Friday, June 25, 2010

Paper or Plastic OR your bacteria infested canvas bag?---you choose...

I guess we should wash those once in a while...

LA TIMES: What's in your shopping bag? Bacteria. (But, hey, it's natural!)
Way to go, all you planet-saving shoppers who've made the switch to reusable bags! But consider: "Reusable" doesn't mean "self-cleaning."
Researchers at the University of Arizona and Loma Linda University queried shoppers headed into grocery stores in California and Arizona, asking them if they wash those reusable bags. The researchers were likely met with a lot of blank looks. Most shoppers -- 97%, in fact -- reported that they do not regularly, if ever, wash the bags.
Further, three-fourths acknowledged that they don't use separate bags for meats and for vegetables, and about a third said they used the bags for, well, all sorts of things (storing snacks, toting books). You can see where this is going.
The researchers tested 84 of the bags for bacteria. They found whopping amounts in all but one bag, and coliform bacteria (suggesting raw-meat or uncooked-food contamination) in half. And yes, the much-feared E. coli was among them -- in 12% of the bags.
Here's the full report, Assessment of the Potential for Cross Contamination of Food Products by Reusable Shopping Bags. And more on food-borne illness from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The researchers wrote in their discussion of the findings:
"It is estimated that there are about 76,000,000 cases of foodborne illness in the United States every year. Most of these illnesses originate in the home from improper cooking or handling of foods. Reusable bags, if not properly washed between uses, create the potential for cross-contamination of foods. This potential exists when raw meat products and foods traditionally eaten uncooked (fruits and vegetables) are carried in the same bags, either together or between uses. This risk can be increased by the growth of bacteria in the bags."
The study, funded by the American Chemistry Council, is being offered up as context in discussions about a California bill, AB 1998, that would ban single-use plastic bags, which -- it must be acknowledged -- do tend to have little potential for bacterial contamination.
But the researchers also assessed the effectiveness of washing the bags. Way to go, researchers! Good news on that front: Machine washing or hand washing reduced bacteria levels to almost nothing.

This is NOT an episode of "Reno 911" but it could be---86 year old granny taserd in bed because of "aggressive posture"...

(CN) - Police Tasered an 86-year-old disabled grandma
""Police Tasered an 86-year-old disabled grandmain her bed and stepped on her oxygen hose until she couldn't breathe, after her grandson called 911 seeking medical assistance, the woman and her grandson claim in Oklahoma City Federal Court. Though the grandson said, "Don't Taze my granny!" an El Reno police officer told another cop to "Taser her!" and wrote in his police report that he did so because the old woman "took a more aggressive posture in her bed," according to the complaint.
Lonnie Tinsley claims that he called 911 after he went to check on his grandmother, whom he found in her bed, "connected to a portable oxygen concentrator with a long hose." She is "in marginal health, [and] takes several prescribed medications daily," and "was unable to tell him exactly when she had taken her meds," so, Tinsley says, he called 911 "to ask for an emergency medical technician to come to her apartment to evaluate her."
In response, "as many as ten El Reno police" officers "pushed their way through the door," according to the complaint.
The grandma, Lona Varner, "told them to get out of her apartment."
The remarkable complaint continues: "Instead, the apparent leader of the police [defendant Thomas Duran] instructed another policeman to 'Taser her!' He stated in his report that the 86 year-old plaintiff 'took a more aggressive posture in her bed,' and that he was fearful for his safety and the safety of others.
"Lonnie Tinsley told them, 'Don't taze my Granny!' to which they responded that they would Taser him; instead, they pulled him out of her apartment, took him down to the floor, handcuffed him and placed him in the back of a police car.
"The police then proceeded to approach Ms. Varner in her bed and stepped on her oxygen hose until she began to suffer oxygen deprivation.
"The police then fired a Taser at her and only one wire struck her, in the left arm; the police then fired a second Taser, striking her to the right and left of the midline of her upper chest and applied high voltage, causing burns to her chest, extreme pain and to pass out.""

Cat with Bionic Feet---If you like cats, you will LOVE this (No Cat jokes from my collegues)

From  BBC: Bionic feet for amputee cat (Click on the link for a 3 minute video)
""A cat that had its back feet severed by a combine harvester has been given two prosthetic limbs in a pioneering operation by a UK vet. The new feet are custom-made implants that "peg" the ankle to the foot. They are bioengineered to mimic the way deer antler bone grows through the skin.  The operation - a world first - was carried out by Noel Fitzpatrick, a veterinary surgeon based in Surrey. His work is explored in a BBC documentary called The Bionic Vet. The cat, named Oscar, was referred to Mr Fitzpatrick by his local vet in Jersey, following the accident last October. Oscar was struck by the combine harvester whilst dozing in the sun. The prosthetic pegs, called intraosseous transcutaneous amputation prosthetics (Itaps) were developed by a team from University College London led by Professor Gordon Blunn, who is head of UCL's Centre for Biomedical Engineering. Professor Blunn and his team have worked in partnership with Mr Fitzpatrick to develop these weight-bearing implants, combining engineering mechanics with biology.  Mr Fitzpatrick explained: "The real revolution with Oscar is [that] we have put a piece of metal and a flange into which skin grows into an extremely tight bone."  "We have managed to get the bone and skin to grow into the implant and we have developed an 'exoprosthesis' that allows this implant to work as a see-saw on the bottom of an animal's limbs to give him effectively normal gait." Professor Blunn told BBC News the idea was initially developed for patients with amputations who have a "stump socket". "This means they fix their artifical limb with a sock, which fits over the stump. In a lot of cases this is sucessful, but you [often] get rubbing and pressure sores."  The Itap technology is being tested in humans and has already been used to create a prosthetic for a woman who lost her arm in the July 2005 London bombings. "The intriguing thing with Oscar was that he had two implants - one in each back leg, and in quite an unusual site," Professor Blunn told BBC News.  He said that the success of this operation showed the potential of the technology.
"Noel has some brilliant ideas," he added. "And we're continuing to work closely with him to develop new technologies." The Bionic Vet is on BBC 1 at 2245 BST on Wednesdays...""

"Not from the Onion: EPA Classifies Milk as Oil"---SHOULD we cry over Spilt Milk???

Outcry from farmers over spilled milk rule (HT: Marginal Revolution)
""Ottawa County, MI — Milk does a body good, but what does it do to a river?
New Environmental Protection Agency regulations treat spilled milk like oil, requiring farmers to build extra storage tanks and form emergency spill plans.  Local farming advocates says it’s ridiculous to regulate a liquid with a small percentage of butter fat the same way as the now-infamous BP oil spill.  It’s just another, unnecessary over-regulation by the government just lacking any common sense,” said Bill Robb, dairy educator for Michigan State University Extension.  “But milk actually has a lot of nutrients. If it spills, all the animals and the critters would have an extra dose of nutrients.”  The EPA regulations state that “milk typically contains a percentage of animal fat, which is a non-petroleum oil. Thus, containers storing milk are subject to the Oil Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure Program rule when they meet the applicability criteria ...”  Michigan lawmakers have picked up on the sour scent of the regulations — state Sen. Wayne Kuipers on the state level and U.S. Rep. Candice Miller in Washington.  “The EPA has an important job, and it should properly place its focus where it belongs — on spilled oil, not spilled milk,” Miller said.
Michael Geerlings, a dairy farmer with farms in Allegan and Kent counties, said 2009 was the worst for the dairy industry in 80 years.  Will 2010 be as bad?  “I hope not, because I don’t know if I’ll stay in business if it is,” he said.  And adding extra regulations won’t help that already sinking bottom line, said Ottawa County MSU-E Director Adam Kantrovich.  “If they follow through with this, it will become detrimental, and I can easily see some of the smaller producers going out of business because of the cost,” he said. Already, the EPA is responding to the backlash from lawmakers and farmers....""
Maybe there is a silver lining:
 ""  In response to a letter from the National Milk Producers Federation, EPA officials are extending implementation dates until the EPA decides whether or not to include milk storage facilities with the new rules. ""

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Gas prices and the Demand for Housing---Complements are COOL!!

     Complements come in all shapes and sizes. Here is one I had not thought of before:  The relationship between gasoline prices and the demand for housing in areas away from a central city.  Complements are goods that are separate and distinct but are often used together, and when the price of one of the goods increases or decreases, it likely decreases or increases the demand for the complementary good.  There is an inverse relationship between price change in one and the demand for the other.  In this case, the researchers find evidence that higher gasoline prices negatively impact the demand for housing the further away one gets from metropolitan areas where a preponderance of major employers are concentrated.  There are a whole host of reasons people choose to move from urban areas to suburban areas (crime, schools, "quality of life", etc) but seldom is the price of gasoline mentioned as a primary motivator or de-motivator.  Do these other reasons suggest some people may not be very responsive to increases in the price of gasoline, hence their demand for suburban housing is not affected? The research seems to suggest it is people "at the margin" (people on the fringes of deciding to migrate to the suburbs) who are more sensitive to the economic, as opposed to social issue of gas prices, and it plays a larger role than the quality of life issues mentioned above, in the decision to move or not...Hmmmm...COMPLEMENTS ARE COOL!!

The Effect of Gasoline Prices on Household Location---(scroll down for PDF link)
"Gasoline prices influence where households decide to locate by changing the cost of commuting.  Consequently, the substantial increase in gas prices since 2003 may have reduced the demand for housing in areas far from employment centers, leading to a decrease in the price and/or quantity  of housing in those locations relative to locations closer to jobs. Using annual panel data on ZIP codes and municipalities in a large number of metropolitan areas of the United States from 1981 to 2008, we find that a 10 percent increase in gas prices leads to a 10 percent decrease in construction after 4 years in locations with a long average commute relative to locations closer to jobs, but to no significant change in house prices. Thus, the supply response may prevent the change in housing demand from capitalizing in house prices. Because housing is durable, the resulting change in construction has a long-lived impact on the spatial distribution of housing units."

The Japanese solve Global Warming AND get Jay Leno off the air at the SAME TIME!!

Japanese told to go to bed an hour early to cut carbon emissions
""The Japanese government has launched a campaign encouraging people to go to bed and get up extra early in order to reduce household carbon dioxide emissions.The Morning Challenge campaign, unveiled by the Environment Ministry, is based on the premise that swapping late night electricity for an extra hour of morning sunlight could significantly cut the nation's carbon footprint.  A typical family can reduce its carbon dioxide footprint by 85kg a year if everyone goes to bed and gets up one hour earlier, according to the campaign.
The amount of carbon dioxide emissions potentially saved from going to bed an hour early was the equivalent of 20 per cent of annual emissions from household lights, "Many Japanese people waste electric power at night time, for example by watching TV until very late," a ministry spokesperson told The Daily Telegraph...."

Immigrants and the jobs they perform...Nice graphic showing country of origin and jobs performed...

A very nice interactive graph showing the number of immigrants and their country of origin in different, broad, categories of employment (note on the left side of the graphic the different categories and sub-categories)...

Immigration and Jobs: Where U.S. Workers Come From

How much will you sell your spot for in the I-Phone line? This ain't my grandfathers recession...

Spots in iPhone line going for $1,000 each

The Big Apple has iPhone fever -- and it's gotten so bad that places in an all-day, all-night line to get one are going for more than the pricey gadget itself.
A full day before the latest update to the multimedia cellphone was scheduled to go on sale, lines snaked around the Apple flagship store on Fifth Avenue at 59th Street. Some high-tech fans actually lined up on Tuesday for today's launch of the iPhone 4.
The crowd included several entrepreneurs who were hawking their places in line for $1,000 -- for a phone whose top price is $299.
"We're really trying to sell our spots," said Joey Mallon, 18, who had come from Boston with pal Wil Parcellin, 18. They were second and third in the line of more than 100.

"We've got postings on [the Web sites] Craigslist and MacRumors. We've got offers for up to $100, but we're waiting for it to go up to $1,000," he said. Julio Grullon, 19, of The Bronx -- who first lined up at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday -- was hoping to make more than that. Someone already offered him $1,200, he said. "People see us from the street and throw out numbers," said the 19-year-old, who was fifth in line. "We're in the mentality of making money and the more we wait, the better offers we get." Some Apple fans were paying people to wait in line for them. At one point yesterday, a man who would give his name only as "Tony" paid a homeless man with food to wait in line. Several witnesses said that after three hours, the homeless man had a seizure and had to be taken away by ambulance. The man -- who first gave his name as Steve, and then as George -- showed back up at the line later looking no worse for wear. But he had to get behind about 100 people by then. Rodney Byerson, 29, was also being paid to stand in line. The Manhattan man is a production assistant at a TV company he wouldn't name, and he said that he was being paid to wait there so that one of his bosses could be first to get his or her hands on the phone. "They are rotating us in and out," he said of the company's plan.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Just because you are in "the Big House" does not mean you can take a first-time homebuyers tax credit...But we do appreciate our prison poplulation taking ownership of their cells...

Inmates Get Home-buyer Tax Credits: Gov't Report
""Nearly 1,300 prison inmates wrongly received more than $9 million in tax credits for home buyers despite being locked up when they claimed they bought a home, a government investigator reported Wednesday...The investigator said 241 of the inmates were serving life sentences...Nevertheless, 1,295 prison inmates were able to get $9.1 million in credits, in part because the IRS does not keep up-to-date records of who is in prison, the IG's report said. None of the inmates filed joint returns, so the claims could not have been for purchases by spouses""....(read rest of story HERE)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Federal Government maintains website to debunk conspiracy theories regarding...THE FEDERAL GOVT!! Shhh---Dont tell anyone!

Once again, something you can't make up.  The Federal Government is spending Federal Tax dollars to maintain a website to refute/debunk conspiracy theories about the, well,  the Federal Government...I hear if you click on the above link you will get audited by the IRS!!!! Is THIS a conspiracy to take our attention away from_______? Hmmm....(cue X-Files Theme Music)...Here is a video from Mel Gibson's "Conspiracy Theory" to put you in the mood...

Would you buy this "sound system" for $2,327?

Would you buy this "sound system" to the left for $2,326?? (that is how much $379.00 is in 2009 dollars)

There are many ways to measure living standards--some measured on an explicit level and some more implicit.  For instance, the way we calculate GDP is a measure of social welfare (largely explicit) but so is GNH (Gross National Happiness) which includes implicit welfare (i.e.environmental degradation/enhancement)...Below is a simple comparison of a product(s) produced in 1964 and 2010 contribute(ed) to leisure and the number of hours  it took(takes) the "average" person to work to purchase that item.  Were the "good ol' days" so good? I wonder how this hourly wage relative to the price/quantity of a good/service holds up over a broad range of goods and services (food, education, health care, etc). This is assuming that things today had some semblance of something produced 40 years ago...(HT: Another GREAT and relevant post from Carpe Diem)
In 1964, here's what the average American consumer could afford after working 152 hours (almost a full month) at the average hourly wage then of $2.50: a "moderately priced, excellent stereo system" from Radio Shack on sale for $379.95.

In contrast, the typical consumer today working 152 hours at the current average hourly wage of $19 could afford this "cornucopia" of electronic goods:


Cant think of clever tagline today---But interesting post on why you may not be able to find a job...

    Why has job growth, as we come out of recessions, been so tepid? Don't business need employees as demand picks up? Well, yes and no.  It depends on the type of industry and the changes going on in the economy even as we experience a recession.  In large part, technology advancement has not taken a "break" as a result of recessions as far back as the early 1990's.  It seems to have flourished very well, overall (think phones, computers, tele-communications, transportation, etc) in spite of overall economic conditions.
    As firms start to recover with smaller workforces their first instinct is to not over-commit in terms of hiring people. People are expensive! At the margins, they look for a competitive edge that will reduce the cost of producing as they ramp up production again.  The first place to realistically look is at technology.  A question an entrepreneur may ask themselves: What technology has emerged since my last big investment that may help me (1) reduce costs or (2) increase my productivity? Basically they are looking for ways to efficiently replace labor (L) with some sort of technology (in economics we call that Capital or "K" for Kapital). 
     If there is adoptable technology available, and it meets the above two requirements, then the prudent business owner will "substitute "K" for "L"  Those workers who previously held those jobs and were laid off one or two years ago will re-enter the job market to find the job they performed is no longer available---time and technology has passed them by.  If the new technology becomes widely adopted, then workers cannot move ANYWHERE to find their "old job"--it has been automated out of existence.
    This is the definition of someone who is "structurally unemployed" (defined further below).  They must re-train/re-educate to find other job. For example, re-train to produce/maintain the technology that REPLACED them at their previous job (irony?). 
   If structural unemployment is the dominate form of unemployment then it is much more difficult to solve then simply spending money to increase demand for goods/ services and assuming employers will hire to meet that new demand.  Policy makers should read between the lines to determine what is really going on with the workforce and propose policies that will address the root problem...

Update on Structural Unemployment
One key question in considering demand-side economic policies, such as fiscal stimulus and other deficit spending, is whether the elevated unemployment rate is a product of cyclical or structural forces. If unemployment is cyclical, then boosting aggregate demand would mean that employers would re-hire workers earlier and save the economy a lot of pain. If it's structural, though, meaning that the economy is undergoing significant changes and there is now a substantial mismatch between workers' skills and the kinds of skills needed throughout the economy, measures aimed at increasing short-term demand might not do much to help out the unemployed.
    In 2003 the NY Fed published a paper examining whether the 1990-91 and 2001 "jobless recoveries" were caused by structural factors. The authors, Erica Groshen and Simon Potter, found evidence that these recessions, compared to past recessions, featured more "permanent relocation" of workers among industries. In other words, when the recessions were over and recovery had taken place, more industries were net gainers or losers of employment. Some industries were left permanently smaller than they were before the recession, meaning that workers couldn't return to those sectors even when demand and GDP had recovered.
     Menbere Shiferaw and John Robertson, economists at the Atlanta Fed, have replicated one of Groshen and Potter's key graphs depicting unemployment in the 2001 recession:

***The one outlier in the top right corner, if you can't make it out, is the "federal government" industry. It gained jobs during the recession and has gained jobs far faster than any other industry during the recovery

Monday, June 21, 2010

Do you like Seafood? Do you think prices will rise? There is good news for you!!!

I had no idea that we imported this much seafood to meet domestic demand and so little of our domestic demand is met with Gulf seafood...

Impact on Seafood Prices Is Limited

""The Gulf of Mexico oil spill is pushing up prices for shrimp and oysters from those waters but having limited impact on the larger U.S. seafood industry.

  Here's why: The U.S. imports about 83% of its seafood and just 2% of domestic supplies come from the Gulf. 
 That's no comfort for Gulf fisheries, of course, which have been devastated by the spill that has gone on for two months now.  The average wholesale price of Gulf brown shrimp has jumped by more than half since before the spill as fishing restrictions have closed down large swaths of the once-prolific fishery. Oyster prices are up 33% over the same period, according to Urner Barry, a company that tracks commodity prices, including seafood..But because imports dominate the market, consumers and retailers will not likely see dramatic changes in pricing or availability unless they are specifically looking for Gulf products, Mr. Gibbons said. Case in point: 90% of shrimp is imported and prices for those should decline as production is expected to increase through June and July.." Rest of story HERE

Does the Yuan make 'You Yawn"? Well, WAKE UP and "Appreciate" it!!

When we (US) buy something from China, somewhere along the line a currency exchange has to take place. We exchange US Dollars for Chinese Yuan (click HERE for its current value relative to the dollar) so we can buy their stuff.  Because we buy much more than they buy from us, the net flow of dollars is towards China to buy the yuan.  This SHOULD increase the value of the yuan because demand for it has, on net, increased.  However, it does not  because the Chinese maintain a FIXED exchange rate with the dollar.  If they see the yuan appreciating in the international markets, they intervene by BUYING dollars and SUPPLYING Yuan to the international market, thereby preventing the YUAN from appreciating in value.  They want a relatively "cheap" Yuan because after the currency exchange takes place it makes Chinese goods less expensive.  If the yuan appreciates then when we exchange our dollars for yuan then we have to give up MORE dollars to buy the same amount of yuan we did before, ergo, making Chinese goods relatively MORE expensive.  This would happen if the Chinese let the yuan "float" in a flexible exchange rate regime.  In other words, if they let the fundamentals of supply and demand do its work then the yuan would appreciate and the dollar would depreciate against each other. 
     This is a major trade and political issue.  The Chinese today signaled that they will let the Yuan appreciate in a "slow, orderly" process.  We will see...Because they are export focused, this will be difficult for them to do....Below is a list of the winners, losers and uncertainty  with an appreciating yuan...IT DOES AFFECT YOU!!!!

Who cares about the Chinese yuan?

•Global trade, and all those involved in it, may be able to breathe a collective sigh of relief. Although at this stage the Chinese announcement is woefully short on detail, it should go some way to silencing the growing drumbeat of trade war emanating from Washington DC and elsewhere.
•Foreign manufacturers that compete with Chinese imports will be smiling - think of toymakers and clothes makers in the US. Also, other big exporting countries such as Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Germany will gain a competitive advantage over their Chinese rivals.
•Foreign companies (particularly in the US) that export to China will become more competitive. These include carmakers, technology companies and engineering firms. The price of their goods in yuan will be cheaper, and the money they earn in China will be worth more in their home currency.
•Chinese companies that have borrowed in dollars will find the cost of their debt falls. Big winners here will include the Chinese airlines.
•Long-suffering Chinese consumers will benefit from cheaper imports. However, households in China will continue to suffer from artificially low deposit rates, which mean they earn very little return on their savings.
•Speculators who anticipated the central bank's announcement borrowed in dollars and bought Chinese assets, including property and Chinese shares. Others speculated on currency forward contracts, which have jumped in value on Monday.
•Central bankers in China have been lobbying the government to let it do more to combat rising inflation in China. They have been fighting over policy with export industry lobbyists. A stronger yuan will help by lowering export prices and cooling the Chinese economy. The move will also make it easier for other Asian central banks, who face rising inflation, to raise interest rates and let their own currencies appreciate. 
•Chinese exporters, including foreign companies that own factories in China, will become less competitive. These companies pay wages in yuan, but set export prices in dollars and euros. Some, such as Toyota and Honda, are already facing strikes by Chinese workers to raise their wages. Many exporters operate on very thin profit margins that could be wiped out by the yuan's rise.
Foreign consumers, especially in the US, will have to pay more for goods made in China.
•A rising yuan could be bad news for the environment, as it will make it cheaper for China to import raw materials and energy resources. The country's heavy industries are already widely criticised for poor standards of air, water and soil pollution. China is also the world's biggest growing producer of carbon emissions.
•The People's Bank of China will be a big loser, even though its bankers may be happy about the policy change. Because of the central bank's currency policy, it has borrowed billions in yuan and invested it in US treasuries. The value of those treasuries in yuan is now set to fall, causing the central bank hundreds of millions in paper losses. 
•Europe may not benefit from the new yuan policy as much as the US. The yuan is currently pegged to the dollar, so any "flexibility" will directly impact US competitiveness. Indeed, the eurozone and the UK may actually lose out if Beijing decides to start linking its currency more closely to the euro and the pound. If the Chinese central bank starts buying these currencies, it will push their value up, making Europe less competitive.
•Chinese heavy industry will need to pay less for the commodities - particularly metals and energy - that they import. For companies that focus on exports, this will go some way to alleviating their loss of competitiveness. But for companies that focus on the domestic Chinese market, cheaper raw materials are an unmitigated plus.
•Commodities exporters such as Russia, Australia and Brazil may find demand from China - their most important customer - cools, as the demand from Chinese exporters cools. Alternatively, demand may pick up, as China can buy more raw materials at a cheaper price for their domestic markets. Commodity markets took the news very well so many clearly predict the latter. •The new yuan policy may prove a pyrrhic victory for the US politicians who have lobbied so much for it. There will after all be no immediate rise in the yuan. But the congressmen currently preparing a retaliatory trade sanctions bill against China may find the wind taken out of their sails. The US Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner, had started talking tough ahead of the G20 summit in Toronto later this month, but may now revert to quiet diplomacy.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Education = Earning Power. More education = More Earning Power. Nice graph illustrating this for you...

"In 1980, an American with a college degree earned about 30 percent more than an American who stopped education at high school. But, in recent years, a person with a college education earned roughly 70 percent more (see chart above). Meanwhile, the premium for having a graduate degree increased from roughly 50 percent in 1980 to well over 100 percent today. The labor market is placing a greater emphasis on education, dispensing rapidly rising rewards to those who stay in school the longest""...See Carpe Diem for more
One of the primary reasons we have income inequality gap in the US is because we have an education gap.  In general, more education translates into more income from the creation of new/improved goods and services.  Doubt it? If you are of a certain age think back to when you were young---is there more new "stuff" than there was before? Is it of better quality and less expensive, relative to amount of income you make today? Higher education converging with significant technological breakthroughs (made possible by higher education?) creates more wealth opportunities for the educated. If one is not advancing their skills through advanced training or other formal education then you will be left behind...GET YOURSELF SOME!! :)

I know it is shallow and out of vogue, but sometimes basic economic principles work out---who would have thought?...

"The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they know about what they imagine they can design"--F.A. Hayek

Within the fist 150 pages, or so, of ANY introductory Economics textbook you will find instruction on the effects of price controls by the government.  The two primary price controls are Price Ceilings and Price Floors.  The two articles below are excellent examples of Price Ceilings and their predictable consequences.  Price ceilings are government set prices of goods/services that are below the current market equilibrium prices of said goods/services, which were presumably determined through the market mechanism of supply and demand.  Price ceilings tend to create shortages in the market place because (1) the price is not high enough for producers to supply the market profitably therefore the quantity supplied to the market decreases or (2) there is ample supply but suppliers with-hold the goods because they can get a higher price on the "black market ", which is a subset of the informal economy as it is referred to in more board terms.  The second reason may be the culprit in the short run as suppliers do their best to keep adequate inventory or meet the market price in the informal economy (be "greedy", if you will).  However, the debilitating effects of a price ceiling in the long run will be to effectively create chronic shortages of a good in the market place.  If the private market price, where supply equals demand, REALLY reflects the cost of producing a good and the government deems that too high and mandates a lower price, then it is a prescription for decreases in the quantity supplied hence shortages of the good. 

Hugo Chavez Spearheads Raids as Food Prices Skyrocket
""Mountains of rotting food found at a government warehouse, soaring prices and soldiers raiding wholesalers accused of hoarding: Food supply is the latest battle in President Hugo Chavez's socialist revolution....Much of the wasted food, including powdered milk and meat, was found last month in the buildup to legislative elections in September. The scandal is humiliating for Chavez, who accuses wealthy elites of fueling inflation and causing shortages of products such as meat, sugar and milk by hoarding food...Food prices are up 41 percent in the last 12 months during a deep recession, government figures show, despite the government's growing network of state-run supermarkets that sell at discounts of up to 40 percent and are popular with his poor supporters...."We are bringing order to prices," Trade Minister Richard Canan told Reuters during the Catia raid. "There are traders who are taking these products to the black market ... That is a crime and our government will continue to target these stores."
Philippine Price Controls Hamper Rise of Generics

The Philippines recent embrace of drug-price controls to lower the cost of life-saving medications is creating some unexpected problems—including crimping the supply of inexpensive generic drugs. The country's president, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, was eager to reduce the cost of pharmaceuticals in a nation where a third of its 95 million citizens live on around $2 a day. Last August, she used new regulations to cut the cost of five widely used medications, including Pfizer Inc.'s Norvasc hypertension drug and GlaxoSmithKline PLC's Augmentin antibiotic.  Facing mandatory price cuts, drug companies in the Philippines cut the prices of an additional 16 drugs, and in February agreed to slash the prices of frequently prescribed medicines
Industry analysts and executives said the price caps have unintentionally knocked the wind out of a nascent generic-drugs industry that had sprung up here. Lower-priced brand- name drugs are pressuring these low-cost producers, and creating a policy challenge for President-elect Benigno Aquino III, who takes over at the end of June.

Edward Isaac, executive director of the Philippine Chamber of the Pharmaceutical Industry, said price controls and the threat of more caps have lowered the cost of some brand-name drugs to near those of generic competitors. Pfizer's Norvasc was cut to about 22 pesos, or 47 cents, for a five milligram tablet, from over 44 pesos.
"What's happening now is that when the price of Norvasc, for example, is cut, the generics have to slash their own prices," Mr. Isaac said.
Declining profits have some drug retailers putting expansion plans on hold. "We've not opened any new stores since the price controls were introduced," said Leonila Ocampo, vice president of Manila-based MedExpress. The drugstore chain has seen sales volumes drop since the price controls were introduced. "Our margins are under pressure, and if there's no profit, I don't know what will happen," said Ms. Ocampo.
Another drug store operator, Florecita Intal of Stardust Drugs & Medical Supplies Corp., said lower revenues from the branded-drug price caps restricts her ability to expand and offer less expensive generics. She fears smaller retailers might not survive.

What do Fathers Day and Watergate have in common? Alot, believe it or not...

Who is Father's Day founding father?
""Father's Day was born in 1910. But not until the 1970s did a US president issue a proclamation declaring the third Sunday in June as an official day to honor fathers...The holiday’s popularity built slowly over the years. In 1957, GOP Sen. Margaret Chase Smith of Maine blasted her congressional colleagues for ignoring Father’s Day, saying that to single out one parent (Mom) while ignoring the other was “the most grievous insult imaginable.” But it was not until 1971 that Congress passed a bill in favor of making Father’s Day a national holiday.  That’s where Dick Nixon comes in. At the time, his reelection campaign was ratcheting up, and we’ll bet this looked like a political no-brainer. In response to Congress, on April 25, 1972, he issued a proclamation that officially made the third Sunday in June “an occasion for renewal of the love and gratitude we bear to our fathers.”  But in the Nixon household, that year’s Father’s Day was not happy. First of all, America’s first dad was familyless. He was in Key Biscayne, Fla. His wife was in Los Angeles. His daughters were elsewhere. (Press accounts of the day note that the girls called.)  This was probably just as well. Sunday, June 18, 1972 – the first government-sanctioned Father’s Day in United States history – was the day news broke about a burglary the previous night at the Democratic National Committee office in the Watergate complex. 
The secrets of Watergate would eventually spill out and doom Nixon’s presidency. Here’s hoping that on that fateful Father’s Day, someone at least gave him a card or a nice tie.

Cute picture of the day---baby owl falls into lions den---this can't be good, can it???

See story here---From BBC
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