The following links are just news items and opinions that pass my desk throughout the week. I don’t necessarily support or advocate any of the items, they are just interesting reads.
Meeting the Challenge: Napa County’s Work Proximity Housing Program - For many people, purchasing that first home is the financial equivalent of climbing Mt. Everest. The process is made even more difficult in destination areas such as Napa County where housing prices are high and homes are in demand. It’s not uncommon for a house on the market to receive numerous offers. So, what do you do if you are a first-time homebuyer who wants to live in the community in which you work, yet you have limited resources for a down payment?
If you’re smart, you take advantage of Napa County’s Work Proximity Housing Program, the brainchild of Supervisor Mark Luce.
“Our workers have a hard time competing for housing because they are competing against a world market where people can afford to pay more for these homes,” Supervisor Luce says. “So we went about trying to figure out how we could assist our low and moderate-income workers who work in Napa, live in Napa.”
The proximity program is essentially a new way of looking at affordable housing. “We shifted to a buyer paradigm instead of a property management paradigm. Let’s work with buyers. We found we could specifically qualify low and moderate-income workers and provide them assistance and then allow them to buy any home they wanted in our community,” he explains.
Through the program, Napa County provides a 10 percent silent second mortgage to potential homebuyers. To qualify, prospective homeowners must meet certain specific income standards, work within 15 miles of the intended residence and live in the home. The homebuyer pays the loan back at the time he/she refinances or sells the home; the homebuyer pays no monthly payments, only an appreciation share on the percent of the loan. Read More > at Public CEO
Hell freezes over: Microsoft Office Mobile arrives for iOS - After years of speculation about when it would finally happen, Microsoft is releasing a version of Office for Apple’s iOS today. And it’s free…sort of.
I got a brief peek at the Office suite app running on an iPhone this week, and we will be downloading the app from Apple’s iTunes store as soon as it’s available for a full review. But from my brief preview, it’s clear that this may not exactly be what some Office users were waiting for. That’s because of two very big caveats about Office for iOS: it requires a subscription license of Office through Office 365, and it’s optimized specifically for iPhone (sorry, iPad). The iWork team at Apple can breathe a collective sigh of relief.
But if you’ve already bought into Microsoft’s vision for Office in the cloud and have subscriptions to Office 365 Home Premium, ProPlus, or an Office 365 Enterprise license that includes the Office desktop suite, then the new iPhone app is still a big bonus. It doesn’t take up one of the 5 device license slots that a full copy on a PC does, and it provides most of the functionality of Office Mobile apps on Windows Phone 8. Read More > at ars technica
Is Going to College Still Worth It If You Drop Out? - Welcome the latest chapter of our ongoing epic, Is College Worth It? If you’ve tuned in for previous installments, by now you’ve learned that, for people who graduate with a bachelor’s degree, higher education is overwhelmingly a smart investment. But what about students who drop out? After all, less than 60 percent of Americans actually complete a B.A. within six years of starting. Do they reap a benefit?
Last week, the Hamilton Project at Brookings offered up an answer that might surprise some readers. In short: Yes, a few years of higher ed, even if a student never earns their degree, are better than none.
It’s not just that dropouts earn more than workers who halted their educations after high school or are a bit more likely to have a job (both are true). It’s that, once you factor in all the costs of going to school such as tuition and the years of foregone wages, attending and dropping out is still a profitable choice. Read More > in The Atlantic
Bay Area home prices keep going up, hit 5-year high - Bay Area single family home prices continued a skyward climb in May, reaching their highest level in more than five years, according to a report Thursday.
Median sales prices in the sizzling market were given an upward nudge in the East Bay, Peninsula and South Bay by multiple offers for a scant supply of houses for sale and by a change in the market mix to favor higher-priced homes, said real estate information company DataQuick.
Sales still are well below their year-ago levels, although they rose by double digits from April to May in Alameda, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, and 8 percent in Contra Costa County, the San Diego company reported. Read More > in the Oakland Tribune
Bay Bridge contractor in line for bonus if new span opens on time - The contractor building the Bay Bridge’s iconic suspension span will collect a $20 million bonus if it opens to traffic as planned on Sept. 3 — an incentive state lawmakers fear will drive a risky rush to completion.
American Bridge/Fluor Enterprises and the three government agencies overseeing the construction agreed to the incentives in September 2010 as part of a plan to get the long overdue bridge back on track.
The extra cash is small potatoes relative to the $1.43 billion overall contract with the consortium of international mega builders. And the state, not the contractors, will make the final call about when the bridge opens. Read More > in the San Jose Mercury News
Eyeball Licking Causing Pinkeye In Japan - A dangerous fetish has eye experts seeing red and those who practice it seeing pink.
It is eyeball licking — a strange erotic activity wherein participants actually put each other’s tongues on each other’s peepers.
…However, eye experts are worried that this dangerous fad is gaining popularity with preteens, especially after news reports of elementary school students in Japan who dared to test their ocular boundaries and caused multiple cases of pinkeye, otherwise known as conjunctivitis, the Daily Caller reported. Read More > in the Huffington Post
How do you overlook 3,000 datacenters? - While the attention has been focused on the new NSA datacenter in Utah, a re-evaluation, 3 years into the Federal Datacenter closure program, identifies an additional 3,000 facilities that fall under the closure consolidation mandate. Granted, under the loose definition of datacenter that the government is using that could mean 3,000 racks hidden in 3,000 utility closets throughout the country, but how can any organization not know where its data processing and storage facilities actually reside?
As reported in the Federal Times, David Powner, Director of Information Technology Management at the Government Accountability Office, told Congress that a recent estimate of the number of datacenters subject to closure had reached 6,000, which included 3,000 that had not previously been counted. He followed that up by saying that after three years there were still no good, hard numbers on the total number of datacenters in use.
This kind of information really highlights the difference between IT operations in government and private business. While there are stories of occasional servers being misplaced or even walled up in the business world, losing track of entire datacenters, regardless of how small, is something that simply wouldn’t happen in a business environment. With multiple agencies running their own IT and no explicit oversight that gives authority or responsibility to anyone further up the government chain there is rarely anyone with authority who can be held responsible for this poorly organized government IT effort. Read More > at ZDNet
Promoting Home Ownership In California’s Cities – When it comes to home ownership, study after study confirms what civic leaders have know intuitively for a long time: communities prosper when residents own their homes. Recent findings have linked home ownership with increased civic engagement, higher voter turnout, reduced crime rates, better health, and higher educational achievement in children.
A recent survey of those in the market to buy a new home found that, across cultural demographics, the neighborhood surrounding a property is just as important as the house itself. Having healthy neighborhoods attracts buyers and those buyers become the bedrock of the community. This is not just about the American dream, it’s about building cities that can weather hard times.
Unfortunately, the collapse of the housing market in 2007 prompted many individuals to question the value of home ownership. Rampant foreclosures over the past decade have frightened potential buyers. According to the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey/Housing Vacancy Survey (CPS/HVS), the homeownership rate nation-wide fell from 69 percent in 2004 to 65.4 percent for 2012 – the largest decline since the Great Depression.
With the many oscillations in the economy over the past years, home sales have fluctuated quite a bit, but we are now seeing the classic signs of a seller’s market: rising home prices, low home inventory, and multiple bids. This trend is expected to continue for the foreseeable future. Read More > at Public CEO
Differing views of the unwritten rules - …Sixth inning: D-backs starter Ian Kennedy hits the Dodgers’ new human highlight machine, Yasiel Puig, with a pitch. In the nose. Not flush in the nose. But enough to bring out the Dodgers’ training staff to administer a concussion test. On the field.
Well, there’s no dispute about what was obviously going to happen next, no matter which edition of that unwritten rule book you favor:
Somebody on the Diamondbacks was about to get plunked.
Even the Diamondbacks expected that. But here’s where their view of these proceedings diverged after that:
In the next half-inning, Dodgers starter Zack Greinke set out to drill Arizona catcher Miguel Montero. And let us repeat: The Diamondbacks expected that.
It took Greinke not one, not two, not three, but four pitches to accomplish that mission, with a 91-mile-per-hour fastball in the back.
So what was the Diamondbacks’ take on that, according to their version of the unwritten rule book?
Violation. Clear violation.
“You get one shot,” Arizona reliever Brad Ziegler told us. “He took four shots. He kept going after him until he hit him. If he takes one shot and hits him, it’s over. But you can’t just keep throwing at him. I’ve heard that since high school.
…The Diamondbacks were incensed that Greinke kept hunting till he hit his target. The Dodgers were enraged that Kennedy went back out and nailed Greinke in the shoulder in the next half-inning, because at that point, according to the Dodgers’ unwritten book, they’d already gotten even — so this case should have been closed. Read More > at ESPN
Bay Bridge: Open new span with or without bolt repairs, experts say - Nothing should stop Caltrans from opening the new Bay Bridge on Sept. 3 as planned, say two of the three internationally renowned bridge and seismic engineering experts commissioned to review its construction.
The remaining punch-list items — including the bolt-by-bolt examination that began in March when three dozen anchor rods snapped on the span — are “minuscule compared to the overall seismic safety of the new bridge,” said Frieder Seible, chairman of the Toll Bridge Seismic Safety Peer Review Panel. “There is no reason to keep traffic off the new bridge until after every last bolt has been 100 percent absolutely checked.”
“There is every reason to believe (the new bridge) will open by Labor. Read More > in the Oakland Tribune
State Department has hired agents with criminal records, memo reveals - The State Department has hired an alarming number of law-enforcement agents with criminal or checkered backgrounds because of a flawed hiring process, a stunning memo obtained by The Post reveals.
The background problems are severe enough that many of the roughly 2,000 agents in State’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security can play only limited roles in agency efforts to police bad conduct and prosecute wrongdoers.
The problems in the bureau are the latest revelation in an exploding scandal that also involves accusations that members of former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s security detail and those of the US ambassador to Belgium solicited prostitutes overseas.
A whistleblower charges that State tried to cover up multiple scandals by removing them from an inspector general’s report. Read More > in the New York Post
Anderson: The Problem Is Not Just IRS Lawyers; The Problem Is All Federal Government Lawyers - …The results for the IRS were striking. Of the IRS lawyers who made contributions in the 2012 election, 95% contributed to Obama rather than to Romney. So among IRS lawyers, the ratio of Obama contributors to Romney contributors was not merely 4-to-1 at previously reported, but more like 20-to-1. The ratio of funds to Obama was even more lopsided, with about 32 times as much money going to Obama as to Romney from IRS lawyers.
So has the IRS gone off the rails into hyper-partisanship, leaving behind other more balanced federal agencies? … The data show, however, that the partisanship of the lawyers in the IRS is not unusual or even particularly extreme among federal agencies. In fact, the lawyers in every single federal government agency–from the Department of Education [100%] to the Department of Defense [68%] — contributed overwhelmingly to Obama compared to Romney.
…The political contribution numbers of government lawyers show that the IRS controversy is really a symptom of a larger disease — the rule by career bureaucrat lawyers. Lawyers as a group are not politically representative of the country as a whole, and neither are government employees, so the combination of the two of them creates a dramatic mismatch with the bulk of America. The result of the mismatch is that government agencies lack the political diversity that is necessary to effectively represent the American people. The idea that the Department of Justice, on which we depend for fair and impartial enforcement of the law, is so overwhelmingly tilted to one side should make everyone uneasy regardless of political viewpoint. Whatever the reason for the disparity,the numbers reveal a severely dysfunctional culture in government agencies, one that does not serve the country well. Read More > at TaxProf
Groceries Could Be Amazon’s Next Killer App — If It Can Solve the Math - This week, Amazon announced the expansion of its experiment in grocery delivery to Los Angeles. The bigger news, however, was the unveiling of a new version of the hugely popular Amazon Prime.
While the regular Prime gets you unlimited two-day shipping for $79 per year, Amazon’s Prime Fresh promises unlimited same-day or next-day early morning delivery of more than 500,000 items—including groceries—for $299 annually (minimum order $35).
Amazon has spent years fiddling with grocery delivery in its home city of Seattle. But the Los Angeles rollout and the debut of Prime Fresh is the first signal of Amazon’s intent to try groceries at scale. If Amazon gets groceries right, the implications are far greater than another convenient option for buying your daily bread. Less than two decades after launching, Amazon could change our basic expectations once again about how we shop for everything. Getting just about any everyday product delivered the same day you place the order would shift from novelty to norm. As with the option to order online, the question would change from “Do you have same-day?” to “Why don’t you?”
But the radical nature of such a change also presents a radical challenge. Succeeding at groceries alters everything else because groceries are the toughest delivery problem to solve. Figure out the math on groceries and the ability to deliver nearly anything else on the same day—books, electronics, baby wipes—becomes a given. That’s because the logistics of grocery delivery are uniquely challenging, say supply chain experts. Amazon is rolling out its experiment in groceries slowly because getting them wrong risks a spike in customer mistrust that would undermine the company’s tightly tended reputation for unwavering competence. Read More > at Wired
Must Cats Die So Birds Can Live? - …No one knows exactly how many ferals there are in the United States, but the ASPCA places the population at 70 million nd counting. Cats are extremely fecund: Left to their own devices, two can become 62 in three years. When you have an area with a large population of these cats, they become a nuisance, says Ross, who fields a lot of calls complaining about cats caterwauling, digging through garbage, defecating in gardens and sandboxes and spraying urine. The more informed of them express concerns about diseases such as rabies and toxoplasmosis, which results in neurological problems, including a mental illness associated with cat-hoarding, caused by a parasite in cat feces. What the callers want, Ross says, is for someone to get rid of them, but given the lax laws, he can’t be sure if the animals in question are strays or someone’s pet. Trapping them is too difficult and time-consuming for cash-poor Animal Control departments, and since cats, unlike dogs, don’t present an overt threat to humans, they’re generally allowed to remain on the street, where they continue to multiply.
The population has tripled over the past 40 years. Tripled, says George Fenwick. Wild of eye and George Lucas of hair, Fenwick runs the American Bird Conservancy, an organization he founded back in the early nineties after watching his neighbor’s cat decimate his backyard bird population. While birds are the group’s primary focus, cats are a close second. An early campaign, Cats Indoors!, encouraged cat owners to keep their pets inside, and the animals remain a bête noire. The killer instinct that makes them valuable in controlled circumstances, the Conservancy argues, is a liability on the streets, where increasing numbers of ferals are wiping out other species. For every cat on the street, 200 birds are killed annually, says Fenwick, a font of such information. Sitting in the ABC office above a Chinese restaurant in Washington, he rattles off types at risk: ground-nesters like California least terns, cardinals, house wrens, endangered species like piping plovers. The important thing to remember is that even when they are fed, they still kill, he adds. They kill for fun. Fenwick likens cats, who were introduced to the environment by humans, to invasive species like kudzu in the Northeast or pythons in Florida. It’s an immense ecological problem, he says. Read More > in New York Magazine
Forget Oil – There is a Far More Precious Commodity at Stake – …This new tension stems from a dispute over the most precious commodity in the world today, something far more precious than oil: water.
…This latest crisis involves Egypt and Ethiopia, two of the eleven countries that share the waters of the world’s longest river, the Nile, and very lifeline of Egypt. Without the Nile Egypt would wither up and become a desert, killing all plants, animal and human life along the way.
…Ethiopia has plans to build a hydroelectric dam on the Blue Nile which Egypt said would interfere with the flow of the river, and that Egypt would not stand idly and allow this to happen.
In a televised speech Egyptian President Mohammad Morsi stated that “all options” over the Nile dispute with Ethiopia are on the table, a thinly veiled threat that no doubt includes a reference to the use of military force, if it came to that.
Egypt’s President Mohammad Morsi warned Ethiopia that any tampering with the waters of the Nile River would endanger Egypt and that his country would act accordingly and that “all options are open.” Read More > at Oilprice
Dan Walters: Is California’s new budget balanced? Not really - …They define “balanced” as the state’s having enough revenue to pay for the 2013-14 budget’s appropriations. However, their budget ignores some very real obligations that, if recognized, would put the state many billions of dollars in the red.
Moreover, many of the commitments the budget does make – such as a sharp increase in school spending – could bite back later in the decade because they are financed from the temporary sales and income tax increases that voters passed last year.
It’s important to remember both of those points because the politicos are already patting themselves on the back, such as Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez’s self-appraisal, “a tremendous achievement,” or Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg’s claim: “Ho-hum, another on-time, balanced budget. This is the third year in a row.”
The obligations being ignored include the California State Teachers’ Retirement System’s declaration that it needs $4.5 billion more per year to maintain solvency, and more than $50 billion in unfunded liabilities for state retiree health care. Read More > in The Sacramento Bee
A Glamorous Killer Returns - The great migration began perhaps 40 years ago. From strongholds in the Rocky Mountains and Texas, young males headed east, seeking female companionship and new places to settle.
The emigrants were about seven feet long, nose to tail, and weighed up to 160 pounds. Given a dietary choice, they preferred deer, but would eat almost anything that moved: elk, bighorn sheep, wild horses, beaver, even porcupines. Left free for an evening, they were capable of killing a dozen domestic sheep before dawn, eating their fill and leaving the rest for the buzzards. They were also known to attack humans on occasion.
Long ago the Inca called them puma, but today — though they belong to only one species — they have many names. In Arizona they are known as mountain lions; in Florida they are panthers, and elsewhere in the South they are called painters. When they roamed New England, they were called catamounts. In much of the Midwest they are known as cougars, and that is the name everyone understands.
…But today Puma concolor is back on the prowl. That is one of the great success stories in wildlife conservation, but also a source of concern among biologists and other advocates, for their increasing numbers make them harder to manage — and harder for people to tolerate. No reliable estimate exists for the cougar population at its lowest point, before the 1970s, but there are now believed to be more than 30,000 in North America. They have recolonized the Black Hills of South Dakota, the North Dakota Badlands and the Pine Ridge country of northwestern Nebraska. Read More > in The New York Times
BART Top Paid Official Never Worked a Day - In May 2011, the BART General Manager agreed to quit, however she continued to receive regular paychecks for another 19 months at the cost of $333,000 plus benefits. Despite never working a day in 2012 and having no responsibilities at all, she still remained the highest paid official in the system.
Some may say that Dorothy Dugger received a sweetheart deal when she was terminated. Before making her departure official, Dugger quietly arranged to use about 80 weeks of accrued vacation time. While it was available to her for a lump-sum cash-out, she opted instead to use it. By so doing, she was able to continue to receive her benefits for 19 months, including pension contributions, earning 2 extra months of vacation, and boosting her pension by roughly $1,000 per month, for life. The total cost of her accrued benefits after she left work but before she left payroll amounted to $138,000.
The benefits were in addition to the $333,000 salary and $920,000 settlement she received to dispose of a wrongful termination suit. According to Dugger, when the Board decided to fire her, it was in violation of open meeting laws. Read More > at Public CEO
PETA Ranks Best Cities for Vegans - For those who pick veggies over meat, fruit over eggs, and almonds over anything produced by an animal—I’m looking at you, vegans—there are just certain cities that are better than others. Surprisingly, the number one city is located in the state perhaps most famous for its BBQ: Texas.
Ok, ok, it’s Austin. Maybe that’s not such a shock, as the city has been upping its cred with a more hip crowd over the last 10 years or so. Austin just barely topped one of the best cities in America for hipsters, Portland, Oregon. Quite a feat for Austin, as Portland boasts one of what might be the nation’s only all-vegan strip mall.
California breaks into the list at number three with—drum roll please—the City of Los Angeles. PETA, which put the list together, noted that there are plenty of “happy-hour destinations for the vegan professional looking to throw back a beer after a long day.” Southland also hosts an annual Vegan Beer and Food Festival.
…San Francisco, which many might’ve predicted to reign the list, didn’t even make the top 10. Last week was a disappointing one for NorCal hipsters: in addition to being left out of the “Best Vegan Cities” rankings, SF was also “only” ranked third best city for parks. Read More > at California City News
Robots with your face want to invade workplaces and hospitals - Robotic telepresence remains one of those technologies that is always lingering just on the horizon; it’s going to change everything, the futurists say, just as soon as it gets here. But while several clever telerobotics solutions have come to market in recent years (Vgo and Double Robotics for instance), no solution has yet been both sophisticated and user-friendly enough for the mainstream. These robots — designed to give a remote human operator control of a mobile surrogate robot so that, for instance, a company manager in Chicago can virtually tour a factory floor in Topeka — allow users to move around an environment and interact with people and objects on the other side of the city, country, or planet. But for the most part, telerobots remain high-priced toys.
Bedford, Mass.,-based iRobot (IRBT) believes it’s finally changed that. The company — perhaps best known for its adorable, automated floor-sweeping Roomba robots — has a long, established record of understanding its customer, adequately maturing its technologies, and producing the right solution for its end users, whether that user is an immaculately clean apartment-dweller or a Navy explosives ordnance disposal specialist disarming IEDs in Afghanistan. (iRobot builds those robots too.) Earlier this year iRobot quietly rolled out its RP-VITA telemedicine robot in seven North American hospitals (six in the U.S. and one in Mexico City), and how they are received in the hospital environment could spell big things not only for iRobot and its technology partner InTouch Health, but for telerobotics at large.
…Telemedicine isn’t a bad place to start. Modern medicine has sprawled into an often confusing array of specializations — currently there are something like 150 different recognized medical specialties and sub-specialties; at the middle of the last century there were roughly a dozen — and it’s here that telemedicine has found a great deal of room for growth. Santa Barbara, Calif.,-based InTouch Health creates interfaces, apps, and remote presence solutions for the health care industry that are now in more than 700 hospitals, allowing doctors — generally specialists at larger, urban hospitals — to digitally teleconference themselves to a patient’s bedside and converse with both nurses and patients over live audio and video connections. Read More > at CNNMoney
FENNO: NCAA silence on North Carolina academic scandal speaks volumes - These days, the scandals and missteps and outbreaks of forehead-slapping hypocrisy ripping through the upside-down world of college athletics are frequent enough to provide an NCAA-sized headache.
Gordon Gee, the soon-to-be-former Ohio State president, insulted Catholics, the SEC and pretty much everything short of his Mormon faith and beloved Buckeyes during a meeting with the university’s athletic council.
Rutgers managed to not just botch the slam-dunk firing of verbally abusive basketball coach Mike Rice, but make things exponentially worse at each sordid turn, including hiring a new athletic director, Julie Hermann, with her own history of questionable conduct toward athletes.
Miami football player Dyron Dye filed a police report accusing NCAA investigators of coercing him into incriminating the university’s football program, further muddling a circus-like process that would shame Inspector Clouseau. Read More > in the Washington Times
T. Rex at 20: How ‘Jurassic Park’ Science Has Evolved - With a 3D version in the theaters and a sequel due out next year, the now-classic “Jurassic Park” will roar into its 20th anniversary on June 11.
Two decades might seem like the blink of a lizard’s eye on top of 65 million years, but the science and speculations of “Jurassic Park” have evolved significantly since Steven Spielberg’s beasts first shook movie theaters.
Here are seven ways the science of Tyrannosaurus rex and company has changed since audiences first heard, “Welcome to Jurassic Park!”
If filmed today, the science suggests many of “Jurassic Park” dinos would look a bit more Tweety Bird than Terrible Lizard. The first film hewed to the long-standing image of dinosaurs as big, scaly reptiles. Subsequent research, however, has provided more and more evidence that many meat-eating dinosaurs sported plumage. A year ago, scientists in China unearthed a feathered Tyrannosaur — Yutyrannis huali — a slightly smaller relative of T. rex. Velociraptors also clearly had feathers, confirmed by the discovery of quill knobs, a type of feather anchor, on raptor arm bones in 2007. Read More > at Live Science
What to Make of a Warming Plateau - As unlikely as this may sound, we have lucked out in recent years when it comes to global warming.
The rise in the surface temperature of earth has been markedly slower over the last 15 years than in the 20 years before that. And that lull in warming has occurred even as greenhouse gases have accumulated in the atmosphere at a record pace.
The slowdown is a bit of a mystery to climate scientists. True, the basic theory that predicts a warming of the planet in response to human emissions does not suggest that warming should be smooth and continuous. To the contrary, in a climate system still dominated by natural variability, there is every reason to think the warming will proceed in fits and starts.
But given how much is riding on the scientific forecast, the practitioners of climate science would like to understand exactly what is going on. They admit that they do not, even though some potential mechanisms of the slowdown have been suggested. The situation highlights important gaps in our knowledge of the climate system, some of which cannot be closed until we get better measurements from high in space and from deep in the ocean. Read More > in The New York Times
The Education Bubble Has Burst - The student loan debate in Congress is bringing to the forefront the student loan crisis plaguing our nation, as well as the financial instability of academic institutions in the United States.
Relative to the student loan crisis, the New York Federal Reserve concluded in its 2012 report that the obligations for student loans total approximately $1 trillion, or approximately $25,000 per graduate.
The report notes that there are over 15 million borrowers under the age of 30, while the total number of borrowers is almost 39,000,000. The delinquency rates on the loans range between 10% to 20% for the various age categories.
Surprisingly, the report indicates that there are 2.2 million borrowers over the age of 60, with an average balance due of $19,000. The delinquency rate for these borrowers is approximately 12%.
Concurrent with the higher student loan balances, college enrollment rates for students have declined 2.3% in 2013 compared to 2012. This decline is the first downward trend in enrollment in decades.Read More > at the American Thinker
MAKE IT STOP! ‘Facebook – The Musical’ and more
San Francisco Giants Fans Find Diamonds Are a Gull’s Best Friend - Things weren’t looking good in the bottom of the seventh inning at the San Francisco Giants’ home ballpark.
“This will be a bad one,” said usher Chauncey Greer, shaking his head at his post in the right-field promenade.
The score wasn’t the problem: The Giants were skunking the Washington Nationals 6 to 0. Mr. Greer, 47 years old, wasn’t looking down at the diamond, but up. There in the sky were the subjects of his prophecy:
About a dozen seagulls had soared out of the darkness, their beady eyes surveying the scene below. They were what ballpark officials call “scouts,” the birds that arrive earliest and appear to gauge how a game is going and how soon fans will leave nacho remains, half-eaten franks and soggy garlic fries.
In the eighth inning, as the Giants racked up another two runs, dozens more gulls had joined the scouts circling overhead. If patterns held, hundreds more birds would invade by the ninth.
The Giants have won two world championships in three years. But they’ve failed to defeat a persistent foe: the team of seagulls at AT&T Park that are thicker than ever this year. Read More > in The Wall Street Journal
California tops list of states with water infrastructure needs - California could use $44.5 billion to fix aging water systems over the next two decades, according to a federal survey that placed the state at the top of a national list of water infrastructure needs.
Texas, at nearly $34 billion, and New York, with about $22 billion, were next in line.
The assessment, conducted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2011 and released last week, is used to document the capital investment needs of public drinking water systems across the country. The EPA relies on the results to allocate grants through the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund.
All told, the survey revealed a $384-billion wish list of infrastructure projects through 2030 — $4.5 billion more than in the 2007 assessment. Read More > in the Los Angeles Times
Waiter and waitress nation: The May payrolls report shows the US creating jobs, just not many good ones - The headline numbers for the May jobs report are about what you would expect for a New Normal economy stuck in 2% growth mode: 175,000 net new jobs last month, the unemployment rate ticking up to 7.6%. No broad signs of acceleration; just the opposite, in fact. As Barclays bank points out, the three-month average increase in nonfarm payrolls through May is now 155,000 vs. a first-quarter average of 207,000. (And at May’s pace of job creation, it would take another 58 months to get back to 5% unemployment.)
In addition, hours worked grew at a 1.9% annualized rate in April and May versus the 3.6% growth seen in the first three months of the year. This downshift reflects a slowing in GDP growth. The bank’s tracking estimate for real GDP growth in the second quarter stands at 1.2%, down from 2.4% in the first quarter.
And what kind of jobs are being created? As economist Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research points out, job growth was again narrowly concentrated, with the restaurant sector (38,100 jobs), retail trade (27,700) and temporary employment (25,600) accounting for more than half of the job growth in May. Baker: “These are all low-paying sectors. It is worth noting that the job growth reported in these sectors is more an indication of the weakness of the labor market than the type of jobs being generated by the economy. The economy always creates bad jobs, but in a strong labor market workers don’t take them.” Read More > at AEIdeas
How to Keep Your Conversations Private from the NSA – UPDATED - We get it, Joe Citizen. You want your privacy. You want to be able to talk on the internet without everyone and their mother at the InsertAlphabetAgencyHere looking at it. You’re mad about the NSA snooping. You aren’t advocating a violent overthrow of the government. You’re not running a domestic terrorism group (well, there are those new DHS criteria…). You’re not even sending around emails about what a dismal failure President Obama’s administration is (THIS hour, anyway). You just want to be able to chat with friends, conduct your financial business, and argue with your spouse without Big Daddy Gummint all up in your biz. Believe it or not, that’s your right. Harry “Who Cares” Reid may blow it off and say the government’s been “doing that stuff for years,” but we’ve got a news flash for Harry: just because you’ve been doing it a while doesn’t make it any more okay. Ask Ted Bundy…oh, wait.
Victory Girls gets it—partly because we value our privacy too. So, because we are all about free speech here—and private speech, too, now that I think about it—here’s a list of ways you can circumvent the government privacy leeches. Granted, this list isn’t all-inclusive, and let’s face it, I’m not an uber-geek. I do, however, read a lot of uber-geek stuff, and so I’m pretty confident with the list I’m about to show you. Keep in mind that you will need to change some of your habits if you decide you really want to keep your personal stuff private. Most people are too lazy…but if you’re not, here’s the list from the guys over at Wired, as well as a few other nooks and crannies I find things in:
- For internet browsing, use Tor. It comes with a full bundle that you can use on any kind of Windows from XP to 8, Mac, or Linux if that’s your flavor. I won’t bore my political readers with the long explanation of why Tor keeps your internet browsing private, but if you want to read all about it you can check out the Wikipedia entry, or just go to the website.
- For email, use Hushmail. It’s free, it’s secure, and if you’re done using that email, no worries. You can either delete it, or stop signing into it. It’ll be gone in 2 weeks, along with all those fan emails you sent to Justin Bieber. See? You do want privacy. Read More > at Victory Girls