September 21 2012
by: Bruce Kushnick
You got to hand it to AT&T. The phone company either wrote the Republican's 'Internet Freedom' platform or the Republicans just lifted the hype. Either way, AT&T has created this verbal jujitsu and has been able to confuse America to the point that night is day, opaque is transparent or, in this case, the term "Internet freedom" is really about making people believe it's about "freedom" when it is really about the destruction of America's entire telecommunications ecosystem.
I'll come back to how the Republican platform is using this 'Internet freedom' jujitsu in a moment.
AT&T has reached new heights of hubris with the letter they submitted to the FCC on August 30, 2012. AT&T's plan is to remove all regulations and obligations and they are doing this with a trick; the Internet is an 'information service' which does not have the obligations of a 'telecommunications' service -- and they are proposing to make everything regulated as the Internet. This means that almost all of the remaining wires, networks or even the obligation to offer services over those wires and networks are all removed -- as much of this infrastructure is classified as "telecommunications". The Public Switched Telephone Networks, the utility, would suddenly be reclassified as an information service. Sayonara any telco rules, regulations and oh yes, your rights. Your service breaks... tough. Prices go up and there's no direct competition -- too bad. Networks weren't upgraded -- so what. Net Neutrality? Neutered.
As we've discussed, AT&T and Verizon, working with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), have been able to use this ploy to remove regulations in multiple states -- claiming that VOIP, (also known as 'digital voice') -- which uses Internet protocols (IP) shouldn't be regulated. Thus, when AT&T makes their entire network Internet-friendly, voila -- regulations like 'carrier of last resort' -- the requirement to give a customer phone service in your territory (AT&T is the major incumbent phone company in 22 states) -- or any examination of the price of service -- are gone.
September 21 2012
by: Penny StarrInvestors need to prepare for a global recession.
That’s the takeaway from one well-respected economist after his recent appearance on CNBC’s Fast Money Halftime Report.
According to Marc Faber, the author of the Gloom, Boom, and Doom Report, a global recession is all but a certainty later this year or in early 2013.
When he was asked what sort of odds he put on a global recession happening, the economist famous for his ominous predictions quickly answered:
Faber’s pessimism during his recent appearance on CNBC wasn’t surprising for a man whose nickname is “Doctor Doom.”
What was surprising was his level of certainty that a global recession was coming.
Faber stated that there is a “meaningful slowdown in India and China” that many investors are missing due to the media’s focus on Greece and Spain.
He is also worried that the wealthy may be showing signs of spending fatigue after Tiffany’s reported slowing sales.
“There are more and more stocks that are breaking down — economic sensitive stocks and companies that cater to the high end. That suggests to me the economy is likely to weaken and the huge asset run is likely to come to an end with significant asset deflation.”
September 21 2012
by: Penny Starr
The Labor Department announced on Monday that it will be awarding almost $100 million in grant funding to states to prevent layoffs by allowing businesses to pay employees as part-time workers and the federal government will pick up the tab for the cost of a full-time paycheck.
The “work-sharing” program was passed as part of a Republican-led bill in the House, H.R. 3630, and Senate Amendment 1465 to extend the payroll tax deduction and unemployment benefits. In February 2012, President Barack Obama signed the bill into law, which included the $100 million in funding.
"Establishing or expanding work-sharing programs nationwide will help business owners better weather hard economic times by temporarily reducing their labor costs while still keeping their existing skilled employees," Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis said in the press release announcing the grants. "This program is a win-win for businesses and employees alike."
The work-sharing programs “allows employees to keep their jobs and helps employers to avoid laying off their trained workforces during economic downturns by reducing the hours of work for an entire group of affected workers,” according to the Labor Department.
September 10 2012
by: Parmy Olson
Algorithms are everywhere, lending us money, writing the news and potentially diagnosing illnesses. For a few years researchers have also been exploring their use in fighting crime too, typically by sifting through a wealth of statistical data about criminal events in a certain location over previous years, then using that data to extrapolate when crime might happen in that same area. Methods like this are being shopped by tech companies like PredPol and tested by police in LA, Santa Cruz and elsewhere.
Researcher Mirco Musolesi is coming at this emerging trend from another angle. Rather than predict when a criminal event will happen on a particularly susceptible street, he is working on predicting where it would happen. This method is a little more controversial because it wouldn’t rely on old crime data, but by tracking potential criminals and their movements via their mobile phones.
This idea was borne out of Musolesi’s research into what he calls mobility patterns, which he recently published as part of his research at the University of Birmingham in the U.K. Recently he won Nokia‘s Mobile Data challenge by predicting the movements of 25 volunteers working in a town in Switzerland. He used GPS data, telephone numbers and their texting and calling history to do it, and the algorithm was at times able to predict where these volunteers were heading to within 20 square meters.
Crucially, the algorithm was only this precise when it also tracked the movements and data of each volunteer’s friends. When the algorithm was simply tracking the volunteer, it could predict their future GPS coordinates to within roughly 1,000 square meters. When the prediction took into account additional information from a single friend, the error rate improved by several orders of magnitude.
September 10 2012
A shopper in the Jewel-Osco in Skokie, Ill. (Brent Lewis/For the Chicago Tribune) (Brent Lewis/For the Chicago Tribune / August 24, 2012)
Supervalu Inc. said it would close about 60 stores as it works to turn around its grocery business, which lags that of rivals Kroger Co. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
Supervalu on Wednesday said it would close the majority of the "underperforming or non-strategic stores" before the end of its fiscal third quarter ending Dec. 1.
Locally based Jewel-Osco said it is always evaluating underperforming stores, but would not say whether any other stores other than its Michigan City, Ind., outlet were slated to close. The move was announced last month.
Stores slated to be shuttered include 27 Albertsons supermarkets located in Southern California and the Intermountain West region as well as 22 Save-A-Lot locations.
Supervalu expects to record a pre-tax charge of $80 million to $90 million in fiscal 2013 related to the closures, with all but $3 million in estimated severance costs being non-cash.
Over the next three years, the company estimates that closing the stores will generate between $80 million and $90 million in cash through real estate transactions, eliminating cash operating losses and selling departmental assets.
September 8 2012
by: Josh Hunt
I recently wrote an article titled Technological Unemployment and after a mixed response I decided that I would do a series of articles based on how various different employment sectors are removing the human element from the work process. There are a number of issues affecting the global economy and one aspect that economists either disregard or ignore is technological unemployment. Technological unemployment is an inconvenience to modern society because by its very nature has the ability to crash our entire social system. This is the first part of an ongoing series of articles that will be published over time and today I shall concentrate on the retail sector.
In 2008 the retail sector employed over 3 million people in the UK (11% of the national workforce) and a high percentage of these jobs are based on the shop floor. As you can see, retail accounts for a sizeable chunk of employment in the UK, yet there are a number of technological developments that threaten the jobs of these 3 million workers. Whilst it will take time for new technologies to be introduced, as the costs of these technologies fall the benefits and cost reductions will be realised not only by large retailers but also small to medium sized firms also. You’ve probably already seen the introduction of self-service checkouts in a number of small to medium sized stores all over the place.
Smartphone Payments – Near Field Communications (NFC)
One development we’re beginning to see come to fruition is smartphone payment technology such as Near Field Communications (NFC). This technology will greatly make the customer service process far more efficient and helps take away the need for human service. By combining NFC with self-service checkout technology it is clear to see the benefits that can be gained by businesses of all sizes, especially considering the cost to incorporate this technology is falling all the time.