January 6, 2007

Bahraini Marathoner Stripped of Citizenship for Violating Country’s Laws

Filed under: MSM Biz/Other Bias,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 11:34 pm

From BBC (info presented out of order for effect; there’s more irony at the link than can be presented in this post):

Authorities said Mushir Salem Jawher, who was born in Kenya but moved to Bahrain in 2003, had violated the laws of the country.

Mr Jawher won the Tiberias Marathon in just over 2 hours and 13 minutes.

A committee of sport and government authorities decided to strike Mr Jawher’s name off the sport union records and revoke his Bahraini nationality, the statement said.

Click “more” to see what Mr. Jawher’s offense was.

Shameless Plug: BizzyBlog ‘Shocker’ — Putting Fast Food on Plastic Can Be OK

Filed under: General,Money Tip of the Day — Tom @ 3:30 pm



Cardweb reports that the use of plastic to pay for fast food is
rising astronomically

That’s not necessarily bad news.

You read that right.

Here’s why (click “more” if you are on the home page):

Weekend Question 2: How Many More Years Are We Going to Have to Read Reports Like These?

Filed under: Business Moves,Education,Taxes & Government,TWUQs — Tom @ 2:05 pm

ANSWER: More than a few is too many. The report involved shows that, at least in terms of meeting employers’ expectations, kids are not learning basic skills in school.

From HR Magazine’s December issue (requires subscription):

Report shows new workers aren’t ready for prime time

A report released Oct. 2 by leaders from a consortium of business research organizations finds that new entrants to the workforce are sorely lacking in much-needed basic education and advanced workplace skills and, as a result, the U.S. economy is growing more vulnerable to competition.

The report, Are They Really Ready to Work? Employers’ Perspectives on the Basic Knowledge And Applied Skills of New Entrants to the 21st Century Workforce, is based on a detailed survey of 431 human resource professionals that was conducted in April and May by The Conference Board, Corporate Voices for Working Families, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). The survey examines employers’ views on the readiness of new entrants to the U.S. workforce—recently hired graduates from high schools, two-year colleges or technical schools and four-year colleges.

“The future workforce is here, and it is ill-prepared,” concludes the report.

The findings reflect employers’ growing frustrations with the preparedness of their new hires and reveal that employers expect young people to arrive with a core set of basic knowledge and the ability to apply their skills in the workplace. Unfortunately, the reality is not matching the expectation.

“It is clear from the report that greater communication and collaboration between the business sector and educators is critical to ensure that young people are prepared to enter the workplace of the 21st century,” said Richard Cavanagh, president and CEO of The Conference Board. “Less than intense preparation in critical skills can lead to unsuccessful futures for America’s youth, as well as a less competitive U.S. workforce. This ultimately makes the U.S. economy more vulnerable in the global marketplace.”

….. More than 40 percent of surveyed employers say that many high school graduates are not prepared for the entry-level jobs they fill. Specifically, recent high school graduates lack the basic skills in reading comprehension, writing and math. The results reveal that respondents believe that no high school graduates meet the standards of excellence for any of these skills.

The findings show an especially big gap in writing skills. Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of incoming high school graduates are viewed as deficient in basic English writing skills, including grammar and spelling.

….. Two-year and four-year college graduates fared better than high school graduates in their level of preparedness, though respondents still noted that they possessed poor writing skills. And a relatively small percentage meet the standards of excellence. Nearly half (47 percent) of survey participants report that two-year college graduates are deficient in this skill.

A few bright spots

Workforce readiness of high school graduates was reported to be adequate by a majority of survey participants in three areas considered critical for current and future workplace needs:
• Information technology.
• Teamwork.
• Diversity.

(Aside: How do you demonstrate adequate readiness for Diversity? — Ed.)

Future hiring plans

But the level of competence of entrant workers is influencing hiring plans. When asked how their hiring practices will change:
• 28 percent of employers projected that their companies will reduce hiring of new entrants with only a high school diploma over the next five years.
• 49.5 percent said the percentages of two-year college graduates they hire will increase.
• 60 percent said their hires of four-year college graduates will increase.
• 42 percent said their hires of post-graduates will increase over the next five years.

Translation: Employers are having to hire college graduates to get a skill set that should be, but usually isn’t, possessed by high-school grads. In response to employers’ plans, which represent a natural reaction to an inferior product, more and more kids will have to go to college just to get skills they should have picked up in high school, without which they won’t be able to get even the most basic of jobs. Rinse and repeat up the educational food chain.

I know it isn’t the case, but it’s almost as if there’s a conspiracy by the educational establishment to maximize the amount of time kids have to spend in school (and of course, the money parents and taxpayers have to spend) before they are employable.

But I DO know that this IS the case: The costs of education continue to go up at twice the rate of inflation (or more), and, on the whole, the payback on that “investment” (as those who wish to continue taxing us for the continued mediocrity like to call it) is as low as ever.

I think it’s long past time to bust the factory model of schools into teeny tiny pieces, and move towards individualized education that will ensure that each non-handicapped child possesses an agreed-upon skill set. If a kid gets there by 16, or even 14, he or she can move on to further education, “college” or other. If it takes until 20 to get that skill set, so be it. This makes too much sense, and the vested interests in place to prevent this are probably too formidable for something like this to ever see the light of day.

But there is a feisty group that is following an individualized achievement-oriented format, and they are among those who are most reviled by the educational establishment. They would be known as “homeschoolers.” The establishment needs to get off its high horse and learn what works from them.

Weekend Question 1: Got a Winning Investment Strategy?

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government,TWUQs — Tom @ 10:01 am

ANSWER: I know better than to guarantee investment results. But you’ll be impressed with what Andy Roth at the Club for Growth came up with when he looked at investment results when Congress was and wasn’t in session.


Mind ….. boggling, but it makes perfect sense — so much sense that you wonder why no one else has uncovered it:

I have calculated that if you had invested $1 in the stock market at the beginning of 2006 and only invested it on those days in which Congress was in session, then your return by the end of the year would be as follows:

In Session (S&P 500): 2.25%
Conversely, if you invested that $1 on days when Congress was out of session, your return would be:

Out Session (S&P 500): 11.56%
That’s quite a big spread (9.31% to be exact). Alternatively, if you invested that money in the Nasdaq Composite instead of the S&P 500, the results are even more dramatic:

In Session: -5.70%
Out Session: 8.19%
Spread: 13.89%

…… if you had invested $1 in the Dow Jones Industrial Average back in 1897 when the index first started and conducted the In/Out Session schemes until the year 2000, here’s how much money you would have:

In Session: $2
Out Session: $216

That $2 figure is not a typo. Jaw-dropping, huh?

The logic as to why that has worked out as it has is simple:

  • Regardless of whether Congress is up to something good or no good, the markets hate uncertainty. When Congress is in session, laws might get passed. When they aren’t, that “certainly” isn’t going to happen.
  • The track record of Congress, certainly since the New Deal and probably during much of the time before that, has been to pass laws and regulatiions restricting economic freedom and open markets. Of course the investment markets aren’t going to like that, and will negatively react when it happens.

But Andy, the problem is — you told everyone. Some smarties out there already knew this but didn’t tell us, which might explain their mansions, cars, etc. Now we’re going to see the craziest inflows and outflows you’ve ever seen on days when Congressional sessions begin and adjourn.

Anyway, the logical answer to all of the above is this — Nancy, Harry, Mitch, John, EVERYONE — GO HOME. It looks like paying everyone congressperson and senator their full salaries to stay home would be quite a deal. 535 more people on the golf courses would be a small price to pay for the differences in investment performance Andy cited.

Positivity: Skier hopes helmet will save others, too

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 7:01 am

This story describes an even that happened at Crystal Mountain in Washington State:

Monday, January 1, 2007 – 12:00 AM
Skier hopes helmet will save others, too

An expert skier with 44 years of experience, George Ackley really didn’t think he needed to wear a helmet when he hit the slopes. But he wanted to set a good example for his children, so he bought one anyway.

On Thanksgiving Day at Crystal Mountain, the shiny gray brain-bucket very likely saved his life.

As he and a friend tried to ski out of a steep chute, Ackley hit a rock. His skis popped off and he launched like a missile — headfirst into another rock.

“I heard this horrible crunching sound,” recalled Ackley, 50.

Today, Ackley is walking and talking, healing from surgery that patched up two crushed vertebrae. The rock punched a deep, 3-by-3-inch hole into his helmet — instead of into his head.

“There is no doubt that Mr. Ackley would have suffered a severe, even life-threatening injury without that helmet,” said Dr. Jacob Young, a neurosurgeon at Bellevue’s Overlake Hospital Medical Center who helped treat Ackley.

Young hopes Ackley’s story shows the value of helmets in accidents, which can happen to anyone — even expert skiers. For the last several years, medical researchers have become ever more convinced that widespread helmet use would significantly reduce the risks of head injury to snowboarders and alpine skiers.

And finally, skiers and snowboarders are starting to catch on.

“I think helmets will continue to become more and more the norm,” says Paul Baugher, director of Crystal Mountain’s Ski Patrol. “The young athletes, the people who sort of set the style for coolness, most of them wear helmets.”

“Look at his helmet!”

Ackley, a crane-maintenance electrician from Bellevue, didn’t know anything about the statistics at the time of his accident, which he recalls in slow-motion detail.

He remembers being in the air, then coming to rest sitting up in the snow. Everything hurt and it was hard to breathe, but he was relieved to find he could wiggle his fingers and toes.

Because his helmet was stuffed with snow, nobody realized at first how hard he’d hit.

“Everything got really quiet,” he recalled. “Then somebody said, ‘Oh my God! Look at his helmet!’ ”

Ackley was taken down the mountain on a backboard, a neck collar firmly in place. He eventually underwent surgery for his two crushed vertebrae, now held together with eight screws and two titanium rods.

“As it was, the force was transferred largely to the helmet, and partially to the spine, which fractured,” Young said. “It’s far preferable to have a spinal injury than the kind of head injury he would have had.”

Relatively rare injury

Compared with some other active sports, fatalities and serious head or paralyzing injuries are relatively rare in skiing or snowboarding. In the past decade, there have been an average of about 38 fatalities and 42 serious injuries a year, according to a national trade association of ski areas.

Among skiers and snowboarders in Norway, helmets reduced head injuries by 60 percent, according to research published last year in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Those findings were echoed by a study of about 15,000 skiers in Washington and California done by the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center in Seattle.

At Crystal Mountain, Baugher warns that ski helmets — like motorcycle helmets — can’t protect against “big trauma.”

“You ski fast and you have a loss of control and impact with an object … a helmet isn’t designed to take those types of impacts,” Baugher said.

“But for smaller-force traumas, they’re very effective.”

Baugher estimates that 30 percent of adults on the slopes are now wearing helmets, on par with national reports, which say helmet use has been increasing by about 5 percent per year.

Many kids wear them because their parents insist, Baugher said. Nowadays, it’s mostly the older skiers, the ones who grew up with wool hats, who aren’t hip to helmets, he said.

“I just fell in love”

As for Ackley, he says he didn’t realize how warm and comfortable modern helmets were until he started wearing one. “I just fell in love with my helmet,” he says.

Now, his beloved helmet is dented and ruined — for skiing, that is. As a teaching tool, it’s become a coveted item.