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Windmills Tilted, Scared Cows Butchered, Lies Skewered on the Lance of Reality ... or something to that effect.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Daily Drift

Oh !

photo ny Nasa
They might be clouds ...

Some of our readers today have been in:
Hyderabad, Pakistan
Cape Town, South Africa
Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
Quezon City, Philippines
Al Jizah, Egypt
Puchong, Malaysia
Alberton, South Africa
Makassar, Indonesia
Makati, Philippines
Ankara, Turkey
Cheras, Malaysia
Sofia, Bulgaria
San Juan, Costa Rica
Johor Bahru, Malaysia
Gdansk, Poland
Jakarta, Indonesia
Algiers, Algeria
Male Maldives
Muar, Malaysia
Poznan, Poland
Lima, Peru
Seremban, Malaysia
Beirut, Lebanon
Manila, Philippines
Shah Alam, Malaysia
Johannesburg, South Africa
Szczecin, Poland
Petaling Jaya, Malaysia
Nswam, Ghana
Liberty, Philippines
George Town, Malaysia
Warsaw, Poland
Zurich, Switzerland
Subang Jaya, Malaysia
Birmingham, England
Ypsonas, Cyprus
Bayan Lepas, Malaysia
Sampaloc, Philippines
Novi Sad, Serbia
Kajang, Malaysia
London, England
Antananarivo, Madagascar
Kuchong, Malaysia
Arima, Trinidad and Tobago
Jawa, Indonesia
Klang, Malaysia
Port-Of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago
Phnom Penh, Cambodia

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Today in History

41 Shortly after declaring himself a god, Caligula is assassinated by two Praetorian tribunes.
1458 Matthias Corvinus, the son of John Hunyadi, is elected king of Hungary.
1639 Representatives from three Connecticut towns band together to write the Fundamental Orders, the first constitution in the New World.
1722 Czar Peter the Great caps his reforms in Russia with the "Table of Rank" which decrees a commoner can climb on merit to the highest positions.
1848 Gold is discovered by James Wilson Marshall at his partner Johann August Sutter's sawmill on the South Fork of the American River, near Coloma, California.
1903 U.S. Secretary of State John Hay and British Ambassador Herbert create a joint commission to establish the Alaskan border.
1911 U.S. Cavalry is sent to preserve the neutrality of the Rio Grande during the Mexican Civil War.
1915 The German cruiser Blücher is sunk by a British squadron in the Battle of Dogger Bank.
1927 British expeditionary force of 12,000 is sent to China to protect concessions at Shanghai.
1931 The League of Nations rebukes Poland for the mistreatment of a German minority in Upper Silesia.
1945 A German attempt to relieve the besieged city of Budapest is finally halted by the Soviets.
1946 The UN establishes the International Atomic Energy Commission.
1951 Indian leader Nehru demands that the UN name Peking as an aggressor in Korea.
1965 Winston Churchill dies from a cerebral thrombosis at the age of 90.
1980 In a rebuff to the Soviets, the U.S. announces intentions to sell arms to China.
1982 A draft of Air Force history reports that the U.S. secretly sprayed herbicides on Laos during the Vietnam War.

Non Sequitur


Rig the Vote: The repubgicans Push for Soviet Style Elections Where the Loser Wins

By: Sarah Jones 

Bob Shrum, Professor of Public Policy at NYU and Daily Beast contributor, was on the Ed Show discussing how repugicans are trying to gerrymander the Presidency when he announced that repugicans want to “Institutionalize a system where the loser wins… Soviet style election.”
Watch here:
Ed Schultz started the segment off explaining that repugicans are trying to rig the next election, “repugicans in Virginia, Pennsylvania and Michigan want to change the way they award electoral votes. They aren’t trying to improve the system, they only want to change the electoral process for some people….”
The repugicans aren’t trying to change red states like Kansas. Oh, no. Kansas is fine, thank you very much. The repugicans want to change the rules in these blue states currently controlled by repugicans:Michigan, Florida, Ohio, Virginia, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Under their new rules, repugicans would have gotten an extra 45 electoral votes for Mitt Romney.
Bob Shrum summed it up as a felonious assault on elections, “What’s going on here is a felonious assault on free elections. It’s an attempt to gerrymander the presidency. If you think about it, you could argue that the repugicans haven’t won the presidency on the up and up since 1988.”
Yes, he went there. He continued, “They stole 2000, when they stole Florida with the complicity of the Supreme Court. In 2004, they engaged in massive voter suppression. People in Ohio had to wait 8-10 hours to vote and tens of thousands of them couldn’t wait 8-10 hours. They tried it again in 2012 and they lost. They can’t win the presidency so what they want to do is institutionalize a system where the loser wins… This is a kind of Soviet style elections.”
Not only did Bob Shrum just admit on national TV that repugicans stole 2000 and most likely 2004 (this is something not mentioned by MSM, but the facts are the facts), but he also likened repugican elections to Soviet style elections.
The repugicans know they can’t win without cheating and disenfranchsing large groups of the electorate. At some point, it might be easier if they just changed their policies in order to actually attract real voters. Obviously they don’t feel that would pay off or they would do it.
The real question Americans should be asking themselves is just what is the huge payoff that makes repugicans so willing to risk continuing to lose elections and having to resort to cheating to win? We know their Southern Strategy is on its last legs, and has marginalized them to a regional party. But what exactly was the Southern Strategy meant to hide? That is the real question.

Rachel Maddow Explains Why It’s Dangerous to Leave repugicans Alone Without Adult Supervision

By: Adalia Woodbury Rachel Maddow gerrymandering in Virginia
Rachel Maddow discussed that along with other implications of the map that Virginia’s repugicans gerrymandered during the Inauguration and on Martin Luther King Day with Virginia State Senator Donald McEachin.
Monday was Martin Luther King Day, as well as Inauguration Day.  Virginia State Senator Henry Marsh, civil rights veteran  spent the day at Barack Obama’s Inauguration.   Marsh’s decision meant taking part in a historic moment.  Little did he know that his district would look very different when he returned from Inauguration Day festivities.  It also meant the 20-20 divide between Democrats and repugicans tipped in the repugicans’ favor.   If repugicans had tried to redraw the map when Marsh was present, he would have voted against it. The result would have been a vote 20-20.  The Lt. Governor, Bill Bolling would have voted against the gerrymandered map, meaning defeat for the repugicans.  This is why it’s dangerous to leave repugicans in control of anything, especially without sufficient adult supervision.
To say that repugicans in the state senate took advantage of the situation would be an understatement.  They took out their gerrymander crayons to redraw the state’s electoral map carving into Marsh’s district while he was at Barack Obama’s Inauguration.  The redrawn map would make it structurally impossible for Democrats to win more than 13-16 of a possible 40 seats in the state’s senate. Like spoiled children, these repugicans took their loss last November out on the electoral map, without considering the consequences. They sprung their plan on the Democrats in classic repugican form by claiming they just redrew the map to create another black majority district – without mentioning that it would create even more repugican controlled districts.
They also took away one Democratic district completely, and made it structurally impossible for Democrats to regain control of the Virginia Senate, no matter how blue the state will go. As if that wasn’t enough gerrymandering to accomplish in relative secrecy and on a day that was both a celebration of a true civil rights hero and the President’s inauguration, these repugicans also gerrymandered the Electoral College – as has been occurring in other repugican controlled states.
When asked about the new map, Governor Ultrasound expressed surprise.  While saying he thought this was a ‘bad way to do business”  – not once did Governor Ultrasound McDonnell say he opposed the new map.  Then he proceeded to talk about his new transport bill, perhaps hoping that will distract people from the Sovietization of our electoral system.
This is true to form for Governor Ultrasound, who was also “surprised” to learn  that a trans-vaginal ultrasound is an invasive procedure  and as we all know, he still signed the bill.
By some estimates,   the new map would leave Democrats with 13-16 winnable seats out of a total of 40.

Yeah it's that cold ...

Did you know ...

Only 6% of scientists identify themselves as repugicans

Notre Dame hired a private investigator for the Manti Te'o's imaginary girlfriend case -- but not the Lizzy Seeberg rape

That 20% of Americans don't believe in god -- so why is congress so religious??

That a house repugican leader blames gun violence on welfare moms

Woman arrested despite moonwalking during field sobriety test

A suspected drunk driver in Corpus Christi, Texas, showed off her dancing skills to police early on Friday morning when she was asked to perform a field sobriety test.
Senior Officer J. Rhodes observed a black Cadillac CTS parked in an intersection despite the fact the driver had a green light. The car then turned off and was travelling southbound in the northbound lane.

Officer Rhodes pulled the Cadillac over and spoke with the driver Coral Li Rape, 23, who appeared to be intoxicated and unwilling to cooperate with police. When asked to perform Standard Field Sobriety Tests, Rape "moonwalked" towards officers.

 Officer J. Sanders placed her under arrest and booked her at the City Detention Center where she was also given a Breath Test. Rape was charged with Driving While Intoxicated with a Blood Alcohol Content over .15 which is a Class "A" Misdemeanor punishable by a year in jail and a $4,000 fine.

There's a short news video here.

Brazil to Give Money to Workers to Spend on Art

Art is indeed not the bread of life but the wine of life, 19th century German writer Jean Paul once remarked. But what if you're so poor that you barely have enough literal bread to eat, let alone art?
"In all developed countries, culture plays a key role in the economy," Culture Minister Marta Suplicy said in an interview on national television.
She recalled that popular former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva created "Bolsa Familia" (Family Grant), the program of conditional cash transfers to the poor which his successor, President Dilma Rousseff, expanded.
"Now we are creating food for the soul; Why would the poor not be able to access culture?" the minister said.
So, the Brazilian government is about to fix that: it plans to give workers a 50-real ($25) monthly stipend for cultural expenses like buying books and music, as well as going to the movies and museums.

Depression, suicide linked to debt

It’s unfortunate, but too many western countries caved in to the bankers while applying a different set of rules and standards for everyone else in debt.
While too many consumers got carried away with using more credit than they could afford, they weren’t alone. The bankers did the same, but with much greater multiples — yet they received a bailout.
In this context, yes, the government should step in and do something to help these people. Then again, they may not be as wealthy or as influential as bankers, so the rescue plan may be on hold for a while.
debt economic crisis
Irresponsible lending and intimidating debt collectors are pushing thousands of people in Britain into depression and suicide, a report said Wednesday. Separate data showed more people are taking their own lives.
Many, already struggling with the economic slowdown, wage freezes and benefit cuts, were overwhelmed by tactics used by some money lenders, including persistent phone calls and threatening letters, the report by researchers at England’s University of Brighton found.
“Debt clients frequently feel humiliated, disconnected and entrapped, with the process of debt collection having a clear impact on people’s mental health,” the report said.

World unemployment to set new record this year

While the post Wall Street-crash year of 2009 set the previous record high for global unemployment, 2013 is expected to surpass that number. Despite some bright spots in the US economy, hiring continues to be sluggish. As many have said, we don’t have a budget problem, we have an employment problem in the US.
Europe has a much deeper safety net and less of the problems that we’ve seen in the US (wealth inequality, war spending, tax cuts that were too extreme and tilted) though the economic situation has been slowing. The bankers in Europe also made bad decisions and now the economy is slowing.
The worst part about this is that even now, outside of perhaps Iceland, no government has been interested in punishing the bankers who were at the center of this crisis. What’s that all about? In both the US and the UK, Goldman Sachs and others on Wall Street have been busy gaming the tax system, still avoiding their responsibilities. Even worse, they’re getting away with it, because they know they can whatever they like. They are the government.
unemployment jobs
World unemployment could top record levels this year and continue rising until 2017, the International Labor Organization (ILO) said on Tuesday in its annual employment report.
2009 currently stands as the worst recorded year for world unemployment, with 198 million people across the globe without work.
In its 2013 Global Employment Trends report, the ILO forecasts unemployment numbers will rise by 5.1 million in 2013 to reach 202 million, topping 2009′s record.

Recession, tech kill middle-class jobs

FILE - In this Wednesday, June, 15, 2011, file photo, job seekers wait in a line at a job fair in Southfield, Mich. In the United States, half of the 7.5 million jobs lost during the Great Recession were paid middle-class wages, ranging from $37,000 to $68,000. But only 2 percent of the 3.4 million jobs gained since the recession are mid-pay. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File) 
Five years after the start of the Great Recession, the toll is terrifyingly clear: Millions of middle-class jobs have been lost in developed countries the world over. And the situation is even worse than it appears.
Most of the jobs will never return, and millions more are likely to vanish as well, say experts who study the labor market. What's more, these jobs aren't just being lost to China and other developing countries, and they aren't just factory work. Increasingly, jobs are disappearing in the service sector, home to two-thirds of all workers.
They're being obliterated by technology.
Year after year, the software that runs computers and an array of other machines and devices becomes more sophisticated and powerful and capable of doing more efficiently tasks that humans have always done. For decades, science fiction warned of a future when we would be architects of our own obsolescence, replaced by our machines; an Associated Press analysis finds that the future has arrived.
EDITOR'S NOTE: First in a three-part series on the loss of middle-class jobs in the wake of the Great Recession, and the role of technology.
"The jobs that are going away aren't coming back," says Andrew McAfee, principal research scientist at the Center for Digital Business at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and co-author of "Race Against the Machine." ''I have never seen a period where computers demonstrated as many skills and abilities as they have over the past seven years."
The global economy is being reshaped by machines that generate and analyze vast amounts of data; by devices such as smartphones and tablet computers that let people work just about anywhere, even when they're on the move; by smarter, nimbler robots; and by services that let businesses rent computing power when they need it, instead of installing expensive equipment and hiring IT staffs to run it. Whole employment categories, from secretaries to travel agents, are starting to disappear.
"There's no sector of the economy that's going to get a pass," says Martin Ford, who runs a software company and wrote "The Lights in the Tunnel," a book predicting widespread job losses. "It's everywhere."
The numbers startle even labor economists. In the United States, half the 7.5 million jobs lost during the Great Recession were in industries that pay middle-class wages, ranging from $38,000 to $68,000. But only 2 percent of the 3.5 million jobs gained since the recession ended in June 2009 are in midpay industries. Nearly 70 percent are in low-pay industries, 29 percent in industries that pay well.
In the 17 European countries that use the euro as their currency, the numbers are even worse. Almost 4.3 million low-pay jobs have been gained since mid-2009, but the loss of midpay jobs has never stopped. A total of 7.6 million disappeared from January 2008 through last June.
Experts warn that this "hollowing out" of the middle-class workforce is far from over. They predict the loss of millions more jobs as technology becomes even more sophisticated and reaches deeper into our lives. Maarten Goos, an economist at the University of Leuven in Belgium, says Europe could double its middle-class job losses.
Some occupations are beneficiaries of the march of technology, such as software engineers and app designers for smartphones and tablet computers. Overall, though, technology is eliminating far more jobs than it is creating.
To understand the impact technology is having on middle-class jobs in developed countries, the AP analyzed employment data from 20 countries; tracked changes in hiring by industry, pay and task; compared job losses and gains during recessions and expansions over the past four decades; and interviewed economists, technology experts, robot manufacturers, software developers, entrepreneurs and people in the labor force who ranged from CEOs to the unemployed.
The AP's key findings:
—For more than three decades, technology has reduced the number of jobs in manufacturing. Robots and other machines controlled by computer programs work faster and make fewer mistakes than humans. Now, that same efficiency is being unleashed in the service economy, which employs more than two-thirds of the workforce in developed countries. Technology is eliminating jobs in office buildings, retail establishments and other businesses consumers deal with every day.
—Technology is being adopted by every kind of organization that employs people. It's replacing workers in large corporations and small businesses, established companies and start-ups. It's being used by schools, colleges and universities; hospitals and other medical facilities; nonprofit organizations and the military.
—The most vulnerable workers are doing repetitive tasks that programmers can write software for — an accountant checking a list of numbers, an office manager filing forms, a paralegal reviewing documents for key words to help in a case. As software becomes even more sophisticated, victims are expected to include those who juggle tasks, such as supervisors and managers — workers who thought they were protected by a college degree.
—Thanks to technology, companies in the Standard & Poor's 500 stock index reported one-third more profit the past year than they earned the year before the Great Recession. They've also expanded their businesses, but total employment, at 21.1 million, has declined by a half-million.
—Start-ups account for much of the job growth in developed economies, but software is allowing entrepreneurs to launch businesses with a third fewer employees than in the 1990s. There is less need for administrative support and back-office jobs that handle accounting, payroll and benefits.
—It's becoming a self-serve world. Instead of relying on someone else in the workplace or our personal lives, we use technology to do tasks ourselves. Some find this frustrating; others like the feeling of control. Either way, this trend will only grow as software permeates our lives.
—Technology is replacing workers in developed countries regardless of their politics, policies and laws. Union rules and labor laws may slow the dismissal of employees, but no country is attempting to prohibit organizations from using technology that allows them to operate more efficiently — and with fewer employees.
Some analysts reject the idea that technology has been a big job killer. They note that the collapse of the housing market in the U.S., Ireland, Spain and other countries and the ensuing global recession wiped out millions of middle-class construction and factory jobs. In their view, governments could bring many of the jobs back if they would put aside worries about their heavy debts and spend more. Others note that jobs continue to be lost to China, India and other countries in the developing world.
But to the extent technology has played a role, it raises the specter of high unemployment even after economic growth accelerates. Some economists say millions of middle-class workers must be retrained to do other jobs if they hope to get work again. Others are more hopeful. They note that technological change over the centuries eventually has created more jobs than it destroyed, though the wait can be long and painful.
A common refrain: The developed world may face years of high middle-class unemployment, social discord, divisive politics, falling living standards and dashed hopes.
In the U.S., the economic recovery that started in June 2009 has been called the third straight "jobless recovery."
But that's a misnomer. The jobs came back after the first two.
Most recessions since World War II were followed by a surge in new jobs as consumers started spending again and companies hired to meet the new demand. In the months after recessions ended in 1991 and 2001, there was no familiar snap-back, but all the jobs had returned in less than three years.
But 42 months after the Great Recession ended, the U.S. has gained only 3.5 million, or 47 percent, of the 7.5 million jobs that were lost. The 17 countries that use the euro had 3.5 million fewer jobs last June than in December 2007.
This has truly been a jobless recovery, and the lack of midpay jobs is almost entirely to blame.
Fifty percent of the U.S. jobs lost were in midpay industries, but Moody's Analytics, a research firm, says just 2 percent of the 3.5 million jobs gained are in that category. After the four previous recessions, at least 30 percent of jobs created — and as many as 46 percent — were in midpay industries.
Other studies that group jobs differently show a similar drop in middle-class work.
Some of the most startling studies have focused on midskill, midpay jobs that require tasks that follow well-defined procedures and are repeated throughout the day. Think travel agents, salespeople in stores, office assistants and back-office workers like benefits managers and payroll clerks, as well as machine operators and other factory jobs. An August 2012 paper by economists Henry Siu of the University of British Columbia and Nir Jaimovich of Duke University found these kinds of jobs comprise fewer than half of all jobs, yet accounted for nine of 10 of all losses in the Great Recession. And they have kept disappearing in the economic recovery.
Webb Wheel Products makes parts for truck brakes, which involves plenty of repetitive work. Its newest employee is the Doosan V550M, and it's a marvel. It can spin a 130-pound brake drum like a child's top, smooth its metal surface, then drill holes — all without missing a beat. And it doesn't take vacations or "complain about anything," says Dwayne Ricketts, president of the Cullman, Ala., company.
Thanks to computerized machines, Webb Wheel hasn't added a factory worker in three years, though it's making 300,000 more drums annually, a 25 percent increase.
"Everyone is waiting for the unemployment rate to drop, but I don't know if it will much," Ricketts says. "Companies in the recession learned to be more efficient, and they're not going to go back."
In Europe, companies couldn't go back even if they wanted to. The 17 countries that use the euro slipped into another recession 14 months ago, in November 2011. The current unemployment rate is a record 11.8 percent.
European companies had been using technology to replace midpay workers for years, and now that has accelerated.
"The recessions have amplified the trend," says Goos, the Belgian economist. "New jobs are being created, but not the middle-pay ones."
In Canada, a 2011 study by economists at the University of British Columbia and York University in Toronto found a similar pattern of middle-class losses, though they were working with older data. In the 15 years through 2006, the share of total jobs held by many midpay, midskill occupations shrank. The share held by foremen fell 37 percent, workers in administrative and senior clerical roles fell 18 percent and those in sales and service fell 12 percent.
In Japan, a 2009 report from Hitotsubashi University in Tokyo documented a "substantial" drop in midpay, midskill jobs in the five years through 2005, and linked it to technology.
Developing economies have been spared the technological onslaught — for now. Countries like Brazil and China are still growing middle-class jobs because they're shifting from export-driven to consumer-based economies. But even they are beginning to use more machines in manufacturing. The cheap labor they relied on to make goods from apparel to electronics is no longer so cheap as their living standards rise.
One example is Sunbird Engineering, a Hong Kong firm that makes mirror frames for heavy trucks at a factory in southern China. Salaries at its plant in Dongguan have nearly tripled from $80 a month in 2005 to $225 today. "Automation is the obvious next step," CEO Bill Pike says.
Sunbird is installing robotic arms that drill screws into a mirror assembly, work now done by hand. The machinery will allow the company to eliminate two positions on a 13-person assembly line. Pike hopes that additional automation will allow the company to reduce another five or six jobs from the line.
"By automating, we can outlive the labor cost increases inevitable in China," Pike says. "Those who automate in China will win the battle of increased costs."
Foxconn Technology Group, which assembles iPhones at factories in China, unveiled plans in 2011 to install one million robots over three years.
A recent headline in the China Daily newspaper: "Chinese robot wars set to erupt."
Candidates for U.S. president last year never tired of telling Americans how jobs were being shipped overseas. China, with its vast army of cheaper labor and low-value currency, was easy to blame.
But most jobs cut in the U.S. and Europe weren't moved. No one got them. They vanished. And the villain in this story — a clever software engineer working in Silicon Valley or the high-tech hub around Heidelberg, Germany — isn't so easy to hate.
"It doesn't have political appeal to say the reason we have a problem is we're so successful in technology," says Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize-winning economist at Columbia University. "There's no enemy there."
Unless you count family and friends and the person staring at you in the mirror. The uncomfortable truth is technology is killing jobs with the help of ordinary consumers by enabling them to quickly do tasks that workers used to do full time, for salaries.
Use a self-checkout lane at the supermarket or drugstore? A worker behind a cash register used to do that.
Buy clothes without visiting a store? You've taken work from a salesman.
Click "accept" in an email invitation to attend a meeting? You've pushed an office assistant closer to unemployment.
Book your vacation using an online program? You've helped lay off a travel agent. Perhaps at American Express Co., which announced this month that it plans to cut 5,400 jobs, mainly in its travel business, as more of its customers shift to online portals to plan trips.
Software is picking out worrisome blots in medical scans, running trains without conductors, driving cars without drivers, spotting profits in stocks trades in milliseconds, analyzing Twitter traffic to tell where to sell certain snacks, sifting through documents for evidence in court cases, recording power usage beamed from digital utility meters at millions of homes, and sorting returned library books.
Technology gives rise to "cheaper products and cool services," says David Autor, an economist at MIT, one of the first to document tech's role in cutting jobs. "But if you lose your job, that is slim compensation."
Even the most commonplace technologies — take, say, email — are making it tough for workers to get jobs, including ones with MBAs, like Roshanne Redmond, a former project manager at a commercial real estate developer.
"I used to get on the phone, talk to a secretary and coordinate calendars," Redmond says. "Now, things are done by computer."
Technology is used by companies to run leaner and smarter in good times and bad, but never more than in bad. In a recession, sales fall and companies cut jobs to save money. Then they turn to technology to do tasks people used to do. And that's when it hits them: They realize they don't have to re-hire the humans when business improves, or at least not as many.
The Hackett Group, a consultant on back-office jobs, estimates 2 million of them in finance, human resources, information technology and procurement have disappeared in the U.S. and Europe since the Great Recession. It pins the blame for more than half of the losses on technology. These are jobs that used to fill cubicles at almost every company — clerks paying bills and ordering supplies, benefits managers filing health-care forms and IT experts helping with computer crashes.
"The effect of (technology) on white-collar jobs is huge, but it's not obvious," says MIT's McAfee. Companies "don't put out a press release saying we're not hiring again because of machines."
What hope is there for the future?
Historically, new companies and new industries have been the incubator of new jobs. Start-up companies no more than five years old are big sources of new jobs in developed economies. In the U.S., they accounted for 99 percent of new private sector jobs in 2005, according to a study by the University of Maryland's John Haltiwanger and two other economists.
But even these companies are hiring fewer people. The average new business employed 4.7 workers when it opened its doors in 2011, down from 7.6 in the 1990s, according to a Labor Department study released last March.
Technology is probably to blame, wrote the report's authors, Eleanor Choi and James Spletzer. Entrepreneurs no longer need people to do clerical and administrative tasks to help them get their businesses off the ground.
In the old days — say, 10 years ago — "you'd need an assistant pretty early to coordinate everything — or you'd pay a huge opportunity cost for the entrepreneur or the president to set up a meeting," says Jeff Connally, CEO of CMIT Solutions, a technology consultancy to small businesses.
Now technology means "you can look at your calendar and everybody else's calendar and — bing! — you've set up a meeting." So no assistant gets hired.
Entrepreneur Andrew Schrage started the financial advice website Money Crashers in 2009 with a partner and one freelance writer. The bare-bones start-up was only possible, Schrage says, because of technology that allowed the company to get online help with accounting and payroll and other support functions without hiring staff.
"Had I not had access to cloud computing and outsourcing, I estimate that I would have needed 5-10 employees to begin this venture," Schrage says. "I doubt I would have been able to launch my business."
Technological innovations have been throwing people out of jobs for centuries. But they eventually created more work, and greater wealth, than they destroyed. Ford, the author and software engineer, thinks there is reason to believe that this time will be different. He sees virtually no end to the inroads of computers into the workplace. Eventually, he says, software will threaten the livelihoods of doctors, lawyers and other highly skilled professionals.
Many economists are encouraged by history and think the gains eventually will outweigh the losses. But even they have doubts.
"What's different this time is that digital technologies show up in every corner of the economy," says McAfee, a self-described "digital optimist." ''Your tablet (computer) is just two or three years old, and it's already taken over our lives."
Peter Lindert, an economist at the University of California, Davis, says the computer is more destructive than innovations in the Industrial Revolution because the pace at which it is upending industries makes it hard for people to adapt.
Occupations that provided middle-class lifestyles for generations can disappear in a few years. Utility meter readers are just one example. As power companies began installing so-called smart readers outside homes, the number of meter readers in the U.S. plunged from 56,000 in 2001 to 36,000 in 2010, according to the Labor Department.
In 10 years? That number is expected to be zero.

Flag Secrets

5 International Flags With Surprising Stories
When designing their flags, countries need to decide on a color scheme and style that accurately reflect their nation's history, people, and prosperity. But if you look a little deeper into the stories of some of these flags, you'll discover hidden symbolism and obscure facts that might cause you to do a double take next time you see them waving in the wind.

Some have, in their designs, gone beyond basic colors and patterns and thought more globally. Here's a look at five nations that have designed their banners to be artistically unique and, as a result, full of life and tradition.

Privacy Visor Confuses Face Recognition Camera

“Hiding behind your glasses” just took on a whole new meaning.
At Tokyo’s National Institute of Informatics, Isao Echizen, an associate professor in the Digital Content and Media Sciences Research Division, unveiled a privacy visor — a set of glasses that prevents cameras with face-recognition software from recognizing you.
Echizen designed the glasses with near-infrared LEDs placed around the eyes and the bridge of the nose, two areas that computers use to pick out faces. Near-infrared is invisible to people, but many cameras can pick it up. The lights add digital “noise” to the image and when the computer tries to match the image with ones in a database, it gets confused and is unable to complete a match.
Echizen told BBC News that the purpose is to protect people from being tagged and identified in photographs without their knowledge. The EyeSee mannequins, for example, use face recognition software to log when shoppers come in and build a database of people’s age, gender or race.
At the same time, he didn’t want to run into the problem of wearing a mask, which protects privacy but outside of 18th century Venetian masquerade balls, is considered a bit unusual.
Makeup could also fool face recognition software, as demonstrated with the CV Dazzle project, but that too could be problematic, since the designs are a bit outré.
Along with artist Adam Harvey’s stealth hoodie, these glasses are yet another indication that people are thinking more carefully about privacy – or the lack thereof – in a connected world.

An Inside Glimpse Of The World's Biggest Space Telescope

We may not be able to travel back in time, but once the currently-under-construction James Webb Space Telescope is completed, we'll be able to see 13 billion light years into space! That's far enough back to witness the creation of the universe's first stars and galaxies.

To achieve this, an extraordinary instrument is needed; in fact, no less than what, come 2018, will be the biggest telescope ever sent into orbit.

'Failed Stars' May Shine With Alien Aurorae

Brown dwarfs often get a bad rap for being “failed stars” or “sub-stellar objects,” but in light of new research they may finally be known as “over-achieving planets.” Scientists have used a radio antenna array in Europe to detect evidence that some brown dwarfs may glow with powerful aurorae.
We know an aurora as the beautiful and sometimes dramatic glow that appears at high latitudes when the sun’s highly-charged particles interact with our planet’s global magnetosphere. The solar wind and explosive events like coronal mass ejections (CMEs) will carry solar plasma (primarily energetic protons) out to the Earth’s orbit. Often, they will interact with the geomagnetic field and spiral down toward the poles (where the magnetic field is directed). On interacting with the atmosphere, light is generated, producing the aurora we know and love.
However, before the particles are absorbed by the atmosphere, creating auroral light, spiraling plasma will generate radio emissions that can be detected. It stands to reason that any planetary body with a global magnetic field should have their own aurorae and also generate a radio hum. Indeed, astronomers are very familiar with aurorae on Jupiter and Saturn — Jovian auroral displays known to be 100 times more intense than anything Earth’s atmosphere can generate and their associated radio emissions can be studied.
But what about exoplanets and brown dwarfs? Can their aurorae also be detected?
Jonathan Nichols and his University of Leicester team have deduced that the radio emissions generated by auroral processes on Jupiter can also be detected over interstellar distances, potentially providing astronomers with a means to detect magnetospheres on distant alien worlds.
“We have recently shown that beefed-up versions of the auroral processes on Jupiter are able to account for the radio emissions observed from certain “ultracool dwarfs” — bodies which comprise the very lowest mass stars — and “brown dwarfs” — ‘failed stars’ which lie in between planets and stars in terms of mass,” Nichols said in a press release. “These results strongly suggest that auroras do occur on bodies outside our solar system, and the auroral radio emissions are powerful enough — one hundred thousand times brighter than Jupiter’s — to be detectable across interstellar distances.”
These exciting results were acquired by using the Low Frequency Array (LOFAR) that is centered in the Netherlands with sites distributed over the UK and northern Europe.
The detection of brown dwarf aurorae (and, by extension, aurorae on large exoplanets) can provide novel measurements of the object’s rotation, magnetic field strength, stellar interactions and whether or not the object has anything in orbit around it.
As previously reported, the detection of exoplanetary magnetospheres through their radio emissions could potentially aid the search for habitable worlds and alien life.

Nuclear power plant produced snow in Pennsylvania

How exactly did a nuclear power plant generate snowfall in southwest Pennsylvania? Science. "The ultra cold air streaming in from the northwest interacted with the hot steam emitted from the plant resulting in condensation, cloud formation and precipitation."

Thousands of Microbes Cross Pacific Ocean to US

Not all bacteria are hardy enough to survive the harsh conditions present in the upper atmosphere. However, the ones that can survive are capable of some serious long-range transport. In a paper to be published in the February 2013 issue of Applied and Environmental Microbiology, scientists identified more than 2,800 bacterial species that were deposited onto Mt. Bachelor, Oregon during two trans-Pacific dust plume events in 2011. The dust is thought to have originated somewhere near China, Korea or Japan.
Each year strong winds blowing over arid lands in Asia pick up and deposit up to 70 million tons (64 teragrams) of aerosols onto the continent of North America. These aerosols are composed of particles of dust, debris and microorganisms. The aerosols are often transported during dust plumes events that can take as little as 7 to 10 days to cross the Pacific Ocean.
Scientists took samples of two trans-Pacific dust plume events from the top of Mt. Bachelor in Oregon during the spring of 2011. They extracted DNA from the samples and sequenced it to determine what types of microorganisms were present in the dust plumes. They found over 2,800 different bacterial species (or operational taxonomic units) at the peak of the plume events.
Many of the microorganisms present in the samples can also be found in background air samples, the scientists say. The scientists think that the trans-Pacific dust plume events were noteworthy because of the elevated amounts of microorganisms they were depositing onto Mt. Bachelor. A few species of marine archaea were found only during plume events, and these species have never been seen before at high altitudes.
David Smith, lead author of the study and graduate of the doctoral program in astrobiology at the University of Washington, commented on the findings in a news release.
"The long-range transport and surprising level of species richness in the upper atmosphere overturns traditional paradigms in aerobiology," Smith said. "It’s a small world. Global wind circulation can move Earth’s smallest types of life to just about anywhere."
Smith says that future research aimed at understanding how bacteria can survive at high altitudes could be invaluable to the fields of biotechnology and medicine.
Funding for the research was provided by the National Science Foundation, the National Geographic Society, NASA’s Astrobiology Institute and the University of Washington.
Co-authors of the paper included Hilkka Timonen, Daniel Jaffe and Peter Ward from the University of Washington, Dale Griffin from the U.S. Geological Survey, Kevin Perry from the University of Utah and Michele Birmele and Michael Roberts from NASA.

Underwater Hotel

Most guests luxury hotels are not thrill-seekers - but visitors to the Poseidon Undersea Resort will have to take a serious leap of faith. The holiday complex is set to be located 40ft under the sea in a lagoon off the shore of a private island in Fiji. It will house 25 suites, as well as a restaurant, bar, gym, and even an underwater wedding chapel.

The innovative project is the brainchild of L. Bruce Jones, boss of U.S. Submarines, Inc. For $15,000 per person per week, guests will enjoy access to the underwater complex, which will be accessed via an elevator from the shore of the island.

The Rise of the Dead in Israel

The Dead rose in Israel last week, but it wasn’t the Rapture or a zombie apocalypse. Heavy rains caused the Dead Sea to rise by 10 centimeters (4 in.), reported the Times of Israel.
This rise marks the first time the Dead Sea has increased in depth in 10 years. The Sea has dropped by more than 20 meters (66 ft.) since the 1970s, due to industrial projects and the pumping of water from the Sea of Galilee, which in turn reduces the flow of the Jordan River. The Jordan feeds the Dead Sea. The Sea of Galilee rose 70 centimeters (2.3 ft.) in the recent storms.
Studies have found underground springs that feed the Dead Sea as well, but human action may be necessary to keep the Dead Sea from dying. A proposed $9.97 billion project would create a canal between the Red Sea and the Dead Sea. A group of engineering firms presented a draft plan for the Dead Sea life support system to the World Bank last Tuesday, reported Globes. Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority would have to cooperate for the plan to succeed.
The canal would also provide hydroelectric power which would be used to run a massive water desalinization plant. The nation of Jordan would stand to benefit from the plan, the growing population of the landlocked nation suffers from a water shortage.

Awesome Pictures

DNA 'perfect for digital storage'

DNA representationDNA 'perfect for digital storage' 

UK scientists demonstrate how DNA could be used to archive digital data, encoding Shakespeare's sonnets and other information in the "life molecule".

Ancient human 'related to Asians'

Leg bones from Tianyuan Cave  
The person shared a common origin with the ancestors of modern Asians

Researchers have been able to trace a line between some of the earliest modern humans to settle in China and people living in the region today.
The evidence comes from DNA extracted from a 40,000-year-old leg bone found in a cave near Beijing.
Results show that the person it belonged to was related to the ancestors of present-day Asians and Native Americans.
The results are published in the journal PNAS.
Humans who looked broadly like present-day people started to appear in the fossil record of Eurasia between 40,000 and 50,000 years ago.
But many questions remain about the genetic relationships between these early modern humans and present-day Homo sapiens populations.
For example, some evidence hints at extensive migration into Europe after the last Ice Age.
And fossil finds from Red Deer Cave, also in China, and Iwo Eleru in Nigeria point to a hitherto unappreciated diversity among Late Pleistocene humans.
New technique The team managed to extract genetic material from an ancient leg bone found in 2003 at the site of Tianyuan Cave outside Beijing.
They managed to extract the type of DNA found in the nuclei of cells (nuclear DNA) and genetic material from the cell's "powerhouses" - known as mitochondria.
They used new techniques that can identify ancient genetic information from an archaeological find, even when large amounts of DNA from soil bacteria are also present.
Analysis of the person's DNA showed that they were related to the ancestors of present-day Asians and Native Americans. But the analysis showed that this individual had already diverged from the ancestors of present-day Europeans.
The fossils were discovered in 2003 at Tianyuan near Beijing
"More analyses of additional early modern humans across Eurasia will further refine our understanding of when and how modern humans spread across Europe and Asia", said co-author Svante Pääbo, from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.
Research in the last few years has shown that early modern humans interbred with ancient human species such as the Neanderthals and Denisovans as they migrated from Africa and settled across the world.
Around 40,000 years ago, the Neanderthals and Denisovans were being replaced by Homo sapiens. Genetic studies of people living at this important crossover period could help scientists understand when and how this interbreeding took place.
The researchers found that the person from Tianyuan cave carried about the same proportion of Neanderthal and Denisovan DNA as people in the region today.

What Is The Evolutionary Purpose Of Tickling?

You probably know that you can't tickle yourself. And although you might be able to tickle a total stranger, your brain also strongly discourages you from doing something so socially awkward. These facts offer insight into tickling's evolutionary purpose, says Robert Provine, a neuroscientist at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and the author of the book Laughter: A Scientific Investigation.

Tickling, he says, is partly a mechanism for social bonding between close companions and helps forge relationships between family members and friends. In adulthood, tickling trails off around the age of 40. At that point, the fun stops; for reasons unknown, tickling seems to be mainly for the young.

How Dogs Evolved

Dog evolved 'on the waste dump'Grey wolf

A genetic study indicates the ability to thrive on the starchy food leftovers of early farmers was a key step in the domestication of dogs from wolves.

Why chimps form 'friendships'

Chimpanzee co-operation linked to 'social bond' hormone 

By Michelle Warwicker 

Scientists have provided insight into why unrelated chimpanzees co-operate with each other outside a sexual relationship. The team of international researchers found that increased levels of the hormone oxytocin played an intrinsic role in non-kin co-operation.
Wild chimps that had taken part in a grooming session with a "bond partner" had higher levels of the hormone in their urine than after grooming with a "non-bond partner", irrespective of whether the individuals were related.
Results of the study are published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
Scientists tested the urine of wild chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) in Uganda to measure the animals' oxytocin levels after grooming sessions.
Oxytocin is associated with forming mother-baby and pair bonds, "but it's not really been implicated in non-kin relationships before - in non-sexual contexts," said research team member Catherine Crockford from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.
The non-kin relationships that exist in the animal kingdom are "almost like friendships", according to Dr Crockford.
Animals that maintain co-operative relationships have greater longevity and increased rates of offspring survival.
But relatively little is known about the processes behind non-kin chimpanzee relationships.
Comparing such social bonds to those found in humans, Dr Crockford explained: "Even though people are not related to each other and they're not in a sexual relationship where they could produce offspring, they still co-operate.
"And nobody really has a good explanation for how this can happen."
Findings of the study suggest a direct link between social bonds and co-operative behaviour.
Co-operative behaviour observed in chimps includes food sharing, collaborative hunting and grooming.
"Although chimps are perceived as being male-bonded, other bonds are clearly important too"
Dr Catherine Crockford, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Grooming events can occur between non-bond partners, but in these cases increased oxytocin levels were not recorded, which surprised Dr Crockford.
"Until now... it's pretty much been thought that tactile stimulation [for example] gentle stroking is enough to stimulate oxytocin.
"But this clearly shows that's not the case, that you need more than just that. There needs to be some sort of psychological component really, this added factor of the relationship itself and the quality of the relationship."
The study also found that social bonds between female-female pairs and male-male pairs are both important in chimpanzee society.
This finding contrasts with perceptions that the animals tend to be "male-bonded".
"Although chimps are perceived as being male-bonded, other bonds are clearly important too," commented Dr Crockford.
The study supports the theory that enduring co-operative relationships are not purely cognitive.


Stray Dogs Offered as Pedestrian Role Models

File:Stray dogs crosswalk.jpg
Stray dogs seen traversing pedestrian crossings are being used by the Romanian traffic police in a new safety campaign to convince pedestrians to be more careful when crossing the road.
"If they can do it, then everyone can do it -- cross on pedestrian crossings!", says the short TV spot while showing several stray dogs using zebra and pelican crossings.
The dogs were filmed in several Romanian cities.
"They send us an extraordinary message showing that animals can respect important safety rules," Lucian Dinita, Romania's traffic police chief, said.
The example of stray dogs could prove crucial in a country where 360 people died last year because of "pedestrian lack of discipline," according to the police.
More than 1,200 were injured for the same reason.
"I was shocked when I realized how many people died in road accidents just because they did not cross on crosswalks," Semida Duriga, the director of Next Advertising agency, said.
Duriga was the one who conceived the campaign.
"I thought of what you often see in Bucharest: dogs crossing at crosswalks or waiting for traffic lights to turn red for cars before crossing," she added.
"These stray dogs did not get education on traffic safety but they instinctively perceive that to do so is safer," Duriga explained.
Some 40,000 homeless canines live in Bucharest alongside a human population of two million, according to authorities and animal rights groups.
Their numbers started proliferating in the 1980s when then communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu had some of Bucharest's oldest residential districts razed and replaced with apartment blocs, causing many owners to part with their pets.
Despite a massive euthanasia campaign between 2001 and 2007, stray dogs remained part of daily life in Romania.
Many are fed and even vaccinated by animal rights groups and dog lovers.
Last year, Romania's constitutional court ruled against a bill allowing local authorities to put down stray dogs.

Apes Get iPads at National Zoo

Orangutans at the Smithsonian's National Zoo are now using iPad apps to keep occupied.
"It's about changing up the day-to-day lives of our animals," Becky Malinsky, a keeper at the zoo, said in a statement. "We already vary their food, toys and social interactions every day, but the iPad offers another way to engage their sight, touch and hearing."
So far, the apes are using 10 different apps, including cognitive games, drawing programs and ones that feature virtual musical instruments. According to their keepers, some of the orangutans are already showing their preferences — 36-year-old Bonnie likes to hit the drums, 16-year-old Kyle likes to play the piano, and 25-year-old Iris likes watching animated fish swim in a virtual koi pond on the screen.
The iPads were made available through Apps for Apes, an initiative from the conservation organization Orangutan Outreach, which has already provided tablet devices for the intelligent primates in 12 other zoos, including zoos in Houston, Atlanta, Toronto, Utah and Milwaukee.
"Primarily, we want the Apps for Apes program to help people understand why we need to protect wild orangutans from extinction," Richard Zimmerman, founding director of Orangutan Outreach, said in a statement. "We do that when we show zoo visitors how similar humans and apes are, be it through observation, talking with wildlife experts or seeing the apes use the same technology we use every day."
Orangutans are among humans' closest living relatives, and there are only a few tens of thousands of them currently left in the wild. They are found in the Sumatran rain forests, where they are critically endangered, and the Borneo rain forests, where they are endangered.

U.S. scientists will retire most research chimps

FILE - This is an August 2004 aerial file photo of the 200-acre site in Caddo Parish near Shreveport, La., where the first phase of construction on Chimp Haven is underway. The NIH Council of Councils Working Group on Tuesday Jan. 22, 2013 approved a proposal, which also calls for major cuts in grants to study chimps in laboratories and no return to breeding them for research. Government scientists have agreed that all but 50 of hundreds of chimpanzees kept for federally funded research should be retired from labs and sent to the national sanctuary. (AP Photo/Chimp Haven, Naomi Lopez-Bauman) 
Government scientists have agreed that all but 50 of hundreds of chimpanzees kept for federally funded research should be retired from labs and sent to a national sanctuary. The proposal from a National Institutes of Health committee also said all of the chimps should have plenty of room to play and climb.
The NIH Council of Councils Working Group on Tuesday approved the proposal, which also calls for major cuts in grants to study chimps in laboratories and no return to breeding them for research.
Already, nine chimpanzees arrived Tuesday at Chimp Haven outside Shreveport, La., from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette's New Iberia Research Center, which no longer has an NIH chimp research contract. Seven more are expected Thursday and another 95 will arrive over the coming months, sanctuary officials said.
The federal agency said in 2011 that it would phase out most invasive research on chimpanzees. The new 86-page recommendation describes how chimpanzees should be kept and what will be needed for any future research. Chimps should be used only if there is no other way to study a threat to human health, and the research should be approved by an independent committee with members from the public, said the Council of Councils proposal, which will be sent to the NIH's director after a 60-day public-comment period.
Animal-rights activists said they were pleased by the recommendations.
"At last, our federal government understands: A chimpanzee should no more live in a laboratory than a human should live in a phone booth," the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said in a statement.
Chimp Haven was created on 200 acres of a Caddo Parish park in Keithville in northwest Louisiana.
"We should see more than 300 chimpanzees getting moved to the federal sanctuary system," said Kathleen Conlee, the Humane Society of the United States' vice president for animal research issues.
But Conlee said she was disappointed by the recommendation to keep a group of about 50 in case further research on chimpanzees is approved.
"But I'm glad they made clear those animals should be kept to much higher standards than they are currently being kept in," she said.
Chimpanzees should be kept in groups of at least seven, with about 1,000 square feet of outdoor space per chimp — roughly one-sixth of an acre for a group of seven, according to the proposal.
The space must include year-round outdoor access with a variety of natural surfaces such as grass, dirt and mulch, and enough climbing space to let all members of large troupes travel, feed and rest well above the ground, and with material to let them build new nests each day, the report said.
Chimp Haven's enclosures range from a quarter-acre to five acres, some of them forested and all with climbing structures.
The announcement of its first animals from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette's New Iberia Research Center was delayed a day to keep stress on them to a minimum, officials said.
"Understandably, the chimpanzees are nervous when they arrive, and we do everything possible to ease their stress. That includes limiting the number of people in the area to only those who are required to help with the chimpanzees. We also must minimize the risks of the chimpanzees being exposed to communicable diseases," veterinarian Raven Jackson said in the news release.
A $30 million cap on total spending for construction and care of Chimp Haven's retirees has been looming. That would stop NIH from contributing 75 percent of the $13,000 annual cost to care for each federal chimpanzee.
Conlee said the Humane Society will urge Congress to move money now spent on research contracts to Chimp Haven. The sanctuary gives the animals better care for less money than the labs are paid, she said.

Animal Pictures