February 22, 2005

Due to time issues, I will no longer be able to post new entries on Numeralist.

Posted @ 10:48 AM | Link | Comments
February 19, 2005

A star burst on Dec. 27 which occured about 50,000 light years from Earth was briefly brighter than the full Moon and swamped satellites and telescopes. The 12 mile wide object released more energy in a 10th of a second than the Sun emits in 100,000 years.

The Democrats have posted a neat Social Security calculator. You enter your average annual salary and year of birth. The calculator shows your promised annual Social Security benefit vs your total annual benefit under the Bush privatization plan.

The Borgata has told cocktail servers if they gain more than 7% of their body weight, and fail to lose it on the company's weight-loss program, they will be fired.

MobilePC has released their list of the top 100 gadgets of all time. The list covers a wide range of items including the Sony Walkman, the Clapper, the Atari 2600, the Magic 8-ball, Mattel Football II and the Dustbuster.

Posted @ 8:40 AM | Link | Comments
February 18, 2005

The planet Pluto was discovered 75 years ago today by Clyde Tombaugh at the Lowell Observatory in Arizona. The planet's orbit is tilted 17.1 degrees off the plane of the solar system and it takes 248 years to orbit the sun.

Chief executives at many of the biggest U.S. companies got an average 5% raise last year to $10.7 million. That's around $42,700 per work-day.

The UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) confirmed 29.6kg of plutonium - enough to make 7 nuclear bombs - was "unaccounted for" in auditing records. UKAEA said there was no reason to think there was any "real loss" of plutonium. Gee, I feel better already.

Microsoft is recalling power cords on 14.1 million Xbox game consoles worldwide because the cords may pose a fire hazard.

The demand for plastic surgery jumped 44% last year. Americans spent $12.5 billion on cosmetic procedures, most of it out-of-pocket. Prices range from $146 on average for temporary microdermabrasion to remove fine lines and acne scars, to nearly $6,000 for a long-lasting face lift. Liposuction was the most popular surgical treatment among men and women with 478,251 procedures done last year.

According to a new UN report, the world’s population will reach 6.5 billion this year, and could reach 7 billion in 2012 and stabilize at 9 billion in 2050.

Posted @ 7:32 AM | Link | Comments
February 17, 2005

50% of the world's population will live in cities in 2 years. That's up from 30% in 1950. U.N. Commission on Population and Development estimates that number will be 61% of the global population by 2030. 20 cities now have 10 million or more inhabitants, compared with just 4 -- Tokyo, New York-Newark, Shanghai and Mexico City -- in 1975 and just 4 -- New York-Newark and Tokyo -- in 1950. The 5 biggest cities today are Tokyo, with 35.3 million people, Mexico City (19.2 million), New York-Newark (18.5 million), Bombay (18.3 million) and Sao Paulo (18.3 million).

Database giant ChoicePoint now says 145,000 consumers nationwide were placed at risk by a recent data theft at the company. Previously, the company had suggested the theft only affected California residents.

Bob Casey Jr. is leading Rick Santorum 46% to 41% in an early poll. Santorum must go!

Released less than 100-days-ago, Firefox has now been downloaded more than 25 million times. Spread Firefox, the volunteer group that promots the browser around the world, has grown to more than 70,000 members.

Israel's Parliament has approved $870 million in compensation for Jewish settlers who are to be evacuated from the Gaza Strip.

New dating analysis of Ethiopian rocks, found nearly 40 years ago holding the partial skulls of two modern humans, concludes that the remains are nearly 195,000 years old. These findings roll back the debut of anatomically modern humans by 50,000 years from previous estimates and raise new questions of just when the "sapiens" (thinking) part of Homo sapiens came into play.

Posted @ 7:45 AM | Link | Comments
February 16, 2005

The Kyoto treaty to reduce global warming goes into effect today. The U.S. under Clinton's leadership, helped shape the treaty, which was negotiated in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997 and was ratified by 141 nations. Under the treaty, the E.U. committed to reducing its emissions 8% below 1990 levels, Japan and Canada committed to a 6% cut, and Russia committed to limit emissions right at 1990 levels. The U.S. would have had to limit emissions at 7% below 1990 levels if Bush had not pulled out of the treaty.

Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom is claiming Iran is 6 months away from having the knowledge to build a nuclear bomb. He didn't mention how long it would take to build a bomb once they had that knowledge.

U.S. tribal casinos collected an estimated $18.5 billion in gambling revenue last year, roughly 10% more than in 2003. By comparison, major Nevada resorts took in $9.88 billion in gambling revenue in the 2004 fiscal year. There now are 411 Indian casinos in the United States, operated by 223 tribes in 28 states.

Posted @ 7:31 AM | Link | Comments
February 15, 2005

It is interesting how the same news can be promoted so differently: TheStreet.com - Retail Sales Look Strong; The AP via ABC News - Retail Sales Are Weakest in Five Months; Reuters - Retail Sales Dipped in January. U.S. retail sales dipped 0.3% in January, but purchases outside the car sector gained 0.6%.

After about six hours of deliberations, a 15-year-old boy who claimed the antidepressant Zoloft drove him to kill his grandparents was found guilty of murder Tuesday and sentenced to 30 years in prison.

The Canadian maple leaf flag is 40 years old today.

Local TV stations have nearly given up covering local political races and issues. In the month leading up to last Election Day, just 8% of the local evening newscasts in 11 of the nation's largest TV markets devoted time to local races and issues, researchers say. Over the same period, 55% of the newscasts included reports about the presidential race. And "8 times more coverage went to stories about accidental injuries" than to local races and issues.

Posted @ 4:41 PM | Link | Comments

Well now, isn't that special. Sex-offender and former schoolteacher Mary K. Letourneau, who spent nearly 7 years in prison for having sex with a 12-year-old student, is planning a very special wedding. Letourneau, 43, is engaged to the father of her 2 children, Vili Fualaau, now 22. Hurry! There are still a few items left on their Macy's bridal registry.

President Bush has sent Congress an $81.9 billion package to fund military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The total bill for both conflicts is now nearly $300 billion. Remember the good old days when Kerry was castrated for suggesting the cost was just $200 billion?

The Grammy awards drew their lowest total viewership in 10 years. CBS said the show was watched by 18.83 million viewers. Among the key 18- to 49-year-old age group, CBS said the show got an 8.1 rating. In comparison, the rating for that audience in 2004 was near 12. At 9 p.m., "Desperate Housewives" outdrew the Grammys by nearly 3 million viewers.

Posted @ 7:52 AM | Link | Comments
February 14, 2005

On average, more than 1 in 5 Americans went on a recent drinking binge. About 14.6 million Americans used marijuana at least once in the past 30 days. About 2.3 million use cocaine, and 1 million use hallucinogens. So, I guess we're not winning the drug war either.

Spanish prosecutors are seeking a total of 222,000 years in prison and nearly $1.17 billion in fines for three suspects accused of aiding the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. They should be eligible for parole in the year 113,005.

Verizon Communications has agreed to acquire MCI for more than $6.7 billion. The deal comes 2 weeks after the $16 billion AT&T/SBC deal.

According to a new consumer study by RSA Security, 1/4 of online shoppers have reduced their purchases in the past year as concerns over identity theft have risen. More than half of respondents felt traditional user IDs and passwords do not provide adequate security, and nearly 70 percent felt that online merchants are falling short on protecting their personal information.

Posted @ 4:35 PM | Link | Comments

More detailed Iraqi election results have been released. 8.55 million votes were cast, which was about 58% of the 14.66 million registered voters. In no Sunni-dominated province was turnout more than 33%. In Anbar province, where the insurgency has been strongest, turnout was only about 2%. United Iraqi Alliance won 48.2% of the vote. A coalition of two main Kurdish parties won a surprising 25.7% of the vote, and a bloc led by interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi got 13.8%.

Many of the costs in Bush's budget blow up after he leaves office. His plan to partially privatize Social Security, would cost a total of $79.5 billion in the last two budgets that Bush will propose as president and an additional $675 billion in the five years that follow. If Bush's tax cuts were made permanent, they would cost nearly $1.1 trillion in just the first 5 years after 2010. Pay attention for when Bush denies these costs with some overly-optimistic pseudo-patriotic mumbo-jumbo.

A new Rasmussen poll considers some unlikely matchups for 2008. The results show Hillary Clinton ahead of Condoleezza Rice 47% to 40%, and Rice leading John Kerry 45% to 43%. Interestingly, 51% believe that Senator Clinton is liberal, which is more than the 46% think that John Kerry is.

Posted @ 7:57 AM | Link | Comments
February 13, 2005

The first results are in for Iraq's election. The list of candidates representing Iraq majority Shiite Muslims got 4.075 million votes in the nation's Jan. 30 election, followed by the Kurds with 2.175 million and then Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's list with 1.168 million. The results will not be certified for 3 days. Overall vote totals for the country have not been released.

A women who was hit by a drunk driver in 1984 has spoken for the first time in more than 20 years. For years, she could only blink her eyes one blink for "no," two blinks for "yes" to respond to questions that no one knew for sure she understood.

Fire has destroyed one of Madrid’s tallest office buildings. The fire reached temperatures of 1,440°F in the 32-story, 350 feet high skyscraper according to Madrid's chief of firefighters.

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February 12, 2005

Happy Darwin Day!

The AP-Ipsos consumer confidence index sank to a 16-month low of 79.1 in February, down sharply from 92.5 in January. The measure of consumers' attitudes about economic expectations over the next six months fell to 58.6 in February, compared with 79.6 in January and 89.2 a year ago. Many underestimate the importance of consumer confidence in driving the economy forward.

Arthur Miller has died of congestive heart failure at the age of 89.

Yesterday, I noted the huge difference in the approval ratings for Bush in two different polls. The Left Coaster has discovered the CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll that gave Bush a 57% approval rating was based on a sample that had 9% more Republicans than Democrats.

Posted @ 8:35 AM | Link | Comments
February 11, 2005

Politics trumps science in the Bush administration. According to a survey taken by the Union of Concerned Scientists and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, 44% of those who responded reported they have been ordered for "non-scientific" reasons to refrain from recommending protections for endangered species. 56% said businesses used political influence to have science findings reversed or withdrawn. Of U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service scientists who replied to the survey, 71% said the agency cannot be trusted to save endangered species.

The death toll of 275,950 from the earthquake-generated tsunami in Asia made 2004 the deadliest year for earthquakes in five centuries.

The results of a new AP-Ipsos Poll are not so good for President Bush, especially compared with the most recent CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll. Only 45% approve of the way Bush is handling his job as president, and 58% think the country is on the wrong track. Even on handling of foreign policy, Bush got just 47% approval.

Posted @ 7:30 AM | Link | Comments
February 10, 2005

A survey of 223 of the DNC's 447 members revealed they overwhelmingly believe the party should draw clear distinctions between itself and the GOP. DNC members are more optimistic than rank-and-file Democrats about the party's chances in 2008. Only 42% of Dems nationwide thought it was extremely or very likely that they could recapture the White House, while 77% of DNC members responding to the survey thought it was extremely or very likely. Most poll respondents also think Howard Dean would be a good or excellent DNC chairman.

Interest rates on U.S. 30-year mortgages fell to their lowest levels in 10-months. Rates dipped to an average of 5.57% in the week ending Feb. 10 from 5.63% a week earlier.

The National Weather Service has tripled its computer capacity from 450 billion calculations per second to 1.3 trillion calculations per second. Don't expect weather forecasts to be 3 times more accurate.

The U.S. trade deficit ballooned to an all-time high of $617.7 billion last year, rising 24.4% from the 2003. It is the third year in a row that the deficit had set a record.

Prince was the top money maker in Rolling Stone's list of 50 of the highest earners in 2004. The diminutive one made $56.5 million and was followed on the list by Metallica at $43 million and Elton John with $42.9 million.

Posted @ 4:42 PM | Link | Comments

Don't forget Poland! President Bush has apparently taken his own advice, but not with a Hallmark card. He wants to give them 1 hundred milllllliion dollars. Bush is asking Congress for $400 million to "assist nations which have taken political and economic risks." In other words, our war buddies. Other countries out there take note. When the U.S. invades Iran, join in, and you too could have some cold hard cash coming your way.

According to the NYT, the FAA received 52 warnings prior to 9/11 from their own security experts that warned about Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda, some of which specifically discussed airline hijackings and suicide operations. Why are we just finding about this now? The Bush administration blocked the public release of the full, classified version of the report for more than 5 months.

The president's salary is $400,000, and the vice president's is $181,400. But how much do the rest of the White House staff earn? Press Secretary McClellan and Senior Advisor Karl Rove make $157,000. Others don't do quite that well. Writer Moira Dawson and Research Assistant John Powell earn $30,000/yr. [Full list]

Posted @ 7:52 AM | Link | Comments
February 09, 2005

According to a new survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, more than 50 million U.S. adults now bank online, a jump of 47% during the past two years. In 2000, about 14 million people used online banking sites. That figure jumped to 37 million in 2002, and is now at about 53 million people, or about 44% of all Internet users.

The Virginia House of Delegates passed a bill Tuesday authorizing a $50 fine for anyone who displays his or her underpants in a "lewd or indecent manner." We have now officially surpassed the threshold of righteousness gone too far.

According to a poll of 1,008 adult Canadians, 37% of the NHL's fan base said they don't miss the pro game. Not a promising sign for the NHL.

Posted @ 4:46 PM | Link | Comments

For the 2nd year in a row, the Patriots took the title but didn't cover the point spread, helping sports books around Nevada win a record $15.4 million. The amount won was a 24% increase from the previous year. A record $90.7 million was wagered on the Super Bowl, up from $81.2 million a year ago.

Surprise ... again! The White House released budget figures yesterday indicating that the new Medicare prescription drug benefit will cost more than $1.2 trillion in the coming decade, a much higher price tag than Bush suggested when he narrowly won passage of the law in late 2003.

A Romanian woman with a double uterus has given birth to twin boys two months apart. Maricica Tescu, 33, had a boy on Monday, 59 days after the birth of his non-identical twin brother on December 11.

135 years ago today, on February 9th, 1870, President Ulysses S. Grant signed a joint resolution of Congress authorizing the Secretary of War to establish a national weather service. I can't imagine walking outside without having at least some idea what the weather will be that day.

Posted @ 7:48 AM | Link | Comments
February 08, 2005

28-year-old British yachtswoman Ellen MacArthur has arrived home after becoming the fastest person to sail solo around the world. She completed her 27,000 mile voyage in a 25-meter trimaran, and slept an average of 30 minutes at a time and 4 hours in any day. Her time of 71 days, 14 hours and 18 minutes beat the previous record of 72 days and 23 hours was set last year by Frenchman Francis Joyon.

According to J.P. Morgan's survey of more than 1,600 people, 62% of people who said they would be interested in subscribing to satellite radio cited music without commercials as a reason to sign up. And while XM and Sirius have been on a content buying frenzy, only 31% said unique content was a factor.

In a new new poll, more than two-thirds of adults said it would be a good idea to limit benefits for wealthier retirees and for higher income workers to pay Social Security taxes on all their wages. 40% of respondents said reducing benefits for early retirement is a good idea; 37% said increasing the tax for all workers would be a good idea; 35% said the government should increase the age at which people could receive full benefits; and 29% said reducing benefits for people under 55 was acceptable. About 55% of respondents thought Bush's proposal that would allow wage earners to invest some of their Social Security taxes in private investment accounts in the future is a "bad idea."

This year's Super Bowl was seen by an estimated 86.1 million people, down 4% from the 89.8 million who saw last year's game.

Posted @ 4:40 PM | Link | Comments

As expected, Bush has gotten a boost from the Iraq elections. His approval rating is now at 57%. That is similar to the 59% rating he had after Saddam's capture. He is not doing as well if you look at specific topics. Approval ratings for the economy: 50%; foreign affairs: 51%; Iraq: 50%; Social Security: 43%. The poll also covers American's opinions of several other people and topics. [Full results]

An object just one-fifth the size of Pluto has been discovered orbiting a dying star in what appears to be a small version of our solar system. In a separate study, a disk of planet-building material was spied circling a brown dwarf just 15 times the mass of Jupiter. The system could also evolve into a compact, dim solar system.

Chairman and founder of MIT's Media Labs Nicholas Negroponte is developing a laptop that will go on sale for less than $100. He hopes it could become an education tool in developing countries where every child would have a laptop that could be used as a text book.

Posted @ 7:19 AM | Link | Comments
February 07, 2005

Armed with a self-designed ultra-high-resolution camera he crafted from parts of spy planes and nuclear reactors, Physicist Graham Flint is crisscrossing America, taking thousands of pictures of cities, monuments and national parks. Weighing more than 100 pounds, Flint's camera captures images at 4 gigapixels which could theoretically yield prints that measure up to 48 feet long and 24 feet high. Beginning in 2000, Flint has made about 1,000 gigapixel photographs during long road trips covering thousands of miles. [Gigapxl Project]

Bush is using some fuzzy math on his promise to cut the deficit in half. First, he uses the 2004 projected of $521 billion, and not the actual 2004 deficit of $412 billion. Second, Bush proposes to cut the deficit in half not in dollars, but as a share of the economy. Third, the costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and the cost of introducing private investment accounts to Social Security are not included.

While everyone was busy setting their DVRs for the premiere of The Simple Life: Interns, Doctors Without Borders has put up their list of The 10 Most Underreported Humanitarian Crises of 2004. [via BoingBoing]

Posted @ 3:40 PM | Link | Comments

The Patriots beat the Eagles 24-21 to win their 3rd Super Bowl in 4 years. Donovan McNabb completed 30 of 51 passes for 357 yards. He threw 3 touchdowns passes, but was also intercepted 3 times, and sacked 4 times. Brady completed 23 of 33 passes for 236 yards. Terrell Owens managed 9 catches for 122 yards and an average of 13.6 yards per carry. Game MVP Deion Branch caught 11 passes for 133 yards. Brian Westbrook picked up just 44 yards on 15 carries. [Box Score]

According to a new survey, gas prices rose more than 6.36 cents over the past 2 weeks to a nationwide average of $1.91 per gallon of self-serve regular. The price is now about 25 cents higher than one year ago. At $2.32 per gallon, Honolulu had the highest average price and Anchorage had the lowest price at $1.74 per gallon.

Time wasted deleting junk e-mail costs American businesses nearly $22 billion a year, according to a new study. I wonder how much the spammers earned based on those messages?

For a record 7th year in a row, Anheuser-Busch has won USA Today's Ad Meter consumer ranking of the top Super Bowl ads. This year's winner featured a guy tossing a six-pack of Bud Light out of a plane to encourage a skydiver who was refusing to jump. The pilot runs between them and jumps after the beer. It scored a 8.65, and was followed the cell phone yakker that was mistaken for a robber (8.06), and the ad featuring American troops getting standing ovation at airport (7.94). I guess people don’t mind getting their emotions manipulated for the purpose of selling beer. [Complete rankings] [View ads at IFILM]

Posted @ 7:58 AM | Link | Comments
February 06, 2005

Eagles v. Patriots stats: Sportline.com head to head numbers; NFL Matchup Breakdown

According to a new Newsweek poll, 65% of Americans now buy Bush's contention that Social Security is facing a funding crisis. It's nice that so many don't let the facts get in the way of a good distraction. Fortunately, only 26% favor the president’s proposed changes, 36% oppose them and 30% aren’t familiar with the plan’s basic outlines. [More poll numbers]

In his latest "Who's Counting" column, John Allen Paulos considers the differences between men and women when it comes to math.

More fallout from the cost of the war and W's tax cuts. According to figures obtained by the AP, in the 2006 budget, Bush would slice a $600 million grant program for local police agencies to $60 million next year. Grants to local firefighters, for which Congress provided $715 million this year, would fall to $500 million. He would eliminate the $300 million the government gives to states for incarcerating illegal aliens who commit crimes. The EPA's $8.1 billion would drop by $450 million. The $2.2 billion program that provides low-income people — in large part the elderly — with home-heating aid would be cut to $2 billion. But wait, there's more.

Posted @ 9:30 AM | Link | Comments
February 05, 2005

University of Akron's 4th national survey of religion and politics of 2,730 adult respondents shows an increasingly polarized religious electorate. Nearly 90% of conservative evangelical Protestants voted for Bush and nearly 4 in 5 liberal mainline Protestants choose Kerry. It was moderate Protestants and Catholics that gave the Republicans the edge on Election Day. 55% of centrist Catholics, 58% of centrist mainline Protestants and 64% of centrist evangelical Protestants chose Bush. [Full Report]

The number of times US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld offered to resign during a crisis last year over prisoner abuse at Iraq's Abu Ghraib jail: 2. You might notice that he still has a job.

Police searching for marijuana yesterday have found those nickels that vanished last year en route to the Federal Reserve. They found all 3.6 million nickels — weighing 45,000 pounds, in 900 bags, buried about 4 feet deep in the back yard of a suburban home.

The FCC said rates for basic, expanded basic cable service and equipment rose 5.4% to an average of $45.32 per month in the year ended Jan. 1, 2004, up from $42.99 a month the prior year. Cable rates rose at only a 3.6% pace in areas where there was effective competition for customers versus 5.6% where there was no direct competition.

Posted @ 7:53 AM | Link | Comments
February 04, 2005

The Senate voted 60 to 36 yesterday to confirm Alberto Gonzales as attorney general. He ended up with more votes than Ashcroft (58 to 42), but then again, there are more Republicans in the Senate now.

This year's Super Bowl ads are costing an average of $2.4 million per 30-seconds. Anheuser-Busch bought 10 of the 30-second slots this year or 17% of the game's ad inventory of 58 slots. 145 million U.S. viewers are expected to tune in to this year's game.

According to a South Korean defense policy paper, the United States would dispatch 690,000 troops and 2,000 warplanes if war breaks out on the Korean peninsula. Really? That would be a neat trick considering the numbers we are having trouble maintaining in Iraq.

Yao Ming of the Houston Rockets received a record 2,558,278 votes in winning the starting spot at center for the Western Conference in the NBA All-Star game. Shaq got 2,488,089 votes, the second highest in All-Star balloting history. Grant Hill edged Indiana's Jermaine O'Neal by slightly more than 65,000 votes and will make his first appearance in the game since 2001.

Posted @ 4:20 PM | Link | Comments

President Bush plans to ask Congress next week for $419.3 billion in U.S. defense spending for 2006, a 4% increase over the current $401 billion military budget. As usual, the proposed $2.5 trillion federal budget, will not include the cost of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

According to a new study from J.D. Power and Associates, there will be 38 models of hybrid vehicles available by 2011, 17 cars and 21 trucks and sport utility vehicles. Sales will plateau that year at about 535,000, or 3% of the U.S. market. Roughly 88,000 hybrids were sold in the United States in 2004, accounting for about one-half of 1% of total vehicle sales.

To make up for a lack of hotel space, Jacksonville FL is bringing in 5 cruise ships to dock near the Alltel Stadium. About 6,400 people will stay in 3,600 rooms on the ships over the Super Bowl weekend.

Posted @ 7:45 AM | Link | Comments
February 03, 2005

Harper's Index for January 2005

Minimum number of Al Qaeda suspects from overseas whom the United States has now "disappeared," by legal standards : 11

Percentage "more intelligence" given up by prisoners in Iraq since coercion of them was banned, according to a U.S. general : 25

Factor by which an Iraqi is more likely to die today than in the last year of the Hussein regime : 2.5

Factor by which the cause of death is more likely to be violence : 58

Full list | Archive

Posted @ 4:30 PM | Link | Comments

According to a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll of people who watched the SOTU, 70% said Bush's policies on health care were positive, while 66% approved of the president's plan for Social Security. I'd be surprised if more than 1% actually understand that plan. 78% said U.S. policy in Iraq is heading in the right direction, a 12 point increase over pre-speech polling. We'll see what happens to that one after the post-election euphoria wears off.

The rate of stroke deaths among black men in the South was 51% higher than it was among blacks in other parts of the country. And black men in the South had roughly 4 times the risk of dying of a stroke as white men living outside the South.

Germany unemployment has soared to 12.1%, its highest level since 1933. Figures show that more than 5 million Germans are without a job.

Posted @ 7:30 AM | Link | Comments
February 02, 2005

50% of all U.S. bankruptcies are caused by soaring medical bills and most people sent into debt by illness are middle-class workers with health insurance. A study, published in the journal Health Affairs, estimated that medical bankruptcies affect about 2 million Americans every year, including about 700,000 children.

Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan raised the benchmark federal funds rate 1/4 point to 2.5%. That's its highest level since September 2001, but still low by historical standards.

According to an ABC News/Washington Post poll, 50% of Americans approve of Bush's performance as president and 45% don't. Bush's rating has been quite stable, ranging between 47% and 52% approval in 15 ABC News/Washington Post polls since last February.

Google quarterly earnings were 7 times higher than a year earlier on revenue that doubled to more than $1 billion. The company's stock price jumped almost 10% to a record high.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon will meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Egypt next week, in the first highest-level summit between the sides in 4 years.

Posted @ 2:50 PM | Link | Comments

Can a large rodent predict the weather?

Groundhog Day is here again. As the legends goes, if the groundhog sees his shadow, we will get six more weeks of winter. If he doesn’t, spring is on the way.

So, how accurate is this legend? Let's go to the numbers. According to the StormFax Weather Almanac, Punxsutawney Phil has seen his shadow 94 out of 108 times and been correct 39% of the time. Interesting, because it suggests the shadow/no shadow prediction is backwards.

While some folklore and legends are based on real observations of cause and effect, that's not the case for Groundhog Day. That shouldn’t stop the folks in Punxsutawney from throwing a big party, torturing a groundhog and making a ton of money on tourism and collectibles.

Posted @ 7:25 AM | Link | Comments
February 01, 2005

Schemes for Social Security privatization assume that investing in stocks will yield a rate of return of 6.5 or 7% after inflation, for at least the next 75 years. Paul Krugman shows how that rate of return is essentially impossible.

President Bush is proposing boosting government payments to families of U.S. troops killed in Iraq, Afghanistan and future war zones to $250,000. The Democrats are pushing to have that payment extended to all military personnel who died on active duty. The proposal, which includes retroactive payments to the spouses or surviving relatives of the more than 1,500 who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan since October 2001, has first-year costs of $459 million.

The top U.S. commander in Baghdad is facing a budget gap of at least $4 billion between what Halliburton Co. says it will cost to provide services for U.S. troops for a year and what the government has budgeted.

Antidepressant use among children declined 10% in 2004, after U.S. regulators warned the drugs may be linked with increased suicide risk. The drop reversed several years of upward use of the drugs in children, including a 9 percent rise in 2003.

A jury has awarded $15.6 million to Russell Christoff, 58, whose image was used for years without his permission on Taster's Choice coffee labels. Christoff posed for a 2 hour photo shoot in 1986 and then stumbled across his likeness on a coffee jar in 2002. A legal dispute ensued in which Christoff declined the company's $100,000 settlement offer, and Nestle turned down his offer to to settle for $8.5 million.

Posted @ 4:20 PM | Link | Comments

The NFL had just a handful of 300-pounders 15 years ago. Today, nearly 1 in 4 players in Sunday's Super Bowl will weigh 300 pounds or more. The Patriots have 12, and the Eagles 11, including 349-pound tackle Tra Thomas. An unofficial check of expanded NFL rosters at the end of the season turned up 455 players listed at 300 pounds or more, almost all of them linemen.

From the always exciting merger news department - MetLife is buying Travelers from Citigroup for $11.5 billion. Also, AT&T is being bought by SBC Communications for $16 billion. AT&T was born from Alexander Graham Bell's invention of the telephone almost 130 years ago.

Thanks to high oil prices, ExxonMobil earned a record $8.4 billion in the fourth quarter and a record $25.3 billion for 2004. Annual revenue was a record $298 billion, up 20% from a year ago. You'd think they could have worked to keep gas prices down instead. Ahhh, ha haaaaa. I kill me.

A new UCLA study finds college students are becoming more divided on politics. The annual survey of freshmen around the country found that 2 to 4% defined themselves as "far left" or "far right" politically. About 26% of freshmen identified themselves as liberal, 22% as conservative and nearly half said they were "middle of the road."

Posted @ 7:35 AM | Link | Comments

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