarians used to be rarer than hens’ teeth; now America alone has 100,000 of them. By the end of this century the age of 100 may have become the new three score and ten.

This imminent greying of society is compounded by two other demographic shifts. First, in most rich countries women no longer have enough babies to keep up the numbers (a prospect that may please a lot of greens but not many governments); and the huge baby-boom generation, born after the second world war, has begun to retire. In 1950 the OECD countries had seven people aged 20-64 for every one of 65 and over. Now it is four to one—and on course to be two to one by 2050. That will ruin the pay-as-you-go state pension schemes that provide the bulk of retirement income in rich countries. Read on...
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White House to Abandon Spy-Satellite Program

White House to Abandon Spy-Satellite Program

(Source Wall Street Journal) WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration plans to kill a controversial Bush administration spy satellite program at the Department of Homeland Security, according to officials familiar with the decision.

The program came under fire from its inception two years ago. Democratic lawmakers said it would lead to domestic spying.
The program would have provided federal, state and local officials with extensive access to spy-satellite imagery — but no eavesdropping capabilities— to assist with emergency response and other domestic-security needs, such as identifying where ports or border areas are vulnerable to terrorism.

It would have expanded an Interior Department satellite program, which will continue to be used to assist in natural disasters and for other limited security purposes such as photographing sporting events. The Wall Street Journal first revealed the plans to establish the program, known as the National Applications Office, in 2007.

"It's being shut down," said a homeland security official.

The Bush administration had taken preliminary steps to launch the office, such as acquiring office space and beginning to hire staff.

The plans to shutter the office signal Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano's decision to refocus the department's intelligence on ensuring that state and local officials get the threat information they need, the official said. She also wants to make the department the central point in the government for receiving and analyzing terrorism tips from around the country, the official added. Read Article...
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Twitter Empowers the People, But Iran's Mullahs Using Technology Too

Twitter Empowers the People, But Iran's Mullahs Using Technology Too

Twitter, Facebook and other sites show the power of technology to express the voice of the people and tear down walls between closed and open societies.
On the other hand, technology is also enabling oppressive regimes like Iran to exert greater control over what citizens can and can't do online. "Deep-packet" technologies provided by Siemens and Nokia have given Iran "one of the world's most sophisticated mechanisms for controlling and censoring the Internet,"
Meanwhile, all PCs sold in China starting July 1 must have government-approved software called Green Dam Youth Escort. The software is ostensibly designed to block pornography but could potentially be used to censor political opposition and religious sites.

Call for Chinese web boycott against Green Dam 'censorship' filter

(Source Times Online)Chinese internet users have called for a one-day boycott of cyberspace in protest at a government plan to fit computers with a filter to censor sensitive information.
In a posting on Twitter today, the artist Ai Weiwei —an adviser on the design of the Bird’s Nest stadium built for the Beijing Olympics — appealed for a boycott on July . He wrote: "Stop any online activities, including working, reading, chatting, blogging, gaming and mailing. Don't explain your behaviour."
He hoped that the date, the anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party, could become a permanent memorial for lack of freedom on the internet in China.

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Monday, June 22, 2009

Newscaster, Once Mocked, Now Casts Mock News

Arts / Television
Newscaster, Once Mocked, Now Casts Mock News
By TIM ARANGO Published: June 22, 2009
Nearly eight years after leaving CNN, Bobbie Battista has resurfaced as an anchor for Onion News Network, the online video arm of The Onion, the satirical newspaper.

FDA Approves Depressant Drug For The Annoyingly Cheerful
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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Teargas fired on streets of Tehran

Teargas fired on streets of Tehran
(00:38) Rough Cut Reuters Video

Jun. 20 - Riot police try to disperse protesters in the Iranian capital, Tehran, as the protestors defy a ban on demonstrations.

Two separate posts on YouTube show protesters throwing stones and chanting. Witnesses said the protesters numbered 2,000 to 3,000, far fewer than the hundreds of thousands involved in earlier rallies.

EDITORS' NOTE: Reuters and other foreign media are subject to Iranian restrictions on their ability to report, film or take pictures in Tehran.

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Whitecoat strike in Tehran

Whitecoat strike in Tehran 1:02
Medical staff at Hezar-Takhtekhabi Hospital in Tehran go on strike against the kidnapping of injured patients. (CNN Video)

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Mousavi Calls for More Iran Protests as 10 Killed

Mousavi Calls for More Iran Protests as 10 Killed

June 21 (Bloomberg) -- At least 10 people were killed during clashes with Iranian police and defeated presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi called for further demonstrations in defiance of Iran’s supreme leader.

If Iranians “are not able to defend their rights in a civil, peaceful reaction, there will be dangerous ways ahead,” Mousavi, who claims officials rigged President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s June 12 re-election, said in a statement on his Web site.

Ten people were killed yesterday and more than 100 injured in rioting, state television reported today, quoting deputy chief of police Ahmadreza Radan. He said security forces did not use firearms and “terrorist groups” among the protesters were responsible for the casualties. CNN television, citing staff at a Tehran hospital, said 19 people were killed.

In a sign of widening divisions within the regime, Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani said a majority of Iranians contest the official results of the election, state-run Press TV reported on its Web site today, citing comments he made yesterday on Channel 2.

Iran’s Security Council and police yesterday warned Mousavi against holding rallies. The day before, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, supreme leader of the Persian Gulf nation of 73 million, ordered a halt to the demonstrations.

Hundreds of thousands of Iranians have opposed Ahmadinejad’s re-election in the largest demonstrations since the Islamic Revolution that ousted the shah in 1979. The protests and split within the ruling elite mark an unprecedented challenge to the authority of Khamenei, the successor of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, leader of the Islamic Revolution. Read more...
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Floating cities drift in from future

Floating cities drift in from future
(02:06) Report Reuters Video

Jun 15 - The low-lying Netherlands has become a laboratory for innovative architectural designs aimed at utilizing the one thing they have in abundance - water.
Rob Muir reports

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Saturday, June 20, 2009

THE INFLUENCE GAME: After 'cow tax' campaign, Congress and EPA steer clear of cattle burps

THE INFLUENCE GAME: Excuse me! Lobby wins on burps
THE INFLUENCE GAME: After 'cow tax' campaign, Congress and EPA steer clear of cattle burps

WASHINGTON (AP) -- One contributor to global warming -- bigger than coal mines, landfills and sewage treatment plants -- is being left out of efforts by the Obama administration and House Democrats to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

Cow burps.

Belching from the nation's 170 million cattle, sheep and pigs produces about one-quarter of the methane released in the U.S. each year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. That makes the hoofed critters the largest source of the heat-trapping gas.

In part because of an adept farm lobby campaign that equates government regulation with a cow tax, the gas that farm animals pass is exempt from legislation being considered by Congress to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

The EPA under President Barack Obama has said it has no plans to regulate the gas, even though the agency recently included methane among six greenhouse gases it believes are endangering human health and welfare.

The message circulating in Internet chat rooms, the halls of Congress and farm co-ops had America's farms facing financial ruin if the EPA required them to purchase air-pollution permits like power plants and factories do. The cost of those permits amounted to a cow tax, farm groups argued.

"It really has taken on a life of its own," said Rick Krause, a lobbyist with the American Farm Bureau Federation, which coined the term cow tax and spread it to farmers across the country. "This is something that people understand. All that we have to say is that (cows) are the next step with these proposed permit fees. And people are still talking about it."

Administration officials and House Democratic leaders have tried to assure farm groups that they have no intention of regulating cows. That effort, however, has done little to ease the concern of farmers and their advocates in Congress about the toll that regulating greenhouse gases will have on agriculture. Read Article... http://finance.yahoo.com/news/THE-INFLUENCE-GAME-Excuse-me-apf-2452272823.html?x=0&sec=topStories&pos=1&asset=&ccode=
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Performing Yoga in a novel location

Performing Yoga in a novel location
(00:51) Rough Cut Reuters Video

Jun. 20 - An Indian practitioner of Yoga in India has mastered the art of performing various Yogic postures while floating in water.

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The Centenary of the International Paris Air Show will be an unprecedented celebration for all air and space enthusiasts!

The Centenary of the International Paris Air Show will be an unprecedented celebration for all air and space enthusiasts!

(Source New York Times)The Paris Air Show, first held 100 years ago, is the world’s largest international trade fair for the aerospace industry. Officially called the Salon International de l’Aéronautique et de l’Espace, Paris-Le Bourget, the show takes place every two years at the field where Charles Lindbergh arrived after his historic Atlantic crossing.

Ever since it was first put on in the Grand Palais in 1909, six years after Orville and Wilbur Wright’s initial flight, the event has been a showcase of aerial technology. One highlight remains the aerial acrobatics that take place as planes as large as the double-decker Airbus A380 are put through their paces overhead.

Despite the layoffs, losses and plunging revenues in the industry, nearly 2,000 exhibitors signed on for the 2009 show (June 15-21) — major aircraft manufacturers like Airbus and Boeing, global military contractors like EADS and Lockheed Martin, and representatives of various countries, states and cities, international airports and makers of aircraft-related wares.

Special Report: Aviation
Bleak Times Set the Tone at Paris Air Show
( NYT Permalink)
By DANIEL SOLON Published: June 15, 2009
The 100th anniversary of the Paris Air Show comes against a backdrop of tragedy and economic stress, after a fatal Air France crash and forecasts of huge aviation industry losses.

The Paris Air Show: A Look Back (NYT Permalink)
Le Bourget Paris Air Show
Published: 20090614

Press Kit 2009: http://www.paris-air-show.com/Portals/1/PKjuin.pdf

NASA produced Paris Air Show Video

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