Monday, October 31, 2011

An appreciation for a man I'm not sure I liked

I read today that St. Louis Cardinals' manager Tony LaRussa has retired. He goes out on top -- with his Cardinals being the highly unexpected World Series champions.

ESPN reports that LaRussa made up his mind more than two months ago that he was not returning to the team.
La Russa said there wasn't a single factor that led to his decision, but he began having doubts about returning for 2012 midway through the season. In late August he told general manager John Mozeliak and other team officials.
La Russa said the timing of those discussions -- about the time the Cardinals appeared to be out of wild card contention before their miraculous run -- was pure coincidence. He said he simply felt it was time to go, a feeling that didn't change even as the Cardinals squeaked into the playoffs on the final day of the season, then upset the Phillies, Brewers and Rangers.
He spoke with little emotion at the news conference with one exception, when he paused to compose himself as he thanked his wife, Elaine, and two daughters for putting up without him over much of the past 33 years. But he did say his meeting with players after Sunday's parade and celebration was short but emotional.
LaRussa finishes his career third on the all-time managerial wins list, and having won three World Series titles. And the 2011 crown was as unexpected (by the experts) as any team since, perhaps, the 1988 Los Angeles Dodgers, who beat LaRussa's Oakland Athletics in five games.

I noted in the title of this post that it is supposed to be an appreciation for a man I'm not sure I liked. Allow me to explain.

As you might know, I covered sports in Los Angeles from the late 1980s through the mid-1990s before exiting the journalism industry for the first time in order to get my Master's degree. That period overlapped a good chunk of LaRussa's success in Oakland, where he won three straight American League championships from 1988 through 1990.

LaRussa's A's were, therefore, one that consistently drew media attention, and that attention ensured that my freelance opportunities when they visited southern California were plentiful. LaRussa was, in my opinion, somewhat arrogant. My sense then was that he had little time for the media, save for those few who covered the team on an everyday basis.

Needless to say, LaRussa was not someone I admired all that much. When he went to St. Louis, a team that wasn't a personal favorite, the respect meter didn't go up.

Of course, I eventually left the journalism industry and opted for a career in higher education. Therefore, whatever thoughts I had about LaRussa were irrelevant; like him or not, I didn't have to deal with him.

And then came the 2011 post-season. You would be correct in assuming I wanted the Cardinals to lose to the Philadelphia Phillies, the Milwaukee Brewers and the Texas Rangers. But something happened at some point in the playoffs.

No, I wasn't rooting for the Cardinals, but I found myself respecting, admiring and appreciating LaRussa's managerial talents in ways I had not before. And when the final out was recorded, and LaRussa ripped off his glasses before hugging one of his coaches, I smiled.

Yes, I was happy, genuinely happy, for him.

And so LaRussa goes out as only few people in professional sports can -- on top and on his terms. Good for him. May he enjoy decades of time with his wife and daughters, the people who have always been the most important in his life.

Mark Oct. 3, 16 and 22, 2012 on your calendars

Those will be the nights of the presidential debates for 2012.

The Los Angeles Times provides more details on today's announcement from the Commission on Presidential Debates.
The first of three televised debates will be on Oct. 3 at the University of Denver. A town hall meeting-style debate will be held on Oct. 16 at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y. The final meeting, at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla., will be on Oct. 22 -- just two weeks before Election Day on Nov. 6.

The vice presidential nominees will debate only once, on Oct. 11 at Centre College in Danville, Ky.

The non-profit Commission, which has organized the debates since 1987, has also set criteria for participation. A candidate must appear on enough state ballots to mathematically be able to reach the 270 electoral votes required to win, and also poll at at least 15% of the national electorate in five major public polls.

The full format for each debate, along with the moderators, will be announced in 2012.

"Never have I ever committed any kind of sexual harassment."

Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain has offered a forceful defense to a Politico report suggesting he sexual harassed two women while he was president of the National Restaurant Association.

Politico sent the following news alert at 11:36 a.m. EDT:
Herman Cain said he was "falsely accused" of sexual harassment while he was CEO of the National Restaurant Association but said he had no knowledge of any settlements paid to his accusers during a Fox News interview Monday morning.

"It is totally baseless and totally false," Cain said. "Never have I ever committed any kind of sexual harassment."

He added: "If the restaurant association did a settlement, I wasn't even aware of it and I hope it wasn't for much. If there was a settlement, it was handled by some of the other officers at the restaurant association."
The Politico report and how it was put together was evaluated late last night on this blog. Before Mr. Cain's strong denial, the Washington Post examined how the allegations could affect his presidential campaign.
The question for Cain now is not whether this story hurts him (it does), but how badly he is damaged by it and whether his presidential campaign, which was already showing signs of losing the rocket-like momentum he had built over the past month, can sustain.
“The story has been floating around for a long time, but [I] don’t know any of the details,” said Sal Russo, a California-based Republican consultant with close ties to the tea party movement. “I have heard it both ways about whether it was anything egregious. So (we) have to wait and see.”
While the first reaction from the Cain campaign isn’t a bad strategic move — try to turn the story into the latest episode of the mainstream media having it out for a conservative — the detailed nature of the Politico article will make it tough for him to simply stand by that first statement.
At some point — and that point is likely very soon — Cain is going to have to issue a public accounting that makes clear to reasonable people that these allegations were spurious and without merit. In the absence of such proof, rhetoric alone is very unlikely to save him from a flurry of questions asking for more information about the allegation. And the fewer answers he has, the more questions will get asked.
For now, Mr. Cain has offered that firm defense. However, I doubt we've read/heard/seen the last of the story. Inevitably another news organization will attempt to uncover more details of the allegations or seek to identify other women who claim to have been harassed by Mr. Cain.

Of bigger concern to other people will be how Mr. Cain's presidential bid is coming together. The New York Times reported late last week that various former campaign members indicate that disarray is a chronic problem. Mind you, these are former campaign members; as such, they could be speaking truthfully or embellishing to further any number of agendas.

Of equal importance is a story from the Washington Post, which suggests he is unpopular among female voters.
In four early primary states, according to recent CNN polls,Romney significantly outperformed Cain with female Republicans in every contest save South Carolina. In Iowa, where the two contenders are statistically tied, Romney took 28 percent of female voters and Cain got 17.
These issues are, in my opinion, more important than a near 20-year-old sexual harassment case, unless the sexual harassment identified by Politico is the top of a larger character iceberg that has yet to be uncovered. 

France décidera du sort de l'Euro

France will decide the fate of the Euro.

That's my opinion, you ask? No. Instead that's part of the headline to a TIME magazine article that examines the crucial role France will play in determining how the Euro and financial crisis plays out.
Ultimately, however, the question of the Euro and the European financial system comes to rest with France. The whole process of containing the problems of weak European economies depends on there being enough financially strong countries to pay for the bailouts. And equally important, there has to be a widely held belief in common European interests. France is essential to both those things.
It’s increasingly clear that Europe is developing into two economic blocs with diverging destinies. On one side is Germany and some smaller countries – such as the Netherlands, Austria and Finland – that have similarly strong economies. On the other side are Greece, Spain, Italy and all the other countries facing severe debt problems.
The wealthier countries see less and less reason to keep paying for bailouts. Most have growing right-wing movements opposed to subsidizing the poorer countries in the Euro currency zone. And even among more mainstream political parties in Germany, Austria, the Netherlands and Finland, there is skepticism about the Euro. What keeps them engaged is the perception that there is a broad European constituency for the common currency. And that broad constituency is largely built around the partnership between France and Germany on which the entire European Union was founded.
The BBC adds that French president Nicolas Sarkozy is one of many people tamping down the excitement that immediately followed last week's bailout deal for Greece. 
Perhaps the most revealing insight into the challenge that Europe faces was provided by President Sarkozy in a TV interview when he got back to France. He spoke candidly, telling the French people that "we have entered a new world". France, he implied, had to become more like Germany.
"We spend too much and we must work more," he said. The French social model could only be defended if tough measures were adopted. I recall the strikes and disruption when the French retirement age was increased from 60 to 62. Will France be ready for this new world?
But perhaps the most profound legacy of the summit is that the EU is dividing into two camps: those in the eurozone and those outside.
The Greek bailout and the larger issue of the Euro (not to mention the European Union) will be front and center when the G-20 leaders gather later this week in Cannes. Business Week takes a look at how those conversations might go.
The G-20 leaders convene Nov. 3-4 in Cannes, France, a week after euro-area authorities pledged to magnify the capacity of their rescue fund to 1 trillion euros ($1.4 trillion) and look beyond their borders for help in doing so as they combat the debt turmoil posing the biggest threat to global growth.
While the help of China and cooperation of the International Monetary Fund were immediately sought, pledges of hard cash are proving hard to come by as G-20 members press for more details of the plan. In an indication Europe may eventually prevail, Brazilian and Russian officials said their governments may be willing to provide assistance.
“Unless European leaders can flesh out some of these details very quickly, it’s hard to see the rest of the G-20 coming on board with very great enthusiasm,” said Eswar Prasad, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington and a former IMF economist.
And let's not forget that looming over whatever policies President Sarkozy advances is the recognition that he is trailing in the polls and facing a tough uphill battle as he seeks re-election in just six months. 

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Herman Cain and sexual harassment? (2x UPDATED)

2nd UPDATE: 11:08 p.m. EDT: Let's continue to examine the Politico report (and I apologize for the delay in getting such responses tonight; the computer I principally use at home was running slowly and periodically dropping its Internet signal. I am now on another computer.), asking whether almost 20-year-old allegations of sexual harassment qualify as news.

Let's be honest before we say anything more: If Mr. Cain were a low-in-the-polls Republican presidential candidate, then no news organization would be taking the time to investigate his personal life. Instead, he's at or near the top of almost every poll, and that ensures scrutiny that will not follow the second- or third-tier candidates.

And that gets us closer to the crux of this issue: Should the public care about such a story? Unless I am mistaken, Mr. Cain has never discussed himself in terms of perfect, holier-than-thou or otherwise the ideal man. Thus, there is no Gary Hart moment here; Mr. Cain did not challenge the media to find out something dirty about him.

In the media environment in which Politico operates, the necessity to at times skate on that fine edge of tabloid-esque cheap entertainment is there. Such stories generate eyeballs and public interest. Nevertheless, I'm not comfortable using the "well, if we didn't get this story, one of our competitors would have" defense. To me, that's akin to the question children are often asked: "Well, if your friends jump off the bridge and into the river, are you going to do it, too?"

A strong assumption also can be made here that someone (or more than one person) who dislikes Mr. Cain is attempting to play "gotcha." The possible reasons why could number into the dozens, but for our purposes let's say that if "gotcha" is indeed happening, then we have yet another reason to question how much of a story this really is.

I suggested in my original post, and I stand by these words, that Mr. Cain will continue to be dogged by the media about this issue. (Let's set aside whether he should; we already know that answer.) He will have to make a full and complete statement about it, and that likely will have to happen soon.

However, the limited amount of information in the Politico report also should put the onus on the news organization to more fully explain how the story developed, how its information was generated and whether it believes it is being fair to Mr. Cain.

I accept what someone reading this is thinking -- Politico doesn't have to defend itself; it is reporting a "true" story. That's true, but that's not good enough.

1st UPDATE: 10:49 p.m. EDT: Is Politico's approach to its report about Mr. Cain and the allegations of sexual harassment ethical? Al Tompkins from Poynter sends the following tweet: re Cain: Is it fair to report allegations of two women when you don't name them, no charges filed? Can he fight that?

At the same time, as the Washington Examiner reports, the Cain campaign is attacking Politico.
Calling the story "thinly source allegations," Cain spokesman J.D. Gordon said: "Since Washington establishment critics haven't had much luck in attacking Mr. Cain's ideas to fix a bad economy and create jobs, they are trying to attack him in any way they can."  Gordon did not address any of the specific allegations in the report.  Asked for a more specific answer, the campaign did not provide details.
Let's set aside the attack on Politico by the Cain campaign; such responses are expected and they tell us very little.

On the other hand, there is a legitimate question that should have been asked when this post was made -- is Politico being fair to Mr. Cain?

I've seen no report denying that Mr. Cain was the central figure in the scandal, if such a word can be used in this case. Nor is there any denial that something unpleasant didn't happen. However, if we assume that the women who made the claims were not one of the sources (and that's only a presumption at this point), then comes the tricky question: Who are the "multiple sources" that Politico used to generate this story?

The general practice in the journalism industry is to use anonymous sources in limited situations -- one of them being that the individual's personal safety or professional status could be compromised. Based on the language in the Politico report (you can access it below in the ORIGINAL POST), it is apparent that the authors wanted to protect the identities of their sources, going as far in many cases of not hinting at their gender.

In such situations, the reporter must present the information to his or her boss with an explanation as to why the source's name cannot be used. The supervisor typically will verify the information and then involve others -- including the news agency's attorneys -- in making the final decision about allowing the sources to go unnamed.

What's peculiar is that no one's safety or job status would appear to be under threat here -- whatever took place did so more than 15 years ago, and none of the principal players involved are necessarily denying it.

Moreover, the confidentiality agreement (or whatever it was called at the time)  precludes the women from discussing it. Keep in mind that the women are not being asked to violate that contract stipulation because Mr. Cain is accused of some deeper, darker crime. In fact, he's not accused of anything -- except for sexually harassing two women in the mid-1990s.

What I'm building here is a scenario that suggests the anonymity of everyone involved can be justifiably questioned.

ORIGINAL POST: Politico is reporting tonight that two women left the National Restaurant Association during Herman Cain's tenure there after accusing him of sexual harassment.
During Herman Cain’s tenure as the head of the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s, at least two female employees complained to colleagues and senior association officials about inappropriate behavior by Cain, ultimately leaving their jobs at the trade group, multiple sources confirm to POLITICO.
The women complained of sexually suggestive behavior by Cain that made them angry and uncomfortable, the sources said, and they signed agreements with the restaurant group that gave them financial payouts to leave the association. The agreements also included language that bars the women from talking about their departures.
In a series of comments over the past 10 days, Cain and his campaign repeatedly declined to respond directly about whether he ever faced allegations of sexual harassment at the restaurant association. They have also declined to address questions about specific reporting confirming that there were financial settlements in two cases in which women leveled complaints.
POLITICO has confirmed the identities of the two female restaurant association employees who complained about Cain but, for privacy concerns, is not publishing their names.
Mr. Cain will be dogged by the content of the Politico report. At some point he will have to address the issue of sexual harassment fully and carefully. Considering that he is right now that he is at or close to the top in many polls, he cannot hide. 

Crunch time in the CFL

With just one week left in the 2011 Canadian Football League season, five of the league's eight teams have the same record, the playoff picture is a jumble, the bottom-feeders aren't going down without a fight and all four games this week are critical.

So, buckle up and get ready for an exciting finish to the regular season.

Here are this week's power rankings (with last week's ranking in parentheses):

  1. British Columbia (3), 10-7. They're back! On top of the power rankings, that is. Nine wins over their past 10 games plus ownership of all tiebreakers have the Lions in line to win the west. Week 19 vs Montreal.
  2. Edmonton (1), 10-7. Yes, they lost to the Lions, but the Esks still have a chance to be division champs or to host a divisional semifinal. Week 19 vs Saskatchewan.
  3. Calgary (5), 10-7. That's two wins in two starts for quarterback Drew Tate. Week 19 vs Winnipeg.
  4. Montreal (4), 10-7. That's two losses in a row for the Alouettes, who do not own the tiebreaker against Winnipeg in the battle for eastern supremacy. Week 19 at British Columbia.
  5. Winnipeg (2), 10-7. You cannot, cannot, cannot lose a home game late in the season to a bad team. The Blue Bombers also have dropped four of their last six games. Week 19 at Calgary.
  6. Toronto (7), 5-12. It probably comes too late to save Jim Barker's job but give the Argos credit for winning and playing hard down the stretch. Week 19 vs Hamilton.
  7. Hamilton (6), 8-9. The TiCats had one of the most dismal performances this season of any CFL team in a loss at Saskatchewan. Momentum heading into the playoffs? Forget it. Week 19 at Toronto.
  8. Saskatchewan (8), 5-12. They didn't roll over against Hamilton. Will they against Edmonton? Week 19 at Edmonton.

Alright, that's it!

I've finally come to see that the polarizing people on the left and the right are correct.

No, America doesn't need any moderate voices. We need strong, determined and conviction-laden people who can out-shout, out-yell, out-pander and out-smart the other side.

To move America forward, you need to guarantee your and your organization's continuous presence on FOX or MSNBC, and you can only do that by being LOUD, OBNOXIOUS and WILLING TO DEMEAN SOMEONE ELSE!

Bring it on! I'm ready!

You win only by ensuring that you never offer the slightest hint of bring weak, and you definitely never win by being open-minded.

I can be that person!

Moving forward, therefore, I must choose one side or the other in this battle of wills and intelligence. I cannot succumb to any thoughts that the other side has any good ideas. I can then use my blog to be snarky toward the other side (hey, there are nothing by idiots on that side!).

If you have the courage to call someone a weak-kneed, wimpy liberal who is committed to destroying American values, then I either stand up and yell "rock on!" or inject one of those snarky comments. I might even yell something like "get the hell out of your tent and go get a job!"

If you have the guts to call someone a racist, radical conservative who is ready to kill the poor at a moment's notice, then I either stand up and yell "rock on!" or inject one of those snarky comments. I might even yell something like "you Tea Party racist swine!"

I feel so liberated now that I seen the light.

"Readings" can differ

An interesting story in the Los Angeles Times that examines the notoriously dirty air in Beijing.
Perched atop the U.S. Embassy in Beijing is a device about the size of a microwave oven that spits out hourly rebukes to the Chinese government.

It is a machine that
monitors fine particulate matter, one of the most dangerous components of air pollution, and instantly posts the results to Twitter and a dedicated iPhone application, where it is frequently picked up by Chinese bloggers.

One day this month, the reading was so high compared with the standards set by the
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that it was listed as "beyond index." In other words, it had soared right off the chart.

"You couldn't get such a high level in the United States unless you were downwind from a forest fire," said Dane Westerdahl, an air quality expert from
Cornell University.

China's own assessment that day, Oct. 9, was that Beijing's air was merely "slightly polluted."
The Chinese government has made strides in tackling air pollution, and, as the Guardian noted earlier this month, it is making a special effort to get at the worst pollutants
Tiny particulate matter known as PM2.5 – which is linked to lung disease, heart attacks and atmospheric haze – will be added to a list of air quality indicators in an upcoming revision of national standards, the Chinese media reported on Monday.
These ultra-fine particles account for more than half the weight of industrial dust in the air of northern China, according to the Jinhua Daily. Until now, their absence from the national pollution index created an absurd discrepancy between official claims of "blue sky" conditions and the reality of air so putrid and murky it could be tasted.
"At present, the public's feelings about air quality are different from the monitoring data," environment vice-minister Zhou Jian acknowledged during a speech at a recent forum. "To prevent haze, we will improve the air quality standards as soon as possible and include PM2.5."
The weather in parts of China today is not conducive to good air, state-run Xinhua has reported

Is the Republican race down to two men?

With no other Republican expected to jump into the presidential race, the focus on the current candidates is beginning to sharpen.

And right now -- less then 70 days before the Iowa caucuses -- it's a two-man race. At least that's what the latest Des Moines Register poll suggests is true in Iowa.
Herman Cain and Mitt Romney are the twin towers of the new Iowa Poll of likely Republican caucusgoers, with the Georgia businessman at 23 percent and the former Massachusetts governor at 22 percent.
Cain has surged since the last Iowa Poll in June, when he was at 10 points.  Romney, on the other hand, has held steady — a rather remarkable feat, since he’s campaigned in Iowa only three days this year. Cain for that matter has been back in the Hawkeye State just once since the mid-August Iowa Straw Poll.
One week later, the New Hampshire primary takes place; and in that state, Mr. Cain and Mr. Romney are again well ahead of field, though it is more precise to say that Mr. Romney is far out in front in that state.

Mr. Cain's steady rise in the preference polls and Mr. Romney's consistently strong showing over the past few months poses challenges for the other contenders. Yes, Texas governor Rick Perry continues to rake in impressive amounts of money, but his popularity is heading in the wrong direction.

Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann is on the same slippery slope, and the Christian Science Monitor reports some influential Tea Party activists are calling for her to end her presidential campaign.
She’s fallen to 3.8 percent in national polls of prospective GOP voters, according to the RealClearPolitics rolling average. That puts her dangerously close to the Santorum Line – the 2 percent threshold, from which a campaign teeters over the abyss.
She’s no longer doing well in Iowa, either, which for her might be even worse news than her national numbers. Her flavor-of-the-month period began after her win in the Ames straw poll. She was born in Iowa, comes from a nearby state, and has made Iowa the strategic focus of her campaign. But at the moment she’s in sixth place in Iowa, too, with only about 7 percent of the potential Iowa caucus vote.
But is she hurting the tea party as a whole? There’s no evidence of that at all.
The rest of the Republican field right now is simply hurting, and there is little evidence to suggest that any of them -- Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum or Jon Huntsman -- can craft a message that will turn around their fortunes.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

More than two-dozen miners dead in China

In another bitter reminder of the incredible danger associated with working in mines, at least 28 miners are dead in China.

Reuters reports an explosion in the mine is the cause of the tragedy.
A blast at a coal mine in southern China has killed 28 people, state news agency Xinhua said Sunday, in the latest disaster to hit the accident-prone industry.

The gas explosion happened Saturday afternoon at the Xialiuchong colliery in Hunan province's Hengyang, the report said.
One miner remains trapped, it added, without providing further details.
The Associated Press suggests that the death toll is 29.

A few days ago, China Daily reported that U.S. energy companies were closing in on deals with China that would, among other things, improve the safety of that nation's mines.
A delegation of US-based energy companies, including Peabody Energy Corp, Kress Corp, Jupiter Oxygen Corp and Caterpillar Global Mining Greater China and Korea, a division of Caterpillar Inc, led by US Commerce Department officials, came to China in late October to seek partnerships with Chinese businesses.
"US companies on this trade mission represent some of the latest and most innovative technologies in the coal mining sector," said Suresh Kumar, assistant commerce secretary for trade promotion and director-general of the US Foreign Commercial Service, at the International Coal Summit 2011 on Thursday in Beijing.
"The best selling is not only about the products" but also the needs of customers, said Kumar. "Safety equipment is what the Chinese mining industry needs, and the US has the best safety record in the sector."
Prior to the latest accident, more than 1,400 miners had died in China this year. As startling as that figure is, it's down more than 25 percent from the comparable period in 2010.

Samsung is better than Apple!

At least, when it comes to selling smartphones, that is.

As the Global Post reports, Samsung's phones are outpacing Apple's among the public.
The Korean company passed both Apple and Nokia in sheer number of shipments, up 44 percent from last quarter, and four times as many sales as last year, according to Reuters. Samsung's smartphone lines make up for 60 percent of the company's profit.
In comparison, Apple sold 17.1 million iPhones and Nokia Corp. -- still the world's leader in mobile phone sales -- shipped out 16.8 million smartphones, reports News 24.
According to the Times of India, analysts say these numbers do not reflect Apple losing its edge, since the iPhone 4S arrived after the end of the third quarter, and many people waited to buy their iPhones until the new model's release earlier this month. Apple reported selling more than 4 million new iPhones in its first weekend, but those numbers are not reflected this quarter.
Examining the aforementioned Reuters' story a bit more closely, Samsung's ascendancy to the top of the sales charts is impressive.

Samsung (005930.KS) only entered the smartphone market in earnest last year, but its sales have skyrocketed thanks to a sleek production system that rapidly brings new products to market. Apple (AAPL.O) introduced its first iPhone in 2007.

"In the handset division, Samsung has no real rival models to challenge its products except for the iPhone 4S. Apple and Samsung will continue to dominate the market in the fourth quarter," said Kim Hyun-joong, a fund manager at Midas Asset Management, which owns Samsung shares.
Meanwhile, The Australian notes that the lawsuit involving Samsung and Apple is stuck in neutral because both sides are hesitant to come forward with information.

Hey, let's have a conversation, shall we?

So, let's see if I have this correct: To the right, the Occupy Movement is made up of a bunch of liberal, lazy and idiotic people. To the left, the Tea Party is made up of a bunch of hate-filled possible racists determined to kill the poor. 
Let's see what kind of dialogue is possible from that. 
I don't care what you think of the Occupy Movement or the Tea Party. Your opinion is yours, and I'm not going to persuade you to change your mind. However, I am going to remind you that if you fall into either of the camps mentioned above, then you are committed to weaken the democratic system in this country.
Demean those people and groups you don't like with caution.

Essayer de voler, Air France? Il pourrait être difficile.

Trying to fly Air France? It might be tough.

AFP reports that up to 20 percent of all Air France flights will not happen beginning on Sunday. The reason? An employee strike.
Air France cancelled 20 percent of its scheduled flights Saturday due to a strike by cabin crew expected to last five days, including a major national holiday.
Some 200 out of 1,000 scheduled flights were cancelled, a company spokeswoman told AFP, after two of three unions representing flight attendants called the action to protest plans to reduce the number of crew on each flight.
In a statement published on its website, Air France said that "its customers are being held hostage by a five-day strike for which there is no reason."
Granted, Air France is trying to gain public-relations leverage, but the use of the term "hostage" is, in my opinion, a poor one. That strategy needs to be reconsidered.

RFI notes that the timing of the strike is not accidental.
The strike, which comes during a two-week school holiday when many families take a break, is scheduled to start on Saturday 29 October and last until Wednesday 2 November.
Perhaps Air France ought to consider tapping into the anger that French citizens who are losing their vacation plans are feeling at this point. 

China is developing a faster, more powerful computer, and... is doing it with technology it is creating at home. (And you can hear the China bashers and the corresponding fear-mongers screaming at the top of their lungs.)

The New York Times reports that the new computer left Western experts impressed.
China has made its first supercomputer based on Chinese microprocessor chips, an advance that surprised high-performance computing specialists in the United States. 
The announcement was made this week at a technical meeting held in Jinan, China, organized by industry and government organizations. The new machine, the Sunway BlueLight MPP, was installed in September at the National Supercomputer Center in Jinan, the capital of Shandong Province in eastern China.
The Sunway system, which can perform about 1,000 trillion calculations per second — a petaflop — will probably rank among the 20 fastest computers in the world. More significantly, it is composed of 8,700 ShenWei SW1600 microprocessors, designed at a Chinese computer institute and manufactured in Shanghai. takes a closer look at what the computer appears capable of doing.
The computer is power-efficient, consuming a megawatt of power when running, compared to seven megawatts for the US's fastest computer, Jaguar, which is capable of 1.7 petaflops. This is partly due to an advanced water cooling system.

Official details are scarce, though slides surfaced on Chinese IT news site which gave more detail and were translated by Hung-Sheng Tsao, founder of HopBit GridComputing,
on his blog.

According to the slides, which appear to be from a presentation describing the computer's capabilities, the ShenWei Sunway BlueLight MPP has 150TB of main storage and 2PB of external storage. Each ShenWei SW1600 processor is 64-bit, has 16-cores and is RISC-based.
From the timing is everything department, the announcement of the super-computer comes as Beijing hosts a two-day computer conference.

As mentioned above, the bashers and fear-mongers who relish ripping China at every turn are sure to jump on this latest news to bolster their contention that China will stop at nothing in its effort at world domination. Spare me the rhetoric. 

Reflections on the 2011 Major League Baseball season

What follows in no particular order are reflections from the 2011 Major League Baseball season, or a hint as to what next season might bring.

1. The Cardinals are left for dead in August; they hoist the World Championship trophy in October

2. The Rangers came so very close to winning a championship; one is left to wonder if they can recover to make another title run in 2012.

3. The Phillies have taken a step backward for three consecutive seasons (lost World Series in 2009; lost National League Championship Series in 2010; lost in divisional round of playoffs in 2011) and that leaves some interesting questions for 2012.

4.  The Tigers' Justin Verlander is capable of throwing a no-hitter every time he takes the mound; right now, he is the best pitcher in baseball.

5. The Braves look young and hungry, but they've not learned how to win.

6. The Red Sox' collapse was brought about by injuries and egos, but the tried and true philosophy of blaming the manager nevertheless happened.

7. If Prince Fielder has played his final season in Milwaukee, he did all he could to get his team to the World Series.

8. Baseball is still not relevant in Baltimore.

9. Dysfunctional describes the Mets' front office.

10. If there is a team capable of challenging the Tigers for the top spot in the American League Central, then it resides in Cleveland.

11. Double dysfunctional describes the owner of the Dodgers.

12. The Mariners might not be chartering the waters of the American League West's basement for long.

13. The Pirates offered glimmers of hope for four months.

14. The Blue Jays might be ready to make a move in the American League East.

15. The Cubs are close to rock bottom, but there is hope because of the division in which they play.

16. The Yankees will buy, buy, buy until they get that championship.

17. The "Lastros' could be there for a few years.

18. The Angels are prepared to take advantage of any slippage shown by Texas.

19. The Giants rely too much on their pitching.

20. The Royals remain a "wait-till-next-year" club.

21. The Marlins head into a new home with more questions than answers.

22. The Athletics are synonymous with anonymous.

23. The Reds look ready to move up...or down.

24. The Twins bottomed out; the climb back will not be quick or easy.

25. The Padres are the National League version of the Athletics.

26. The Rays appear to be living on borrowed time; playing in the worst stadium in the majors doesn't help.

27. The Rockies are likely to make noise in 2012.

28. The White Sox will be boring in 2012, and that's good.

29. The Nationals' front office continues to be aggressive; doubts remain as to whether it has a plan.

30. The Diamondbacks could use another veteran presence.

Friday, October 28, 2011

When will the NBA season begin?

The answer: It will definitely not start before Dec. 1.

NBA commissioner David Stern announced tonight (U.S. EDT) that the lockout continues and that all games through Nov. 30 are canceled. He added that the standard 82-game season will not happen.

The league and the players appeared to make some progress over the past couple days, but once the conversation turned to the principal stumbling block -- the shared percentage of basketball-related income (BRI) -- the talks broke off.

At the risk of oversimplifying the arguments, the players insist that they receive 52.5 percent of BRI, and the league appears to refuse to go higher than a 50-50 split.

As I understand it, the 2.5 percent gap equals $200-million per year for the players.

You are welcomed to blame one side or the other, or you can scoff at what is taking place because you are not a fan of professional basketball. But that misses an important element.

Keep in mind that every home game that is played involves people who make a few dollars (and that is not a sarcastic term) as ticket takers, ushers, concession-stand operators and more. Those hard-working people don't have the luxury of an escrow account (such as the players do) or deep pockets (as the owners do).

Yes, I realize that other events take place in these arenas. That still misses the point. Let's assume that each basketball team loses 5 home games in November and that every one of the aforementioned people are paid $100 each night. They suddenly are out $500 by the end of November.

Go ahead and cut $500 from your take-home take. See how you react.

And spare me the insensitive comments that "well, they should find better jobs" or that "I'm supposed to care about them, why?"

I'm a journalist...and I participate in a rally...can I get canned?

Short answer: yup.

Check out what happened to one such journalist who personally got involved in the Occupy Wall Street protests.

Smooth talk doesn't change the reality -- a journalist does not inject himself or herself into an on-going story. I could care less if this woman was on her own time, blowing off steam or simply interested in protesting. You cannot do that and also consider yourself an impartial observer to what is taking place.

Indeed, as she suggests in her essay, there is a valuable lesson here.

Le président Nicolas Sarkozy commence à parler comme un homme qui courait à la réélection

President Nicolas Sarkozy is beginning to talk like a man running for re-election.

And he does so knowing he has some catching up to do in the polls.

As the New York Times reports, Mr. Sarkozy used a television interview in France to offer a not-so-subtle hint that his nation cannot afford a Socialist-led government.
“If we want to defend the French social model,” Mr. Sarkozy said, striking an almost fatherly tone, “we will need to take the necessary measures.”
Six months before a re-election campaign that has yet to formally begin, Mr. Sarkozy — his popularity at an all-time low — painted a pessimistic tableau of slowing economic growth and deeper spending cuts aimed at shoring up France’s credibility with financial markets. And while he did not directly take aim at his main Socialist opponent, François Hollande, he dismissed popular keystones of past Socialist governments, including the 35-hour work week and retirement at age 60, as untenable vestiges of a pre-crisis era that would only complicate France’s efforts to revive economic growth.
“We will have to revise and adapt our budget plan to the new reality,” Mr. Sarkozy told an estimated 12 million viewers as he revealed that his government had lowered its forecast for gross domestic product growth next year to 1 percent from a previous outlook of 1.75 percent. To compensate for an anticipated decline in 2012 tax revenues, he said he would announce a program of budget cuts of between €6 billion, or $8.5 billion, and €8 billion by mid-November.
France 24 notes that not surprisingly the French media reacted to the president's remarks in predictable ways. And as RFI reports, Mr. Sarkozy reminded his audience that without the Euro debt deal that was hammered out earlier this week, France would have found itself in that same economic vise.
With an opinion poll last week showing him at 36 per cent compared to Socialist presidential candidate François Hollande’s 64 per cent, Sarkozy tried to grab a little glory from Thursday’s eurozone deal.
"If the euro had exploded last night, all of Europe would have exploded," he said. “If Greece had defaulted, there would have been a domino effect carrying everyone away. If there had not been an agreement last night, it was not just Europe that would have sunk into catastrophe, it was the whole world."
Mr. Hollande also went on television, and he quickly dismissed most of what Mr. Sarkozy said.

Let's Go the Big 12!

West Virginia University is leaving the Big East and joining the Big 12.

ESPN takes a look at what the decision means for both conferences.
"This move by West Virginia does not come as a surprise," Big East commissioner John Marinatto said in a statement Friday. "League officials, members of our conference and the candidate schools to whom we have been talking were aware of this possibility. We have taken West Virginia's possible departure into account as we have moved forward with our own realignment plans."
Marinatto also said Friday that West Virginia is aware that the conference will enforce the 27-month notification period to leave the Big East -- the same rule applied to Pittsburgh and Syracuse, who have agreed to join the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The Big 12, however, seems to think West Virginia will come to the conference sooner than 27 months.
In a news release Friday announcing the addition of West Virginia, the Big 12 said that "beginning with the 2012-13 season it is expected that the Big 12 will be comprised of 10 universities -- Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, TCU, Texas, Texas Tech and West Virginia." Missouri was not included in the release.
ACC commissioner John Swofford told's Andy Katz that the ACC was ready to take Pitt and Syracuse as soon as the two could join the conference.
The Sporting News suggests there is a more important issue for the Big East to consider -- its future -- rather than demanding the three "we're-outta-here" schools stay for 27 months.
...the Big East has never been this desperate. Houston, Central Florida, SMU, Air Force, Navy, and anyone else the Big East might collaborate with in the coming days—not a lot of Q rating there. Certainly, not a lot of shared tradition.
The Big East continues to walk a line between catering to potential members and ignoring its current membership, and that could be dangerous.
Louisville AD Tom Jurich openly admitted to that his school had “a lot of interaction” with the Big 12 and that West Virginia “won” what for now appears to have been that conference’s only available spot. Does that sound like an AD who’s happily marching into the future with the Big East?
Meanwhile, Jurich’s iconic basketball coach, Rick Pitino, singled out one of Louisville’s league mates in surprisingly frank, and not exactly flattering, terms. Pitino told ESPN that he’d had a one-on-one discussion with Marinatto and told him “the only school that would leave now if it could is Connecticut. They want to go to the ACC. So plan for that.”
Already sarcastically referred to in many quarters as "The Big Least", the Big East might also be dubbed "The Biggest Loser" in the reshaped college athletics landscape. Keeping Syracuse, Pittsburgh and West Virginia because of a contractual obligation is not a sound strategy.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A third-party presidential candidate in 2012?

You might not have heard about Americans Elect, but there's a chance that during next year's presidential race that you will.

The Los Angeles Times notes that if recent history is a guide, then President Obama might not like American Elect involvement next year.
Until now, handicapping for next year's presidential election has focused on how President Obama might fare in a two-candidate race. Could Obama beat Mitt Romney? Rick Perry? Herman Cain? (In all three cases, the answer is probably yes.)

But there's likely to also be a wild card in this election. Americans Elect, a well-funded "virtual third party," plans to put a centrist presidential candidate on the ballot in all 50 states, and while he or she is unlikely to win the presidential election, the presence of a third candidate could still have a major impact on the outcome.

Americans Elect is a collection of
Republicans, Democrats and independents who say they're fed up with the polarization that has poisoned American politics. Some of its backers have previously contributed to Obama, Romney or other candidates. Several are fans of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has flirted with the idea of running as a third-party centrist. The group's central figure is Peter Ackerman, a wealthy investor and former banker who considers himself an independent and who was active four years ago in a similar effort called Unity08.
You can learn more about Americans Elect on its Website.

ABC News also takes a look at what Americans Elect hopes to do during the presidential nomination and election process.
“We are creating competition for all these folks who are politically homeless,” said Elliot Ackerman, Americans Elect’s chief operating officer. “A lot of the folks that engage with us are socially liberal and fiscally conservative, and those people don’t really have a voice in our political system right now. What we’re doing is really creating an incentive structure so that those individuals will be competed for.”
So far, the group has secured a spot on the ballot in six states, has collected the required number of signatures in four states and has about half the necessary signatures in four other states. Americans Elect spokeswoman Ileana Wachtel said the group  would  begin the petition process in seven more states within the week.
In California, organizers collected and submitted 1.6 million signatures last week, more than have been collected for any one initiative in the state’s history. California has until Nov. 2 to verify those signatures and grant or deny Americans Elect a third-party spot on the ballot.
Ackerman insisted his group is not a “third party” but a ”second way” to nominate a president. Any registered voter can sign up online to be a delegate. Delegates will then draft candidates and vote for their nominee in May and June.
The eventual nominee can be a member of either party or an independent but must chose a vice presidential running mate who is from a different party. Ackerman said he expected many of the losing GOP presidential candidates to move into the Americans Elect primary process after Republicans chose their nominee.
There is sure to be a curiosity about Americans Elect, especially if it continues to draw media attention and to have more and more people join the movement. (And movement might not be the best term at this point.) But ultimately, just like the current "Occupy" movement, it will need to demonstrate that it can generate action and results.

For now, Americans Elect has potential. But it will need to become more.

I wonder what Jerry Jones thinks about this

If the Texas Rangers win tonight (or tomorrow night), then the Dallas Cowboys will be the Dallas-based team that has gone the longest since winning a major sports championship. 
It would be the Rangers (2011), the Mavericks (2011), the Stars (1999) and the Cowboys (1996).
Y'all have a good day, ya' hear.

Another basketball coach, another debilitating diagnosis

Pardon my bluntness, but crap.

Texas A&M announced tonight that its men's basketball coach, Billy Kennedy, is taking a leave of absence from the team. ESPN reports he's been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.
Kennedy said he had been experiencing neck and shoulder pain for several months, affecting his ability to sleep and leading to exhaustion. He took a leave of absence earlier this month to restore his strength and determine the cause of the problem.
Kennedy becomes the second major-college basketball coach to be diagnosed with a debilitating disease in two months. In August, the women's basketball coach at Tennessee, Pat Summitt, announced she was fighting early onset dementia.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram notes that Kennedy's illness comes just five months after he left Murray State to become Texas A&M's coach.

In case you are wondering as to why I offered the reaction I did at the beginning of this post, no, I don't know Coach Kennedy. But it saddens whenever medical situations prevent coaches, players or the common man or woman from doing what they love to do.

I wish Mr. Kennedy well. I trust you do, as well.

Looking to use social media in China?

Well, it appears that will be more difficult to do. Reuters takes a look at a new policy established by the Chinese government.

Communiques from the Communist Party's Central Committee, which held an annual meeting that ended last week, set the broad direction for policy.

This one made clear that leaders are looking for ways to better control, but not snuff out, the microblog services that have become popular channels for spreading news and opinion that can unsettle the government.

"Strengthen guidance and administration of social Internet services and instant communications tools, and regulate the orderly dissemination of information," said the communique, which made no reference to microblogs as such.

"Apply the law to sternly punish the dissemination of harmful information," added the document. It did not give details of what form firmer regulation may take.

The announcement from the Party meeting builds on a stream of warnings in state media that has shown Beijing is nervous about the booming microblogs, called "weibo" in Chinese, and their potential to tear the seams of censorship and controls.
The New York Times offers a much more blunt assessment of what the government is doing.
Political censorship in this authoritarian state has long been heavy-handed. But for years, the Communist Party has tolerated a creeping liberalization in popular culture, tacitly allowing everything from popular knockoffs of “American Idol”-style talent shows to freewheeling microblogs that let media groups prosper and let people blow off steam. 
Now, the party appears to be saying “enough.”
Whether spooked by popular uprisings worldwide, a coming leadership transition at home or their own citizens’ increasingly provocative tastes, Communist leaders are proposing new limits on media and Internet freedoms that include some of the most restrictive measures in years.
One can see the booming voice narrating a trailer for a (not-yet-made) movie: "The heavy-handed government is spooked! Now it fights back with everything it has! Can humanity survive!"

Offering a blander but more professional assessment of what else is taking place in China is the Wall Street Journal.
Beijing’s top television regulator said on Tuesday that it would cap the number of entertainment programs that the nation’s 34 satellite channels can air during prime time at two each week beginning next year. In its statement, the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television – known as Sarft – cited a desire to limit “excessive entertainment” and “low taste.”
The new limits could mean curtains for a number of popular shows. Like their counterparts in the U.S. and Europe, Chinese broadcasters lean on talent shows, matchmaking shows and other reality programming to draw eyeballs. But because Beijing’s limits are already strict, China lacks gritty dramas such as “The Sopranos” and “Breaking Bad” or edgy comedies like “The Simpsons,” so its commercial broadcasters rely even more on reality programming.
Darn, and just when I was imagining Bart Simpson butting in as that aforementioned narrator boomed!

I suppose good news is worth 370 points?

One day's worth of good economic news sent the stock market soaring today. At the close of the day, it was up 370 points. FOX Business examines what led to the positive day on Wall Street.
The blue-chip average crossed 12000 for the first time since August, and is within 700 points of reaching its highest close in 2011.  Indeed, the Dow is nearly 1,400 points off of its 2011 lows. Meanwhile, volatility plunged 16%, and yields on government debt rose, indicating traders are rushing back into equity markets. 
Financials were the best performers on the day, followed by energy and basic materials shares.  Defensive stocks, like healthcare and consumer staples, however, lagged far behind the broader markets.

Wall Street has been driven higher and lower by headlines from across the Atlantic in recent months as market participants have fretted over the specter that the euro zone debt crisis could spark another credit crunch and seize already fragile global economies.  
Policymakers meeting at a summit in Brussels forged a deal early Thursday morning that analysts say represents a major step forward for the 17-member currency bloc.
European leaders did come to a deal early today (U.S. EDT) to rein in the looming Euro and debt crisis, with Greece the most desperate nation. Reuters explores how the deal wasn't good -- at least not immediately -- for the U.S. dollar.

The dollar took its biggest beating against a broad range of currencies in 2-1/2 years on Thursday as investors celebrated Europe's plan to contain its two-year-old debt crisis by dumping the safe-haven greenback.

The dollar appeared the biggest loser from the deal, which could refocus attention on weak U.S. budget fundamentals. The U.S. currency fell two percent to a seven-week low against the euro and slumped to a record low against the yen.

The agreement to slash Greece's debt burden and strengthen the region's financial rescue fund appeared to remove the specter of a crisis spreading through the world's financial system.
In fairness, as the New York Times notes, it wasn't just the U.S. stock market that relished the European debt deal.
The Euro Stoxx 50 index, a barometer of euro zone blue chips, closed up 6.1 percent, while the FTSE 100 index in London gained 2.9 percent. In Paris, the main index was up 6.3 percent, while Frankfurt’s was 5.35 percent higher.
Financial shares led European indexes.
Hey, just think what might happen to stocks if the U.S. governmental leaders were able to hammer out a real deal to cut into the deficit, tighten spending and lower the unemployment rate, not to mention spur economic growth, strengthen laws to improve the environment, get infrastructure improvements....

In the blue corner, West Virginia...and in the red corner, Kentucky

West Virginia senator Joe Manchin believes that a colleague from Kentucky has some explaining to do. And Sen. Manchin is prepared to launch a Senate investigation to get the answers he wants.

The Washington Post reports that Mr. Manchin wants to know if the potential for West Virginia University joining the Big 12 conference is being undercut because Sen. Mitch McConnell wants the University of Louisville there.
In a statement Wednesday, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) suggested that if reports are true that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and other lawmakers have been putting pressure on Big 12 officials, a congressional investigation may be warranted.
“If these outrageous reports have any merit – and especially if a United States Senator has done anything inappropriate or unethical to interfere with a decision that the Big 12 had already made – then I believe that there should be an investigation in the U.S. Senate, and I will fight to get the truth,” Manchin said. “West Virginians and the American people deserve to know exactly what is going on and whether politics is interfering with our college sports.”
The New York Times first reported that Sen. McConnell -- a Louisville graduate, mind you -- was pushing hard to see Louisville gain the coveted admission ticket to the Big 12 conference. Currently, WVU and Louisville are part of the Big East conference, which is losing its football-playing members at an alarming rate. (Syracuse and Pitt already have bolted for the Atlantic Coast Conference, and Texas Christian abandoned plans to join the Big East in favor of a spot in the Big 12.)

Sen. Manchin is telling any media organization that will listen that a deal was in place to bring West Virginia into the Big 12 before some heavy-duty lobbying stalled that effort

In examining the West Virginia-Louisville tussle, CBS Sports' columnist Ray Ritto says no one should be surprised at the Washington shenanigans that are taking place.
To lecture McConnell or Manchin on the reasons why they were ostensibly elected is a waste of time. They long ago learned the ground rules of their business, and shame really plays no role. Working old friends for favors is a job that never ends.
But this undermines the argument people make when someone says, "The government ought to step in and do something about boxing," or, " ... lockouts" or, " ... player safety," or, " ... public money provided for private stadium construction," or, [fill in your favorite stalking horse].
You know, the argument that says, "The government has more important things to do," and "The government has no place legislating sports."
Truth is, the government is people, and people are about leverage, and leverage is about personal relationships and making sure that yesterday's guarantees are today's jolly fibs.
Now as a graduate of neither Louisville nor West Virginia, or even a frequent visitor to either place, let me assure all of you that I neither care whether they end up in the Big 12 or the Girl Scouts. I've never had to muster the Pepto Bismol to vote for or against either McConnell or Manchin. In short, I have no dog in this hunt, and if I did, I would be taking it to the pound and leaving it tied to the door knob that leads to the entrance.
But I know this. If something's important enough to a guy with an office in Washington, that guy makes time, whether it's public policy, private whim or just a good-natured neighbor-screwin'. That pretty much eliminates the whole "The government shouldn't be in the business of ..." argument.
Ah, don't you love the wonderful lesson Sen. McConnell is delivering?

The economy is growing, but...

...the nagging housing and employment problems continue to stall more robust growth.

Reuters takes a look at the newest economic data and what the short-term future might hold.
U.S. economic growth increased at its fastest in a year in the third quarter as consumers and businesses set aside fears about the recovery and stepped up spending, creating momentum that could carry into the final three months of the year.
Though part of the increase came from the reversal of temporary factors that had restrained growth, the expansion was a welcome relief for an economy that looked on the brink of recession just weeks ago.
Speaking of jobs, the Associated Press notes that the number of new jobless claims is down but remains stubbornly high
Despite the recent declines, applications are stuck above 400,000, where they have been for all but two weeks since March. Applications need to fall consistently below 375,000 to signal sustainable job growth. They haven’t been below that level since February.
Michael Gapen, an economist at Barclays Capital, said the report suggests layoffs have stabilized at the lowest levels since the spring. If growth picks up, it could boost hiring.
“The combination of better growth and a more certain environment could lead to a pickup in hiring in coming months,” he said.
"Coming months" is still too long a time for people looking for work, of course. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

China again says it won't be pressured

The Chinese government late Tuesday (US EDT) refused once again to raise the value of its currency -- the yuan.

The Wall Street Journal reports that its decision is sure to ruffle feathers in the U.S.
Political pressure on China from abroad to allow faster yuan appreciation is unlikely to abate in the near future. A U.S. Senate bill that would penalize China for its currency policies may be stalled in the House of Representatives, but the U.S. presidential elections in November 2012 are likely to keep the issue in the headlines for at least the next year, with Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney already pledging to declare China a currency manipulator.
Attempting to cut through the political bluster, the former U.S. treasury secretary Henry Paulson suggests in this editorial appearing on the BBC's Web site that the U.S. and China must work together to ensure that economic growth is possible around the world. 
Beijing and Washington do not always need to work jointly. But they do need to take steps - mostly individually, sometimes together - that will support and sustain economic growth.
And to do that, Washington and Beijing will need a new framework to guide their economic relations. Neither country can address today's dynamic and considerable economic challenges with the policies they have currently.
Meanwhile, the Financial Times reports that China will increase its investment in Europe

What does development mean to you?

This week, a guest speaker from the Power of 32 organization spoke to two of my classes. She noted that one of the many difficulties in bringing together the disparate groups of politicians, for-profit industries and non-profit agencies is that they often don't speak the same language.

For example, she asked the students to consider the definition of "development." Then she told them that each of those aforementioned groups would define it differently.

For one, development means fundraising.

For another, it means building or constructing.

For yet another, it means training and supporting the professional growth of employees.

So, what does development mean to you? Yes, it means all of the definitions that I briefly described above. But I think the answer you provide suggests the kind of professional environment in which you might be most comfortable.

By the way, you should take the time to examine what the Power of 32 group is doing. And if you live in one of the 32 counties in which it is striving to develop a dialogue, then you should consider how you might get involved.

Czech-ing it out carefully

The Czech government has been given a firm warning from a domestic economic council. As Czech Position reports, the message is to prepare for some bad news.
The Czech government’s economic advisory council (NERV) has advised Prime Minister Petr Nečas to support efforts to stabilize the eurozone while warning the EU monetary union’s disintegration is a real possibility; it also advised the creation of emergency budgetary measures. Nečas said that to emerge from the debt crisis, the eurozone needs fiscal discipline and measures to boost competitiveness.
“[NERV] in no way wants to say that there’s a catastrophe knocking at the door, but we consider that we should advise the government to prepare for one,” said Vladimír Dlouhý, a member of the council and a former minister of industry and trade, who is also an advisor to Goldman Sachs, at Tuesday’s meeting.
 Meanwhile, the government is delaying sales of bonds to pay off some of its debts.

De-Occupy Los Angeles?

The Los Angeles Times reports in this breaking news alert that the city is considering putting limits on the "Occupy" group that is calling the area around City Hall "home."

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said Wednesday that the Occupy Los Angeles encampment outside City Hall "cannot continue indefinitely" and has asked city officials to draft restrictions limiting when people are allowed on city property. His staff said they are also looking for another location for the protesters.

City Attorney Carmen Trutanich said an existing law bars people from camping on city property after 10:30 p.m. Police should begin enforcing that law "to protect the public health and safety of all residents," Trutanich said.

How high can you go?

There have been many stories in recent months about the rapidly rising tuition at America's public and private universities.

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that the price increases are again hitting public university students harder than their counterparts at private institutions.
For the fifth year in a row, the percentage increase in average published tuition and fees at public four-year colleges was higher than it was at private ones, according to the report, "Trends in College Pricing 2011." The report, released on Wednesday, examines annual changes in colleges' sticker prices, as well as the net prices students pay after grant aid and tax benefits are considered. A companion report, "Trends in Student Aid 2011," looks at the money that helps students meet those growing prices. (The pricing report looks at data through this academic year, while the student-aid report has information through 2010-11.)
The average price for tuition and fees at public four-year colleges was $8,244 for in-state students in 2011-12, up from $7,613 in 2010-11, an 8.3-percent increase. That percentage change drops to 7.0 percent if California—which had a 21-percent increase in tuition in that one-year period—is excluded.
Ah, yes, California. The Los Angeles Times takes a closer look at how sticker shock is hitting students in the Golden State
Even with steep hikes, the Cal State system's tuition and fees total $6,521, still below the $7,186 national average for similar master's degree campuses. UC's tuition and fees figure, about $13,200 this year, is well above the national average of $9,185 for doctorate-granting institutions, although UC leaders say it is on par with other top public colleges.

At California's community colleges, this year's 37% tuition jump was the steepest percentage increase in the nation, but actual tuition and fees remain the lowest — $1,119 compared to an average of $3,288 for two-year colleges in the rest of the country.

Meanwhile, the nation's private nonprofit four-year colleges raised tuition and fees 4.5% this year, to a national average of $28,500. With room and board, the price tag averaged $38,589, up 4.4% from last year.

Critics of college pricing have long complained that tuition rises much faster than inflation, which was 3.6% for the year ending in July, and that schools should try harder to rein in costs. In the last decade, the percentage growth has moderated somewhat at private schools, averaging 2.6% above inflation annually, but has risen faster than in recent decades at public four-year schools, to 5.6% annually above inflation.
Yes, government aid programs, including grants, are increasing, so the sky-rocketing tuition and associated fees (plus, where appropriate, room and board) might not be paid solely by the student. But there is little doubt that more students are delaying their entry into college, going part-time or relying more on loans to help them meet their financial obligations.

Not good. Not good at all.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Yes, jurors' names should be released to the media

As you read this story from the Los Angeles Times, please keep in mind that the judge who released the names of the jurors involved in the Casey Anthony murder trial did the right thing. Those names are part of the public record associated with the trial.

The sad reality is that our society is at a level of incivility that people who do their civic duty are afraid for their safety because of the public's rage.

To illustrate that point, consider what the Associated Press is reporting:
Jurors were either unavailable or didn’t want to talk to the media Tuesday when a judge released their names, three months after they found Anthony not guilty in the death of her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee. In the days since the verdict, Anthony and the jurors received death threats and angry messages were posted online. Many people across the nation thought the jurors let a guilty woman go free.
Anthony went into hiding, and it appears jurors have done the same thing.
I could care less whether you think Casey Anthony is guilty. Your opinion (and mine, too) is irrelevant -- the jury has spoken. That's it, and (murder) case closed. Of course, you can continue to hold your personal opinion; however, the moment you decide that you're going to act on it in a way that breaks the law, then you had better be prepared to deal with the effects.

The 12 men and women who acquitted Anthony did their civic duty. In our democracy, that's supposed to be one of the highest and most respected forms of citizenship.

Now, leave them alone and get on with your lives.

Gee, here's a shock -- I want my news for free

The growing popularity of tablets (with the iPad still the undisputed leader) has news organizations itching to figure out how they can monetize their product on that technology.

Uh, oh. There's a problem, as the Associated Press reports.
Although tablet owners spend more time consuming news than poking around on Facebook, they’re reluctant to pay for news content.
That’s according to a study from the Pew Research Center’s Project for the Excellence in Journalism, released Tuesday. It found that 11 per cent of American adults own a tablet of some kind, and a majority of them spend 90 minutes a day using the device.
Consuming news is one of the most popular activities, up there with e-mail and more popular than social networking. Only general Web-browsing proved more popular on tablets than news and e-mail.
Even so, just 14 per cent of tablet users said they have paid for news content on their tablets. Another 23 per cent, though, pay for a print subscription that includes tablet content. So in all, about a third of tablet users have paid to access news on their gadgets.
Examining the issue more closely, PCWorld's Tony Bradley says the media agencies are to blame.
Tablets represent a growing segment, but they are just one facet of the larger issue of delivering news and generating revenue with digital journalism. The combination of mobile devices--smartphones and tablets--and social networks like Facebook and Twitter have completely altered the way people get, consume, and share information, and traditional print media needs to adapt or get left behind.
I don't agree that users are unwilling to pay for news. I think users are unwilling to pay to receive a print publication they don't want just for the privilege of accessing the same information digitally. I also think users expect the digital news to take advantage of the capabilities of devices like tablets and not simply copy and paste the print news into an app.
There are traditional print resources, like Time, that have awesome apps that embrace the unique features of the iPad. The articles are more engaging and interactive, and link to additional content that can expand my understanding of the topic.
It is a step in the right direction, and the apps are definitely worth paying for. They just need to find a way to deliver the app content at a reasonable cost that doesn't include forcing users to also subscribe to the print edition.

The Financial Times suggests the aforementioned Pew study might not mean doom and gloom for news organizations.

The mind set that an individual brings to his or her tablet use appears critical here. If you think of yourself as someone who gets news and information for free, then the thought of paying in general or being forced to do so through an app specifically is going to lead to frustration. For news organizations, more and more people see themselves as just that -- information seekers and finders who do so with no financial commitment.

Unless and until that attitude can be adjusted, the media are going to struggle. And consumers are going to rebel.

The Big Carcass?

The Big East conference continues to collapse.

ESPN is among many media organizations reporting that West Virginia will be invited to join the Big 12 (and that invitation could come as early as tonight).
The Big 12 is adding West Virginia because of its football strength, having finished in the BCS standings of the nation's top 25 teams in four of the past five years, as well as the men's basketball program having reached the NCAA tournament six of the past seven years.
The Big East could try to keep West Virginia for up to 27 months and negotiations on that point would figure to ensue.
West Virginia thus becomes the third football-playing institution that over the past few weeks has ditched the Big East. Syracuse and Pittsburgh are on their way to the Atlantic Coast Conference. (And Texas Christian bolted for the Big 12 even though it was scheduled to join the Big East next year.)

What is next for the Big East? The same ESPN story suggests:
A source has told's Andy Katz that the conference commissioners of the Big East, Mountain West and Conference USA are expected to meet in New York. According to multiple reports, the three leagues are considering forming a single football league of 28 to 32 teams.
The Big East's plan was to send conditional invitations to Houston, Southern Methodist and Central Florida for all sports, and to Air Force and Boise State for football only, a source has told Katz.
The conference's plan to expand to 12 members also includes Navy as a football-only member, though that has not been made public by the league.
I'm trying to come up with a name for that monstrosity. The Big Mountain Conference? The USA East and West Conference? The Blob?

The Big Carcass works for me.