Monday, April 27, 2015


Even though the Internet was invented in the United States, Americans pay the most in the world for broadband access. And it’s not exactly blazing fast.

For an Internet connection of 25 megabits per second, New Yorkers pay about $55 — nearly double that of what residents in London, Seoul, and Bucharest, Romania, pay. And residents in cities such as Hong Kong, Seoul, Tokyo and Paris get connections nearly eight times faster.

For the third year in a row, the Open Technology Institute at New America conducted an extensive research project aimed at assessing the cost and quality of broadband Internet access plans in 24 cities in the United States and abroad. Our findings remain consistent — the majority of U.S. cities included in our report lag behind their international peers. This year, we streamlined our data collection to focus on Internet-only home broadband offerings1 and mobile USB dongle and wireless hotspot plans. As in previous years, we did not collect or analyze data on mobile phone data plans.

The report contains several components. First, it presents a review of existing literature on the subject of broadband availability and the relative competitiveness of broadband offerings and broadband packages available in the U.S. and around the world. In this section we attempt to highlight the strengths and weaknesses of existing reports and to situate theCost of Connectivity research among them. Next, the report contains a fully updated methodology that explains the research methods used to collect and analyze data as well as the methods used to present the findings. We then present our findings in three distinct subsections: Home Broadband, Mobile Broadband, and Additional Findings. In each of the first two subsections, the analysis begins with a straightforward presentation of plan rankings, and then moves through more detailed presentations that explore the relationships between price and speed. The Additional Findings subsection includes analysis of other data collected in the research, including some year-to-year price and speed trends, the role of municipal networks, the impact of data caps and modem fees, and examples of particularly user-friendly Internet service provider (ISP) websites. The report concludes with key takeaways and suggests questions for further research.

Virtually every city in the home broadband “Speed Leaders” ranking has seen an annual increase in its top speed offering since 2012. However, those speed increases have not resulted in dramatic shifts in the ranking of U.S. offerings compared to those in other countries. Most Asian and European cities provide broadband service in the 25 to 50 megabits per second (Mbps) speed range at a better value on average than North American cities (with a few key exceptions). In addition, when it comes to the estimated speeds a customer could expect to get for $50 in each of the cities we surveyed, the U.S. is middling at best, with many cities falling to the bottom of the pack. Our analysis also finds that, in terms of speed and price, cities with municipal networks are on par with Hong Kong, Seoul, Tokyo, and Zürich and are ahead of the major incumbent ISPs in the U.S. In the mobile broadband space, USB dongle and wireless hotspot device offerings continue to be expensive substitutes for home broadband connectivity, with consumers in some other countries paying the same price for mobile plans with data caps that are up to as 40 times higher than those offered by U.S. providers.


24/7 Wall St. reviewed the 10 states with the highest concentration of McDonald’s restaurants, measured as outlets per 100,000 residents from restaurant reviewer and data compiler Menuism. Six of the 10 states also reported the highest obesity rates in the country. At the other end of the scale, four of the 10 states with the lowest concentration of McDonald’s outlets had among the lowest obesity rates.

While there are of course other fast food chains in the country, the association between McDonald’s and many negative health outcomes is often stronger than it is with other chains. Of the 10 states with the greatest concentration of major fast food restaurants, excluding McDonald’s, three have among the lowest obesity rates in the country and none are among the 10 highest.

The States With the Most McDonald’s

Friday, April 24, 2015


Six of today’s ten wealthiest Americans are heirs to prominent fortunes. The Walmart heirs alone have more wealth than the bottom 40 percent of Americans combined.

Americans who became enormously wealthy over the last three decades are now busily transferring that wealth to their children and grandchildren.

The nation is on the cusp of the largest inter-generational transfer of wealth in history. A study from the Boston College Center on Wealth and Philanthropy projects a total of $59 trillion passed down to heirs between 2007 and 2061.

As the French economist Thomas Piketty reminds us, this is the kind of dynastic wealth that’s kept Europe’s aristocracy going for centuries. It’s about to become the major source of income for a new American aristocracy.

The tax code encourages all this by favoring unearned income over earned income.

The top tax rate paid by America’s wealthy on their capital gains — the major source of income for the non-working rich – has dropped from 33 percent in the late 1980s to 20 percent today, putting it substantially below the top tax rate on ordinary income (36.9 percent).

If the owners of capital assets whose worth increases over their lifetime hold them until death, their heirs pay zero capital gains taxes on them. Such “unrealized” gains now account for more than half the value of assets held by estates worth more than$100 million.

At the same time, the estate tax has been slashed. Before George W. Bush was president, it applied to assets in excess of $2 million per couple at a rate of 55 percent. Now it kicks in at $10,680,000 per couple, at a 40 percent rate.

Last year only 1.4 out of every 1,000 estates owed any estate tax, and the effective rate they paid was only 17 percent.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015


It's no BS! Football or what I prefer to call "foolsball" is dangerous and not at all a fun game. This should serve as a wake-up call; especially to parents who throw their kids into harms way each time they send them out onto a football field.

The maximum payout for a player with Alzheimer's will be $3.5 million. But the average expected award is expected to be $190,000, when age and experience are factored in. Payouts decrease significantly when offsetting factors are considered.

Experts for the NFL and retired players estimated that about 6,000 of the estimated 19,000 retired players would be eligible for compensation, but just 3,600 would choose to participate.

Though there is no limit to the overall amount the NFL could pay out to the retired players, the individual award amounts are capped.

The deal covers all retired players or their estates who didn't opt out by the deadline last fall regardless of whether they sued the NFL. Around 200 players or their families -- including that of late San Diego Chargers great Junior Seau -- decided to not participate in the settlement and continue to pursue litigation on their own.

Attorneys for dozens of retired players filed the first concussion lawsuit against the NFL in Los Angeles Superior Court in July 2011. The case grew to more than 300 lawsuits which were consolidated in federal court.



the deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular ethnic group or nation.

Just like Hiroshima and Nagasaki where approximately 1 million Japanese were vaporized into extinction within a matter of minutes no one would dare call this horrific (and avoidable) act of violence what it was; genocide.

So, it's not surprising that when it comes to the mass annihilation of Armenians by the Turks who happen to be allied with the US that the word is "mum"

President Barack Obama will once again stop short of calling the 1915 massacre of Armenians a genocide, prompting anger and disappointment from those who have been pushing him to fulfill a campaign promise and use the politically fraught term on the 100th anniversary of the killings this week.

Officials decided against it after opposition from some at the State Department and the Pentagon.

After more than a week of internal debate, top administration officials discussed the final decision with Armenian-American leaders Tuesday before making it public.

The White House said the officials pledged that the US would use Friday’s centennial anniversary “to urge a full, frank and just acknowledgement of the facts”.

Saturday, April 18, 2015


The right-wing-nuts are going crazy! A member of the 1% club breaks ranks and decides to do the "right thing" and share the profits his workers generate for him.

What a novel idea. Actually giving equal credit to the people who; without them, a business would not exist.

This week, the 30-year-old CEO announced he would raise the yearly wages of all 120 of his employees to a minimum of $70,000. That company — the Seattle-based Gravity Payments, which processes credit-card transactions — currently pays an average salary of $48,000. One hundred of its employees will see a pay increase, and 30 of those will see their pay double.

Needless to say, the news made quite a splash. The City of Seattle recently passed an ordinance hiking its minimum wage to $15, making it a premiere battleground in the ongoing national dispute over what to do about stagnating wages and rampant inequality.

Price has attracted a few critics as well. A good example is this bit of concern-trolling by Joe Carter, which rests on two points. One, by setting its minimum wage so high, Gravity Payments has created a floor beneath which its revenues cannot drop, which will put it at a disadvantage vis-a-vis other competitors. Two, the employees who just got raises are actually now being paid more than their productivity is worth, and will be the first to get cut from the payroll should Gravity ever need to underbid a competitor.

But here's the thing: Gravity didn't raise those wages by upping its prices. All it did was reshuffle the money that was already flowing through the firm. Price massively cut his own $1 million salary down to $70,000, and diverted about 80 percent of the company's profits for 2015.

That point is important to keep in mind, because Gravity's prices and the quality of its service are what will determine its competitiveness. Neither of those variables have been altered. And as it stands, Gravity is doing quite well against its competitors: The company's anticipated profits for 2015 were $2.2 million before it used most of that for the wage hike, and Price appears confident Gravity can get back to that profit level even with the new wage scale.

In fact, Gravity will still have at least $440,000 in profits in 2015, which means it could drop its prices a bit more, keep the new wage structure, and still remain in the black.

In other words, Price has taken a look at the overall market for his business, and concluded that it will support a business model that pays employees $70,000 annually. And he appears to be correct.

Every company is a tiny society of human beings. That mix of people could be workers and the owner in a small business, or workers and investors or shareholders in bigger private or public companies, all depending on how the firm is legally structured. And negotiations between those human beings are what set pay.

The "cost of labor" is not a purely economic consideration, like the cost of bolts or scissors, as Carter implies. It's also an irreducibly social decision, which means what firms pay isn't just a matter of cold-eyed economic calculus. Human pride and greed and the desire for status can introduce a great deal of irrationality into how firms make these decisions. Price's change of heart is admirable, but it also highlights that he was paying his employees less because he could get away with it.

This is why policies like the minimum wage are important: They increase workers' bargaining power in the tiny societies of their firms, giving them a legal tool to demand a greater cut of the revenue flow. Laws to strengthen unions or to bulk up the social safety net can help, too. But with those approaches going nowhere in the United States, it's understandable that worker movements are turning to the minimum wage as an alternative.


Does OZ profit from the products he hawks on his show? Probably. But, then he's not alone. How about doctors who push certain drugs to their patients after a visit from one of Big Pharma's reps? Or after getting a night on the town or Bahamas cruise along with a cabinet full of "samples" to hand out to patients like candy?

This is not to excuse OZ's unethical behavior but more to point out that it is rampant in the medical community and OZ is merely drawing too much attention to it which is why the medical community want s to shut him up.

Thursday, April 16, 2015


Those on the right like to bellow about how welfare recipients are nothing more than freeloaders living off the back of others. Their solution is always the same "get a job!"

Well: surprise! How do all these Ayan Rand fans explain this?

The majority of American families on public assistance or Medicaid are headed by at least one full-time worker, according to a report released Monday by the University of California at Berkeley’s Center for Labor Research and Education.

Researchers who analyzed annual state and federal spending on public assistance programs — including food stamps, Medicaid, Temporary Aid to Needy Families and the earned income tax credit — found that more than 56 percent of that spending goes to working families.

In other words, employers, such fast-food restaurants, are paying their employees so little that they must rely on government assistance to make ends meet. In total, these employees seek an estimated $153 billion in public assistance each year, according to the report (PDF).

Sunday, April 5, 2015


This is not about income inequality but resource inequality.

Here's the score when it comes to "per capita" water use between the 1% (150) vs the 99% (-45)

Places where one or two people occupy cavernous mausoleums with 10 plus toilets, football sized plush lawns, and olympic sized pools consume 3 times the water that 4 or more people living in matchbox sized homes with 1 toilet, postage stamp sized yards and kiddie pools.

Residents in communities such as La Cañada Flintridge, Newport Beach, Malibu and Palos Verdes all used more than 150 gallons of water per capita per day in January. By contrast, working-class Santa Ana used just 38 gallons, and communities in southeastern L.A. County used less than 45.

In well-to-do areas, per-capita use far exceeds that of the less affluent.
There are few signs of California’s epic drought along a stretch of Maple Drive in Beverly Hills.

Deep-green front lawns stretch out, dotted with healthy trees and sculpted foliage. The only brown lawn in sight is at a home under construction.

As California gears up for the first mandatory water restrictions in its history, a long-standing class divide about water use is becoming increasingly apparent.

Beverly Hills and other affluent cities use far more water per capita than less wealthy communities, prompting some to cast them as villains in California’s water conservation effort.

With Gov. Brown’s order requiring a 25% cut in water consumption, these upscale communities are scrambling to develop stricter laws that will work where years of voluntary standards have not. Many believe it’s going to take a change in culture as well as city rules to hit the goal.

“Some people — believe it or not — don’t know we are in a drought,” said George Murdoch, Newport Beach’s utilities general manager, whose city is beginning to fine chronic water wasters. “We have people that own a home here but aren’t around a lot, so they could miss a leak.”

Stephanie Pincetl, who worked on the UCLA water-use study, said wealthy Californians are “lacking a sense that we are all in this together.”

“The problem lies, in part, in the social isolation of the rich, the moral isolation of the rich,” Pincetl said.

Beverly Hills officials said that until now they have focused on educating, rather than penalizing, water wasters. The city is in the second stage of its emergency water conservation plan, which calls for voluntary limits on pavement washing, lawn watering and the use of fountains that do not use recycled water, to reduce water consumption by 10%.

But on Friday, water from fountains, sprinklers and hoses seemed to flow freely throughout the city.

Across from City Hall at the Beverly Gardens Park, perfectly green hedges frame rows of blooming flowers, tended by columns of black sprinkler heads. A fountain balanced on the backs of four stone satyrs burbled pleasantly. Tourists posed for pictures in front of the iconic Beverly Hills sign, which overlooks a water feature the size of a racquetball court.

City officials plan to introduce a stricter plan at a council meeting this month; they say it will achieve the governor’s 25% reduction target. There is some debate over how much residents can change.

Kay Dangaard, a longtime Beverly Hills resident who recently moved to a condo just outside the city, said she’s seen much apathy about the drought.

“In this part of town, everyone is just too important to see outside themselves,” Dangaard said as she shopped at the Beverly Hills Whole Foods Market. “Where are these people going to go with all their money when the water is gone?

There are some early signs that Beverly Hills may be conserving more. According to state data, the city’s water use dropped from 226 gallons per capita per day in July to 144 in January. Water use is seasonal, however, so the true test will come this summer when temperatures rise.

But some residents aren’t sure how far they’re willing to go. Eric, an entertainment industry worker who did not want his full name used, said he tries to conserve water, making sure the faucet doesn’t run as he brushes his teeth or washes dishes. But there’s also his fountain and the whirlpool and the lemon and orange trees to consider.

Seated at a sidewalk table at Urth Caffe in Beverly Hills, he said he could probably conserve more.

“This is America. You gotta live it up a little bit, right?” he joked.

High water use by upscale cities is about more than lifestyle. These communities tend to have fewer apartments and less dense housing. The dwellings tend to be larger and include sprawling grounds in need of water.

The Santa Fe Irrigation District, which serves affluent communities in northern San Diego County, recorded the state’s highest residential per-capita water use during one month in 2014. The district recently began sending engineers to large properties to perform water savings checkups that identify areas of waste.

The resort communities that dot the Palm Springs area also use large amounts of water, needed to keep backyards and a plethora of golf courses verdant amid scorching desert heat.

In Orange County, resident Mike Bennett said some locals think twice about curtailing their landscaping because they are concerned about reducing their property values. Bennett said he thinks Newport Beach uses more water than other areas because of the way it was designed.

“It was designed for quality of life, with big, open spaces, compared to urban areas with smaller lots,” he said.

Newport Beach, like Beverly Hills, has seen a steady drop in water use over the last few months. Officials say they have limited lawn watering to four days a week in the spring and summer and that they slap water wasters with fines. The city says it’s prepared to increase restrictions, such as prohibiting the filling of swimming pools.