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Americans Continue to Struggle Post-Recession

October 2 2012



This week, we reported on the Pew Research Center’s findings that the 2000s were a lost decade for the middle class, as a result of declining household income and shrinking net worth over that 10-year period. Now, Pew reports that in the two years since the end of the Great Recession, Americans continue to shed resources.

 In fact, the decline of household median income in the last two years matched the drop that occurred during the recession itself, Pew reports. In 2009, when the recession ended, median household income was $52,195, and in 2011 (the most recent year available), it was $50,054, a decline of 4.1 percent. Back in 2007, before the recession, median household income was $54,489. That leads Pew to conclude that “recovery from the Great Recession is bypassing the nation’s households.”

 Those households are already in a weakened state. As Pew reported earlier, median net worth of middle-income families fell to $93,150 in 2010, compared to a peak of $152,950 several years earlier. And net worth is an important measure of financial security, since it offers households much-needed cash if they find themselves facing unplanned expenses or job losses. At the same time, median household income for middle-income families fell to $69,487 in 2010 compared to $72,956 at the beginning of the decade.

(Full Story...)



Death by Technology

Automatic License Plate Recognition (ALPR) Scanning Systems

September 28 2012


by: Lila Shapiro


Automatic License Plate Recognition (ALPR) scanning  systems are one of the newest technologies in the hands of law enforcement. The system consists of several cameras mounted on a police cruiser, hooked up to a computer inside the vehicle. The image on license plates are scanned and matched with an on-board, real-time database. This database can be set with flags for vehicles that have been identified as

  • Stolen Vehicles
  • Wanted for an Amber Alerts
  • Expired Registration
  • Expired Insurance
  • Wanted as “Persons of Interest” for any investigation

Anytime of of these alerts is triggered, the officer in the vehicle is immediately alerted to your presence, and for what reason your car has been flagged.

The system can also be matched with the owner of the vehicle via a DMV database. So if you are the owner of a car, and have a

you can find yourself stopped by the police in a heartbeat, just for driving down the street, and not committing any traffic violation.

How Many License Tags Can They Scan?

A license plate scanner can capture thousands of tags per hour. A police car parked on the side of the highway can scan virtually every car license plate in sight. They can successfully identify a vehicle going in the other direction down the highway at 70 mph.

Every time an image is captured, it is saved with the time, date, and location by GPS coordinates. So the police now have a record of where your vehicle was spotted at the time of the scan.

Can The System Make Mistakes?

Definitely, no system is flawless. Sometimes the optical character recognition will guess wrong. If it can’t decide which letter is on a plate, it will search the database for hits on both options. So it is entirely possible to be pulled over mistakenly based on a hit from the license plate scanner.

(Full Story...)



Death by Technology

Americans Are Literally Being Worked To Death

September 28 2012

by: Micheal Snyder


Are you constantly tired and do you feel incredibly stressed almost all the time?  Well, that means that there is a really good chance that you are a typical American worker.  Even though our incomes are going down, Americans are spending more time at work than ever before.  In fact, U.S. workers spend more time at work than anyone else in the world.  But it was not always this way.  Back in 1970, the average work week for an American worker was about 35 hours.  Today, it is up to 46 hours.  But there are other major economies around the globe that are doing just fine without burning their workers out.  For example, the average American worker spends 378 more hours working per year than the average German worker does.  Sadly, for many Americans work is not even finished once they leave the office.  According to one recent survey, the average American worker spends an extra seven hours per week on work tasks such as checking emails and answering phone calls after normal work hours have finished.  Other Americans are juggling two or three jobs in a desperate attempt to make ends meet.  Americans are busier than ever and work is often pushing the other areas of our lives on to the back burner.  What this also means is that "family vacations" are becoming increasingly rare in the United States.  In fact, Americans spend less days on vacation than anyone else in the industrialized world.  While some would applaud our "work ethic", the truth is that the fact that we are being overworked is having some very serious consequences.  In fact, as you will see below, Americans are literally being worked to death.

(Full Story...)



Death by Technology | Decline and Collapse

Kroger Rejects GMO Milk: The Tipping Point?

September 22 2012

by: Ken Roseboro


Most Americans don't understand GMO foods. But that appears to be changing. Surveys consistently show that a majority of Americans are unaware that more than 70% of processed foods they eat contain ingredients from GE corn, soybeans, canola, and cotton. But Kroger's recent ban of sales of GMO milk suggest something is afoot. Clearly Americans are increasingly aware of one GE product in their food, and they don’t like it. The food industry is now responding. Food retail giant Kroger recently announced that by February 2008 all the milk processed by the company will be from cows not injected with a genetically engineered growth hormone known as recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST) or rBGH. It's a significant change.


Reached tipping point

Kroger’s announcement is the latest indication of an rBST-free trend sweeping the nation’s dairy industry. The number of dairies using the hormone is falling like dominoes across the country. All milk produced in Oregon is now rBST-free. rBST-free dairy producers include, among others, Wilcox Dairy in Washington, Great Plains Dairy in North Dakota, Darigold Farms and Meadow Gold in Montana, Associated Food Stores in Utah, Sinton Dairy in Colorado, Byrne Dairy in New York, Garelick Farms in New Jersey, and H.P. Hood in Massachusetts. Dean Foods, the nation’s largest dairy processor, has converted to rBST-free production in several of its New England facilities, and grocery giant, Safeway, has done the same in Washington and Oregon. In May, Publix Super Markets, with 900 stores in the South—hardly a hotbed of anti-genetic engineering activism—went rBST-free in its branded milk products.

The trend isn’t limited to dairies. Denver-based Chipotle Mexican Grill is serving only rBST-free sour cream in all of its 530 or more restaurants.

Rick North of Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility says two events brought the rBST-free trend to a tipping point. First, coffee retailer Starbucks asked all its dairy suppliers to go rBST-free, and then California Dairies, which produces 8% of the milk supplied in the US, banned the use of rBST by this month.


Like “steroids for athletes”�

All these dairies are going rBST-free for one reason: consumers don’t want genetically engineered hormones in their milk. The dairies say they are simply responding to this demand. “We wanted our customers to enjoy the wholesome goodness of milk, without added hormones,”� said Publix’s director of media and community relations, Maria Brous.

(Full Story...)



Death by Technology

'Internet Freedom'? AT&T's Verbal Jujitsu to Close Down Telecommunications in America

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.

(Full Story...)



Deadly Politics | Death by Technology

Faber: '100% Chance' of Global Recession

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.”




(Full Story...)



Death by Technology | Decline and Collapse

Algorithm Aims To Predict Crime By Tracking Mobile Phones

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.


(Full Story...)



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