As lawmakers set aside the debate on immigration legislation for their spring recess, the protests by millions around the nation have escalated the policy debate into a much broader battle over the status of the country's 11 million illegal immigrants. While the marches have galvanized Hispanic voters, they have also energized those who support a crackdown on illegal immigration.
"The size and magnitude of the demonstrations had some kind of backfire effect," said John McLaughlin, a Republican pollster who said he was working for 26 House members and seven senators seeking re-election. "The Republicans that are tough on immigration are doing well right now."
Mr. Hayworth said, "I see an incredible backlash." He has become one of the House's most vocal opponents of illegal immigration and is one of dozens of Republicans who have vowed to block the temporary-worker measure that stalled in the Senate.
Continued in article
The U.S. Government Accountability Office recently audited a sample of tax returns filed by real Americans who had hired a tax preparer. More than half of those tax forms contained what the GAO described as "a significant level of errors." The GAO then traveled to tax-preparation chain stores in random towns across the country and posed as ordinary taxpayers, such as plumbers, single working mothers, and the like. Only two of the 19 accountants could fill out even routine tax returns mistake-free . . . Mr. Baucus says that the tax code is in such miserable shape it's "like a canary in a coal mine. . . . The canary is dying." He's right, but the solution isn't to give the canary -- i.e., the taxpayer -- CPR. Better to write a new tax code that isn't such a clear hazard to Americans' mental and financial health.
Wall Street Journal, April 13, 2006 --- Click Here
Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in
both science and religion, by which deep insights can be winnowed from deep
Carl Sagan as quoted by Mark Shapiro at http://irascibleprofessor.com/comments-04-13-06.htm
Words are important if they are few.
Lalla Romano (1906-2001) --- Click Here
The decline of Western civilization proceeds
apace. One shudders to imagine life in decades hence. A case in point:
People now use cell phones in research libraries. Related stories Legal
Jams, March 22 Stem Cells Meet Google, March 8 Doing the Lord’s Work, March
1 Google’s Not-So-Simple Side, Feb. 27 The Shift Away From Print, Dec. 8
E-mail Print Wandering the stacks, they babble away in a blithe and
full-throated matter -– conversing, not with their imaginary friends (as did
the occasional library-haunting weirdo of yesteryear) but rather with
someone who is evidently named “Dude,” and who might, for all one knows, be
roaming elsewhere in the building: an audible menace to all serious thought
and scholarly endeavor . . . Being
forced to listen to one side of a manifestly inane conversation is now a
routine part of public life. It is tolerable on the street — but not,
somehow, in a library; and in one mostly full of academic tomes maybe least
of all. What’s worse, the rot is spreading.
Scott McLemee, "The Silencer," Inside Higher Ed, April 12, 2006 --- http://www.insidehighered.com/views/2006/04/12/mclemee
Let's also say that liberty is something rather
vague, but there's no vagueness about its absence.
Rodrigo Rey Rosa Click Here
We are liars, because the truth of yesterday
becomes a lie tomorrow, whereas letters are fixed, and we live by the letter
D. H. Lawrence, "Lies About Love"
For of all sad words of tongue or pen, The
saddest are these: "It might have been!"
John Greenleaf Whittier, "Maud Muller"
Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footsteps on the sands of time.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, "A Psalm of Life"
No bird soars too high if he soars with his own
William Blake, "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell"
No bird soars too high if he soars with his own
William Blake, "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell"
Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers today;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.
Robert Frost, "A Prayer in Spring"
Spring is nature's way of saying, "Let's party!"
Great Minds in Management: The Process of Theory Development --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen//theory/00overview/GreatMinds.htm
In April 2006 I commenced reading a heavy book entitled Great Minds in Management: The Process of Theory Development, Edited by Ken G. Smith and Michael A. Hitt (Oxford Press, 2006).
The essays are somewhat personalized in terms of how theory development is perceived by each author and how these perceptions changed over time.
In Tidbits I will share some of the key quotations as I proceed through this book. The book is somewhat heavy going, so it will take some time to add selected quotations to the list of quotations at http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen//theory/00overview/GreatMinds.htm
LEE R. BEACH and TERENCE R. MITCHELL
PG.# 39 BEACH and MITCHELL
This state of affairs elicited two immediate responses from behavioral decision researchers. The first was to declare decision makers flawed and to insist that they learn to behave as the normative models prescribed. The impact of this response has been minimal; there is little or no evidence that training in decision theory or decision analytic methods makes one a better decision maker. The second response was to modify normative theory, usually by retaining the general maximization of expected value framework but adding psychological assumptions that make the theory more predictive of actual decision behavior. Kahneman and Tversky's Prospect Theory (1979, Tversky and Kahneman, 1992) is the prime example of this response. By taking into account various biases, the underlying logic of the normative model remained relatively unscathed.
Quite aside from whether observed decision making resembles a gambler behaving as normative theory prescribes, there are two very large logical problems with the gamble analogy itself. The first is that the expected value of a gamble is the amount that the gambler can expect to win, on average, if he or she plays the gamble repeatedly. However, it is not at all clear what expected value means for a single gamble; the gambler either wins or loses and the average is irrelevant. Thus, the gamble analogy may hold if a decision maker makes a series of highly similar decisions, but it probably does not hold for unique decisions. In fact, in laboratory studies, gamblers treat repeated and unique gambles very differently (Keren and Wagenaar, 1987). Because decision makers regard the bulk of their decisions as unique, it seems unlikely they would treat many of them like gambles, which makes the analogy inappropriate. A manager does not approach a major decision with the idea that he or she will get to do this repeatedly and all that matters is that he or she is successful, on average, over the long run.
The second problem with the gamble analogy is that real gamblers doe not get to influence the outcomes of gambles; they place their bet and await the turn of the card or the spin of the wheel. In personal and organizational decision making, substantial time may elapse between the decision and its outcomes and most of us use this time to do our utmost to influence those outcomes. We acknowledge that risk abounds, but we do not accept the passive role of a gambler who patiently waits to see if he won or lost. This is why probabilities make so little sense to most people --- they want to use probabilities to describe the overall riskiness of the decision task, but they do not want to attach probabilities to every attribute of each decision alternative. In fact, real world decision makers insist that they try to nullify risk (probability) by working hard to make sure that these things come out well.
PG.# 41 BEACH and MITCHELL Both of us had a history of working with Fred Fiedler. Among the many contributions Fred has made to organizational theory, one of the most important is the concept of contingency theory. A contingency theory assumes that behavior is contingent upon the characteristics of the person, the characteristics of the task, and the characteristics of the environment in which the person and the task are embedded. The theoretical problem is to identify the components of each of these three classes of characteristics. The empirical problem is to see how the components of these classes of characteristics influence the behavior of interest.
So, based on our introspections about our own decision strategies and on our familiarity with the relevant literature, we began to write a contingency theory of decision strategy selection. We began with the idea that decision makers have repertories of strategies that range from aided analytic strategies, such as decision matrices and decision trees based on SEU, which usually require the help of a computer and/or a decision analyst: to unaided analytic strategies, such as Simon's (1957) "satisfying rule"; to simple nonanalytic strategies, such as a rule of thumb or asking a friend or consulting a fortune teller. The expenditure of effort (and, sometimes, money) required to use these strategies decreases from aided analytic to nonanalytic. Moreover, there are individual differences in the strategies decision makers have in their repertories.
The decision maker's characteristics are knowledge of strategies, ability to use them, and motivation. The latter is characterized as wanting to expend the least effort compatible with the demands of the decision task, whose characteristics are unfamiliarity, ambiguity, complexity, and instability. The decision maker and the task are embedded in a decision environment characterized by the irreversibility of the decision, significance, accountability for being correct, and time/money constraints. The strategy selection mechanism is driven by the decision maker's motivation: Select a strategy by balancing the effort of using it against its potential for producing a desirable outcome.
PG.# 42, 43and 44 BEACH and MITCHELL In light of our thinking about these three troubling issues, and in light of our doubts about the generality of the Strategy Selection Model, we actively tried to make ourselves think outside the accepted canon and lore about decision making. With the help of Kenneth Rediker, who was a graduate student at the time, we held weekly think-sessions in which we chased ideas. Slowly, we began to see a structure to what we were thinking, and we began to write small essays trying to pin down our ideas. These essays eventuated in our first attempt to go public (Mitchell, Rediker, and Beach, 1986).
After that first publication things got tough. American journal reviewers seemed particularly reluctant to publish our work, even the empirical studies. We did much better in Europe (e.g., Beach and Mitchell, 1987; Beach, et al., 1988; Beach and Strom, 1989). To get the word out, we decided to put our ideas, and our research, in a book, but no American publisher was interested. Finally, Britain's Wiley Ltd. took the risk, publishing Image Theory: Decision Making in Personal and Organizational Contexts in 1990. Although we do not believe many people read the book, its mere existence seemed to give the theory legitimacy and interest quickly grew.
3.2 IMAGE THEORY BRIEFLY In the Image Theory view, the decision maker is an individual acting alone. Of course, most decisions are made in concert with others, be it a spouse, a friend, business colleagues, or whoever. But, even so, the decision maker has to make up his or her own mind and then differences of opinion must be resolved in some manner that depends upon the dynamic of the group. That is, Image Theory does not regard groups or organizations as capable of making decisions per se, they are the contexts within which individual members' decisions become consolidated through convincing others, negotiation and politics to form a group product (Beach, 1990; Beach and Mitchell, 1990; Davis, 1992). As a result, Image Theory focuses on the individual making up his or her own mind on the context3 of a social relationship or an organization, with the presumption that the result may later prevail, be changed, or be overruled when presented to others.
Each decision maker is seen as possessing values that define for him or her how things should be and how people ought to behave. This involves such old-fashioned concepts as honor, morals, ethics, and ideals as well as standards of equality, justice, loyalty, stewardship, truth, beauty, and goodness, together with moral, civic, and religious precepts and responsibilities. Collectively these are called principles and they are "self-evident truths" about what the decision maker (or the group to which he or she belongs) stands for. They help determine the goals that are worthy of pursuit, and what are and what are not acceptable ways of pursuing those goals. Often these principles cannot be readily articulated, but they are powerful influences on decisions.
3 The social or organizational context includes knowledge about others' views, information about the issue requiring a decision and the values and meanings (culture) shared by members of the relationship or organization (Beach, 1993).
Bob Jensen's threads on accounting theory are at http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen//theory/00overview/theory01.htm
Absolutely Outrageous Retirement Ripoffs
"GMA's Class Warriors Sneer at Health Exec Sleeping on 'Nice Sheets'," by Mark Finkelstein, NewsBusters, April 20, 2006 --- http://newsbusters.org/node/4989
On the heels of MSM outrage at the retirement package granted to Exxon/Mobil CEO Lee Raymond [see Brent Baker's report here], Good Morning America was back at the class-warfare ramparts this morning with a new target in its sights, Dr. William McGuire, head of United Health Group. As the result of share prices that have increased over 7,000 percent, stock options granted McGuire are currently worth in excess of $1 billion.
ABC reporter Dan Harris narrated the segment, and GMA set the tone with its title - "You Must be Kidding!" But there was no joking about the class-warfare on display in the opening lines: "The head of one of the nation's largest healthcare companies is sitting on more than a billion dollars in stock openings while Americans go uninsured."
GMA never explained how the one fact relates to the other. If the money paid to McGuire went instead to shareholders in the form of dividends or remained in the company and drove share prices up, would that somehow have made a significant dent in the ranks of the uninsured?
GMA sustained its drumbeat of envy and jealousy: "While patients, doctors and hospitals have been feeling the pain of rising healthcare costs, [McGuire] has been accumulating one of the richest batches of stock options ever."
A clip was shown of McGuire being asked "$1.6 billion. Do you intend to keep all that money?"
McGuire: "I've been very fortunate. But that number fluctuates with the price of the stock." It was noted that he has donated tens of millions to various organizations.
GMA then screened a pharmicist, Joel Albers, from McGuire's neck of the woods, and informed us that "this man goes to state fairs dressed as Dr. McGuire accusing him of corporate greed."
Albers: "As health practitioners, we have a moral obligation to speak out."
When McGuire was quoted as saying "I've never made it a practice of looking for money," GMA responded sneeringly: "the man who claims not to be looking for money cared very much about perks such as the nearly $140,000 the company forked over for his personal travel plus nearly $70,000 for personal financial planning."
ABC reported that shareholders have brought a lawsuit over the stock options and that "yesterday, the Attorney General of Minnesota joined" the suit. Don't suppose the good AG sees any political hay to be made, do you? It was mentioned that McGuire has asked for his perks to be pulled and for no more stock options to be granted to him and fellow company execs.
Back in the studio, when Harris concluded "McGuire is saying, and I quote here 'we sleep with good conscience'," host Robin Roberts, echoing the theme of the day, shot back "You must be kidding!" She then tossed it to Charlie Gibson, who observed "he sleeps with a lot of money, too," as Diane Sawyer piled on "maybe on nice sheets." Gibson echoed the "sheets" line.
Hey, who can blame Sawyer and Gibson for their jealousy? According to this article, Diane has to make ends meet on a mere $13 million a year, while Gibson, scraping by at a paltry $7 million, is one lost paycheck away from sleeping on a subway grate.
Bob Jensen's threads on outrageous executive
compensation and golden parachutes are at
Purportedly (no guarantees) these
are ways to cut straight through to humans
in place of threading through computer voices on telephones
GetHuman --- http://gethuman.com/us/
If you now have technology for skipping TV adds, enjoy
it for the short time it will continue to work
In this era of easy ad skipping with TiVo-like video recorders, could television viewers one day be forced to watch commercials with a system that prevents channel switching? Yes, according to Royal Philips Electronics. A patent application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office said researchers of the Netherland-based consumer electronics company have created a technology that could let broadcasters freeze a channel during a commercial, so viewers wouldn't be able to avoid it. The pending patent, published on March 30, said the feature would be implemented on a program-by-program basis. Devices that could carry the technology would be a television or a set-top-box.
"Enjoy Skipping TV Ads -- While You Can," Denver Channel 7, April 20, 2006 --- http://www.thedenverchannel.com/technology/8848424/detail.html
Freaky: The sex-change chicken
A sex-change chicken which started life as an egg-laying hen has turned into a crowing cockerel. The pet, called Freaky, spent eight months laying dozens of eggs until she crowed like a cock bird one morning. Over the next few weeks, she sprouted a scarlet comb, grew red flaps called wattles under her chin and tufty tail feathers - all attributes of cockerels. Owner Jo Richards, of Saltford, near Bristol, said: "I've kept chickens for 10 years but I've never heard of such a thing." Animal experts said Freaky's sexchange was a one-in-10,000 rarity. It happens when a damaged ovary causes the hen's testosterone levels to soar, turning the remaining ovary into a testicle. Freaky, a silver-laced Wyandotte hen, now crows every sunrise, aggressively attacks other males and even tries to mate with his old female friends.
"The sex-change chicken that crows," Daily Mail, April 20, 2006 --- http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=383491&in_page_id=1770
A Slice of Cheesecake: The Notorious Bettie Page
Her story is coming to the screen this week in “The Notorious Bettie Page,” written and directed by Mary Harron, whose film about Valerie Solanas, “I Shot Andy Warhol,” was an exceptionally smart and insightful biopic. But Harron isn’t the only contemporary feminist interested in Page — or in the combustible mixture of sexist ideology and female agency captured in vintage erotica . . . A thumbnail sketch of its analysis can’t do justice to the book. It includes dozens of images from the history of the pin-up — from the naïvely stagy publicity photos of the 1860s to the ironically stagy meta-pin-ups created by contemporary pomo artists. An excerpt from the book is available at Buszek’s Web site. I recently interviewed her about her work. The notorious Bettie Page has only a small part in the history that Buszek has reconstructed. I asked about her anyway. (It meant that watching those short films on DVD counted as research.)
Scott McLemee, "A Slice of Cheesecake," Inside Higher Ed, April 19, 2006 --- http://www.insidehighered.com/views/2006/04/19/mclemee
Swap books, DVDs, and video games --- http://www.swapsimple.com/
"The Middle Class on the Precipice: Rising financial risks for American families," by Elizabeth Warren, Harvard Magazine, Jan-Feb 2006 --- http://www.harvard-magazine.com/on-line/010682.html
Asset, The magazine for financial planning professionals in Australia --- http://www.assetmag.com.au/
Compare telephone calling plans --- http://www.callsense.com/
From The Washington Post on April 20, 2006
What is the name of the new
cell phone service that Sprint Nextel launched letting
parents monitor their children using a Global Positioning
A. Child Watch
B. Family Locator
C. Finders Keeper
D. Kid Tracker
Dirt that defies gravity
By simple light and heat mechanisms, dust particles seem to defy gravity and leap up into the air. The effect, which once played a role in the formation of the Earth and asteroids, could also have applications in dust removal and even propel small probes on Mars.
"Scientists pin down causes of dust eruptions," PhysOrg, April 18, 2006 --- http://physorg.com/news64572780.html
"Annual Buying Guide: How to Ensure New PC Can Use Windows Vista," by Walter S. Mossberg, The Wall Street Journal, April 13, 2006; Page B1 --- http://online.wsj.com/article/personal_technology.html
It's a confusing time for computer buyers, and that makes this annual spring buyer's guide to desktop computers harder to write than usual. Microsoft's Windows XP operating system is in its last months of primacy, yet the company still hasn't issued final guidelines for the hardware you'll need to run Windows Vista, its successor, which is due in January.
Meanwhile, Apple Computer is in the process of revamping its entire Macintosh line to run on Intel chips. It has now made it possible for the newest Macs to run Windows as well as the Mac OS X operating system, so you can buy one machine for both worlds.
I believe every mainstream consumer doing typical tasks should consider the Mac. Its operating system already contains most of the key features promised for Vista. However, the Mac doesn't really need a buyer's guide. It has only two consumer desktop models -- the gorgeous iMac and the low-end Mac Mini.
So, as I did in my last guide last fall, I'm going to direct this one at people shopping for standard Windows desktops who would like to buy one now that could be upgraded to Vista later. Despite the lack of final hardware specs for Vista, Microsoft has put out some new information, and I have been talking to sources there to glean further details. These specs also apply to laptops.
If you want a new Windows PC, my best advice is to wait until January and buy one with Vista preinstalled. If you can't wait till then, you'll still have a good chance of upgrading to Vista if you follow these guidelines.
There's a problem, though. Running Vista with all its features enabled will require a major increase in hardware power, and that means a costlier PC. So Microsoft is essentially taking a two-tier approach to the hardware specs. To soothe PC makers who want to offer low price tags on some models, it is quoting lower specs that it says will allow running Vista in a sort of stripped-down mode. The company is also offering higher specs for running Vista as it was designed, with all features turned on.
The main difference between these two tiers is graphics performance and look and feel. If you have a computer with the weaker specs, Vista will still give you enhanced security and built-in desktop search. But you won't get the dramatic new graphical look and feel that makes Vista look more like the Mac OS. Your computer will look like an evolved version of Windows XP, and it will probably run only the wimpiest edition of Vista, called Home Basic.
Vista performance will depend on how much memory your PC has and what sort of graphics hardware it contains. If you have enough memory and good enough graphics hardware to meet the top-tier specs, you will likely be able to run the Home Premium and Ultimate editions of Vista.
Some computers will carry "Vista Capable" stickers, and Microsoft has a Web page on Vista-capable hardware specs at www.microsoft.com/technet/windowsvista/evaluate/hardware/vistarpc.mspx. But be careful. Some "Vista-capable" machines, especially those under $600, may run Vista only in stripped-down mode.
• Memory: Microsoft suggests 512 megabytes of memory, or RAM, for stripped-down Vista, and it will probably recommend one gigabyte of memory for full Vista. But based on experience with the company's guidelines, I strongly suggest doubling those amounts. Even on a cheap machine, I'd get one gigabyte of memory, and if you want to run Vista with all its features, I suggest two gigabytes.
• Video: Stripped-down Vista can run on any graphics hardware that can support what's called SVGA, or a resolution of 800 by 600. The hardware should also support a Microsoft technology called DirectX 9. This includes many integrated graphics systems, which do away with a separate video card in favor of graphics chips bolted to the mother board.
Full Vista will be best with a separate, or "discrete," graphics card that has at least 128 megabytes of dedicated video memory. These cards also need support for DirectX 9. In addition, however, they must also support Microsoft software called "WDDM" and "Pixel Shader 2." If your eyes are rolling right now, don't fret. Microsoft officials say nearly all discrete graphics cards on the market today meet these specs, as will the latest integrated graphics systems, such as Intel chip sets labeled 945 or higher.
• Processor: For stripped-down Vista, a processor running at 800 megahertz or faster should be sufficient, according to Microsoft. For full Vista, the speed rises to one gigahertz. I'd edge higher if your budget allows, but you don't need the fastest processor.
• Hard disk: Disk storage is already copious enough for Vista, and buying large amounts is cheap. For stripped-down Vista, I'd go for at least 60 gigabytes of hard-disk space. For full Vista, I'd boost that to 160 gigabytes, to accommodate lots of music and video.
If you don't care about Vista at all and just want to keep running Windows XP, you can refer to my 2005 spring buyer's guide at: http://ptech.wsj.com/archive/ptech-20050407.html .
Bob Jensen's technology bookmarks are at
Spice (food) Advice --- http://www.spiceadvice.com/
"Apple Grows Up - Even for Accountants,"
AccountingWeb, April 7, 2006 ---
On April 1, 2006, Apple Computer celebrated its 30th birthday. Some may consider it an April’s fool joke to suggest seriously considering Apple’s computing platform, the Macintosh, as a legitimate accounting tool. However, perhaps a better thought would be to extrapolate from that popular saying of the 60's: now that Apple has reached 30, maybe it’s become a company that serious grown-ups can trust.
Accounting is serious business. As such, there are several key factors that must contribute to the decision of which computing environment (hardware, software, operating system) to entrust vital and sensitive financial data to.
The first factor is security. In today’s world, stories about thefts of massive databases containing personal and financial information regularly make headlines. This is only a part of the data security story, however. Though it no longer garners much attention, “age-old” (in terms of the time-accelerated computer industry,) problems, such as hard drive failures, network drive backup failures and even data compromised internally on an individual workstation, still exist. The Macintosh incorporates a number of technologies to mitigate against these potential downfalls. FileVault encrypts users’ data such that it cannot be accessed by another person even if the computer is stolen. Backup provides a facility to make automated backups of data to a number of sources, including Apple’s secure servers. And, of course, while not immune to them, to date, Macintoshes have been practically unaffected by the viruses, worms, and online intrusions that have plagued Windows users for years.
The second factor is reliable accounting software. Unbeknownst to many, the first spreadsheet, VisiCalc, was released in 1979 on the Apple II. Since then, accounting software has had a checkered history on Apple computers. However, over the last few years, accounting software has had a strong presence in the Macintosh market. The two primary professional packages, Account Edge 2006 and QuickBooks Pro 2006, are well regarded and positively reviewed.
Finally, there is the issue of compatibility. No user exists in a vacuum. Files often need to be shared between users, potentially running different software on a different platform. Files in the applications mentioned above are compatible between Windows and Macintosh versions of the applications. Also, no user strictly runs accounting software and nothing else on their computer. Users have a wide range of software that they need to run. The Macintosh currently offers a mixed bag in regards to this issue.
Older Macintosh computers offered compatibility with Windows applications through emulation software such as Microsoft’s own Virtual PC. On recent hardware, this solution runs Windows software reasonably well for all but the most processor-intensive applications. However, with Apple’s ongoing switch to Intel-based Macintoshes, the future of emulation software is in question.
This week, Apple offered another potentially viable option. As of April 5, Apple is supporting the ability to boot Windows XP on Intel-based Macintoshes. It remains to be seen whether or not users will ever be able to rapidly switch between both Windows and Macintosh operating systems running simultaneously on the same computer. In the meantime, though, at least users have the ability to run Windows software when they need to.
There are any number of reasons to choose one platform over another based on individual computing needs. Where accounting is concerned, the Macintosh can at least be considered a viable option.
"The Green Home," Time Magazine, April 17, 2006, Page 92
Conventional bathroom cleansers contain ammonia and chlorine, which can be dangerous in confined or unventilated spaces. Use nontoxic products whenever possible. Or make your own: baking soda and vinegar proves a surprisingly effective toilet-bowl cleanser.
Friends of mine recently had a pipe burst under the kitchen sink in their new home. They were not at home, and their house flooded quite badly. The reason was corrosion of pipes by an ammonia bottle under the sink. I'm told that ammonia is not so dangerous with copper, but it will eat away at stainless steel like crazy.
The glue, paints, varnishes and waxes used in conventional furniture can release the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that affect indoor air quality. Look for organic or certified chemical-free sofa.
Conventional sheets are often treated with formaldehyde to get a wrinkle-free finish. For a chemical-free slumber, look for natural or organic bedding. Faribault Mills, for example, offers hypo-allergenic Ingeo bedding that is made from corn based fibers.
THROUGHOUT THE HOUSE
Paint can contribute to poor indoor-air quality long after it dries. Petroleum-based paints are a source of VOCs. Look for low- or zero-VOC paints or old-fashioned milk paints when trying to add some color to your house. Full-spectrum lightbulbs simulate natural daylight and last longer than conventional bulbs.
Thousands of British credit card details traded online
At least 400 credit card numbers are sold per day, along with other personal information such as dates of birth and mothers' maiden names, The Times said. A credit card number fetches one dollar (0.83 euros) in Internet chatrooms, whereas a card with a three-digit code is traded for five dollars. Additional security information can add 10 dollars to the asking price and a working personal identification number can raise the cost to 100 pounds (175 dollars, 145 euros), the newspaper said Saturday. The thieves were not just targeting consumers who bought goods online, showing that Internet-based firms were not the only ones at risk which held personal information about customers. The Times said the online fraudster gangs were thought to be operating out of eastern Europe and southeast Asia.
"Thousands of British credit card details traded online," PhysOrg, April 15, 2006 --- http://physorg.com/news64309890.html
University of California gets a settlement from Citigroup
as part of its losses in the WorldCom accounting scandal
Citigroup has agreed to pay the University of California more than $13 million to settle a lawsuit over liability for the university’s investments in WorldCom, a company that collapsed in 2002. The university sued over inaccurate analyses of WorldCom, which led UC to pay more than it would have otherwise to buy stock in the company.
Inside Higher Ed, April 7, 2006 --- http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2006/04/07/qt
Bob Jensen's threads on the WorldCom scandal are at
Package Mapper shows you a map of your FedEx, USPS, and DHL package
Enter a carrier and a tracking number to see your package's progress plotted on a map, Google Earth, or iCalendar. Sign in to enter a list of packages and see their current locations on a table or map --- http://packagemapper.com/
Updates from WebMD --- http://www.webmd.com/
Latest Headlines on April 19, 2006
Alzheimer's Drugs Offer Debatable Promise
A decade ago, the best that doctors could offer Alzheimer's patients and their families was an early diagnosis. Today, doctors have four medications to offer, but there's no agreement on how helpful those drugs are.
Patricia Neighmond, "Alzheimer's Drugs Offer Debatable Promise," NPR, April 20, 2006 --- http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5352086
Fungus Outbreak Among Contact Lens Wearers (especially in warm
climates like Texas --- now hot, hot)
On Thursday, Bausch & Lomb voluntarily asked retailers across the nation to temporarily remove bottles of ReNu contact lens solution from their shelves. Consumers are encouraged to switch to another contact lens solution until the investigation into the fungal keratitis infections among contact lens wearers is complete. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that a total of 109 patients with suspected Fusarium keratitis were being investigated in California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, and Vermont. Although not all patients had been interviewed, among the 30 patients for whom data is complete, the median age was 48 years and the majority (70 percent) were female. More than 90 percent of patients wore soft contact lens and 32 percent reported wearing contact lenses overnight. Wearing contact overnight is a known risk factor for microbial keratitis. The condition is more prevalent in warm climates such as those in the southernmost U.S. but the infection can and does occur anywhere.
"Fungus Outbreak Among Contact Lens Wearers," The AccountingWeb, April 14, 2006 --- http://www.accountingweb.com/cgi-bin/item.cgi?id=102034
Update on Stem Cells and Medicine --- http://www.technologyreview.com/special/stemcell/index.aspx
Stem cell technology in curing heart disease
Thai scientists are set to begin the country's first official study into the effects of stem cell technology in curing heart disease, according to a report published Sunday.
"Thailand to begin stem cell heart study: report," PhysOrg, April 16, 2006 --- http://www.physorg.com/news64375302.html
FDA Approves Insulin Device for Diabetics
The Food and Drug Administration approved a combination insulin pump and glucose monitor system, offering a way for some Type 1 diabetes patients to avoid dangerous episodes of hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, and reduce their risk of a host of complications and death. The Paradigm system, created by Medtronic Inc., of Minneapolis, includes a monitor taped to a patient's abdomen that continuously reads his or her blood glucose and transmits the data to a pump, which beeps or vibrates when blood sugar drops to a dangerous level. Patients adjust the pump, worn like a pager, to administer insulin into a port in the body. The system eliminates the need for repeated needle sticks to test blood and to inject insulin.
"FDA Approves Insulin Device For Diabetics," by Tomas M. Burton, The Wall Street Journal, April 14, 2006; Page A11 --- http://online.wsj.com/article/SB114497047978525628.html?mod=todays_us_marketplace
Virus linked to multiple sclerosis
Young adults, whose immune systems react strongly when exposed to a common virus, may run a higher risk of developing multiple sclerosis (MS) later in life, a new report has revealed. While three other studies have linked the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) - which often causes mononucleosis - to multiple sclerosis, the new findings provide stronger evidence of a connection, said the report released on Monday.
"Virus linked to multiple sclerosis," Al Jazeera, April 11, 2006 --- Click Here
"Private Annuity Trust – The Numbers Don’t Support the Hype," by Kevin J. McGrath --- http://www.quatloos.com/mcgrath_article.htm
Other annuity myths exposed --- http://www.quatloos.com/
The number of businesses owned by black entrepreneurs grew more than
four times the national rate for all businesses
The number of businesses owned by black entrepreneurs grew more than four times the national rate for all businesses from 1997 to 2002, the federal government said Tuesday. Black entrepreneurs owned 1.2 million businesses in 2002, an increase of 45 percent from 1997, according to a report by the Census Bureau. "It's encouraging to see not just the number but the sales and receipts of black-owned businesses are growing at such a robust rate, confirming that these firms are among the fastest-growing segments of our economy," Census Bureau Director Louis Kincannon said in a statement. Revenues from black-owned businesses increased by 25 percent during the period, to about $89 billion.
Carl Limbacher, "Black-Owned Businesses Thriving in U.S.," NewsMax, April 18, 2006 --- http://newsmax.com/archives/ic/2006/4/18/103439.shtml?s=ic
Voting Rights of Buffalo and Bees and Cockroaches: Democracy in the Animal Kingdom
"Buffalo Seek Consensus And Other Tales of How Animals Decide Things," by Sharon Begley, The Wall Street Journal, April 14, 2006; Page A11 --- http://online.wsj.com/article/science_journal.html
The Manyara buffalo of Africa begin stirring from their postprandial rest just before dusk. Each beast raises its head higher than usual and gazes into the distance.
After much shuffling around, the herd treks toward a new grazing ground, but not in the direction -- north-northeast, say -- that a majority have set their eyes on. Instead, the buffalo compromise. They perform the bovine equivalent of vector algebra, biologist Herbert Prins of Wegeningen University, the Netherlands, has found, choosing a direction that represents the weighted average of the directions the members of the herd have "voted" for.
Compromise, consensus, plebiscite: When it comes to decisions, the animal world is as diverse as the human one, providing a menagerie of approaches that scientists believe can illuminate decision-making in groups of people.
In contrast to the buffalo's compromise strategy, Cuban leaf-cutter ants are more likely to follow the crowd. When placed in a box with two exits, the ants use each about equally under normal conditions. But if scientists drop insect repellent into the box, the panicked ants follow the herd: An average of 75% try to get through only one exit, scientists at the University of Havana reported last December in American Naturalist. When people do that, as when fire breaks out in a crowded room, the result has been multiple deaths.
Honey bees, biologists recently figured out, prefer quorums. In late spring, colonies divide, with the queen and half the workers leaving the old hive. The swarm forms a cluster outside its old home and goes about finding new digs. But the queen doesn't choose. Instead, the bees engage in what biologist Thomas Seeley of Cornell University calls "a plebiscite, where once you have a quorum in favor of one site it wins."
In a swarm of 10,000 bees, several hundred "scouts" visit a dozen or more tree hollows. Each visits only one site; there is no comparison shopping. When a scout returns to the swarm after finding a great site (lots of space, small entrance), she shows her enthusiasm for it by dancing. Much as the "waggle dance" tells other bees where to find food, the dances of scout bees tell watchers the location of prime real estate.
"When a scout really likes a site, she dances her little heart out," says Prof. Seeley. The number of times she scoots around the dance floor reflects her enthusiasm. The more circuits, the more uncommitted scouts follow her directions, also becoming recruiters for the site.
A scout that loves a site visits it repeatedly, returning to the swarm after each sortie to dance about it. But with each reprise she makes 15 fewer circuits, Prof. Seeley and colleagues will report in the May-June issue of American Scientist. (Enthusiasm dims with time.) As a result, scouts that visited mediocre sites and so performed shorter dances from the get-go eventually stop dancing for that site (Subtracting 15 from a smaller number gets you to zero sooner than subtracting 15 from a larger number.) Soon, uncommitted scouts are being recruited only to top sites.
Once scouts find a quorum of 10 to 20 bees at a site, they emit a high-pitched sound that tells other bees in the swarm to warm up their flight muscles. After an hour or so they take off for their new home, scouts leading the way. "The beauty of this process is that quorum sensing results in selection of a great site even though no one scout knows all the alternatives out there," says Prof. Seeley.
Even cockroaches manage to make collective decisions that, seemingly by magic, produce an outcome that benefits everyone (except the people whose kitchens they are in). When roaches decide where to move in, they must balance crowding against protection against predators. The goal: pack enough roaches into a shelter to provide strength in numbers, but not so much that dangerous crowding results.
Continued in article
Comedian Bill Cosby brought tough talk to Cincinnati with his
"call out" to the Tri-State's minority community.
"Bill Cosby Tells Parents To Take Control Of Their Kids," 55KRC, April 14, 2006 --- Click Here
Comedian Bill Cosby brought tough talk to Cincinnati Thursday night with his controversial "call out" to the Tri-State's minority community.
Cosby's dialogues on parenting, crime, and social responsibility caused uproars in other cities.
About 600 people attended the first session at Xavier's Cintas Center. About 1,200 came to the second.
Cosby's message was very much one of personal and family responsibility. He did crack some jokes. Yet, you could tell the audience was unsure how they were going to take his message to the streets.
The comedian known for his quick wit, is quick to make serious points.
Bill Cosby asked, "are we so sedated that we know not how to stand anymore?"
Cosby joined a panel of local community leaders Thursday to talk tough about the social issues he says are pounding at the heart of minority communities...fractured families, hopelessness, and lack of education.
"When that young man was killed," said Cosby. "At the place, I read about it, at the White Castle."
Crime. Cosby told the audience it's up to them to change the attitudes of young black men and women. He spoke of the importance of raising children within a family, stressing education.
"Well, I was disappointed." Folks such as Michael Howard say the message was good, but he says Cosby didn't deliver. "I think that was kind of impossible without the youth causing all the crime and violence being present," said Howard.
Some suggested the answer would be to have the event in the streets where the issues boil.
Hamilton County Corner Dr. Odell Owens says he agrees with Cosby's stance on education..says it works. And so continues this comedian, touring cities with a not-so-funny message.
"I can feel your shame, but what's worse I can feel how sedated you seem to be about making corrections."
At the very end, audience members were able to ask questions and receive advice from panel members on topics such as how to enroll in school, how to get financial aid, and mentoring.
Continued in article
Hollywood high-visibility liberals largely unseen in immigration
Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn protest the war. Leonardo DiCaprio has taken on global warming and Mike Farrell stands vigil against the death penalty. But when it comes to immigration reform a controversy in Hollywood's own backyard stars have largely been unseen and unheard.
Lynn Elber, "Hollywood stars largely unseen in immigration debate," Daily Bulletin, April 14, 006 --- http://www.dailybulletin.com/news/ci_3708128
Immigration reform appears too complicated for Michael Moore to take up --- http://www.dailybulletin.com/news/ci_3708128
Barbara doesn't appear to know what's going on about this one --- http://www.dailybulletin.com/news/ci_3708128
Where is the Bush Conspiracy on this one Charlie Sheen?
Mum's the word from "Meathead Michael" Stivic since labor unions adamantly oppose an open door immigration policy.
It would be a bitter pill for celebrity liberals to take up a cause supported by big corporations and President Bush.
Robin Williams does offer a plan for border control --- http://www.usbc.org/profiles/profiles2003/0503perfectplan.htm
"No Illegal Alien Will be Left Behind," John O'Sullivan, National Review, April 14, 2006 --- http://www.nationalreview.com/jos/osullivan200604140919.asp
This week’s demonstrations and marches by illegal immigrants and their supporters pose an interesting question: Who were they directed against?
Not the Democrats or the semi-organized Left. Democrats strongly backed the marches which were actually organized by the usual hard-Left suspects responsible for the antiwar and anti-Bush campaigns — ANSWER, and so on.
Well, then, they must have been directed against the GOP, corporate America, and the establishment? Not so. The White House also supports the marches. President Bush took time out while talking to students at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies to praise the marchers for expressing “discontent” democratically.
Much of corporate America goes along — some businesses closed down to allow their Hispanic workers to participate. And all over the U.S. schools are giving their pupils “credits” for playing truant in order to show approval of law-breaking and open borders.
Those senators who favored the misnamed “compromise” immigration reform, now stalled, loudly express the hope that the marches will change the minds of their recalcitrant colleagues in both House and Senate. And the media, fondly recalling its glorious days in the post-1968 “revolution,” almost salivates over the prospect that these demonstrations are the harbinger of a new multicultural political movement that would revive the moribund Left.
So I repeat the question: Who are these demonstrations against?
In the first instance they are self-evidently directed against most congressional Republicans (supported by a discreet minority of Democrats) who oppose the legislation supported by all of the above and who want to enforce border security without either a guest-worker program or a massive amnesty for illegals. The marchers are hoping to morally impress or intimidate (take your pick) these legislators into accepting a slightly different version of the “compromise” when Congress returns from recess.
But the legislators themselves are marching to a different drummer — namely, the strong skepticism about the immigration “compromise” as revealed in the opinion polls. Almost all polls have shown over years that about two thirds of the voters favor lower immigration levels overall, and are increasingly worried about impact of immigration on both economy and society. They are sometimes prepared to go along with highly moderate versions of guest-worker and amnesty as part of much tougher enforcement legislation, on the lines of the House bill proposed by Rep. Jim Sensebrenner — provided that the illegals meet a number of strict standards — learning English, paying stiff fines and back taxes, returning home to join the line for entry, and so on. But they are in general firmly opposed to illegal immigration, want to see it stopped, and worry about its impact on lower-paid Americans and the social fabric of American society.
So the marches are, in effect, directed against the voters since they stand behind the Republican legislators blocking the bill. If one listens carefully to the rhetoric of the marchers and their organizers, they deny the right of Congress and the voters to control immigration, to expel illegal immigrants, or even to place any conditions on their remaining — the conditions that the voters insist on as the minimum for any genuine compromise.
Such rhetoric comes under two headings. The first holds that the illegals are already Americans with the rights of American cities since any distinction between citizens and foreigners is suspect as xenophobic or racist. The second is that the Americans are the real foreigners since they invaded America, stole it from the Indians and Amerindians, drew their own illegal borders across it, and now seek to criminalize the original inhabitants.
These two positions plainly contradict each other. Neither is likely to appeal to the voters. But the second is much more repellent to ordinary Americans than the first. The demo organizers, who understand politics, have told the marchers to wave only American flags and to refrain from separatist slogans and placards. So it is very significant that many marchers — in some cases most — have ignored this advice, waving Mexican flags and anti-Yanqui placards.
Even if they succeed in intimidating Congress, therefore, they are alienating the voters still further. Recent polls indeed show far more voters hostile than favorable to the marchers.
So the division represented in these marches pits the marchers, backed by the White House, both party leaderships, corporate America, and the organized multicultural Left, against the voters, supported by a narrow majority of Republicans and a small minority of Democrats in Congress. If Congress sticks with its current stalemate and the legislation stalls, the issue will go into cold storage for two or four years — i.e., between now and next two national elections. If the marchers succeed in pressuring Congress to revive the bill, however, then we are all in for a long hot political summer.
In the streets the marchers will try to keep up their momentum by continual demonstrations that will further alarm voters. In Congress the details of the legislation will become better known as the legislators debate it — and those details will alarm the voters far more than any demonstration.
Continued in article
Can you believe it? Unions on opposite sides of Kennedy and
AFL-CIO President John Sweeney says guest-worker programs supported by top Democrats such as Sens. Edward M. Kennedy and Dianne Feinstein are a "bad idea and harm all workers." "They cast workers into a perennial second-class status and unfairly put their fates into their employers' hands," said Mr. Sweeney, whose organization represents 13 million workers in 54 unions.
Charles Hurt, "Unions worked up over illegals," The Washington Times, April 15, 2006 --- http://www.washingtontimes.com/national/20060414-110533-7413r.htm
Illegal-alien activists target CNN's Lou Dobbs
Illegal-alien activists who have pulled off major rallies in several cities in recent weeks plan to shift part of their focus May 1 by targeting a newsman they see hurting their cause. An "Ax AOL" campaign is being organized to coincide with a national action by various groups defending illegal immigration, but the real target of their wrath is Lou Dobbs of CNN. "Why AOL?" asks one of the promoters of the campaign rhetorically. "Lou Dobbs is the number one money maker for CNN so he is not going anywhere as long as he makes money for CNN...
"Illegal-alien activists target Lou Dobbs: 'Ax AOL' campaign designed to pressure CNN parent company to fire newsman," WorldNetDaily, April 17, 2006 --- http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=49769
"Demonstrations on Immigration Harden a Divide," by David D.
Kirkpatrick, The New York Times, April 17, 2006 ---
Students get course credit for protest marching, but
only if they march on the politically correct side of the street
"Students Offered Credits for Marching with Illegal Aliens," by Jim Kouri, The Sierra Times, April 12, 2006 --- http://www.sierratimes.com/06/04/11/205_188_116_8_62366.htm
Many parents are outraged over learning that their kids are being used by school administrators and teachers to further their own political agenda. Officials with Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland say those students who attend the upcoming pro-illegal immigration rally can get credit for their Student Service Learning hours. However, no credit is being offered for attending rallies that are opposed to open borders or illegal immigration.
The immigration rally scheduled to be held in Montgomery County on Monday is expected to attract thousands, including some children from a local school district.
Every high school student in MCPS must have 60 hours of volunteer or activism service to graduate, according to WTOP radio in Washington, DC. The school district equates volunteer work at a nursing home or hospital with a political protest, say many observers.
Many parents are outraged that children can get credit for attending the rally, saying there is a potential for endangering the students if things get out of hand.
Continued in article
"Who Killed the Lindbergh Baby?" by Randy Dotinga, Wired News, April 18, 2006 --- http://www.wired.com/news/technology/0,70663-0.html?tw=wn_index_2
When the baby son of Charles Lindbergh was snatched from his crib on a March evening in 1932, the kidnapper left a ransom note demanding $50,000. Over the next several weeks, a dozen more ransom notes popped up, asking for bigger sums of money and telling the world-renowned aviator where to leave it.
For 74 years, the notes have intrigued professional and amateur detectives alike. Who wrote them? And did the same person kill Charles Augustus Lindbergh, who was found dead two months later near his New Jersey home?
A German immigrant named Bruno Hauptmann was eventually convicted of the crime and executed, partly on the basis of an FBI analysis that matched his handwriting to the ransom notes. But questions have persisted ever since.
A Virginia company thinks it may be able to solve some of the mystery for good. It is analyzing the ransom notes with new software that matches handwriting samples by creating statistical snapshots of each handwritten letter and digit.
If it's proven to be effective in rounds of testing, the software created by Gannon Technologies Group could do more than bring new light to an old case. It has the potential to change the American forensic landscape by providing document examiners with the same impressive degree of certainty that scientists boast of when they make DNA matches. It may be possible for the first time for someone to testify that the odds are millions to one that, say, Uncle Joe didn't sign the will that left his entire estate to his mistress.
Until now, handwriting examination "has been very much an art," said Mark Walch, director of operations at Gannon Technologies, a privately held company that specializes in optical character recognition software.
Indeed, unlike other forensic investigators, document examiners continue to rely on their eyeballs more than computers. Prosecutors and defense attorneys are aware of this fuzz factor, and they've occasionally had success challenging document examiners in court, especially since they don't come with impressive DNA-style statistics such as "there's a one in 4.5 million chance that this drop of blood came from someone other than Mr. Jones."
"We just have to rely on our experience and our standard protocols," said Gary Herbertson, a retired FBI forensic document examiner who now works on his own in Berkeley, California. Instead of DNA-like odds, "We have a scale of opinions from 'certainty' and 'highly probable' to 'merely probable' and 'no conclusion.'"
Enter the handwriting analysis technology, which Gannon Technologies unveiled in February at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Armed with a bank of dozens of high-end Dell computers and a database of handwriting samples from more than 500 people who wrote a paragraph called the "London Letter" (.pdf), the company claims its software can easily match different samples of the same person's handwriting, even when the writer is purposely trying to fool the technology.
The key is statistical analysis that takes into account more than 200 measurements -- from curvature gradation to size -- of each letter or digit. The software then figures out which 10 or 12 of those measurements are most important, and then creates a statistical snapshot, said Donald Gantz, a statistician at George Mason University who is working on the handwriting project.
For now, Walch said Gannon Technologies is spending millions (he declined to specify the actual amount) gathering proof that the technology works. If it can be proven, the software could allow users to give odds nearly as precise as DNA analysis.
Continued in article
A Meat Eater Bigger Than T. Rex Is Unearthed
A new dinosaur species, one of the largest known carnivorous dinosaurs, has emerged from the red sandstone of Patagonia, in Argentina, where reptilian giants seem to have thrived 100 million years ago.
John Noble Wilford, "A Meat Eater Bigger Than T. Rex Is Unearthed," The New York Times, April 18, 2006 --- http://www.nytimes.com/2006/04/18/science/18dino.html
From The Washington Post on April 12, 2006
"Muslim students 'being taught to despise unbelievers as filth'," by Sean O'Neill, London Times, April 20, 2006 --- http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0%2C%2C2-2142403%2C00.html
MUSLIM students training to be imams at a British college with strong Iranian links have complained that they are being taught fundamentalist doctrines which describe nonMuslims as “filth”. The Times has obtained extracts from medieval texts taught to the students in which unbelievers are likened to pigs and dogs. The texts are taught at the Hawza Ilmiyya of London, a religious school, which has a sister institution, the Islamic College for Advanced Studies (ICAS), which offers a degree validated by Middlesex University.
The students, who have asked to remain anonymous, study their religious courses alongside the university-backed BA in Islamic studies. They spend two days a week as religious students and three days on their university course.
The Hawza Ilmiyya and the ICAS are in the same building at Willesden High Road, northwest London — a former Church of England primary school — and share many of the same teaching staff.
They have a single fundraising arm, the Irshad Trust, one of the managing trustees of which is Abdolhossein Moezi, an Iranian cleric and a personal representative of Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, the Iranian supreme religious leader.
Mr Moezi is also the director of the Islamic Centre of England in Maida Vale, a large mosque and community centre that is a registered charity. Its memorandum of association, lodged with the Charity Commission, says that: “At all times at least one of the trustees shall be a representative of the Supreme Spiritual Leadership of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
Both the Irshad Trust and the Islamic Centre of England Ltd (ICEL) were established in 1996. Mr Moezi’s predecessor as Ayatollah Khamenei’s representative, another cleric called Mohsen Araki, was a founding trustee of both charities.
Continued in article
"IT Consulting Fades From CPAs’ Radar Screens," AccountingWeb,
April 10, 2006 ---
Firms are being lured away from IT consulting to focus more attention on attest related services, where market demand has been stoked by the increased financial reporting requirements in the Sarbanes-Oxley accounting reform law. “Firms are doing a good job of building practices around that because that’s compliance work and something that clients have to do. Firms are embracing this intellectually in way they could not for IT,” he says.
Meanwhile, the IT world has moved away from CPAs by converting many of its products and services to Web-based platforms, which allow end users to download them on line, rather than having applications physically implemented on their computer systems by CPAs and other technology advisors, Eagle says. The ITA has responded by adding training sessions in which practitioners discuss how they have changed their IT practices to accommodate Web-based products and services.
In addition to the Web-based sales, some IT products for the smallest companies have been moved more toward being packaged for sales on retail store shelves, Eagle adds. “Vendors want to create software that works out of the cellophane wrapper. Between that and the ASP (Web-based application service providers) movement, the role of the implementer is fading,” he says, summarizing what many IT implementers have long known.
He notes that, if anything, the bulk of smaller firms’ IT work in the future will be advisory roles helping clients put together requests for proposals from software vendors. The larger firms will increasingly use their specialized vertical industry practices to deliver IT products and services tailored for those vertical industries, he predicts.
Continued in article
At the same time we see a surge in CPA consulting in "risk advisory services" that covers a broad spectrum of risk concepts. For example, KPMG's overview of such services is at http://www.kpmg.com/services/content.asp?l1id=90&l2id=520
April 14, 2006 reply from Jagdish S. Gangolly [gangolly@INFOTOC.COM]
It is true that accounting firms are not concentrating on non-assurance related IT consulting. That, in my humble opinion, is because they probably never considered it a part of their core competence. In one case where it almost became a part of their core competence (Arthur Andersen), the two parted ways quickly (AA and Accenture). So, I don't think the firms were really lured away from IT consulting but have chosen to avoid it.
There is a great gulf between the cultures of the firms and those of IT consulting; and maintaining competency in IT requires enormous investments (just as, for example, maintaining competence in SEC audits requires enormous investments).
It is my understanding that all of the big firms maintain an assurance-related IT practice (TSRS, STS, CRM,... are some of the acronyms; in fact those practices hire almost all of our AIS and Information Assurance majors). Non-attest related IT services, when performed, are separated through separate "channels", which in my opinion, is a sort of virtual Chinese wall.
On the other hand, there is at least one IT risk consulting firm that evolved out of Big-5. Take a look at www.protiviti.com .
Bob Jensen's threads on accountancy careers are at
April 14, 2006 message from Don Edwards [email@example.com]
You may be interested in what your old friend has been doing for the last several months. The website www.freeloadpress.com contains the publication of three Accounting Textbooks which have been made available to college & University students FREE:
- Accounting Principles
- Financial Accounting
- Managerial Accounting
The element that makes the books available for free is based on sponsorships by American businesses. You may want to visit this website and access either the instructors area or the students area. This is an interesting adventure for us and it could be meaningful for both students and instructors, again at NO COST.
If you have a reaction to this, I would be glad to hear from you.
All the best,
J. Don Edwards
James Don is a former President of the American Accounting Association and member of the Accounting Hall of Fame --- Click Here
Bob Jensen's threads on free electronic textbooks are at http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/ElectronicLiterature.htm#Textbooks
From the Scout Report on April 7, 2006
The Condition of Education --- http://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/
The very title of this website would perhaps draw only hushed whispers from those commentators in the world of education policy, and that’s probably not a bad reaction. The site makes good on the promise of its title, as it offers the casual and seasoned visitor a wide variety of indicators in the forms of tables and charts, including total enrollments in grades K-12, trends in half-day kindergarten, and past and projected undergraduate enrollment figures. Culled from annual reports created by the National Center for Education Statistics, these helpful pieces of information and data are complemented nicely by a series of special analyses, including “Mobility in the Teacher Workforce” and “Private Schools: A Brief Portrait”. If visitors encounter any problems finding the information they desire, they should consult the “User’s Guide”, which contains directions on how to best navigate the site. Finally, the site is rounded out by a brief summary that highlights some of the findings of the 2005 Condition of Education report.
The Promises and Challenges of Digital Learning http://topics.developmentgateway.org/special/onlineeducation
The supposed promise of digital learning initiatives across the globe continues to draw commentary from both passionate believers to unrepentant skeptics. Recently, the staff at the Development Gateway website, created a special report on the topic of online education, and more specifically “…at lessons learned, innovations that work, and the future of ICT in education for developing countries”. The homepage contains a number of “Issue Roundtables”, where a variety of experts in the field weigh in on topics such as “Can it solve the education crisis in poor countries?” and “Is high internet cost the only obstacle?” After perusing a few of these archived roundtable discussions, visitors will want to look at some of the other sections, which include explorations of best practices in online education and some of the potential roadblocks to creating and sustaining e-learning initiatives.
Imagining Ourselves --- http://imaginingourselves.imow.org/pb/Welcome.aspx
What are the shared experiences of young women across the globe today? Alternately, what are some of the unique and individual experiences that young women are having across the globe? These are but a few of the questions raised by the Imaging Ourselves website, created through a partnership started by Paula Goldman and the International Museum of Women. The idea for the site came when Goldman was having a conversation with a friend after the events of 9/11, and wanted to find a way to ask thousands of women: “What defines your generation of women?”. Each month the site takes on a new theme (such as “love, “money”, and the future”), and asks women to write in about their thoughts on each of these themes. After receiving the responses, they are posted here on the website for the web- browsing public. Currently, women from over 100 countries have posted their stories, and they include those titled “Playing with Mexico’s colors in my heart” and “Holistic Healing”.
Skype 188.8.131.52 http://skype.com/
For those with a number of relatives, friends, or colleagues in far-flung international destinations, the Skype application is definitely worth a look. With Skype, visitors can call others with the application installed at no charge. Visitors will need to select a Skype “nickname”, and then proceed to add the phone numbers they wish to call. It should be noted that phone calls to mobiles and land lines are possible with Skype, but there is a fee associated with this service. This version of Skype is compatible with computers running Windows 2000 or XP and those running Mac OS X.
"Google's Time Keeper: Managing appointments is a snap with new online tools such as Google Calendar. What does it mean for Microsoft?" by Wade Roush, MIT's Technology Review, April 14, 2006 --- http://www.technologyreview.com/InfoTech/wtr_16697,308,p1.html
In its latest challenge to Microsoft's desktop-based productivity software, Google yesterday launched a public beta version of the long-rumored Google Calendar tool, which allows users to create and track appointments through a Web-based interface accessible from any computer connected to the Internet.
Like most beta products at Google, the calendar was rolled out without hoopla, but is already generating interest -- and praise -- among Web users worldwide, including thousands of bloggers. "My first impression: It's fast, slick, and stable," writes Michael Arrington, publisher of the widely followed product review blog TechCrunch.
"Calendaring is one of those problems where we felt like it hadn't been done right before, and we felt we could add some value to it," says Carl Sjogreen, Google's product manager for the calendar project. "We really set out to make a calendar program that made it drop-dead simple to get information onto your calendar. With one easy graphical click-and-type interface, you can enter data, and we have some pretty sophisticated natural language processing technology that lets you type in a description of an event -- like 'Meet Bob for coffee Thursday at 7 p.m.' -- and add it to your calendar without filling in a big form."
That's in stark contrast to Outlook's calendar, which requires users who are creating calendar entries to fill in a minimum of three separate boxes: one for the subject, a second for the start time, and a third for the end time.
Google Calendar is not the first Web-based calendar to emerge in recent months; its features are largely matched by existing calendar services, such as Kiko and 30 Boxes, and it joins a raft of other free tools for personal organization and time management, such as Upcoming, Gootodo, and GTDTiddlyWiki (a note-taking program customized for followers of David Allen's Getting Things Done). And it's just one advance in the larger Web 2.0 movement, a flowering of free online tools for creating, organizing, and sharing personal information (see "Web 2.0's Startup Fever").
Continued in article
Yuki Noguchi's review in The Washington Post on April 14, 2006 --- Click Here
For the Google Calendar Click Here
Wouldn't it be great to be able to keep track of all the events in your life, coordinate schedules with friends and family, and find new things to do -- all with one online calendar? We thought so, too. Learn More --- http://www.google.com/googlecalendar/overview.html
- Seeing the big picture
With Google Calendar, you can see your friends' and family's schedules right next to your own; quickly add events mentioned in Gmail conversations or saved in other calendar applications; and add other interesting events that you find online.
- Sharing events and calendars
You decide who can see your calendar and which details they can view. Planning an event? You can create invitations, send reminders and keep track of RSVPs right inside Google Calendar. Organizations can promote events, too.
- Staying on schedule
You can set up automatic event reminders, including SMS notifications, and instantly bring up anything on your calendar with the built-in search tool.
When political correctness is allowed to trump common sense
"Politically Correct but Hardly Ethical," by Mark Shapiro, The Irascible Professor, April 13, 2006 --- http://irascibleprofessor.com/comments-04-13-06.htm
A recent commentary in The Chronicle of Higher Education by Linda Reid Chassiakos, who is the director of the student health center at Cal State Northridge, illustrates a moral dilemma that can arise when political correctness is allowed to trump common sense. Dr. Chassiakos is a physician who received her training in the early 1970s, a time when the percentage of female students in medical schools was much smaller than it is today. so she knows well the pernicious effects of discrimination. The student health center that she supervises provides health care and health counseling to Cal State Northridge students; and, it also provides opportunities for practical training and experience for students who are majoring in various health care fields.
As Dr. Chassiakos noted in her article, the center has hosted nursing students, medical students, and Northridge seniors who are majoring in nutrition. Not too long ago Dr. Chassiakos received an unusual request from a woman in the nutrition program. Both the woman and her husband are practicing Muslims. The husband had asked his wife not to speak to or counsel any men while she was working in the health center because that would conflict with their religious beliefs. The wife agreed to the request, and asked Dr. Chassiakos to allow her to work only with female patients during her training in the health center. Chassiakos promised her a quick response.
Though her initial reaction was to turn down the request, Chassiakos was concerned that such a response would be intolerant of the student's religious beliefs, and after consultation with faculty members, the university's diversity office, and legal counsel she agreed to the student's request. The student would be permitted to work only with female clients, while others from her class would provide dietetic services for male patients.
It is clear from the article that Chassiakos was conflicted by her decision. At one point she writes "don't I have to acknowledge that some women will choose to submit to restrictions of freedom, imposed by a relationship or culture?" But, then asks "on the other hand, would those chosen restrictions be acceptable if they were directed at groups not identified by gender, but by criteria such as ethnicity or sexual preference ..."
And, she begins her final paragraph with the statement "Deep down, however, I am not convinced that I made the right choice."
Dr. Chassiakos' discomfort with her decision is understandable because in the end she chose to accommodate the religious beliefs of one of her providers at the expense of nearly half of her clients. That simply is unacceptable. Northridge is a public university. Its health center is supported by taxpayer funds and mandatory student fees. It can no more discriminate by gender in the services it provides than it could by ethnicity or other factors. But when the health center allows one of its providers to choose who she will serve, it has done just that.
Health care providers certainly are entitled to their own religious beliefs and preferences. However, when they work in a public facility they hardly have the right to impose their individual beliefs and preferences on their clients. Would a health center doctor who belonged to a religious sect that was opposed to homosexuality be permitted to refuse to treat gay students? Would a health center nurse whose religion did not permit the use of contraceptives be allowed to refuse to counsel students about the use of contraceptives? We all know the answers to those questions. When you choose to work in a public health facility, you put aside your personal beliefs and provide the best possible care to your clients regardless of who they may be.
It may be argued that a public university, such as Cal State Northridge, does have some obligation to make reasonable accommodations for students who hold strong religious beliefs. The key point, however, is that the accommodation must be reasonable. Allowing a trainee to work only with female clients or only with heterosexual clients or only with any other subgroup of clients in the student health center is not reasonable. What might be reasonable would be to allow the nutrition student who did not want to counsel male students to complete her practical training at a private facility such as a health club that caters only to women.
"Former Ernst & Young Clients Sue Over Tax Shelters," AccountingWeb, April 12, 2006 --- http://www.accountingweb.com/cgi-bin/item.cgi?id=102027
Bob Jensen's threads on Ernst & Young are at http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/Fraud001.htm#Ernst
"Top Ten Most Unusual U.S. Sales Tax Laws for 2006," AccountingWeb, April 7, 2006 --- http://www.accountingweb.com/cgi-bin/item.cgi?id=102009
10. West Virginia, where American Independence is celebrated with a special tax on sparklers and other novelties, in addition to the state’s regular 6 percent sales tax.
09. Kentucky’s thoroughbred stud fees are subject to sales tax (that would be thoroughbred horses). “You would not believe how many checks I send back because they forget to add the $30,000 in sales tax to the $500,000 fee!” one breeder told Taxware.
08. In North Carolina, members of racing teams and motor-sport sanctioning bodies can obtain refunds for sales tax paid on aviation fuel (used to get to a motor sport event) because the state is a tax-free zone for motor sports.
07. Using a pay-phone in Kentucky is tax free as of January 1. Right across the state line, however, Indiana still taxes pay-phone calls.
06. Cloth diapers are exempt from sales tax in Wisconsin, however, disposable diapers are taxable.
05. In California fresh fruit is tax-exempt unless it is purchased from a vending machine where it is taxed on 33 percent of the price.
04. Texas’ holiday spirit includes a heaping helping of taxes: holiday trees decoration services are taxable, but only if the decorator provides the ornaments, as are holiday pictures painted on windows, phone calls from holiday characters and greeting cards featuring Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny.
03. Dead people in Ohio get a tax break because applying makeup in a mortuary is tax-free, while applying makeup in a beauty salon is taxable.
02. South Dakota taxes air ambulance services but not ground ambulance services.
And the craziest American sales tax is….
01. Pennsylvania taxes air. That’s right, use of coin-operated vacuum vending machines, commonly found at car washes, is now taxable. No word on whether extending this to the air from air compressors used to fill tires is next on the list.
www.taxware.com Taxware, a First Data Company, is an industry leader focused exclusively on global commercial tax compliance systems.
"All Bets Are Off, Online Anyway," by Rogers Cadenhead, Wired News, February 14, 2006 --- http://www.wired.com/news/politics/0,70660-0.html?tw=wn_index_1
The United States is taking aim at internet casino ads as tensions build in a high-profile trade fight over the country's largely toothless online gambling ban.
Although many website operators insist internet gambling ads are legal, a recent crack down by U.S. authorities has led some website operators to disgorge online casino advertising revenues and spurred others to rethink their advertising policies, jeopardizing millions of dollars in revenues.
Shawn Riley, whose Amateur Poker League draws 2.5 million visitors a month, figures his Wichita, Kansas, business has passed up seven figures in revenue by refusing to run ads or affiliate links for gambling sites.
"I would really like the money but I have to avoid the headaches," he said. "I feel like I'm doing 55 down the highway and everybody else is doing 80."
Because gambling operations are based in foreign countries such as Antigua and Costa Rica, and individual gamblers have extremely low odds of being prosecuted, websites and media organizations that sell gambling ads are being caught in the middle.
One of the biggest losers is Sporting News, the media company owned by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. In January, the company surrendered $4.2 million in revenue to avoid prosecution for advertising gambling sites between 2000 and 2003 in its magazine, as well as on its website and syndicated radio network.
Tune in Sporting News Radio today and you'll hear the other half of the settlement -- a $3 million, three-year barrage of anti-gambling public service ads.
Announcer: "Sports fans like you should know that betting with offshore or foreign gambling enterprises via the internet or telephone violate U.S. federal and state laws."
Fan: "You mean it's illegal?"
Publishers of gambling- and poker-related websites disagree about whether accepting the ads is a safe bet.
"The casinos that we advertise are legal in their jurisdictions," said Carson Cashman1, marketing president for Ace Nine, a small Pittsburgh company that launched one of the web's most well-trafficked sites on poker in 2001.
The company's TexasHoldem-Poker.com, the top Google search result for the term "Texas Holdem," contains ads for PartyPoker.com, PokerRoom.com and other casinos.
"It's similar to running an ad for the Bellagio in a paper in Detroit," Cashman said. "We've never had anyone tell us we're going to get into any trouble."
Still, websites in the United States that accept advertising from internet casinos are rolling the dice, says the chief of the organized crime and racketeering section of the Department of Justice.
That takes in a lot of websites. Ads for poker sites, casinos and sportsbooks appear all over the web, as well as in other media, and online gambling raked in an estimated $12 billion last year, according to Christiansen Capital Advisors. Half the wagers came from the United States, the research firm said.
The Justice Department began warning media organizations about gambling ads with a letter to the National Association of Broadcasters and three other trade groups in 2003, efforts that seem to have gained steam in recent months.
"The sheer volume of advertisements for offshore sportsbooks is troubling because it misleads the public in the United States into believing that such gambling is legal," wrote John G. Malcolm, deputy assistant attorney general.
Brad Waller, who writes a blog on affiliate programs for ReveNews, has a more cynical view of the government's actions.
"They target the easy prey here in the U.S. because the gaming companies themselves are difficult to prosecute," he wrote in January after the Sporting News settlement. "Time will tell, but I predict we will see the first casino affiliate prosecuted this year."
Though large sites such as Yahoo and Google have stopped taking the ads, gambling sites offer a substantial source of revenue for thousands of smaller web publishers. Casinos and sportsbooks will buy ads, purchase links to improve their search engine rankings and even split the pot each time a referred customer loses to the house.
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What's the difference between Ginnie Mae and Fannie Mae?
One of the most confusing types of business is a corporation formed by the U.S. government that sells private equity (ownership) shares. Some of these corporations receive annual subsidies such as Amtrak, but the U.S. government can allow these corporations to go bankrupt without guarantees on debt repayment. Some of these companies receive no subsidies but have debt guarantees such as Ginnie Mae --- http://www.ginniemae.gov/about/about.asp?Section=About
Ginnie Mae does not buy or sell loans or issue mortgage-backed securities (MBS). Therefore, Ginnie Mae's balance sheet doesn't use derivatives to hedge or carry long term debt.
What Ginnie Mae does is guarantee investors the timely payment of principal and interest on MBS backed by federally insured or guaranteed loans — mainly loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) or guaranteed by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Other guarantors or issuers of loans eligible as collateral for Ginnie Mae MBS include the Department of Agriculture's Rural Housing Service (RHS) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development's Office of Public and Indian Housing (PIH).
Ginnie Mae securities are the only MBS to carry the full faith and credit guaranty of the United States government, which means that even in difficult times an investment in Ginnie Mae MBS is one of the safest an investor can make.
Fannie Mae, on the other hand, is a much larger and much more confusing type of corporation formed by the U.S. Government --- Click Here
Fannie Mae is a private, shareholder-owned company that works to make sure mortgage money is available for people in communities all across America. We do not lend money directly to home buyers. Instead, we work with lenders to make sure they don't run out of mortgage funds, so more people can achieve their goal of homeownership..
Fannie Mae stock (FNM) is actively traded on the New York Stock Exchange and other exchanges and is part of the Standard & Poor's 500 Composite Stock Price Index.
In 1938, the Federal government established Fannie Mae to expand the flow of mortgage money by creating a secondary market. Fannie Mae was authorized to buy Federal Housing Administration (FHA)-insured mortgages, thereby replenishing the supply of lendable money.
In 1968, Fannie Mae became a private company operating with private capital on a self-sustaining basis. Its role was expanded to buy mortgages beyond traditional government loan limits, reaching out to a broader cross-section of Americans.
Today, Fannie Mae operates under a congressional charter that directs us to channel our efforts into increasing the availability and affordability of homeownership for low-, moderate-, and middle-income Americans. Yet Fannie Mae receives no government funding or backing, and we are one of the nation's largest taxpayers.
Fannie Mae on paper differs in some respects from Fannie Mae in reality. Fannie Mae is independent from the Feds on paper. But in my opinion Fannie Mae has become so enormous by owning over 25% of the mortgages in the U.S. that allowing Fannie to declare bankruptcy would probably disrupt the U.S. economy more than the huge S&L Crisis of the 1980s that required a Government bailout.
I received the following message from a former graduate student who works for Deloitte & Touche and has been working for ten months in Washington DC on the monumental Fannie Mae audit.
I happened to come across this article this morning -- in the second half it mentions what we discussing on Wednesday (that Fannie is not backed by the federal government). Thought you'd be interested.
CAPITAL VIEWS: Fannie Answers Frequently Asked Questions
Dow Jones Capital Markets Report, Apr 13, 2006
By John Connor A Dow Jones Newswires Column
WASHINGTON (Dow Jones)--Fannie Mae clearly is a kinder, gentler, humbler entity than it was in the past, but the old tiger hasn't been completely defanged and declawed.
This latter conclusion is based on a visit to the "Frequently Asked Questions" corner of Fannie's Web site.
One frequently asked question, it turns out, is "What is FM Policy Focus?" This is the anti-Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac coalition that previously was known as FM Watch.
According to Fannie Mae's Web site, "FM Policy Focus is a group of mortgage insurers, high cost lenders, and their allies who want to roll back Fannie Mae policies that cut costs to consumers.
"We call them the Coalition for Higher Mortgage Costs because if they had their way, the costs that Fannie Mae lowers for consumers would go up," Fannie Mae informs us.
"Its membership includes trade associations for sub-prime lenders, home appraisers, government-guaranteed enterprises and others who profit from the mortgage origination and settlement business," Fannie Mae elaborates.
"The companies represented by FM Policy Focus are in dozens of lines of business - everything from jet turbines to cargo ship insurance and sub-prime loans," Fannie continues. "These companies have simple goals: maximizing profits from mortgage lending and insurance. How would they do that? Higher costs to consumers."
FM Policy Focus, on its Web site, calls itself "a coalition of financial services and housing-related trade associations, working with affordable housing and consumer advocates, taxpayer groups and financial institutions...dedicated to monitoring the activities of two government-sponsored enterprises, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac."
FM Policy Focus says its mission includes supporting market competition that results in affordable housing for consumers; backing federal policies that don't allow the GSEs to move beyond their unique charters into markets and services already provided by the private sector; and supporting federal policies that prevent exposure to unnecessary risks that could require a massive bailout by the U.S. taxpayer.
Back to the "Frequently Asked Questions" section of Fannie Mae Web site, where Fannie goes to some lengths to air out its view of where it stands vis a vis Uncle Sam.
The company says at one point: "The front page of the offering circulars for Fannie Mae's debt and mortgage-backed securities clearly states that 'The securities...are not guaranteed by the United States and do not constitute a debt or obligation of the United States or any agency or instrumentality thereof other than Fannie Mae.'"
Elsewhere, Fannie says it "receives no subsidy or appropriation from the government. Furthermore, our securities are not backed by the full faith and credit of the United States government."
Moving along, the firm states in response to the frequently asked question of "what is Fannie Mae's relationship to the government?" that "Fannie Mae is a private-shareholder-owned company whose stock is traded on the New York Stock Exchange (Symbol:FNM).
"Fannie Mae is NOT part of the government," this response continues. "The company was created in 1938 with the responsibility of creating a secondary market for home mortgages and operated under direct federal control. It was privatized by legislation enacted in 1968 and became fully private in 1970."
In response to another question, "Is Fannie Mae a private company or part of the government?" Fannie declares itself to be "a private company, owned entirely by its shareholders." It later adds that it operates "under a Congressional charter" to make homeownership more affordable to low- and moderate-income borrowers."
On to another frequently asked question: "Doesn't Fannie Mae's implicit government backing allow it to borrow funds more cheaply than banks, resulting in a built-in competitive advantage?"
Fannie's answer begins as follows: "The prospectuses for all of Fannie Mae's debt offerings clearly state that the U.S. government does not back the company's debt instruments. In fact, commercial banks, including the three that make up half of the FM Policy Focus board of directors, have many close ties to the government."
Fannie says these bank ties include federally-insured deposits; the ability to borrow "from their own cooperative government-sponsored entity, the Federal Home Loan Bank System;" the ability to make FHA and VA loans, "which are fully guaranteed by the federal government;" and the ability to obtain emergency loans from the Federal Reserve's discount window.
The upshot here, according to Fannie, is that banks have a lower cost of funds than Fannie Mae.
Judging from the "FAQ" section of Fannie's Web site, there don't appear to be any frequently asked questions that deal with Fannie's accounting scandal and ongoing remediation efforts.
This appears to be one of those moral hazard situations in game theory where it is optimal to break the law and pay the fine.
The Federal government does not back the debt of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. However, since they own the lion's share of all home mortgages in the U.S., the general perception is that allowing Fannie and Freddie go bankrupt would bring the economy crashing down.
"Freddie's Friends on the Hill," The Wall Street Journal, April 27, 2006; Page A18 --- http://online.wsj.com/article/SB114609975235637126.html?mod=opinion&ojcontent=otep
It's well-known that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have good friends on Capitol Hill. But last week the Federal Election Commission shed some light on how Freddie Mac rewarded its friends. In a settlement with the FEC, Freddie admitted to illegally raising $1.7 million for candidates from both parties between 2000 and 2003. In 2001 alone, Freddie Mac's Senior Vice President for Government Affairs boasted of holding 40 fund-raisers for House Financial Services Committee Chairman Michael Oxley.
Unfortunately for Freddie, it is explicitly barred by law from political fund-raising. In the settlement, Freddie agreed to fork over $3.8 million in fines. Yet Freddie probably figures it also got its money's worth. Genuine reform of the two giant "government-sponsored enterprises" is now stalled on Capitol Hill, thanks in large part to Mr. Oxley's dutiful service.
Which means it's time for reformers to turn to Plan B. The Bush Administration could itself take the opportunity to rein in Freddie and Fannie. An overlooked provision of the laws that founded the two companies already gives the Treasury Secretary the power to restrict the duo's mortgage portfolios that now threaten the U.S. financial system.
First, some background. Fan and Fred have lower costs of capital than their competitors because of the market perception that the government stands behind their debt. This, in turn, is indispensable to their business model. Fannie and Freddie between them hold more than $1 trillion worth of mortgage-backed securities that they've bought with this cheaper credit.
To make it all work, Fannie and Freddie must carefully balance the risks that arise from interest-rate movements, mortgage prepayments and the different maturities of their debts and assets. The monumental accounting troubles that both companies have had in recent years centered around how they account for those risks and the hedges they use to mitigate them. The danger that those portfolios could melt down has led critics such as Alan Greenspan and his successor at the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, to warn that Fan and Fred pose a "systemic risk" to the financial system if the size of their portfolios is not reduced.
It took Congress just weeks to pass Sarbanes-Oxley in 2002. But -- perhaps because Mr. Oxley has been spending so much time at Freddie's fund-raisers -- it can't seem to deal with the far larger financial problems at Fan and Fred. A watered-down reform bill has passed the House, but a stronger bill in the Senate shows no sign of being brought up for a vote anytime soon. Securities analysts have been telling investors they believe the drive to rein in the duo is losing momentum. Freddie Mac's president and COO recently concurred in public. He added that strict limits on retained portfolios would not be in the "best interest of the housing finance industry." By which he meant the best interest of Fannie and Freddie.
Portfolio limits are, however, in the interest of American taxpayers and the integrity of the financial system. The law requires that the bonds that Fannie and Freddie issue explicitly deny that they are backed by the federal government, but plainly no one believes that. Otherwise, who in their right mind would purchase the debt of Fannie Mae, a company with no financial statements and $11 billion in overstated profit?
This type of situation was foreseen when Fan and Fred were chartered. Which is why the same sections of the U.S. Code that require Fannie and Freddie to disavow any government backing of their debts also require the companies to get the approval of the Treasury Secretary before issuing any debt.
Specifically, the law pertaining to Fannie reads: "[T]he corporation is authorized to issue, upon the approval of the Secretary of the Treasury, and have outstanding at any one time obligations having such maturities and bearing such rate or rates of interest as may be determined by the corporation with the approval of the Secretary of the Treasury . . ." (our emphases). The section of the law dealing with Freddie Mac has similar language.
As we read that, Treasury already has the power to limit Fannie's and Freddie's borrowing. What's more, that authority appears to have been granted specifically out of concern that the debts of the pair might someday be laid at Treasury's doorstep. But without massive borrowing, neither Fannie nor Freddie could afford to hold the hundreds of billions of securities that they currently do. So limiting their borrowing would require them to decrease the size of their portfolios -- and hence the risk to the economy of a blow-up. Meanwhile, their regular business of securitizing mortgages and selling them would be unaffected. It is their repurchase of those mortgages with subsidized credit that needs to be limited.
The Bush Administration has been forceful in calling for Congress to reform how Fannie and Freddie are regulated and run. But if it wants its effort to succeed, it is going to have to show Fan and Fred and their friends on the Hill that Treasury will act if Congress doesn't..
The Federal government does back up the debts of Ginnie Mae. Ginnie's operations accordingly are much less risky than those of Fannie and Freddie --- http://www.ginniemae.gov/about/about.asp?Section=About
Bob Jensen's threads on accounting scandals in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are at http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/caseans/000index.htm
Bob Jensen's threads on Fannie Mae's accounting scandals are at http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/caseans/000index.htm#FannieMae
"Bill Requires Reporting Unfunded Federal Liabilities," AccountingWeb, April 12, 2006 --- http://www.accountingweb.com/cgi-bin/item.cgi?id=102016
With state and local governments scrambling to meet the Government Accounting Standards Board’s (GASB) amended rules for reporting on postretirement benefits, and private and public companies getting ready for compliance with the Financial Accounting Standards Board’s (FASB) proposed statement on recording pension liabilities, a congressman from Indiana has introduced legislation that would require the federal government to meet a similar standard. The Truth in Accounting Act, sponsored by Rep. Chris Chocola (R-Ind) and co-sponsored by Reps. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn) and Mark Kirk (R – Ill), would require the federal government to accurately report the nation’s unfunded long-term liabilities, including Social Security and Medicare, a debt that amounts to $43 trillion dollars, during the next 75 years, Chocola says, according to wndu.com.
The U.S. Treasury Department is not currently required to file an annual report of these debts to Congress, wndu.com says.
“When I was in business, the federal government required our company to account for long-term liabilities using generally accepted accounting principles,” Chocola told the South Bend Tribune. “This bill would require the federal government to follow the same laws they require every public business in America to follow. If any company accounted for its business the way the government accounts, the business would be bankrupt and the executives would be thrown into jail.”
The legislation doesn’t propose solutions for the burgeoning liabilities, but it takes a crucial first step, according to Chocola, “by requiring the Treasury Department to begin reporting and tracking those liabilities according to net present value calculations and accrual accounting principles,” the Tribune reports.
“In order to solve our problems and prevent an impending fiscal crisis,” Chocola said, “we have to first identify where and how large the problem is.”
Chocola clearly sees a looming fiscal crisis. “Congress is the Levee Commission and the flood is coming,” he told the Tribune. “This [bill] is intended to sound the warning bell.”
To support his position, according to the Tribune, Chocola referred to an article written by David Walker, a Clinton appointee who serves as Comptroller General of the United States and head of the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). Walker wrote that the government was on an “unsustainable path”.
Speaking to a British audience last month, Walker said that the U.S. is headed for a financial crisis unless it changes its course of racking up huge deficits, Reuters reported. Walker said some combination of reforming Social Security and Medicare spending, discretionary spending and possibly changes in tax policy would be required to get the deficits under control.
“I think it’s going to take 20-plus years before we are ultimately on a prudent and sustainable path,” Walker said, according to Reuters, partly because so many American consumers follow the government’s example. “Too many Americans are spending more than they take in and are running up debt at record rates.”
Bob Jensen's threads on pension and post-retirement liability accounting are at http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen//theory/00overview/theory01.htm#Pensions
The leading international award honoring excellence in Web design, creativity, usability and functionality
In its 10th year, the Webby Awards is presented by The International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, a 500-member body of leading web experts, business figures, luminaries, visionaries and creative celebrities --- http://www.webbyawards.com/
Rob Pegoraro has nothing good to say about the Nokia 770 hand held
But while this $360 gadget might fit in great on "Star Trek," in the real world it competes with a galaxy of other handheld devices -- most of which do more than the Nokia 770, and do it far more reliably and gracefully. The Nokia 770's aptitude at providing a pocket-size window on the Web can't overcome its ineptitude at almost everything else.
Rob Pegoraro, "It Does Little, and Not Very Well," The Washington Post, April 17, 2006 --- Click Here
"Boeing Parts and Rules Bent, Whistle-Blowers Say," by Florence Graves and Sara Kehaulani Goo, The Washington Post, April 17, 2006 --- Click Here
Whether questionable parts ended up in hundreds of Boeing 737s is the subject of a bitter dispute between the aerospace company and Prewitt and two other whistle-blowers. The two sides also have enormously different views on what that could mean for the safety of the jets.
The whistle-blower lawsuit is in U.S. District Court in Wichita. No matter how it is resolved, it has exposed gaps in the way government regulators investigated the alleged problems in aircraft manufacturing, according to documents and interviews.
Boeing said that the lawsuit is without merit and that there is no safety issue. Even if faulty parts landed on the assembly line, the company said, none could have slipped through Boeing's controls and gotten into the jetliners. The whistle-blowers "are not intimately familiar with Boeing's quality management system," said Cindy Wall, a company spokeswoman. "Our planes are safe."
Continued in article
Homeless Drug Addict Gets Five Fannie Mae Loans in Florida
"Investor, or pauper or merely a front man?" St. Petersburg Times, April 9, 2006 --- Click Here
After struggling much of his adult life with unemployment, homelessness and drug addiction, Johnny Moon Sr. died last year on a dirty mattress on the floor of a small home near Tampa's College Hill district.
Moon, who looked far older than his 56 years, died of pneumonia brought on by malnutrition. He left behind a watch, a flashlight and a wallet containing a solitary dollar bill.
And more than a half-million dollars worth of real estate.
In the last months of his life, Moon left his signature scrawled on a variety of deeds and mortgages recorded at the Hillsborough County courthouse.
A high school dropout with no job history who got by on food stamps, Moon morphed into a real estate investor. Within a year, he bought five properties and signed for mortgages in excess of $614,000.
Moon appeared to be an astute picker of properties, finding value others did not see in Tampa's older neighborhoods. He paid well above market value yet managed to get loans to cover all, or nearly all, of the purchase price.
Three months before his death, Moon sold one home for $180,000 - $75,000 more than he paid 17 months earlier.
Those familiar with Moon's background have doubts about his abrupt transformation into real estate investor.
Linda Johnson, Moon's 59-year-old sister, a former packing plant worker who is disabled and lives in a mobile home in Tampa, thinks he was an unlikely candidate for easy credit.
"He never had nothing much, no bank accounts or nothing like that," she said.
Reading through Moon's probation record, Don Russell, division chief for the county probation department at the Salvation Army, concluded that Moon may have been used by someone else to front for real estate deals.
"If this guy walks into a bank with this background, they're not going to give him any kind of money," said Russell. "It looks like someone just used this man's name to get mortgage loans."
Evidence mounting since Moon's death suggests he may have been the latest straw man used in what the FBI says is a national epidemic of mortgage fraud.
In Tampa, one face behind the epidemic belongs to Matthew Cox, a mortgage broker suspected of using phony names, fake documents and forgery to defraud lenders of millions. He is now a fugitive sought on Secret Service warrants.
Cox was initially charged in 2001, accused of using a stolen identity to obtain loans on the home at 1904 E Powhatan Ave. Who was living there at the time?
None other than Johnny Moon Sr.
Among the four properties Moon bought in November 2003 was a white frame home at 2714 12th St. N in Ybor City. The seller was a land trust controlled by Chuong X. Dam, a Vietnamese businessman who was indicted by a federal grand jury in February on conspiracy and bank fraud charges. Dam is accused with others of using straw buyers to apply for fraudulent mortgage loans, though none of the charges involve the 12th Street home.
Records show Moon bought the 12th Street property from Dam's trust for $147,000 - triple what the county property appraiser said it was worth - and paid for it with a $147,000 mortgage loan.
The Federal National Mortgage Association, commonly called Fannie Mae, ended up with the home after Moon died and the loan went into foreclosure. For Fannie Mae, the loan has become a loser.
The lender's representatives discovered the 86-year-old home with the tin roof has leaks, flooring problems, no sink in the bathroom and no kitchen. As is, it is uninhabitable. The home is listed at $88,500, but so far, no takers.
Two businessmen who might provide insight into Moon's investment activities are his son, Johnny Moon Jr., and an associate, Dominic Ferrara. Both are licensed mortgage brokers who assisted Moon Sr. with his acquisitions, records show.
The younger Moon used a power of attorney form to sell one of his father's properties last year.
Ferrara witnessed and notarized that power of attorney, as well as deeds on sales executed by the elder Moon.
Ferrara also helped collect rent from tenants at one of the homes bought by Moon Sr., according to one renter.
"Mr. Dominic collected the $450 rent," said tenant Judy Vaughn, who with her husband and four children rented the four-bedroom home at 905 E 25th Ave. "He said it had to be cash. It was a good deal for us. The last place we were in was a shotgun shack."
The St. Petersburg Times contacted Moon Jr. and Ferrara to inquire about how the elder Moon had qualified for the mortgage loans, what had happened to the $75,000 profit on the home sale before Moon Sr.'s death, and why no one had stepped forward to claim an estate ownership in the real estate in Moon Sr.'s name, including three homes that eventually went into foreclosure.
Moon Jr. and Ferrara did not want to talk about it.
"My relationship with my father is personal," said Moon Jr. "It's none of your business."
"I don't know nothing about it," said Ferrara. "Please don't contact me again."
Moon Jr. and Ferrara are former business associates of Cox, the mortgage broker accused of fraud and now on the lam.
Cox, Moon Jr. and Ferrara worked together at a Tampa firm called Consortium Financial Services.
While there, Cox was charged with forgery and mortgage fraud after obtaining a $110,000 loan under an assumed name.
Moon Jr. and Ferrara were questioned after authorities discovered Cox had directed payments to them from the illegal proceeds totaling $45,000.
Moon Jr. and Ferrara told investigators they knew nothing about any illegal activity and believed they were simply helping hide money from Cox's wife. Neither Moon Jr. nor Ferrara was charged with any crime.
Moon Sr. served four stretches in prison, for delivery of heroin, possession of cocaine, aggravated assault and arson.
In all, he was arrested more than 30 times. Typically, he was assigned a public defender because he was indigent.
Charged with possession of marijuana in 1994, Moon Sr. told a judge he had no income, no cash, no assets.
Charged with shoplifting a can of tuna and a package of steak from a Winn-Dixie in 1998, Moon Sr. testified he received $494 in Social Security income and had last worked "18 years ago."
"He had a long battle with prescription drugs," said Anjeanette Moon, a former daughter-in-law. "He was homeless a lot of the time."
Then came the real estate career.
In November 2002, Moon Sr. signed for an $85,000 loan to buy the home at 2204 E Chipco St.
Six days later, Moon was arrested at a Publix supermarket on Nebraska Avenue after stuffing packages of razor blades, Tylenol and Advil tablets into his pocket and trying to leave without paying. He was charged with petty theft.
Moon pleaded no contest to the $26.69 theft and got 60 days in jail and six months' probation.
Probation records show he reported receiving $108 a month in food stamps and $555 a month from Supplemental Security Income - a form of disability income generally available to people owning less than $2,000 in property.
A few months after being released and reporting that meager income, Moon Sr. signed for four mortgage loans, totaling $529,300, to buy four more properties. The four purchases occurred in a two- week period.
He somehow got himself to all four closings, records show, and presented a Florida driver's license as identification, though the state had revoked his license indefinitely during the 1990s when he was classified as a habitual traffic offender.
Two weeks after Moon Sr.'s flurry of purchases, Moon Jr. and Ferrara paid $53,000 for a two-bedroom home with a fenced yard at 3309 E Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
In July 2005, Moon Sr.'s body was found in one of the back bedrooms there.
Five months after the death, Moon Jr. and Ferrara sold the small home for $98,000 - $45,000 more than they paid for it.
Times researcher Cathy Wos contributed to this report. Jeff Testerman can be reached at (813) 226-3422 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
POOR MAN, RICH MAN?
Oct. 7, 1948: Johnny Moon Sr. born, the son of a Baptist minister. He will drop out of high school and work briefly as a carpet installer. During his adult lifetime, he will be arrested more than 30 times.
1977-1989: Served four stretches in prison, for convictions for heroin, cocaine, arson and assault.
June 1998: Charged with shoplifting a can of tuna and a steak from Winn-Dixie. Told judge he had no assets, last worked 18 years ago and subsisted on Social Security income of $494 a month. Sentenced to 45 days in jail.
Nov. 5, 2002: Signed for an $85,000 mortgage loan to purchase home at 2204 E Chipco St. for $85,000.
Nov. 11, 2002: Charged with shoplifting headache tablets and razor blades from Publix. Sentenced to 60 days in jail. Arresting officers list his address as "at large."
Feb. 26, 2003: Released from jail, reported to probation. Said he gets $505 a month in Supplemental Security Income and $108 a month in food stamps.
Nov. 7, 2003: Signed for two mortgage loans: $150,100 to buy the home at 905 25th Ave. E for $158,000, and $137,700 to buy the home at 3801 N Dartmouth Ave. for $153,000.
Nov. 14, 2003: Signed for $147,000 mortgage loan to buy the home at 2714 12th St. N for $147,000.
Nov. 21, 2003: Signed for a $94,500 mortgage loan to buy the home at 1410 31st Ave. E for $105,000, the fourth home he bought that month. Total mortgages: $529,300.
April 27, 2005: Sold home at 1410 31st Ave. E for $180,000 - $75,000 more than he paid 17 months earlier.
July 30, 2005: Died of pneumonia due to malnutrition. Police found meager personal effects, including a single dollar bill in his wallet. His real estate later goes into foreclosure after no relatives come forward to establish an estate for him.
From the Scout Report on April 14, 2006
History Matters: The U.S. Survey Course on the Web --- http://historymatters.gmu.edu/
Since the History Matters website was first profiled in the Scout Report close to eight years ago, they have expanded their reach to include a host of lovely new features. All the while, still maintaining their key strengths in providing access to high-quality teaching resources for high school and college students and teachers of American history. Arriving on the site, visitors will find three primary sections: “Many Pasts”, “Making Sense of Evidence”, and “www.history”. In “Many Pasts”, visitors can explore over 1000 primary documents, including photographic images and audio interviews. “Making Sense of Evidence” provides material on how historians approach resources as they attempt to craft intelligent and erudite narratives. The final section, “www.history”, contains brief reviews of over 800 websites that address various aspects of American history. The site also contains a number of other gems, including “Secrets of Great History Teachers”, which features interviews with those who impart the knowledge of the ages with wisdom and insight.
The Lost Gospel of Judas --- http://www9.nationalgeographic.com/lostgospel/
Recently, a team of international experts in the field of archaeology came across a rather remarkable find when they located the Gospel of Judas, which was written on a 1700 year-old leather-bound papyrus. Part of this team included experts from the National Geographic Society, and armed with this material, they have created this fine website, which allows users to explore the document at their leisure and to learn more about the potential importance of such a find. First-time visitors to the site will want to stop by the “About the Project” area. Here they can learn about the persons working on this project, review a list of FAQs, and learn more about Coptic, which is the language in which the Gospel of Judas was written. Proceeding from there, visitors can explore the document online and they can also download the entire work, translated into English, or in the original Coptic. Visitors seeking additional context for understanding this piece of writing will want to peruse the timeline offered here, which includes background material on early Christian history and Gnosticism. The site is rounded out by an area that contains information about the complex and painstakingly detailed process by which the document was brought back to life and subsequently conserved for future generations.
IT Conversations --- http://www.itconversations.com
For those who might see the words “IT Conversations”, and think: “Oh no. A website dedicated to conversations about IT”, think again. This delightful website started life in June 2003, under the careful direction of Doug Kaye and it currently contains dozens of compelling interviews, discussions, and heated debates with a number of fascinating individuals. The first-time visitor might want to begin by looking through some of the series listed on the homepage. Some of the themes addressed by these sessions include social innovation, technology development, and global security. Each interview can also be rated, so visitors may want to listen to some of the highest rated programs first, depending on their faith in such ratings. Of course, users may also wish to use the search engine offered here, as they can use this application to quickly locate different programs of interest.
Magellan Metasearch 1.3.0 --- http://sourceforge.net/projects/magellan2/
Like the noted explorer for which this program is named, this application demonstrates a rather impressive ability in the areas of discovery and exploration. Truth be told, the application doesn’t actually “discover” far- off lands and such, but it will help users find the information they require online quickly. With Magellan, visitors can query a host of search engines all at once. Visitors can enter in complex search terms, and also take use a number of standard boolean and proximity operators. This version of the application is compatible with all systems running Windows 98 and newer.
K9 Web Protection --- http://www.k9webprotection.com
Parents and those concerned about young people surfing the Internet may want to take a close look at this particular application. With this application, users have the ability to block adult sites and other potentially offensive content from the eyes of children and other impressionable persons. K9 Web Protection 3.0.23 can also be configured to stop spyware or gambling programs. This particular version is compatible with all computers running Windows 2000 and XP
Bookmarks, The Wall Street Journal, April 7, 2006; Page W7 --- Click Here
I Alone Have Escaped To Tell You, by Ralph M. McInerny (University of Notre Dame Press, 167 pages, $25)
It was all about money, or so he says. In the mid-1950s, Ralph McInerny was a young scholar with a wife, a slew of children and a job teaching medieval philosophy at Notre Dame -- a college known for its football team, its bleak Indiana campus and its barely visible academic salaries. So he set up a desk in the basement, put a sign on the wall that read "No One Owes You a Reading" and began writing fiction.
It sounds like a model for disaster, but in those golden days of the American short story, the mystery and thriller pulps were still going strong, the New Yorker-style slicks were making stars out of everyone from J.D. Salinger to Flannery O'Connor, and the glossy women's magazines were desperate for prose. Redbook published Mr. McInerny's first story, the other journals quickly following. A solid writing career resulted: more than 60 novels, a best seller in 1973 with "The Priest" and a successful television series based on his mystery stories about a detective named Father Dowling.
What makes Mr. McInerny's autobiography worth reading, however, are all his other careers. A professor at Notre Dame for 50 years, he has published academic works from his 1961 "Logic of Analogy" to his 1990 "Handbook for Peeping Thomists," making him the nation's most prominent scholar of medieval philosophy.
Along the way, Mr. McInerny was a leader in the movement that turned Catholics into vital intellectual figures for modern conservatism. In 1981, he joined Michael Novak to found Crisis, a magazine that helped to halt the drift of American Catholicism toward the leftist "Liberation Theology." It's hard to remember just how bad things were in the early 1980s -- bad enough, anyway, that you'd want to name a Catholic magazine Crisis -- but Mr. McInerny's columns and op-eds made it respectable for American religious intellectuals to support John Paul II's struggle against communism.
For all his success, however, the 77-year-old Mr. McInerny has written a sad autobiography -- not dark, exactly, but the autumnal light casts long shadows through the book. "I Alone Have Escaped to Tell You" -- the title comes from the Book of Job -- describes the world-as-it-used-to-be in terms more golden than the world-as-it-now-is.
The Depression-era Minnesota in which Mr. McInerny was a child, the schools he attended in the 1940s, the faculty life of the 1950s, the way a rising novelist was fêted by New York publishers in the 1960s: So much seems to have been lost along the way. It's the decline of community, really, that Mr. McInerny feels, and the reader will finish "I Alone Have Escaped to Tell You" feeling that, indeed, community in America has much decayed.
Perhaps the novelist's eye can't help seeing even his own story in a novelistic way, using decline to shape an autobiographical narrative. But that doesn't quite square with the fact that Ralph McInerny has had a very fine life. He may have set up that desk in the basement only to make some money, but we're the ones who are richer for it.
Some enterprising students at MIT visited rival Caltech and quietly pilfered Caltech's famed 130-year-old Fleming Cannon, fired annually during commencement day and now sitting peacefully in Cambridge. The MIT students simply presented Caltech guards with work orders from their new business: "Howe & Ser Moving Company."
"2-Ton Cannon Is Fodder for Ongoing Rivalry Between Caltech and MIT," by Arin Gencer, Los Angeles Times, April 7, 2006 --- http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-statue7apr07,0,2096065.story?coll=la-home-headlines
Massachusetts pranksters, posing as professional movers, stole the beloved Fleming Cannon — traditionally fired at each year's commencement — from the Pasadena campus last week.
On Thursday it popped up, pointed toward Pasadena and adorned with an oversized Massachusetts Institute of Technology school ring, at the Cambridge campus next to a plaque referring to Caltech as "its previous owners."
The plaque explained that the students created the phony "Howe & Ser Moving Company" and used fake work-order forms to get past Caltech campus security guards. After that, a real shipping company toted the 2-ton relic across the country.
Continued in article
This reminds me of a Trinity graduate who was hired by top management years ago to see if he could successfully penetrate a company's computer system. He dressed up like a UPS delivery man and delivered a phony upgrade program supposedly from Microsoft --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/acct5342/262wp/262case2.htm
April 9, 2006 reply from Jagdish S. Gangolly [gangolly@INFOTOC.COM]
This is a stale prank, and I was disappointed that MIT students had to stoop so low to plagiarise.
Back around 1986 or so, when I was teaching at the Claremont Colleges, the students of Harvey Mudd College (one of the colleges in the Claremont cluster) stole the same cannon from CalTech. Apparently the MIT students who pulled the plagiarised prank consulted one of the original Harvey Mudd pranksters, presently a Professor at Boston University.
Shame on MIT students. (:-|)
The Wall Street Journal Flashback, April 7, 2000
Morgan Stanley Dean Witter's chairman, Philip J. Purcell, offered a spirited defense of casual dress on Wall Street at the firm's annual meeting. He said it was needed "to attract the best young talent," particularly those working in New Economy areas.
"Shop till you drop (in size)," by Dave Barry, The Miami Herald, April 16, 2006 --- Click Here
(This classic Dave Barry column was originally published on May 25, 1997.)
I believe that, in general, women are saner than men.
For example: If you see people who have paid good money to stand in an outdoor stadium on a freezing December day wearing nothing on the upper halves of their bodies except paint, those people will be male.
Without males, there would be no such sport as professional lawn-mower racing.
Also, there would be a 100 percent decline in the annual number of deaths related to efforts to shoot beer cans off heads.
There would be no such words as ''wedgie'' and ``noogie.''
Also, if women were in charge of all the world's nations there would be -- I sincerely believe this -- virtually no military conflicts, and when there was a military conflict, everybody involved would feel just awful and there would soon be a high-level exchange of thoughtful notes written on greeting cards with flowers on the front, followed by a Peace Luncheon (which would be salads, with the dressing on the side).
So I sincerely believe that women are wiser than men, with the exception of one key area, and that area is: clothing sizes. In this particular area, women are insane.
When a man shops for clothes, his primary objective -- follow me closely here -- is to purchase clothes that fit on his particular body. A man will try on a pair of pants, and if those pants are too small, he'll try on a larger pair, and when he finds a pair that fits, he buys them. Most men do not spend a lot of time fretting about the size of their pants. Many men wear jeans with the size printed right on the back label, so that if you're standing behind a man in a supermarket line, you can read his waist and inseam size. A man could have, say, a 52-inch waist and a 30-inch inseam, and his label will proudly display this information, which is basically the same thing as having a sign that says: ``Howdy! My butt is the size of a Federal Express truck!''
The situation is very different with women. When a woman shops for clothes, her primary objective is not to find clothes that fit her particular body.
She would like for that to be the case, but her primary objective is to purchase clothes that are the size she wore when she was 19 years old. This will be some arbitrary number such as ''8'' or ''10.'' Don't ask me ''8'' or ''10'' of what: That question has baffled scientists for centuries. All I know is that if a woman was a size 8 at age 19, she wants to be a size 8 now, and if a size 8 outfit does not fit her, she will not move on to a larger size: She can't! Her size is 8, dammit! So she will keep trying on size 8 items, and unless they start fitting her, she will become extremely unhappy. She may take this unhappiness out on her husband, who is waiting patiently in the mall, perhaps browsing in the Sharper Image store, trying to think of how he could justify purchasing a pair of night-vision binoculars.
''Hi!'' he'll say, when his wife finds him. ``You know how sometimes the electricity goes out at night and ...''
''Am I fat?'' she'll ask, cutting him off.
This is a very bad situation for the man, because if he answers ''yes,'' she'll be angry because he's saying that she's fat, and if he answers ''no,'' she'll be angry because he's obviously lying, because none of the size 8s fit her. There is no escape for the husband. I think a lot of unexplained disappearances occur because guys in malls see their wives unsuccessfully trying on outfits, and they realize their lives will be easier if, before their wives come out and demand to know whether they're fat, the guys just run off and join a UFO cult.
The other day, my wife was in a terrific mood, and you know why? Because she had successfully put on a size 6 outfit. She said this made her feel wonderful. She said, and this is a direct quote: 'I wouldn't care if these pants were this big (here she held her arms far apart) as long as they have a '6' on them.''
Here's how you could get rich: Start a women's clothing store called ''SIZE 2,'' in which all garments, including those that were originally intended to be restaurant awnings, had labels with the words ''SIZE 2.'' I bet you'd sell clothes like crazy. You'd probably get rich, and you could retire, maybe take up some philanthropic activity to benefit humanity. I'm thinking here of professional lawn-mower racing.
Forwarded by Aaron Konstam
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