Unemployment Extensions End: It Won’t Hurt a Bit

. Saturday, February 27


One voice stops the train. Meet Republican Senator Jim Bunning from Kentucky that is about to retire. His voice alone stopped the Senate vote to continue Unemployment Insurance extensions.

"If we can't find $10 billion somewhere for a bill that everybody in this body supports, we will never pay for anything," he said, arguing that he does not want to add to the deficit and that the senate should find a way to pay for the extended benefits.

Arguing back, Democrats say that since the unemployment extensions fall into the category of “emergency,” the money to pay for them doesn’t need to be offset.

Grouped in with this latest move comes the end of COBRA health insurance subsidy and a 21 percent cut in Medicare payments to doctors.

All fine and dandy, says analysts who predict that this is only a stall, and a few weeks lapse won’t be painful at all.

I’m sure it won’t be painful to them: It’s not their income. It won’t hurt them a bit.

Time for a Nap?

. Monday, February 22


Caught! Right before the starting line, Apolo Anton Ohno grabs himself a big ol’ yawn. That’s what we all do when faced with a daunting task at hand, especially a physical one, right? Actually, it might not be such a bad idea after all.

"It makes me feel better," he said. "It gets the oxygen in and the nerves out."

While the extra oxygen helps the skater across the ice in record time, another thing that just might not be such a bad idea after all is taking a mid-afternoon nap.

Researchers have finally figured out what happens between deep and dream sleep. That is the stage of sleep when fact-based memories are purged from short-term memory and moved to the prefrontal cortex.

Without a nap, learning decreases markedly. It seems there is a lot less room to take in more without clearing out the short-term memory banks. New information just bounces off.

The Great Recession: Unemployed for Years

. Sunday, February 21

unemployed_graphic2Waiting for yet another extension to be approved by Congress, roughly 2.7 million will run out of unemployment by April, according to a NY Times article.

The long-term unemployed are now the “new poor” as many earned middle-class incomes but now rely on public assistance programs such as Food Stamps to live. The hardest hit are women 45 to 64 years of age; many lacking the skills, especially computer skills and higher education, to reenter the job force.

“Large companies are increasingly owned by institutional investors who crave swift profits, a feat often achieved by cutting payroll. The declining influence of unions has made it easier for employers to shift work to part-time and temporary employees. Factory work and even white-collar jobs have moved in recent years to low-cost countries in Asia and Latin America. Automation has helped manufacturing cut 5.6 million jobs since 2000 — the sort of jobs that once provided lower-skilled workers with middle-class paychecks.”

In the past, it was automobiles, home building and banking that have led the nation out of downturns, yet this time, only banking continues to expand, attributed mostly to the government bailout.

“People with more education and skills will probably figure something out once the economy picks up. It’s the ones with less education and skills: that’s the new poor.”

While the job market turns in ways never seen in history, state level unemployment funds are stretched. Federal level extensions come and go, with no notice, and when they do end, a person drawing unemployment on an extension can be cut off, even with a remaining balance showing in their account.

Waiting on Congress to pass the next round of funding for unemployment extensions isn’t going to help those who will be cut off from receiving extended unemployment, mostly likely by the end of February. Texas has already announced that all extensions will terminate by the 27th.

A Letdown of a Boost

. Monday, February 15

My eyebrows raised in disbelief when I saw the headline, “Men risk anticlimax with anatomy-boosting pants.” What goes around, comes around?

It seems a British department store called Debenhams said that men’s underwear called “18 pounds-a-pair” have flown off the shelves during Valentine’s Day weekend. It seems these underwear have a lift and hold feature in the front that works in the same way a cleavage-enhancing bra does for women.

The point to these underwear is to boost a man’s feelings of adequacy in that department, so to speak. But, the disclaimer is quick: "However we can't be held responsible for what happens once the pants come off."

I don’t know what happens when women pad some anatomical places and stuff others into shrink wrap, and I don’t know what happens once those enhancements and reducers come off behind closed doors. I’m not one to do that sort of thing. But, women know that men are visual creatures, and perhaps get away with certain perceived flaws by shutting the light off. That will work, and no harm done.

But, guys, let’s be real here. No amount of darkness can hide the lack of what these underwear enhance. OK? Just sayin’.

Sobriety Checkpoints for the Revenue

. Sunday, February 14


Setting up sobriety checkpoints in locations of mostly Hispanic residents, California has impounded more vehicles due to unlicensed drivers than drunken ones, to the tune of 10 to 1, so says the NY Times.

Once a vehicle is impounded, the tow companies are required to hold it for at least 30 days before allowing its owner to recover the car. The cost of storage runs anywhere from $1,000 to $4,000. Needless to say, many of the vehicles are never reclaimed.

17,900 cars were impounded in 2008, 24,000 in 2009. California reasons that removing unlicensed drivers from the roads clears up another danger. Unlicensed drivers are more likely to cause collisions, and more likely to hit and run. All this is in direct defiance of a 2005 law that says a vehicle can’t be impounded without probable cause.

The bottom line: $40 million in fines and towing fees. I guess you don’t have to abide by the laws you yourself make when it comes to revenue flow.

Mobile Tsunami

. Thursday, February 11

cellphones The numbers now support what we’ve all known: Just about everyone has a cell phone, and now, just about everyone that has a cell phone uses it for much more than just making phone calls:

  • 234 million people in the US use mobile devices.
  • Smartphones make up 17 percent of those mobile devices.
  • 42 percent go with an unlimited data plan.
  • The iPhone and Droid are exploding and catching up with Blackberry.
  • Globally, mobile cell traffic has increased 160 percent in the last year.
  • Predictions point to video going up to 66 percent of all data traffic by 2014.

Google is the topic of the day, quietly transforming our world in the background of all the noise and fluff of all these sparkling gadgets. Keep your eye out for Near me now and Buzz to recreate the surface of the Internet while it works to rebuild the Internet’s backbone.

NY Times: Nurses on Trial in Texas

. Sunday, February 7


Meet Sheriff Robert L. Roberts Jr., the law in a little town called Kermit, Texas, population 5,600. It wasn’t too long ago that the Sheriff had a heart attack, and was one of the lucky ones to be attended to by Dr. Rolando G. Arafiles Jr. at a local rural hospital on one of the doctor’s “good” days. Against the odds, the Sheriff lived under this particular doctor’s care and he now calls him “the most caring man alive.” You see, this doctor has collected a list of complaints throughout his career a mile long, and for this small town, he’s the only doctor willing to set up shop there.

Three nurses decided to do what they are required to do, and that is report Dr. Arafiles’ medical gaffes. Over and over, reports were made and the doctor reprimanded for continual prescription and surgical infractions on top of a restriction on his license. So, the good doc told his friend the Sheriff that he was being harassed, and now the nurses are on trial, charged with “misuse of official information.”

The case is so over-the-top that a reporter and photographer from the NY Times were sent down to investigate the story, and the facts fall together like a badly written soap opera.

My advice: Stay away from Kermit, Texas if you’re feeling lowly.